Monday, January 24, 2011

Religion and Teapots

Bertrand Russell
It's certainly no secret that people do horrific and absolutely insane things as an expression of devotion to their particular religion.  Christians conjured up regrettable notions of witchcraft and slaughtered thousands, sometimes purely on suspicion and without a shred of evidence.  Muslims have had their historical share of swinging the sword and tossing rocks.  And there seems to be no end to the number of fringe-group religions and eccentric cults enacting wanton violence on others simply because they think they're under some mysterious, divine fiat that only they know about, and that only they can confirm comes from their god/gods.

Whatever the peculiars of the case, one underlying question, in particular, undergirds any helpful criticism of such fanatical religious stupidities: how can the God/gods purported be proven to be in any way real?

One philosopher, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), proposed that, in matters of the supernatural, the person who states there is a divine super-reality (including divine beings) has the responsibility to prove their statement(s) are evidentially true.

Russell used the analogy of a teapot in orbit around the moon:  anyone can say there is a teapot encircling the moon, but the person who states such a thing has the burden of proving that their statement is true by showing the evidence for their claim.  This responsibility for furnishing a positive position or proposition with accomodating evidence has become known as the "burden of proof."

In matters of religion, it is the person who states that God exists who has the burden of proof and give evidence for their claim.  The non-believer is under no such responsibility to give evidence for their non-position.  Or, to put it another way: person X claims God exists and offers evidence to prove their case; person Y makes no claim on the existence of God and therefore has no burden to prove a non-claim.

So where does this leave us?  Well, here is a clever little presentation (2 minutes) that illustrates not only the absurdity of some religious mindsets, but also incites the necessity for proving that the celestial teapot exists but only having the fanaticism of religious teapotists to point to.  Enjoy!

Thank you to Atheist Media Blog for this clever little video.


E said...

Hey, just noticed your comment from Nov 20. Well, I'm back in black at:

Here's the Maverick Philosopher on how Russell's Teapot analogy "leaks like a sieve":

Kane Augustus said...

Hey-up, Ed!

How are you?

Thank you for the link to Maverick Philosopher. I'm not overly fond of his points of view, usually, but I will read through the article and get back to you with my thoughts.


E said...

He's a bit of crank, isn't he? I often disagree w/ him, but you got to admire the man -- a true wildman philosopher out in the desert.