George H Smith remarks in his book Why Atheism? that salvation religion includes the belief that “at least some knowledge necessary for salvation requires faith in divine revelation, knowledge that cannot otherwise be justified through reason alone.” [p. 28 n. 1] That’s an interesting idea. It means that salvation religion believes in a god who is a terrible cheat and bully – one who makes “salvation” dependent on voluntary stupidity.

It also requires us (if we want “salvation”) to divide our thinking and functioning in two – because for ordinary purposes, faith is not the right way to go, it’s the wrong way. It’s wrong and we know it’s wrong. We don’t claim to use faith for purposes of ordinary inquiry. We may use it of vague guessworky subjective matters – the future, people, results of actions – in combination with more rationally-based knowledge, but we don’t use it of empirical subjects. On the contrary, we use maps and schedules and recipes and blueprints and we expect the people who make them to use something other than faith. Yet in this other area, the rules are completely different. Well why? Why do that? Why make different rules? Why give us a reliable way of finding out things, and then make it a condition of “salvation” that we not use it in this one important area? What kind of arrangement is that? A perverse, unfair, backasswards, unreasonable one, that’s what. If faith isn’t good enough for ordinary inquiry, why is it good enough for any kind of inquiry? Even in the more guessworky subjects, blind faith is no good. Blind faith in a person you have abundant reason to know is a malicious enemy is a bad idea. So what kind of god would make faith the right way to get knowledge in one area but not the other? A trickster? A demon? What?

In a way that doesn’t matter, because of course the real reason “faith” is necessary is the fact that there is no evidence. But in another way it does matter, because it means that people believe in a god who plays wicked games with human cognition.

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