Apologeet.nlThe Common Consent Argument Made Simple
In the last video, and the videos before I asked you whether you have any topics you would like me to discuss. So far, I have several. One of you want to talk about deism and why it is or isn’t a flawed idea. And Nortega came up with also a good topic. He said:
If you can, would you mind explaining why we should use our (bodily or spiritual) capacities for the ends to which they are ordered? […] To my knowledge, the notion of ‘ordered’ in the sense in which I am using it derives from Thomistic and (originally) Aristotelian philosophy. So when something is ordered, we could say it is ‘meant for’ something, or that this is its ‘reason for existence’ (raison d’être).
It might not surprise you that I have to do some big thinking here… Why is it that people, who seem to be way smarter than I, ask me these question. Oh well, it’s my own fault, so I’ll take on the challenge.
But first let me do one more on apologetic arguments made simple. Here we go!
This argument is in some ways similar to the argument from religious experience. It argues that:
- Belief in God—that Being to whom reverence and worship are properly due—is common to almost all people of every era and every culture.
- Either the vast majority of people throughout history have been terribly wrong about this most fundamental element of their lives, or they have not.
- It is most plausible to believe that they have not.
- Therefore, it is most plausible to believe that God in fact does exist.
Normally most will just admit that religious belief is far-flung throughout the whole of our history. But does this unchallenged reality add-up to the evidence in favour of the truth of these religious claims? Many sceptics just admit that the testimony we have are very impressive: The vast majority of humans have believed in a God or some kind of higher power. A being to whom the proper response could only be reverence and worship. Normally nobody will say that these feelings of awe, and the urge to worship, and the sacrifices people have brought for their faith, are fake. I mean, no right-minded person would argue that a martyr died for something he or she didn’t even believe in. So their faith was sincere. But if God does not exist, then these things have never ever, made any sense, right? All these people, and we’re not talking about one or two, have been diluted by believing that what they did made any sense. Is it really plausible to believe that? Can it really be that we—the enlightened generation—are so much smarter. That is akin towards pride, yes even to arrogance.
The urge and the mental ability to worship and adore, and to think about the concept of a higher being seems to ingrained in our nature. Moreover, it does look like that almost all have the longing to fulfil this so-called emptiness in our own being. It is interesting to see for instance that even atheists seem to have the urge to do something with these empty feelings. They organise atheist church, they organise and big rallies in which they encourage each-other to hold on to the one true believe… that there is no super-natural realm… Oh well.
Everyone was Deceived (except I)
But hey! I am a nice guy, so let give our atheistic friends the benefit of doubt. Let’s argue like they do, and say that those millions who all said to have found the Holy One who is worthy of veneration and worship, yes all those millions were actually deceived, lying or even mentally ill. Would this be an intellectual honest position? Would it be likely?
If you think about it, it seems to me that those who argue, that all these people, all these believers throughout the ages, were in some way a bit crazy, dumb, or even dishonest. It seems to me that they are the ones who have the actual problem they try to mirror on others.
Let’s Throw in some Fallacies
But now the smart atheist will jump to the rescue of fellow, slightly less smart atheists. The smart atheist will shout that I just committed the appeal to the people fallacy (also called ‘appeal to the majority’). Just because a significant population of people believe a proposition is true, doesn’t automatically make it true. But let’s consider this. We are not talking about a fixed moment in time. These millions are not living at this moment, but they testified about their faith throughout all ages. They have always been the majority and their concept has never really changed much. We are not talking about medical insights or cosmological insight. Yes, more often than not, the appeal to the majority fallacy popped up in these disciplines. Why should you wash your hands? The majority of doctors think it has no use, so who are you to state something else. But this is a different situation, isn’t it? In the example of the doctors, we are talking about highly educated people who refuse to think outside the box.
With the belief in a higher being we have seen that the awareness has been around so long and among such different groups, that we can safely assume that there has been many ‘outside the box thinkers’ among them. Still, the majority firmly believed in a higher being. Some of them formulated their beliefs in very complicated ideas, while others just believed. But also, if God doesn’t exist, what is it that believers have been feeling or experienced? Their experience goes further than any other example of collective error, like that of the aforementioned example of the doctors. We are not just talking about a group of people who hold to a faulty theory—no,this group actually experienced something way deeper than just a theoretical concept.
Many who believe and have believed in God say that it is like having a relationship with a real person. But if God never existed, neither did this relationship. They were answering with worship and love to nothing at all; and there would be nothing to receive and answer their worship and questions. It’s like the poor child in the slums who truly believes he lives in a castle with golden door knobs.
Stating that all these people, from very highly educated to the lowest of the lowest, were deluded is like a blind person who denies the existence of the sun.
And if you want to throw in a fallacy, you could even say that these sceptics and atheist themselves commit a logical fallacy, namely the ‘snob appeal.’ This fallacy is really an appeal to everybody’s natural urges to distinguish themselves from all the rest. It is an appeal to your inner snob.
You see, real intelligent people have to be atheistic…
And we all heard this example:
You believe in Jesus? You gotta be joking!
Using snob appeal to turn someone from Christ. The implication is that you are a lesser person because you believe in Jesus.
It is Evolutionary!
Some non-believers will explain the argument of ‘common consent’ away with evolutionary ideas. This line of reasoning always makes me laugh a little. It gives away what I already argued, even atheists have an urge to fill the gap. They do it with extraordinary faith in naturalistic ideas. They often start their stories like this:
One of the skills that helped Homo succeed was imagination—an ability you can use now to picture how it developed. i
And since you now know how to use your ability to imagine, let’s do it shall we?
There is this ape-like creature, let’s call her Ida, hanging around and not paying attention to its surroundings. All of a sudden the bushes move. Ida isn’t paying much attention and all of a sudden a predator jumps out of the bushes and eats poor little Ida. Ida’s friends see this and develop a natural fear for moving bushes. Next time they see the bushes move they run, even if it is caused by the wind.
Now, millions of years later, this nervous attitude is still there. But now we have a human-like creature, name Lucy. She’s smart, and she wants to know why the bushes move so often without an actual predator. She examines the bushes and sees nothing. Lucy concludes that it was an invisible force that did it.
You see where this is going? Another million years later this invisible force is being pleased with sacrifices because nobody wants to get eaten by a predator. And voilà, a perfect explanation on how religion started… Really? So, the evolutionary process ingrained religion in our brains because else we might get eaten? And yes, we’re back at the snob appeal. The atheists know that we do not longer have to fear predators like Ida and Lucy faced. So because they now know better, they also know we are no longer in need of religion. And guess what! They are the ones who belong to this special group who have this knowledge. I always wonder why they advocate their viewpoint so loudly. Why would they want to give up their head start on the evolutionary ladder. That’s not really beneficial, is it? Okay, never mind. I leave the conclusions to you in the comment section.
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