10 “Unanswerable” questions #9 and #10

This should about wrap up TodayChristian’s list of “unanswerable” questions, because we can do two questions in one post. Here’s question #9.

9.       What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

That’s an easy one to answer: they’re all authors, they’ve written some interesting and controversial books, and they have their flaws as well as their strengths, same as anybody else. I like some of the things they’ve written, such as The God Delusion by Dawkins, and I’ve seen some of their ad hoc writings that suggest negative traits ranging from privileged sexism to outright irrational xenophobia and Islamophobia. But that’s about it.

I’m not sure why this is on the list of “10 Unanswerable Questions.” Does TodayChristian think these three modern writers invented atheism or something? Anyway, there’s not much more to say about #9, so let’s take the last question.

TodayChristian’s last “unanswerable” question is this:

10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

A question like that invites the counter question: If there is a God, why does ever society have more than one religion? But let’s answer the question that was asked, below the fold.

This question is one of a whole category of similar questions, like “Why does every society have people who believe in ghosts?” and “Why does ever society have superstitions?” and “Why does every society have people who believe in witches?” We could even sum it all up in a single question: Why does every society have people who believe things that are not true?

I think even TodayChristian would have to admit that this last question is the one they are really asking. After all, most religions are not Christianity, and most societies have been non-Christian societies. So the question of why societies have religions is also a question about why most societies have false religions, even by TodayChristian’s standards.

There are a lot of factors that go into the answer to that question. One factor is the fact that we have a strong tendency to infer cause and effect even when there’s no relationship at all between the two things we’re connecting. This makes it easy for us to invent causes for things we don’t understand, especially when you consider another strong human tendency: the tendency to anthropomorphize inanimate forces and objects.

We do this all the time. “My computer hates me.” “My car didn’t want to start this morning.” “We’d better cancel the picnic, that sky looks pretty angry.” It’s a natural outgrowth of our innate social orientation. We tend to think of things in terms of relating to other people whose actions are governed by emotions and desires and fears and so on. When we project those same motivations onto the forces of nature, we create shadows of invisible persons whose mood presumably drives natural events. Poof, a godling.

Add to this the political dimension, in which social standing can be enhanced by those having some kind of power over these gods and spirits, and religion is born. The shaman gets the best cuts of meat, the freshest fruit, the crispiest and sweetest vegetables, because he’s the one who stands between the tribe and the great unseen forces of the “supernatural.” And so the “tithe” is born. The shaman’s influence as a political leader improves whenever the community gathers, under his authority, to hear his pronouncements and serve his deities, and so the worship service is born. And so on.

Really, given mankind’s natural superstition, credulity, gullibility, and tribalism, it is much more surprising that any societies ever manage to throw off religions and take the world at face value.

Now, let’s look at the comments and see if there’s anything more we can address. Hmm, nope, there’s a comments section, but no comments. I wonder if they never received any, or if they didn’t like the answers they got.

So that’s it then. That’s all 10 “unanswerable” questions, and none of them was really even hard. Maybe we should close by asking TodayChristian just one question:

  1. If there really were an all-loving, all-knowing, all-wise, and all-powerful God, Who wanted us to be saved by knowing Him, why would we need apologetics?



  1. John Morales says

    A question like that invites the counter question: If there is a God, why does ever[y] society have more than one religion?

    Nice. Many people would have used the locution “begs the question” instead, and so shown their ignorance.

  2. says

    Nice series of (presumably non-existent?) answers.
    Personally I blame Linnæus: if only he’d had the wisdom to name our species Homo credentis, ‘gullible Man’, or Homo pontesbrooklyniensisemptor—‘Man the buyer of Brooklyn Bridges’ rather than the totally silly Homo sapiens then it would be so much easier to accept that we don’t think as much as we think we think….I think???
    See my Sappy Sapientes if you feel you must.

    • Menyambal says

      Wow. Just the chapter names in the table of contents are great. Thanks. Saved for offline reading.

  3. Menyambal says

    How are these unanswerable? Are we supposed to be struck dumb by the power of the words?

    I have a Dawkins book. It’s popular science, and not as good as Gould. That’s about all I have read of his. His tweets, as passed on, are ridiculous, and no loss to me. Otherwise, I’d be neutral on the man, except so many people seem to think he is the pope of atheism.

    Hitchens? I love his artistry with words, and his insights into most things. There’s some stuff I disagree with, but he isn’t important enough to me to say further.

    Harris? Barely heard of him, and I gather he’s a bit of a muffin.

    P Z Myers, now. I hang out on his blog, and I really like some of his work, and disagree with some of his opinions. I like the commenters.

    Here’s the deal with question 9. It implies that those guys are leaders, and that they have influenced me. Maybe, even, they led me blindly into atheism. Well, I’m about two years younger than P Z Myers, and nearly as well educated. I’m not in awe of any of those guys. I got to atheism on my own, thanks.

    But let’s look at leaders for a second, and reciprocate a question. Christians are followers, with all kinds of leaders. How do you know a leader is sincere?

    Question 10 is just silly. The OP covered it very well, but here’s my question. Why isn’t Jesus the Pope?

    • Megamoya says

      I think they are “unanswerable” in that they can’t answer them. If only because, if they do, their whole house of cards will crumble down.

      10: If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

      More like “if there is a god, then why does every society have their own different religion?”

  4. rietpluim says

    Deacon Duncan, I applaud you, but I doubt TodayChristian is even remotely interested in the answers.

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