For last week’s Argument Against Atheism, click here.
Since I was a child I was raised to believe that the faith is true. One of the arguments that people use is that religion would not have existed for so long if it wasn’t true. My own mother used the example that, “she refuses to believe that her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were wrong.” While at first this seems like an awful argument, which it is, it is also one of the tougher arguments that you might face.
First off, religion itself is almost entirely based around personal experience and feelings, when you add prior generations of believers, the strength of the belief seems to be hardened. You will hear theists speak of pasts scientists and world leaders who were believers as evidence towards a belief in a personal god. Using myself as an example, my family had been ministers for generation after generation. Even my earliest known ancestors on my mother’s side were ministers and priests. Tradition was even hard for me to give up but i felt it was necessary.
When someone gives up a traditional belief, they might feel as if they are doing some form of harm or insult to their ancestry. It’s a tough pill to swallow, that some of the people you loved and were closest to, were wrong. When you go deeper though you find that this argument is just as bad as it seems from the offset.
Humans used to believe that thunder, lightning, blizzards, sunlight, and volcanoes were all the result of gods. We then learned that these things were actually natural occurrences that simply occurred due to atmospheric conditions or tectonic forces. With this knowledge, would it make any sense at all to continue believing in the supernatural cause of these phenomena? Of course not.
Imagine seeing someone on the street, just before a thunderstorm, praying to Thor to spare him from the wrath of his thunder. You walk up and tell the man he is being silly, thunder is not caused by a god. He then tells you, it’s not silly, because his ancestors believed in Thor and so obviously he must exist or they would not have believed in him. You might consider calling the authorities to come and get this delusional man and have him evaluated.
Using tradition as a basis for your belief is no better than the theoretical man in the last paragraph. Offering your own mind to the superstitions of the past does nothing more than stagnate your own personal abilities and growth as a human being. Simply accepting that something is true is what the dark ages are all about. Only when we decided to reject the superstitions and beliefs of the past did we once again begin to progress as a species again.
All of the technology that you enjoy today is due to someone giving the middle finger to tradition. Why build washing machines? Washing boards were good for our grandparents and great grandparents. Why invent television if the radio was good enough for great-grandpa? Why invent the internet if letters worked well for those 100 years ago?
Part of what makes us human is that we are constantly striving to better ourselves as a species. We have set-backs and stagnate at times but the entire history of our species has been one of forward momentum. We shouldn’t allow the traditions and beliefs of the past to dictate where we are now or where we can go in the future.