My Favorite Argument For Atheism
Throughout human history, there have been too many gods to count. Why, exactly, is any current religion better than the Greeks’, Romans’, Vikings’, Zoroastrians’, Celts’, Mayans’, or Incans’ religion? And why is any current religion better than any other?
Personal revelation has to be out, because for every person who believes that Zeus spoke to him there will be one who thinks Buddha came to him, and another who will go to his death knowing that Allah talks him. Who is right? Better yet, if god exists as any religion today says he does, why does he appear differently to different people (although most often in the guise of the culturally-prevalent religion)? Does god get a kick out of appearing before a young Muslim man as Allah, who then blows up a bus full of Jewish people to whom he had revealed himself as Yahweh? Why don’t all personal revelations come from the same god?
The most parsimonious hypothesis is that God does not exist, and there are simply complex phenomena at the heart of revelations. For instance, epileptics are, on average, far more religious than non-epileptics. Perhaps the brain of an epileptic is especially vulnerable to revelation. Further evidence for this hypothesis are the experiments where electromagnetism is used to induce revelation (There’s also a nice list of articles on the so-called “God Module” in the brain here).
But at the heart of Russell’s statement is that believers will dismiss offhand all religions except their own, which they almost never begin to consider as being wrong. From the outside, all those other religions just look like silly myths and superstitions, but from the inside it’s harder to see that. Who knows, after taking a good, hard, honest look at your own, maybe you’ll start to see the same silly myths and superstitions.