Stand-up comic Marcus Brigstocke has written a book on religion. (Well, somebody had to.) In an interview with Metro – keeping commuters awake since 1999 – he’s asked if it’s easy to extract the piss from it…

Yes, which is why I wrote this book rather than taking the p*** out of religion. This book is a personal journey to ask questions about what value faith has. Just to shoot down religion or point out the stupid stuff is easy.

Easy, eh? Hrm. Well, in the same interview Brigstocke has a go at pointing out some of the “stupid stuff”…

Apparently just before the Pope is made Pope, he’s required to sit naked on a chair with a hole cut out of it. A cardinal then checks to make sure they’re not about to install a female Pope.

No, I don’t think they do.

And orthodox Jews make love to each other though a hole in a sheet…

No, I’m afraid they don’t.

There’s a lot of silliness among religions, of course, but perhaps shooting ‘em down isn’t as easy as Brigstocke imagines.

I can’t think of many things more crippling to the intellect than the idea that the condundrums it faces are “easy”. From the nuclear technician to the humble gamer, we’re not stimulated by things that are “easy”. It suggests that little effort has to expended to achieve or understand something; which oftens mean we won’t but think we have. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever held a ludicrous opinion that I didn’t think was, y’know – obvious. Years ago, when I was a naive Christian, it seemed obvious to me that there was a God because, of course, it was all I knew. (In fact, I remember marvelling at my fortune in being born into a Christian family. It would suck to have grown up believing in the wrong one!) When I lost the faith, however, I assumed that atheism had to be true – obviously so. After all, I’d never seen a reason to believe in God. The idea that my own reasoning was a poor standard to judge religion by doesn’t seem to have occurred to me.

Thing is, I doubt that many questions are “easy” to answer. Think of one political or philosophical idea you hold and then trace back the ethical and epistemological beliefs that underly it. They’re all founded on a lot of thought. If you’re an expert on a particular question and are forced to grapple with each premise it’s constructed on I doubt you’ll have the confidence to say it’s “easy” to answer. If you asked a Mackie, Ayer or Smith if theism is “easy” to refute I think they’d be insulted. (If that’s true what in the hell were they doing with their lives?)

Our minds value certitude more than ambiguity. So, when something is mysterious we seem to feel compelled to stuff the mental gap where a rationale might be with a coping mechanism. Misplaced confidence seems to function as a kind of psychological ballast – keeping our opinions stable even as the world shakes.

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