Guiding Principle #1: Consistency
Common Sense Wisdom = Trust those who have a consistent message and don’t contradict themselves. Distrust those who talk out of two sides of their mouth and expect you to believe their duplicitous message.
Life Illustration = If a salesperson in a store tells you one thing at the beginning of a presentation, but you catch him contradicting himself later, he may cunningly try to dismiss the inconsistency for the sake of making the sale, but you won’t let him. If you are sharp you will notice the contradiction and challenge that crafty salesperson. Or if a friend acts like a friend only in favorable situations, but in unfavorable settings she is cold and standoffish, that hypocrisy is a red flag. It tells you, “Don’t trust her!”
Application to Faith – Religions and worldviews boast many things which cannot readily be evaluated. We don’t have any firsthand, experimental way to evaluate whether or not some claim is true in the unseen realm. Did Allah really send Mohammed? Did Jesus preexist his birth? Did Buddha really reach Nirvana? Is there really a Hell people will be sent to? There is no empirical way of proving these things. So with the Bottom-Up Approach, we cannot evaluate everything about a religion. However there are some things we can evaluate. One very important one is the faith’s consistency with its own claims. If a religion makes a truth claim, its other claims should be in harmony with that claim. But if the religion contradicts itself, that is quite telling. Even more telling is if the religion contradicts itself in one of its central claims. Some beliefs are central to a religion while others are of lesser importance. If a worldview or religion is self-contradictory, that would show us that the religion is fatally flawed. Internal inconsistency is death to a faith system, for it undermines trust in its own claims. That kind of gross central inconsistency should lead us to dismiss it as a fraud. Again, let me restate that … if we take the very center or core of the religion’s claims (not some peripheral or petty difference which we may find interesting but is not crucial to the religion) and test it against itself, does the religion stand its own test? If it can’t, why would anyone believe it? If it contradicts itself, then it is self-defeating. It’s not trustworthy. Run from it!
The key in this commonsense test is not to focus on the peripheral claims. Nor is this the time to note that some nice people are part of this religion or that this poor group of believers has been persecuted or that they have beautiful houses of worship or did some nice things for society. Every faith will demonstrate some good and creative things and some bad things. That kind of an evaluation won’t settle the issue. To evaluate the faith look at the core and center of their claim and use it against itself. If it stands, it may be genuine and solid. Other tests then need to be applied. However if it doesn’t stand its own test, then let the structure collapse under its own weight.
Now this first test may seem so obvious you are wondering, “Are there really religions and worldviews which contradict themselves?” We believe there are! In fact, there are more than most people probably recognize. Here are two egregious examples of inconstancy in religion/world views. I present these not because they are the only examples but because they are clear examples. Please keep in mind that in a blog like this we cannot evaluate a religious worldview in totality. Nor would I dare to judge the hearts of people in these religions or who hold these worldviews. My goal here is merely to present the glaring inconsistency and let you see it for what it is – a lie! Obviously, if you need to do more reading and research on the matter, there are more books you can turn to. The following is only a synopsis of the problem.
An agnostic is a skeptic. He is someone who claims “no knowledge,” as the name itself indicates. Agnosticism comes from a Greek word which literally means “no knowledgeism.” It is the position of ignorance rather than of knowledge. One who is an agnostic admits a lack of confidence in knowing the truth about ultimate things.
Many people might not think of agnosticism as a faith position. In fact they might think of it as the opposite of faith. However, agnosticism does involve a claim about ultimate things.
Agnosticism has become a popular resting place for many people’s faith in the postmodern world. It could be argued that the whole postmodern mindset predominate in American society today is itself built on an agnostic base. Postmodernism with its insistence on tolerance, could only develop in a philosophical climate of skepticism and uncertainty. If a society claimed that truth was certain, agnosticism would not make inroads into the intellectual climate of the day.
Agnosticism may seem harmless enough, and it would be, if it were limited to a personal claim of ignorance about ultimate reality. However agnosticism is often more than a personal claim of ignorance. Broadly speaking there are two kinds of agnostics.
A soft agnostic merely states she does not know ultimate reality or whether there is a god. Soft agnosticism is not really a belief system, but an honest position, “I don’t know the truth.” Stating you don’t know something is fine. It is a mere admission you are uncertain about reality at the moment. It actually should be considered honest. Soft agnosticism is not the problem.
A hard agnostic, though, is different. A hard agnostic believes reality is not only unknown to himself, but unknowable to everyone else. Hard agnostics are not satisfied with declaring personal ignorance about the divine or reality. They push the envelope and claim, “Not only do I not know the truth, but no one can know the truth either.” Now that’s claiming quite a bit more!
Furthermore, hard agnostics believe that since no one can know ultimate truth, no one should ever be so arrogant or bold as to claim they know the truth. Claims of certainty are not allowed in the worldview of hard agnostics. They are frowned upon. This is why it undergirds the Postmodern mindset.
Hard agnostics pride themselves on a sensible, middle of the road opinion about ultimate things. Rather than stand with Theists and declare with certainty that God exists or stand with Atheists and declare with certainty that God does NOT exist, they stand in the middle and lecture both sides for being too confident in their opinions. They assert, “We can’t know if God exists.” They believe it is not wise to conjecture about things unverifiable. They rest in skepticism until adequate proof is offered for either side. This, they believe, is the safest intellectual ground on which to stand.
Though hard agnosticism seems like a solid rock to stand upon, in reality it is sinking sand. Indeed, their sand sinks quite quickly, for their claim is flawed at the center – at the core.
Their central inconsistency is not too hard to detect. The hard agnostic is claiming confident personal knowledge and universal ignorance simultaneously. Please think about this fatal core. It’s a stunning contradiction at the center of their belief. This view claims to know enough about ultimate reality (God’s existence included) to know ultimate reality can’t be known.
If you are thinking about that carefully, you know that won’t fly. That does not pass the commonsense consistency test. For if the agnostic knows so much already, that he/she can declare to the rest of us that none of us can know the truth, aren’t we right to ask that person, “How do you know that? How did you gain so much certainty that no one can know the truth unless you already know enough about the truth to tell us? How did you come to be so confident that we must all remain ignorant and in the dark if you are ignorant and in the dark?” How can the agnostic know for sure that no one can know anything for sure? That makes zero sense.
Please remember, this claim of universal ignorance is at the very heart of their belief system. This is not a peripheral issue. This self-contradiction is a dagger to the heart of hard agnosticism for precisely the reason that it destroys its own claim. For logic and commonsense tells us that only people in the know can make confident claims about what can be known and can’t be known. Ignorance can never breed certainty. Only knowledge breeds confidence. Agnostics can’t have it both ways. Either they know or they don’t know, but they can’t tell us that no one can know unless they already know. This is especially true since they dared to lectured the Theist and Atheist for their confident affirmations. It seems agnostics need to listen to themselves and stop acting confident in their professed ignorance.
To expand the point into the issue of God’s existence … Agnostics have to know enough about God’s existence to know he can’t be known. But if they know enough about God’s existence to affirm God cannot be known, then they must know whether he exists or not. And if they know whether God exists or not, then they can’t be agnostics. They have to be either Theists or Atheists.
So hard agnosticism is self-defeating. It cancels out its own core claim. If agnostics were honest, they would withdraw their hard agnosticism and slump back into the soft agnostic’s opinion.
A common sense approach rejects it. The so-called brilliant philosophers who espoused agnosticism, may have had a high IQ, complicated arguments, and a skillful presentation of philosophical jargon, but they have made a central error in their thinking. It does not matter how sophisticated philosophers get with their arguments, if it boils down to the same contradiction, it’s not such a bright idea. You might admire their intellect, but reject their conclusion.
Some people remain agnostic in the face of this clear contradiction, but they are trapped in their own condemnation of others. For they decry certainty in the Theist and the Atheist, yet they pronounce with certainty, “No one can know!” How contradictory! How deceptive!
Even though people today love this system of thinking and foist it on others, since it is flawed, a wise person need only point out the flaw and let it self-destruct. No one should be a hard agnostic or rest in the postmodernism it produces. It’s not educated. It’s not even true. So don’t believe it!
There! That was fairly simple! See how far we have advanced already! The commonsense test of consistency just eliminated one of the most relied upon worldviews today and freed the mind from its deception. And we are only just getting rolling … stay tuned!