Jason says in a post which addresses the religion & science issue:
…Either the Bible is the holy and inerrant word of God, or it is an ancient document written by people with no more claim to authority than any other document that has survived from that time. It’s hard to find a logically consistent middle ground.
I regularly made this argument until a few years ago. It generally remains my own personal view, though my estimation of the likelihood of the first possibility is so low that I don’t know if it is judgement that is worth making when social considerations are removed. I stopped making the argument Jason is pointing to when I read this:
…disconforming evidence only seems to make believers try harder to understand the deeper truth and to strengthen religious beliefs. For example, after reading a bogus article on a new finding from the Dead Sea Scrolls that seemed to contradict Christian doctrine, religious believers who also believed the story reported their religious beliefs reinforced.
(In Gods we Trust, page 92)
I know my regular readers are sick of that particular passage, but I think it is a short and succinct summation of the problem that scriptural “rationalists” face. To a great extent religious belief simply exists outside logic. A colorful, if morbid, example of this is an orthodox Jewish girl who told me that the Holocaust strengthened her belief in God. I am sure in an alternative universe Jews managing to escape Europe because of worldwide diplomatic efforts would also have strengthened her belief in God.
The key is that though Biblical literalists on the whole assert one view of their religion, they believe and live another view. Literalism offers a nice bundle of social and psychological benefits, but I doubt that most fundamentalists are spending their days deriving inferences entailed by the axioms in the Bible. Yes, when asked if the Bible is scientifically and historically accurate of course fundamentalist Christians will aver that it is, but verbal affirmation does not imply that this is how the Bible as such impacts their day to day lives, or that they face the manifest falsity of such an assertion in how they live their faith. I do not believe they do, because on the individual scale the Bible and Christian fundamentalism (or organized religion in general) serves simply as a cultural channel for strong cognitive biases of belief.
To understand, as unbelievers, the persistence and power of belief we need to not take believers themselves at their word, but study them as if they were a natural phenomenon. The historical and social dimensions of religious belief are relevant and substantial, but they give one a fractured picture when the psychological roots are ignored. Of course, human variation also means that any expectation, or modal characterization, is subject to error. If you read the comments on Jason’s post David Heddle, a Reformed Christian physicist, shows exactly what religion can become when powerful minds are applied to it. Men like St. Aquinas can turn theology into a sophisticated systematic machine, while others like Karl Barth can generate an edifice of non-trivial philosophical sensitivity. But we can not confuse these individuals, the eloquent and cerberal voices of organized religion, for its heart, the masses who believe despite and without reflection.
Arguments over theology, interpretation of Hebrew or Greek, and the various entailments of a particular axiom, will always be the bread and butter of intellectuals, whether atheist or theist. They also serve as the basis for verbally demarcated group boundaries. But underneath the surface churns the real waters of religiosity, and logical decomposition and analysis are fundamentally orthogonal to this dynamic.
Addendum: Let me add that logical consistency is not very common in most areas of human cognition in my experience. Science is a little different because of the corrosive feedback of the culture as well as the unstinting and repeated criticisms of reality. Failures of experiment or prediction can overturn deeply held beliefs for most individuals. But even then, it does not always result in paradigm shift, Fred Holye being an exemplar of this, as he simply kept reworking his Steady State Hypothesis to keep up with the data even after it became totally discarded by the mainstream in physics. The problem with religious logical consistency is that it has a social and cultural dimension which impacts those of us who refuse to or choose not to partake.