Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H


If we could agree on what is good and does the least possible harm to others it would be okay to believe what you want and it would not matter what you believe. But truth is important and to wilfully try to believe what you suspect or know is not true is to become corrupt. You have no right to present yourself to others as a genuine person.


People sometimes say, "Let people believe what they want." Should we?


Yes if we cannot reach them but it does not mean that we must silently and politely stop trying to inspire them to enlighten themselves. Inspiring people to re-think is good because we have to inspire them one way or another anyway. We all influence each other even if we intend not to.


Supporters of that right argue that believers can accept what they want but they have no right to declare that their creeds and doctrines and religions have the support of science, evidence and reason.


Instead of talking about letting people believe what they want, we should direct them to what real belief involves. Give them an appreciation for evidence and if they comply they will start searching for truth and be open to it.


Some say you have a right to refuse to believe in God and others have the right to believe. So you and they should respect this. Nonsense! What you should respect is the people holding the views. If you are nice about the views, it is for the sake of those who hold them and not for the views themselves. You need to avoid stressing people unduly about religion so that they can think clearly and find the way out of religion. To truly respect a view would mean taking the stupid position that all views are equally true and useful. To make that position your own will lead to terrible things. It will paralyse those who see they need to speak out.


Is believing what you like or what you think the evidence points to something to be celebrated?


Believing what you like is not something you can ask others to be happy about. They should not. It is disrespectful to expect them to be happy about your preference for what you want to think as if you can make something plausible or true by believing it. If you are following evidence wherever it leads that is what should be celebrated.


Take courage and speak out for those who say let others believe what they want do not really believe it. They would object to a person who says, "But my faith tells me that all people have a duty to believe it or else."


If we think helping others to drop God and stand firm on their own inner resources as a way of getting the best they can out of life even in the middle of suffering is a waste of time, then we are forgetting that denial of the truth is a bereavement stage. Their opposition to the truth and denial of the truth do not prove your efforts are failing. The person mourns the loss of their religious faith and denial is one of the stages of grief. It is a stage they have to go through before they can approach the truth. Remember, it is the priests and teachers or whatever that are accountable for their pain - not you.


Sometimes the "believe what you want" brigade think that the justification of their stance is simply that people only or mostly believe what they want anyway. In that case, they are not giving themselves or others permission to believe what they want. They just think it is the way it is that people believe what they want.
Let people believe what they want is only said in the context of religion. It is actually an insult to religion. (In fairness though, some believers in religion make critics think people believe only what they want. These believers see proofs and evidences that their beliefs are wrong and still they stand by them. It is a terrible message to put out and very harmful especially in the long run.) It is an insult to religions that believe in sharing their beliefs with others so that others may become part of their faith. It is an insult to everybody to say you must let people believe what they want in nothing but religion? Why religion and not politics or health?


The advice implies people should be allowed to believe what they want in religion though they will not be allowed to believe what they want about some morals or crime. Why? It can only be explained by a suspicion that religious people are too bigoted to talk to about religion or to face a challenge to their religious ideas.
The permission to believe what you want is often given only to religious people. Believing what you want only comes up in religious matters. Nobody encourages you or accepts you believing that the tax return is right just because you want to believe it. Religion being a form of prejudice and idolatry always seeks special treatment. It wants an unfair respect to be granted to its beliefs while non-religious beliefs often being more important are not afforded as much respect.


You don't hear people saying it when somebody wants to believe that their shoddy maths exam should get an A Grade. You don't hear it said that people should be encouraged to believe that aspirin is better in cancer care than radiotherapy if they want to. You don't hear that if the President believes he should start a worldwide nuclear war then he should.


Suppose I believe in a God who punishes the bad and rewards the good. If I believe that because I want to then it follows that I am spiteful. I want people to be punished. Even if people should be punished it does not follow that we should have to like it. Rather we should hate doing it and see it as a necessary evil. Imagine the implications if I believe in eternal punishment for mortal sinners such as people who have sex outside of marriage or people who though claiming to be Catholic oppose Catholic doctrine! Imagine the vindictiveness this would imply. It is better if there is no God to punish evil people. Punishment does not stop them doing evil. At least there is less suffering without them suffering as well as their victims.


If a person believes in eternal punishment without adequate grounds for believing it, then he wants to believe it. Most Christians want to believe. You need incredibly good evidence before you can say God facilitates eternal punishment or that people deserve it.


The saying, let people believe what they want, translates as, "No religion or faith is better than another. It is as good for a religion to be totally pro-choice in abortion as it is for it to be totally opposed to abortion. Religious statements cannot be treated as facts." That insults religions that claim to be based on the truth. It insults intelligence. What about Catholicism which claims to be the only religion established by Jesus who is the truth?


Also, many religions claim that God has given them statements of fact. For Catholics, their faith is a collection of facts. The let them believe whatever they wish argument is implying that the doctrine that God reveals only facts and truth is bigotry. It is urging intolerance towards Catholicism or taking a baby step towards it. The supporters of the arguments are intolerant for claiming to have the right to lie about Catholic teaching and say its a pile of myths and not intended to be taken as factual. To say that people must be allowed to believe what they want and not be challenged is to say that religion is useless and shouldn't be requiring that people agree with it. What is the point of setting up religion or being part of it if all that matters is not it but what you want to believe?


If a religion says its beliefs are facts, then it is intolerant for it is saying what it feels is true makes it true. That would be arrogance and be the first step towards intolerance for you deny that any religion that contradicts you with its facts is telling the truth. Warmongers always start off with facts or what they pretend is facts.


If people believe what they want to believe, then some religions are intolerable for they have people wanting to believe in hideous things. If people only care about what they want to believe then it follows that all religions that claim to be based on evidence and reason are lying.


Religion conditions people to believe its lies when they are children. This conditioning will affect them forever. How can you say they believe only what they want when they have been programmed when they were too young to know any better?


If people believe only what they want, then it is not right to have religion. There is enough around that people believe in because they want to, without religion making the problem worse. Prayer and worship only manifest and maximise the selfishness and are vile though pleasingly so to some.


The hypocrites who want religion protected from challenges to its correctness and veracity are enabling bigotry and intolerance. It will only get worse. It leads to bigoted anti-religionists and sectarians fearing religion or other religions even more than they do.




Some say people only believe what they want to believe because they think there is no point in trying to help anybody change their mind. But their view is grossly absurd. We can safely deny that desires and wishes control all our beliefs. And they have the audacity to say, "It is respectful to let people believe what they want!" But how do you know that other people believe their beliefs do not need a challenge? Maybe they need some drama and some criticism?


Who are you to say that it is respectful to say nothing? Your respect for belief is hypocritical. All it is good for is leading to stupid and bad and dangerous beliefs being allowed to run riot. Bad beliefs result in bad actions or standing by while evil triumphs. If your respect for belief is so great then why do you not respect those who say, "I believe in challenging the beliefs of others in love and politeness?"


The view is making out that people are not responsible for how they see evidence - belief is impossible if there is no evidence. If a person is in denial, they ignore evidence that contradicts what they want to believe and look the other way. Their denial masks the fact that they themselves suspect or know deep down that they are wrong. If you really think you are right then you will not be afraid of evidence that seems to contradict you. You cannot avoid seeing that 2 and 2 make 4 - but that is only because you let yourself care about truth. The view makes excuses for bad and malevolent beliefs. When we are watching a movie, we turn off the bit of our brain that tells us that it is not true. Then we think it is true until we leave the cinema. But we are still responsible. The phenomenon is the reason why the likes of William Lane Craig parrot definitively refuted Christian doctrine as if it were true when they actually have to know that it is wrong.


Others say even if you can change other's minds, you shouldn't try. That too is nonsense. It is worse nonsense. We should all be adults and willing to revise our views. In fact wanting people to believe in changing their minds is one of the foundational things we want to believe and want other people to believe. This is far more basic and important than any belief in God.


Even if it is true that people believe what they want it does not follow that we should not object to them doing so. If we believe what we want then it follows that we believe what we believe because we feel we want to and we twist the evidence to give our belief the semblance of rationality and realism. We do not believe out of respect for truth and evidence but to suit ourselves. We would be responsible for fooling ourselves. We would be fundamentally dishonest even as we pass for being honest. And we are being dishonest not just for ourselves but with others.


If we believe what we believe mainly or solely because we want to, then we have no real reason for the beliefs. We are covering this up when we give reasons. We are pretending that we really think they are reasons. Opposing or working against the beliefs of others is an unavoidable part of life. We do it every hour of every day. If we really think people should be left to believe whatever they want we are saying that truth does not matter and thus opening the door to insanity and chaos.


It would be bad enough to be a devotee of "let people believe what they want" in normal mundane life but it would be intrinsically evil to bring God and religion into it. It would be urging people to worship what you feel is true. But worship cannot be about what you feel is true. It is idolatry to adore a God you only feel exists. You must think he is a reality. God and religion involve going too far. God is not about you but about God. If you adore God because you want to and not because he wants to then you are manipulating the people who you encourage to worship God.


The saying is a product of human insincerity. Those who say it do not really think it is true - they do not mean it. Its an example of how many of us sometimes like to defend what cannot be defended or justified. Nobody believes that anybody and everybody should be allowed to believe what they want. Liberals are intolerant toward those who believe in encouraging serial killers or violent fundamentalists. Most don't worry that they have an intolerance based on moral objections to people who they consider to be very harmful. They do not see the intolerance as something regretfully necessary or a necessary evil but as something admirable.


Most people who advocate tolerance feel that tolerance is the only attitude that is respectful to other people. But if a respectful attitude is what people are trying to achieve, then tolerance must have its limits. Commitment to tolerance cannot be absolute. In other words, disrespectful acts must not be tolerated.

"Let people believe what they want" does not respect our appreciation for being challenged to rethink our views even though the challenge will be unwelcome and painful for a time. If we do not try to dialogue with others and encourage people to check out their beliefs, we risk helping those beliefs produce harm for society. Beliefs may influence how you engage with others. If you brainwash your child to believe that Adam and Eve were made in the Garden of Eden a few thousand years ago, you are making sure that child will never get the chance to become a scientist.


If people should be allowed to believe what they want, then people should be allowed to believe they may gently but firmly present the truth to others.


People these days mostly say you can believe what you want. The correct view is that as there are so many things that we cannot prove, we have to do our best and work out what seems likely to be true. Belief is not full certainty - we must really think that something is probably true, that is what real belief is.


We must always be open to revising those beliefs - even if we do not like doing so or fear what we will find out. Otherwise we will be trapped by fear. We will fear anybody and end up hating who we think will disagree with us and that has led to sectarianism both in its atheistic and religious forms. If our beliefs are about what we want and not about truth, how can we trust others? We will think they are no better than us!


Feeling that something is true is not the same as thinking its true. The notion that you should believe whatever you want suggests otherwise. Also, nobody really believes in the notion. They forbid you to believe in murdering infants and eating them no matter how much you want to believe in it. Belief is not about what you want to be true but about trying to learn what IS true.


Some people say, "Let people believe what they want." But belief is not a choice. You cannot simply choose to believe that the sun will turn green in five seconds. Belief just happens and is caused by evidence - we all evaluate evidence differently which is why people never believe exactly the same things. We all believe stuff that we don't want to believe. We have to be mature and expect challenges every day. We are the one with the problem if somebody says something that offends us. Catholicism says it is a sin not to believe. It seems to mean that if you don't believe then you have not looked at the evidence and thought about it carefully so you are at fault for not believing. It would be odd to argue that letting people believe what they want shows tolerance for religion when it contradicts Catholic doctrine which says that faith is partly comprised of belief and belief comes from evidence and from opening your eyes with the help of God.


All who speak out to challenge the beliefs of others are to be praised for having an alternative voice. Honest people do not oppose the truth of their beliefs being examined. The world would long have perished in war if we all thought we should not be exposed to anything that makes us think differently.


The unsympathetic harshness towards believers that many unbelievers have is defeating their own purpose which should be to help people think. And those who are being nasty in return to them are adding to the problem.


And besides, atheism and evolution are important yes but surely encouraging people to be noble is far more important?


The honest and sensible person cares about what should be believed - not about what he wants to believe. If a cancer patient wants to believe he doesn't have cancer, and believes then he is not being honest and he knows it. Deep down he sees the truth. Believing what you desire to believe is the same as pretending to believe.


Some feel that those who believe stuff because they want to do so because they already sense what the truth is and find it too painful to think about. People can hide their fears and traumas. The person brought up with intense religion fears getting outside the box. They can conceal their pain in a smile. Helping them to face it is important which is why manners and respect are crucial.




What you see when you observe people is that non-religious people such as politicians or social workers or electricians or whatever, they do not believe what they want to believe but believe on the basis of what the evidence tells them. Only religious people are different.


Not all who seem to believe what they want to believe really do so. Some give the impression that they do this for they hope it will deter you from challenging their faith. They want the fear of offending them or taking their precious faith away from them to put you off.


We have all noticed how people soon believe what they want when you challenge their bad behaviour. You will be met with a pile of denial if you show somebody she or he is devious and you are on to them. Even if you are trying to be constructively critical and are trying to help they will get defensive. They will deny stealing even if you catch them red handed. They will seem to believe their own lies. If religious people believe what they want then something similar to this is at work. Letting them away with it only flatters their dishonesty and makes them worse and their example infects others. It is important to make humanism and atheism attractive. This has to be done whether or not people care mostly about what they want to believe and not the truth.


Those who believe what they want are really talking about morality. They adhere to religion and if you show them they are disobedient or bad or hypocrites they go all defensive as if they believe they are guiltless. They confuse morality and whatever specific religion they have. You need to show them that their values do not have to fall apart if they stop taking their religious ideas seriously. Some believe that everybody who believes what they want is mistaking doctrine for morality or fails to notice that there is no necessary bond between religion and doing good.


If there is a God then people should want to believe only in the truth. All forms of learning could be seen as his gift. Believing in God because you want to and not because you care if it is the truth or not is idolatry. It is toxic for it presents hypocrisy as faith in God. To preach a faith like that would be to manipulate others - you make them think they adore God while in reality they adore their own ideas. Considering that faith has its big demands this is very cruel.




We conclude that presenting evidence and facts to people can help them to change their beliefs. Their beliefs are more than just about wanting to believe.


There are exceptions but nothing that warrants excusing people for following religion.