There is a basic divide when it comes to religionism, and from my extensive experience it appears impossible to bridge because it’s not to do with reason or facts but rather a function of subjective and solipsistic attitudes. I can only say that if one does not begin with the concept of invisible magical creatures, one would never deduce any requirement for their existence based on all the real-world evidence we’ve amassed over the course of the last few hundred years. Logically there is an infinite range of things we can believe in; it seems simpler to consider only those things for which there is tangible evidence.

Otherwise one is merely choosing, based on one’s time and place, whether or not to adopt the group belief about something. And we know that historically most group beliefs have been erroneous. Furthermore, religious beliefs are always internally inconsistent, whereas we know that reality is in fact highly consistent. So parsimony alone would rule out magical beliefs. But, as I wrote at the beginning of this reply, reason has no purchase when it comes to matters of belief, which is why so many people remain religious even today when today’s storehouse of human knowledge renders such beliefs unnecessary.

As for being moderately satisfied with my intellectual position, it’s a result of over 45 years of extensive reading across cultures, religions, and time periods combined with a reasonably adequate knowledge of neuroscience, cosmology, physics, evolutionary theory, biology, and cellular chemistry. Nothing in all my experience has ever once indicated in even the vaguest possible way that there is a non-material explanation for any phenomenon ever recorded in a reliable manner. To claim that “anything is possible” is to misunderstand on a fundamental level the way the universe works. This is why we do not see elephants suddenly transforming into Lego bricks, or the sun turning into a large ice-cream cone. The range of the possible is in fact tightly constrained by what is termed the “fine tuning” of various constants, which ultimately tightly constrain everything in existence. These constraints don’t merely operate at the level of quarks and gluons; they determine the way in which large-scale complex systems can develop.

There is a profound, and often misunderstood, difference between “keeping an open mind” and being able to tolerate the unknown. For example, we do not presently understand how to incorporate gravity into quantum mechanics and this is a major frontier in physics. But that doesn’t mean that, for example, we should be open to the idea that there are billions of tiny invisible octopus pressing down on matter with their tiny tentacles. Instead we must accept that today we don’t know how to reconcile gravity with quantum mechanics, but it seems likely that we’ll learn how to do this at some point in the future, even if it requires us to develop more complete and predictive models of reality than are currently contained in General Relativity and quantum mechanics. This is, after all, how Einstein’s ideas superseded Newton’s equations back in the early years of the last century.

As mentioned before, there is a potentially infinite amount of nonsense we could believe in; rationality however suggests we confine ourselves to the plausible (by which we mean consistent with all the other things we know to be true about existence). And when we do that, the notion of invisible magical creatures, be they gods, goblins, or ghouls, evaporates entirely because they are (i) unnecessary, and (ii) inconsistent with everything we know to be real in the universe of which we’re a tiny and fleeting part.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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