Mr. Loftus is on a crusade against “faith”, but it is not at all clear what dragon it is that he intends to slay.
A part of his point, I believe, is to boldly assert that religion and religious belief is irrational. I’m reluctant to disagree with this point. There is a good deal of truth to this point, and this is important truth too.
I have attempted to add some balance to this truth by pointing out that irrationality is a universal human problem that is NOT confined to religion, to religious beliefs, to religious issues, nor to religious people. Irrationality infects and affects the thinking of non-religious people and it infects and affects our thinking about non-religious issues (political, ethical, historical, scientific, philosophical, etc.).
But let me give some credit to Loftus on this key point concerning the irrationality of religion and religious belief. This is a real problem, and this is a serious and significant problem. It does not, however, reduce down to the problem of CONFIRMATION BIAS. The problem of CONFIRMATION BIAS is real and significant and widespread. CONFIRMATION BIAS infects and affects the thinking of all or nearly all human beings, including atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, communists, free-thinkers, and non-religious persons of every stripe, in addition to religious believers.
When I think about the irrationality of religion and religious belief, CONFIRMATION BIAS is only one of many, many intellectual problems that come to mind. Here are some others:
- group think
- vested interest
- begging the question
- circular reasoning
- straw man fallacy
- testimonial evidence
- appeal to authority
- appeal to fear
- appeal to popularity
- hasty generalization
- questionable cause
- black-or-white thinking
- genetic fallacy
- ad hominem
- poinsoning the well
- blaming the victim
- wishful thinking
The irrationality of religious belief comes in a wide variety of styles, types, and flavors.
Loftus often points out that a person’s religious beliefs usually correlate with where that person grew up. The religion of one’s parents and/or community usually “determines” the religion that a person embraces. This implies that religion is not generally a matter of individual choice. This implies that religion is primarily a matter of indoctrination and socialization. Loftus is correct on this very important point.
Because one’s religious point of veiw (or point of view about religion) is very strongly influenced by how one was raised and socialized, we ought to be skeptical about our own religious points of view or point of view about religion (including anti-religious points of view, such as secular humanism or naturalism). We ought to be raised to think critically about religion, religious beliefs, and worldviews in general (including secular worldviews such as secular humanism or marxism).
So far as I know, no society has ever raised children to think critically about religion, religious beliefs, and worldviews in general, so not only are human beings naturally “irrational animals”, but human cultures tend to re-inforce our natural irrationality rather than provide children with intellectual tools, skills, and values that would help them to fight against our various strong natural tendencies to be irrational.
Although I am not willing to join a crusade against CONFIRMATION BIAS, I would be willing to join a crusade against the natural human tendencies towards irrationality, especially to fight the dragon of socialization that re-inforces natural human irrationality concerning worldviews, and to work towards the creation of a critical society in which children are provided with intellectual tools, skills, and values that would help them to fight against our various strong natural tendencies to be irrational.