Hi folks! Hope your weekend is going swimmingly so far. We’ve been looking at a new apologetics book by Shane Hayes, The End of Unbelief, which bills itself as “a new approach to the question of God.” Today we’re actually going to get into the argument he thinks is the slam-dunk reason why atheists should consider converting to his religion. I’ve linked you up to the Amazon preview of the book so you can follow with me if you want.
Here is his big awesome argument, from his own first chapter (emphasis his):
Since we can’t know whether the world is godless or God-filled, why not embrace the radiant view and enjoy its benefits?
Seems kind of anti-climactic, I know, but that’s really what he’s got. We’ve certainly come a long way since Thomas Aquinas’ convoluted apologetics! Since, in Shane Hayes’ opinion, one cannot know either way if there is a god or not, one should deliberately embrace the worldview that brings the most benefits. Belief is purely a choice, and can be done at will by anybody motivated enough to do so. Isn’t it just weird how Christians assume that things like beliefs and sexual identity and orientation can just be picked and chosen? It’s almost like they’ve never had to make those “choices” themselves, isn’t it?
But that is what non-believers are asked to do in this apologetics argument. Believe because it feels good. Believe because it brings (false) promises and (untested or debunked) rewards. Believe because otherwise you’ll face potential hardship in the next life, which nobody’s even proven exists. Believe in this particular incarnation of deity instead of the thousands and millions of others because it’s not like you can disprove the existence of this one. And if you can’t totally buy into Christianity, then just act like you do and say you do, and the benefits will still be yours.
Nobody can make stuff up that is weirder than this.
I’ve even seen him call his argument “Shane’s Wager,” admitting that he is basing his idea on the much-better-known Pascal’s Wager. I’m guessing he doesn’t realize that this old apologetics argument has been thoroughly debunked and is now one of the least effective tactics ever for persuading non-believers. Just seeing this guy knowingly borrow such a cringeworthy idea makes me feel embarrassed on his behalf. (“He is Shane Hayes. An apologist. He cannot feel shame. So I feel shame for him.”)
He continues, in his book’s first chapter:
We don’t know whether there’s an all-powerful God who cares deeply about his creatures, or not. There is no reason to think there is not. There is reason to think there is.
Yes, he seriously thinks there’s “no reason” to think there isn’t a god involved in this universe–except, you know, for pretty much every single thing about this universe, which works exactly as anybody would expect it to work if there weren’t any gods interfering with any aspect of it.
And the “reason” he thinks that there is actually a good reason to think that there’s an all-powerful divine being fitting his conceptualization?
Because he is happy thinking there is a being like that. He is happier being a Christian than not being one, and thinks he will get more benefits through belief than through non-belief.
He just likes life better as a Christian. He knows not everybody does or would, but he sure does. And all things being equal, one might as well embrace whatever viewpoint will accrue the most benefits.
He’s just astonished that nobody’s really interested in what he’s selling. You can absolutely feel the indignation rippling out from that Friendly Atheist blog post he wrote–when he whines thusly:
No one thought it noteworthy or interesting that here is a Christian author who not only doesn’t try to prove God’s existence or quote scripture at us, he proclaims himself an agnostic.
Yes, and that would be because he is not an agnostic and because we already know that there is no rational reason whatsoever to think his god–or any other god for that matter–exists. He doesn’t get cookies for saying something that’s just basic rationality. That he concedes that point does not make his further points more credible than they would be without that concession. (In fact, conceding that point doesn’t do much at all for the argument he’s making, which is “it doesn’t matter if it’s factually true as long as it feels good and has benefits,” so it’s not like he loses something by doing it. Conceding a point that doesn’t help or hurt him either way doesn’t actually impress anybody.)
And he can proclaim himself whatever he likes, but the agnosticism he’s describing is, as we discussed earlier, just Christianity Lite. From Chapter 2, he describes what his agnosticism means:
I believe in a personal God who created the world and cares about his creatures, and I pray to him daily–often hourly. Am I not a believer?
Why yes, he definitely sounds like it. Does that even sound remotely like agnosticism, which is the stance that one cannot know either way whether or not a god exists? If he’s really doing all of that, if he really believes all of that, then he is not in a state of not-knowing. At best, he’s pretending to believe and going through the motions of belief–but he actually says he believes in this completely mainstream, par-for-the-course, perfectly normal-sounding Christian god. So he wholeheartedly believes in something he concedes might actually be totally false? And if he doesn’t think the case is firm for this god’s existence but is wasting his life worshiping and praying to that fictional being anyway, then why reject all the other gods? (And is his god just a mouth-breathing idiot who is very easily fooled? Because I thought that fervent love is what Christians are commanded to do, and I totally can’t fervently love something I’m not sure even exists.)
I’m just confused, maybe, but “buy into this religion even though I can’t make you any promises at all that it’s actually true because it’ll make you feel warm and gooey” isn’t a real selling point for an audience that is generally committed to believing only what is demonstrated to be true. Lots of religions make their adherents feel good; feeling good isn’t an indicator of truthfulness. As the saying goes, drunkards feel great when they drink, but that doesn’t mean alcoholism is awesome.
It’s especially disturbing that he’s pushing a religion best-known nowadays for being judgmental, hypocritical, and bigoted. He may feel good and happy in the religion, but to me it is a religion of shame, degradation, privilege-blindness, violence, cruelty, incessant misogyny, and control-lust. However kinder and gentler his version of it may be, he is asking people to ignore all that and associate with (and presumably give their time, attention, and money to) a group largely responsible for all the terrible things going on in the Western hemisphere today. Listening to him chirp on and on about how wonderful he finds his belief system is like listening to a fundagelical chirp on and on about the Good Ole Days when black people knew their place, women were sweet submissive wives, and LGBTQ people were closeted. Yes, the religion seems very good indeed–to him. I can well believe that it has served him very well on a number of levels. But it is not good to a lot of its other adherents, and we’re supposed to ignore that and think only about the feel-good aspects of what he describes.
But fuck the people hurt by the religion. Fuck the people marginalized by it. Fuck the people mired in hopeless degradation by it. Fuck the people victimized by its leaders. Fuck the children harmed by the infliction of its practices upon their tender minds and bodies. Fuck the people this religion’s adherents consider subhumans. Fuck them all. He’s got his. Who else matters? Come get yours!
If he considers good feelings to be all the justification he needs to perform obeisance to this religion, then I consider bad ones to be all the justification I need to avoid it like the plague–and I think it makes for a piss-poor moral framework to ignore the serious problems of his religion and the harm that it does and has done to so many people. It’s like he doesn’t even see that harm–or has chosen to deliberately hide it away and show only the religion’s nice side. “Cockup before conspiracy,” I say, and I try to assume someone’s just being ignorant rather than malicious, but there’s just so much piling up here that it’s hard to imagine he just doesn’t know this stuff and is just being purely ignorant.
The waters get even murkier, though. What does it say about this guy that he prays to this being he doesn’t even know exists “often hourly”? I sure wouldn’t waste that kind of time on something I wasn’t sure about, and I don’t regard it as any kind of mark of distinction or noteworthiness that Shane Hayes is doing so. And when we look at the characteristics of this god that he imagines to exist, we will be even more astonished that he can be this assertive and confident of something he says out the other side of his mouth he knows he can’t definitively prove to exist.
He is being either deeply dishonest with himself or with his audience to say that this description of his belief is anything else besides mainstream Christianity. It is certainly not agnosticism no matter how hard he wants to believe that it is. As I’ve said, nobody is under any obligation to accept his redefinitions of words. By any definition of the word, he’s an agnostic like I’m a penguin (sorry–I’ve still got Antarctica on my mind). He can pretend whatever he likes and call himself whatever he wishes in the privacy of his own mind, but nobody is fooled when he speaks those self-delusions aloud.
Of his argument, he writes in the book that “I can’t tell (atheists) they’re wrong, and they can’t tell me I’m wrong.”
That statement is not only ludicrous but totally ignorant.
It’s ludicrous because it’s factually wrong; he is in fact telling atheists that they are wrong. He is saying on one hand that he isn’t, but on the other he wrote a whole book doing exactly that. Here’s what he said, from chapter 1:
But the atheist says, “I don’t believe.” Ahh, but you do, I reply. . . Some atheists would rather die than admit this.
Ahh, but he is full of fail. Is he hoping we wouldn’t notice the entire thrust of his book? Or does he genuinely not notice when he’s splaining at people their direct, lived experiences to make those experiences better fit his argument?
Either way, he definitely wants people to consider his viewpoint and revise their own. If he genuinely thought that atheists were totally fine thinking what they do, then he wouldn’t be bothered to write a book asking them to consider changing their opinion to his own–and issuing vague, wheedling threats and promises in case they need a little extra incentive. That’s not what people do when they think that an opinion is totally correct.
It’s ignorant because actually, well, yes, actually, people can tell him he’s wrong. And we’d be fully justified in doing so. The question is whether or not he’ll listen (this time).
I know some of you are right now this second choking on rebuttals to his assertion that belief is just as justified as disbelief, and trust me, you’re not alone. I started talking about it this time and realized how long this post was getting, so I’m going to cover them in a separate post. So yes: we’ll be covering some of the reasons why his viewpoint is wrong next time. See you then!