From AJ Milne in a comment over at PZ's:
I also think it's probably the single most damaging aspect of religion. The dynamic reinforces a cynical, de facto relativism. The real message is: lying is perfectly acceptable in many, many situations; the truth is whatever is socially convenient; indeed, if enough of us agree to tell the same lie, well, then, for rhetorical purposes, that's the truth, now. Practical and political purposes may or may not diverge in certain contexts, however, so you frequently have to do this doublethink shuffle. Faith is good and can move mountains and your god is all powerful and will not let you come to harm, but you know perfectly well there's no sense to expect said deity to stop traffic if you blurt out said request to it and dash on foot across a red light. You know perfectly well the rhetorical does not equal the practical. Here, the theology offers you a nice little out to cover this practicality: don't go testing the guy. But you know how it works, and which rule matters where. Matters in which intervention occurs are unknowable or are demonstrated after the fact. If you ran across and somehow failed to get horribly maimed, then maybe your god listened... And yes, you know, actually, this is evidence for nothing, but this, too, is part of the rules. Reason, too, is subordinate to the social need. You are to twist it, too, to affirm the lie. By any means necessary.I love the part about de facto relativism.