Tag Archives: agnosticism

Louis C.K. on Saturday Night Live: skeptical of skeptics

Last night, Louis C.K. was the guest host on Saturday Night Live. Here’s an excerpt from his very funny opening stand-up comedy:

“I’m not religious. I don’t know if there’s a God. That’s all I can say honesty is, I don’t know. Some people think that they know that there isn’t. That’s a weird thing to think you can know. ‘Yeah, there’s no God.’ Are you sure? ‘Yeah, no, there’s no God.’ How do you know? ‘Because I didn’t see him.’ There’s a vast universe. You can see for about a hundred yards when there’s not a building in the way. How could you possibly — did you look in everywhere? Did you look in the downstairs bathroom? ‘Nah, I haven’t seen him yet.’ I haven’t seen 12 Years A Slave yet. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” (To the best of my DVR transcription skills.)

And a bit earlier in his opening act, this:

“I don’t think women are better than men, but I do think men are worse than women.”

Take a look at this New York Times article on Saturday Night Live: “The God of ‘SNL’ will see you now.”

 

Differences within doubt, Part 2

1. I can admit I’m a sinner, and I can realize that a Holy God would demand recompense. I can even say I could not do anything to get myself into the presence of Absolute Goodness. I could easily say after my physical death there’s no good reason for my essence to continue on or for my body to return. For those reasons, I could easily say I need a Savior.

2. I can also say lectures, debates, books, and research from psychologists, neuroscientists, historians, and other thinkers seem to offer better explanations of human problems than the available Christian explanations, and better explanations of why Christianity captivates people.

Postscript: Oddly enough, when Christians hold up their hands at available information (see Sources section below) and refuse to wrestle with it, that refusal plays into the theories of social psychologists — in two ways. First, “social proof,” or the testimonies and beliefs of the people one knows, tends to weigh more heavily in decision-making than evidence-and-reason. Second, as research suggests, when confronted with strong reasons for an opposing point of view, people tend to redouble their dedication to their original point of view.

Valerie Tarico cites Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman in her video series; here are two quotations from them:

From Valerie Tarico’s video series.

From Valerie Tarico’s video series

Sources:

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini

Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities by Len Oakes

Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomena by Daniel Dennett

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney

Psychologist Valerie Tarico’s video series, Christianity and Cognitive Science

Michael Shermer’s news feature on religious experiences and the brain, Out of the Body Experiment

Andy Thomson’s lecture, Why We Believe in Gods

Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk here.

Differences within doubt

It’s one thing to deliver ultimatums (“Do this or I won’t believe”). It’s another thing to acknowledge that evidence and sound reasoning are lacking (“I believe but I see many reasons why I could be very wrong”).

Defending or expressing?

I thoroughly enjoyed this honest, heart-felt interview with a fellow who, after years of evangelizing, Bible college, and ministry, has left the faith.

The following excerpt from the interview exposes a tendency in certain circles.

For me, the route to unbelief was solely intellectual. I made a conscious decision to be open-minded, to read the “opposition,” and go wherever the truth lead me – even if it was away from God. It doesn’t seem like many Christians are willing to be that open-minded. But I think it’s very important. Otherwise, through cognitive dissonance, we only see what agrees with our worldview, and reject and explain away what contradicts it. The beauty of reason is that we can consider any proposition and attempt to figure out whether it’s true or not. But religion already has the truth. It’s not seeking it. It’s defending it. That mindset has to be overcome.

Note that tendency he identifies: The tendency to circle the wagons around some part of the truth and make the sole purpose for living defense. Offense is no more desirable. It seems like healthy, constructive expressions of the truth would be better. Consider the Parable of the Talents. The best way to defend something is to bury it.

The worst way to use something is to turn it into a hammer, so everything else is approached as if it is a nail. The best way is to find constructive, creative uses for that something, whatever it is, and keep seeking new understandings of how to use it even better.