So I got the following email from a financial adviser in New Zealand:
As you strike me as an honest and sincere authority in the atheist worldview, could you please help me by advising me:
How can I be an intellectually honest atheist when it seems to me that atheism itself, logically demands that I distrust my brain, because it’s merely a cosmic accident – evolved from a random, mindless and unguided process in the 1st place?
I’ll donate $10,000 to a mutually agreeable charity for the 1st person who can answer my honest dilemma.
Your help would mean a lot to me.
Thanks in advance.
So I replied:
It’s not an honest dilemma for two reasons.
(1) Being a product of undirected incidents and natural processes is no indication that you shouldn’t trust your brain. On the contrary, your ancestry of survivors of life-and-death struggles is one good reason why you should trust your brain. There are two basic perspectives here, those with a deep-seated emotional need to believe impossible nonsense, and those who have a desire to understand reality. The latter group has a very different way of judging information. The only value any claim can have is how true we can show it to be. If you can’t show that it’s true at all, then it has no value at all; it is only an empty assertion unsupported by anything, and therefore beneath serious consideration. The fact that no one can show that religion isn’t just a product of human imagination is further exacerbated by the fact that there is so much that we can show religion to be wrong about. Then there is the point that the only way to improve understanding is to seek out the flaws in your current perception and correct them. You can’t do that if you believe anything on faith.
(2) Religion is the only thing telling us not to trust our brains. Faith is an unreasonable assertion of complete conviction which is assumed without reason and defended against all reason. You’re supposed to believe things that are not indicated by any evidence, and you’re supposed to maintain that belief despite all evidence to the contrary. It is already dishonest to assert as fact that which is not evidently true, yet that’s what all religions do. They pretend to ‘witness’ things they’ve never seen, saying they know things no one can honestly say they know, and they claim facts that are not facts. As if that wasn’t bad enough, faith also requires an unreasonable resistance to reason itself, in the form of apologetics. This is the practice of making up excuses to rationalize, justify, or dismiss all the arguments against your position. That’s where your challenge comes from, prompting you to misrepresent the situation as if there was ever any reason to distrust our own brains. That’s also why you won’t really donate $10,000.00 to Médecins Sans Frontières. You never intended to do that. Instead your goal was to pretend to present an unanswerable dilemma and arbitrarily dismiss every perfectly good answer you get -without any transparency. So there is no way for anyone else to see all the answers like this one that you actually did get.
So I’ve decided to post your question to my blog, just so that people have some way to know that I did answer it.