Monday, February 11, 2013

Theists and checking up facts: an oxymoron?

First- this post is not meant to offend anyone, but of course, as all articles that start with such a line, it just MIGHT end up offending some people. I hope it doesn't because the people that it might offend have a lot to gain from this post. Secondly, when I say "religion" in this post, I mean both religion and Hinduism. More often, the latter. Third, as usual I started out with intention of writing a much shorter post but like Mark Twain, found I didn't have the time to, so I wrote a longer one :P Lastly, I have included some interesting references at the end, if you are interested in looking up and decided not to plod through this entire post. Now let me start at the beginning.

As I might have mentioned in the blog before, I come from a very orthodox family. At least within my circles, I sometimes feel that our family could serve as the Oxford dictionary definition for orthodox. I don't find anything wrong about it per se, but that is worth mentioning because it partially explains why I am interested in religion (interested in, not a believer of). Because I grew up in such an environment and because I was also taught some excellent reasoning skills by the same orthodox people and because I am a big reader, I spent a substantial portion of my childhood reading stuff related to religion. I also spent quite some time listening to all kinds of arguments FOR religion- how great God is, why we gain from believing, the millions of miracles he has performed, why it "makes sense" to believe and so on. I must admit it was not that difficult to 'believe' before I knew Google.

Anyhow, with all that background reading (which was pretty interesting, admittedly, and a lot of it quite reasonable) I learned that- unlike what many people in the outside world think, orthodox people are very intelligent. I think I should re-emphasize this point because much of my audience consists of people who grew up in so-called neutral families. Such people often think that religious fanatics and fundamentalists are complete idiots. Let me break this to you right now- they aren't. In fact, I can almost say that I know many more sensible yet orthodox people than I know sensible secular people. Talk about irony.  
Anyway, because of such a background, I continued to read stuff that religious people say long after I stopped believing. You see, I want to be able to pit myself against the best of the other side. Anyway, so far, so good.

The problem arose when I started having unlimited access to the internet and started checking up stuff on Google. When Google is your friend, many of your facebook friends might unfriend you. No, seriously. There have been times when I have verified stuff put up by some of my valued friends (not necessarily related to religion) by simply typing the title on the Google searchbar and found that they were plain false. Then, goodnaturedly, I comment on their post saying this is false, and said friends get angry. (Ok, nobody unfriended me as yet, but you can imagine how things went after that point.) Anyway, I digress. The point I wanted to make was that I have this instinctive thing to look up stuff before believing in them. So from then on, (and back to religion  now) whenever someone used a religious anecdote or any other anecdote that I could verify, I did. In fact, whenever they quoted anything I could note down and check, I did. In the process I learned a lot- but sadly 90-95% of their anecdotes were hoaxes. Except the ones from their own lives. Even worse, this was not limited to anecdotes. Many of the "facts" that they used to substantiate their claims were fabrications from propaganda magazines. I will give two examples here, but trust me, there are hundreds more. (Click on "Read more" below for more).