Here’s the original video, in full, from the Rational Religion channel.
I’ve posted a comment on YouTube, which I’m re-stating here and which I may revisit to expand upon from time to time.
The suggestion that people don’t want to “put in the work” is what I disagree with.
Personally, I thrived on the do’s and don’ts of Islam (without having taken them to an excess, as some Muslims tend to do).
Many of us thrive on structure and that obedience which helps to avoid decision fatigue. Constraints can certainly be liberating.
People like myself left religion—and that includes Ahmadiyya Islam—because the truth claims didn’t add up (for us). People do crave a ‘spiritual’ connection (whether to fellow human beings and/or to the mysterious unknown). I suspect many people are really deists in a fuzzy sense. And deism itself means different things to different people. That’s not a pejorative; there’s an honesty in saying “I don’t know” and acknowledging that there are mysteries beyond our comprehension.
It’s when we jump to conclusions about that which is beyond our comprehension, that we commit a logical fallacy.
We commit such logical errors when we rush to the assumption that because we crave answers and a connection with fellow humans and the numinous—beyond the mechanics of survival, pleasure and the avoidance of pain—that somehow there must be at least one revealed religion out there that is “true”.
It’s the “revealed” religions that have let us down. But the feeling and the desires remain. So “spiritual but not religious” is a deeply honest and mature way to characterize one’s assessment of their internal state and the abysmal state of “revealed” religions.
Hell is an absurd & wicked fiction. You’re not a bad person for rejecting something that’s cruel, irrational, unjust & lacks evidence. You have nothing to fear. Nothing to feel ashamed about. Enjoy your life. Do the best you can. Make yourself & others happy.
If a person follows the Ahmadiyya Muslim recipe for finding God through prayer, and is in contact with Ahmadi Muslims, they are more likely to induce that this “God” wants them to be an Ahmadi Muslim. If they did this same exercise at the prompting of an evangelical Baptist Christian, Jesus would be the one speaking to them, and they would then in all likelihood join that particular flavor of Christianity.
Consider this excerpt from the article Why Atheists Really Need to Learn About Islam Ahmadiyya from a convert to Ahmadiyya Islam, Raden Roro:
If simultaneously, you are engaged in other objectively and undeniably positive actions (humility, pure intentions, charitable acts, patience and perseverance), you are going to load the dice and bias the act of prayer with those positive emotions and actions, thereby confounding your results. Reading books and blogs that are pro-Islam are going to do the same thing.
What if we changed the prayer recipe to the Lord’s Prayer and changed the reading list to pro-Christian literature and videos discussing the merits of Christian doctrine and love, from say, William Lane Craig?
In my opinion, religious prescriptions of prayer such as this work to bypass our rational minds. We know enough about human psychology now, to know that we crave internal consistency. Our behaviors strive to match our subconscious vision of our own identities. If we’re hitting the gas pedal on engaging in acts of self-betterment and contribution (humility, pure intentions, charitable acts, patience and perseverance) anything else we do consistently with those actions is going to enjoy the halo effect. We are conditioning our minds to give prayer and the wishful thinking it creates, a free pass. Note that I don’t dispute the personal meditative benefits of prayer and prayer-like activities.
Expectations can drive outcome, as has been seen with the Pygmalion effect. Why do personal development systems often include incantations and affirmations? Because that repetition helps internalize belief. Prayer is no different. If you repeat a prayer that states explicitly or implicitly that you will feel God’s love and presence, you’ll convince yourself that this is what you’re feeling. How do we distinguish positive self-programming from objective assessments about the existence of a deity and about which religion is “true”?
What do people do, who see through these biases? They drop organized religion and live as best as they can. They live with lives filled with their own goals but also with that of contribution and service to others.
If deism is in fact a more accurate representation of reality than classical theism, then looking for a “revealed” religion as the vessel to practice and hone spirituality is a red herring. Again, we come back to the most rational course of action being this: to use reason to identify the religious claims that make the most sense (if any), and then if in fact such claims make overwhelming sense, to explore prayer, having already satisfied the rational mind. It is our only logical defense against being led astray by wishful thinking and self-delusion.
If there’s even one turd in the swimming pool, we are within our rational right to suggest that jumping in is to embrace unjustifiable truth-claims. Praying anyways with a loaded question is to weaken our objective faculties in favor of our emotional desires.
If the Qur’an for example, made poetic statements about the enigmatic properties of black holes that I couldn’t wrap my head around, I’d give it a free pass. But I am within my right to say, “I’m sorry, this two-female witnesses for one male witness thing for financial transactions doesn’t jibe with a just or sensible deity and a book for all times”.
If none of the revealed religions make sense, then the rational thing to do is to drop the classical theism assumption from one’s worldview of what spirituality is. It’s still just as beautiful and just as inspiring. No scriptural contradictions with science or troubling/ambiguous moral prescriptions to wrestle with. Giving oneself a structure and road map for spirituality is a red herring if it comes from a religion that does not in fact, stand up to scrutiny.
That’s why establishing the veracity of a religion’s claims is always the most important first step.