Appeal to Imagination

[read the disclaimer before proceeding]

One religious argument that’s been getting on my nerves lately is the old Appeal to Imagination. It goes something like this: “Your mind is too scientific to understand this,” or “You have to extend you imagination,” or the ever-popular “Open your heart to Jesus.”

Many religious people attack atheists by saying that they have a “weak imagination,” and therefore cannot possibly comprehend all the wonders of God and the joy of blind faith. I’ll set aside the fact that this kind of statement is a crude ad hominem attack and can be considered quite offensive, and instead simply address the falsehood of the claim itself.

I have imagined heaven, and hell, and God, and worlds with angels, devils, witches, and all kinds of other things — when I was six years old. This was the same period in my life when I imagined Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Children in general have an extraordinarily active imagination.

But then I grew up, and my imagination collided with something known as reality. And my imagination did not become “limited” by reality, but instead was enhanced and matured by it.

This is why religious leaders insist that it is children, with their undeveloped imaginations, that must be quickly indoctrinated with religious beliefs, so that they will forever be afraid to question them in their own mind.

So, while religious fundamentalists are still in the childish stage of imagining fantasy worlds of angels, devils, and gods, atheists have the capacity to imagine a future when people are no longer bound by the mental shackles of religion, and are free to expand their minds (their imagination) farther than ever before.

It takes a tremendous amount of imagination to find ways to prove difficult theorems in mathematics, or to design experiments to test a scientific conjecture. It does not, however, take imagination to blindly believe what someone else has told you or forced upon you since childhood. In fact, it takes a profound lack of imagination (nevermind a lack of reason) to be utterly fooled by 3000-year-old mythology.