What can possibly be wrong in believing in a Divine Being Who, we believe, is concerned with our welfare?
To quote Bertrand Russell: "There is something feeble and contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths." [And] "There is a widespread belief that people can be induced to believe in what is contrary to fact in one domain while remaining scientific in another. This is not the case. It is by no means easy to keep one's mind open to fresh evidence, and it is almost impossible to achieve this in one direction if, in another, one has a carefully fostered blindness."
The term, 'wrong,' as it is used here, needs to be examined.
If the question means to ask whether I believe that it is wrong to believe in a divine being, the answer is, "If it is defined as described in the Bible with many unverifiable attributes, such as UNKNOWABILITY, yes, a resounding YES!"
Certainly, everyone should have the legal right to believe whatever he wishes. It is not legally wrong to believe in divine beings in this democracy though it may be in some totalitarian nations.
Is it morally wrong to so believe?
This question requires a clear and uncontested definition of "morality."
As Bertrand Russell observed, intelligence and morality are often at odds with
each other; science and intelligence are not.
In the history of man such a definition has not and in all likelihood never will be acquired unanimously and is therefore an exercise in futility.
If the question means to ask, "What are the harmful consequences of believing in an unknowable divine being?" that can easily be addressed.
I suppose, then, whether the belief is considered immoral or not may depend on the utilitarian principle of whether it causes more harm than good.
In a situation with limited parameters I suppose the principle works to society's advantage.
But in a world of such cultural, social, political, religious, psychological, and philosophical diversities of beliefs and convictions, how to determine whether belief in a divine being causes more harm than good appears, also, to be an exercise in futility.
What, then, are, and have been, the consequences of believing in an unknowable, incorporeal, supernatural, transcendental, metaphysical divine being?
We shall not recount, here, man's history of atrocities, brutality, imprisonment, wars, torture, poverty, murder, deaths, greed, struggle for power, intimidation, threat of life and limb, denial of human rights, mind control, indoctrination, (i.e., conditioning) and much more committed in the name of countless gods.
A usual response to the above is that such evils were committed by man, not by God.
It is appropriate, here, to quote Jacob Bronowsky:
Into this pond [at Auschwitz] were flushed the
ashes of some four million people. And that was
not done by gas. It was done by dogma. It was
done by ignorance. When people believe that they
have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality,
this is how they behave.
Absolute knowledge that an UNKNOWABLE god exists??????
Please don't parrot, "He is known by His works."
The "works" verify only that THEY exist, not how they came to exist.
There are other consequences that appear not to be so severe, but which, in fact, are the very sources of what Bronowsky cites.
Belief in an unverifiable divine being is only one of the countless unverifiable beliefs man tends to accept blindly.
The issue, then, becomes not merely, "Is it wrong to believe in a divine being, i.e., an unverifiable god?"
The issue is, "Is it wrong to accept unverifiable claims, whether they are theistic claims of non-theistic claims?"
When unverifiable claims such as principles and axioms in mathematics ("true" by definition) can lead to predictable events which can later be probabilistically verified, it would be foolish not to accept them as tools for dealing with that world which, presumably lies beyond our sense data.
When unverifiable claims CANNOT lead to predictability and verification, to accept them, unquestioningly, and to conduct our lives upon them, as absolute truths, leads to the development of gullibility, lack of reasoning, blind acceptance, blind faith, and the ridiculously weird and irrational ideas and claims that constituted the fabric of man's thoughts and behavior throughout the history of mankind -- and still does.
Theistic language (claims) is the main source of the development of such a gullible mindset.
UPDATED: JANUARY 22, 1998
When such a mindset is developed by the acceptance of beliefs which are unverifiable, the end result and harm to the world and interrelations of human beings who hold different unverifiable beliefs is staggering.
Witness the interactions of nations and different religious sects throughout the world.
For instance, were it not for the peaceful (and "moral") believers holding unverifiable beliefs which are the same as those held by terrorists, terrorism could not possibly exist to the degree that it does.
One should heed the admonition, "Good intentions [especially when founded on ignorance, too] often pave the road to Hell."
Without the moral support terrorist feel from knowing that there is a substantial number of people who believe those same unverifiable beliefs as do they, with rare and individual exceptions, they would cease to exist.
Dictators, their concomitant evils, and their minions, throughout history and the world, were born out of the IGNORANCE that underlies a mindset which is willing to accept unverifiable claims blindly.
BLIND FAITH AND UNQUESTIONING ACCEPTANCE do not constitute a commendable mindset, a mindset that the theistic, religious, entertaining, advertising, propagandizing, and political establishments would like to condition us to develop!
Updated Jan. 24, 2007
You may be interested in the conclusion I arrived at in my book, Hey! IS That you, God?, page 178, "God Outgrown," during which I'm arguing with the Biblical "God," that even Einstein considered himself to be a "deeply religious non-believer," as quoted:
"I cannot conceive of a god who rewards and punishes his creatures or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I -- nor would I want to -- conceive of an individual that survives his physical death. Let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the (human?) reason that manifests itself in nature”
God: Pasqual, without Me, there can't be a religion.
Schievella: You want us to believe that . But we've outgrown You. We do not need You. You are passé. Religion without You is here to stay. Part of the value of real religion is the enjoyment, the wonderment, the mystery of the universe. If everything is explained by Your existence, there's no mystery for science to unravel, no goals of knowledge to achieve.
What tripe! Religion without Me? Morality without Me? You're off your rocker!
Then so must be a thousand million other non-believers. Just as the Greeks invented their gods, You were invented. And man said, "Let there be Gods, and there were gods; and we made them in our own image." But morality existed before then, even among social orders of lower animals, at least in behavior and feeling if not in concept and reason. It will continue to exist long after You're gone. You can bet Your life -- uh spirit -- whatever -- God, perhaps I should say belief in Your existence. That's what's on the line here. We've already proved we don't need You. We can make a more peaceful society where You have not had Your Divine Fingers in the pie. Once we have escaped Your conditioning techniques and so long as there is brotherly love, a godless society is not the fearful thing You and Your chronicles have propagandized us into believing. But, about the point we discussed five minutes ago, my time, that is ----
You're doing the talking, Schievella.
You said that most of our Poor are far richer than our Rich. Well, God, the kind of richness you're talking about doesn't need a god for its source. Out of the non-theistic religious experiences of hundreds of millions of non-believers come the motivation for great art, for the knowledge and creativity of man, the search for truth, and the hope of improving the lot of mankind. That would be our richness, in your terms. Wait a a minute, I'm putting the cart before the horse. It's the religious experience that emerges from such activities. It doesn't matter. They're inseparable.
Well, there is hope for you, Pasqual, as soon as I get you back on the right track.
You mean as soon as You get me back to believing those time-worn, ancient, theistic myths.
Your pro-religious remarks intrigue Me. They're such a refreshing change.
You've got me wrong, God. I'm not anti-religious. I'm anti-You. You should have stayed dead in the sixties.
Schievella, the God-Is-Dead title was a momentary eye catcher. Besides, that title didn't mean I was dead. It was referring to the wavering, the loss of belief in Me. But you can't keep a good God down.
You can't keep weeds down, God. Quite a variety of You spring up all over the world, where mystery and wild imagination abound in the absence of a method for acquiring truth and knowledge. Weird concepts have sprung up in all ages, especially in periods of stress and ignorance. Now if those different varieties of You were not falling over each other in contradictions, sizes, shapes, and colors, if they were not in competition with each other to become King of the Hill, You might have gotten away with Your touted existence.
I can't say I care much for your analogy.
Why don't You accept the handwriting on the wall? We don't need You. Without You, we can learn better the value and knowledge of relating with kindness to our fellow man, our communities, and the other nations of the world. This is a task that You not only have given little attention to, but one in which You've caused divisiveness. You've strapped us with different languages, with racial and religious scapegoats, eternal guilt, continuous religious strife disguised as political, contradictory beliefs and customs: ethical, moral, and cultural. You've offered us sacrificial victims, real and metaphorical. And then, to hide your transgressions against humanity, You rewrote Your politico-religious history to hide Your own guilt and to suit Your power-seeking goals. You and Your Tower-of-Babel trick made it next to impossible to emphasize our likenesses as opposed to our differences. That was one of Your stupidest ideas! No, God, we no longer need to believe that You exist. We won't have to expend emotional energies, our money, our time in fear of You, for the love of You, in the glory of You. We can look with courage to the future, with hope in the use of our minds free from Your stifling grasp, free in the use of our intelligence and reason, free to mend our relations with our neighbors throughout the world, free to pay attention to protecting this "oasis in the desert of infinite space," free to make the only life we'll know a full and meaningful one. Our purposes will take precedence over Yours. Now God, we will have faith in ourselves, not in a Ghost -in-the-sky. Oh hell! Talking to You is like trying to talk a cock into not crowing at dawn. So, --- I'll leave the last word to You, God.
God?-------Where are You?
So!---- You're not there! I knew it! I knew it! There's nothing there! NOTHING!