It’s a common theme of atheist critiques of religion: religion causes war and mass killing.
And yet the historical evidence shows something different.
I expect discussions between christians and atheists to get edgy at times. We are talking about important matters and the two ‘sides’ are poles apart. But some responses seem extreme, even to people on the same side.
Why do you believe what you do – about religion, politics, ethics or life itself?
Many sceptics about religion are evidentialists, that is, they believe we should proportion our belief according to the evidence. Different disciplines (e.g. law, science, history, journalism and everyday life) require different types of evidence, but the principle seems reasonable.
But what if the sceptics are ignoring their own creed?
The Daily Telegraph in Sydney has been mounting an extensive disinformation campaign on climate change for years now. The tactic is simple, and apparently effective, if not truthful – latch onto any isolated “fact” that seems to show some evidence of a cool world, ignore all the facts, evidence and reports to the contrary, and sneer rather than argue logically. And make sure all your columnists, cartoonists and featured letter writers are ‘on message’.
So now that 2013 is over, what does the data tell us in Australia?
Recently I was following a debate between a christian and a non-believer, and the non-believer said that he (I presume it was “he”) would require “irrefutable evidence” to consider changing his mind about God. It seemed like a rather stringent requirement to me, so I started thinking ….
What things could we reasonably say we have “irrefutable evidence” for?
“Confirmation bias …. is a tendency of people to favor information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way …. [or] interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position.” (Wikipedia)
Atheists often accuse christians of confirmation bias, but we all do it to some degree – it is part of developing a consistent world view. But sometimes it obscures the truth.