• Eliminating Religion

    Dt-logoA religious believer recently expressed the view that “New Atheists” seek to eliminate religion. The way it was phrased made me think that the religious believer thought that atheists were planning some kind of Nazi style eugenics to hunt down and murder all religious believers. This of course is ridiculous and yet many religious believers think that this is what “New Atheism” is all about.

    First off, I object to the phrase “New Atheism.” There is nothing new about being a vocal critic of religious bullshit. There is nothing new about standing up against the injustices committed by the religious in the name of their deity and with the use of their holy books as justification. “New Atheism” isn’t some kind of atheist fundamentalism either. It is just a label used by the media to demonize atheism. In the same sense, there is also no such thing as “militant atheism.” There are not gun wielding atheists ranting and raving about shooting religious believers. The most strident atheists just write blogs and books and criticize religious holy books in a completely non-violent manner.

    That brings me to my next bone of contention. Second, none of the so-called “New Atheists” have advocated for the elimination of religion by force or violence. Any Christian who believes that is confusing atheism with… Christianity! Yeah, I went there. Christianity has actually hunted down, tortured, and murdered non-Christians and even other Christians for not believing the exact same thing they do. That happened. In contrast, “There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.” – Sam Harris

    What atheists like me advocate is not eliminating religion through violence, but rather eliminating the influence of religion through education. As it turns out, religious believers tend to be somewhat ignorant of their own religions and of other world religions. Hell, many are just ignorant in general. Just last week, I had a Christian tell me that there is more evidence for a historical Jesus than there is for Abe Lincoln. I pointed out that we actually have a photo of Abe Lincoln, but the religious believer didn’t seem that impressed. I don’t know, I kind’a think a photograph of someone constitutes “more” evidence than the anonymous scribbling’s of people who wrote at least 30 years later and who largely contradict each other. Plus, I am sure Lincolns bones are still in the ground while Jesus’s bones have been magically whisked away to Heaven.

    My point here is that many religious believers believe some pretty ridiculous stuff that has been shown to be… less than accurate. Many insist that prayer works and yet when prayer has been tested under scientifically controlled conditions prayer has not dramatically improved the situation. In some cases, it did improve the situation slightly and in other cases, it actually made things worse. Mostly, prayer didn’t do much of anything one way or the other. Still, every few years some religious group will try to test it again in order to try to prove what has already been shown to be false multiple times.

    Education, as it seems, is more than just presenting facts. Apparently, we have to get religious believers into a state of mind where they can think critically about those facts and analyze them for themselves. No, I am not advocating torturing them and forcing them to get into that frame of mind. I am talking about just continuing to point out the ridiculousness of their beliefs until they finally realize it for themselves.

    Then there are the naysayers who claim that religion will always exist or that religion isn’t going anywhere so why bother fighting against it. Well, that’s a pretty negative attitude. There is no doubt in my mind that there will always be people who believe ridiculous things on insufficient evidence. So what? There are still people who believe that Elvis is alive and well and working at a nearby Seven-Eleven. No matter how much evidence I present to someone that Astrology is bullshit, there will always be people who rely on their horoscopes to guide them through their lives.

    I don’t expect religion to be eliminated, but I do hope that we can get to the point when people will laugh at the religious assertions religious believers make and actually demand evidence. Then we won’t have government officials using ancient holy books to justify modern legislation. Churches will be little shacks with neon signs offering confessions for $10 and prayers for $5. For $25, you might even get yourself a sermon. Religion will be the Astrology of the future.

    Will this happen tomorrow? Probably not, but it will happen. The theological arc of history bends toward atheism and in the last few decades, that arc has bent quite a bit. The internet is changing everything and atheists are beginning to organize. The question isn’t if religion will become the Astrology of the future, but when will it become the Astrology of the future? I think that day may be sooner than people think and I will continue to work toward that day.

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    Category: AtheismAtheist ActivismfeaturedimportantNew Atheism

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    Article by: Staks Rosch

    Staks Rosch is a writer for the Skeptic Ink Network & Huffington Post, and is also a freelance writer for Publishers Weekly. Currently he serves as the head of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason and is a stay-at-home dad.

    37 comments

    1. In the same sense, there is also no such thing as “militant atheism.” There are not gun wielding atheists ranting and raving about shooting religious believers.

      Really? In no place and at no time have atheists murdered theists?

      I don’t expect religion to be eliminated, but I do hope that we can get to the point when people will laugh at the religious assertions religious believers make and actually demand evidence.

      Recall from our earlier discussion (‘Lots of Evidence For God’ – I’ll Bite) that your standard of evidence would eliminate most forms of knowledge, including historical knowledge. Thus, it’s hypocritical for you to now assert that Abe Lincoln was an historical figure. While you’re laughing at religious believers be sure to have a laugh at your own expense.

      The theological arc of history bends toward atheism and in the last few decades, that arc has bent quite a bit.

      Can you provide long-term statistics on this? Or is this another example of your double standards concerning evidence?

      1. In the United States today or in any westernized nation, you would be hard pressed to find an atheist even talk about murdering theists. I yet, I can find dozens of theists in my town alone who talk about “stringing up” evil atheists. Fortunately, I doubt any would actually do it, but the threat is certainly there.

        My standard of evidence is the scientific standard. You made false assertions that this would rule out any knowledge and that is just absurd. You are attempting to claim that nothing can be proven therefore everything must be accepted as truth. That’s just poor reasoning.

        Why yes, I can actually. But it seem that the double standard in on you. You demand evidence for my claims, but not from your own claims. The fact is that over the course of history, people believe in less gods. Feel free to Google it. At one point, people believed in multiple deities and over time that number started to shrink. I am suggesting that the number will continue to shrink. That is my hypothesis and so as I stated before, the theological arc bends toward atheism. I see no reason that the shrinking should stop at one deity especially when we are seeing a rise in godlessness over the last decade.

        1. You are attempting to claim that nothing can be proven therefore everything must be accepted as truth. That’s just poor reasoning.

          Not at all. I’m claiming that your standard of evidence does not allow you to say things like “there’s evidence Abe Lincoln was an historical person”. Such a claim would be supported by historical, not scientific, methodology. I’m saying you need to expand what you consider evidence. But in doing so you will have to admit there is evidence for God, even if you think it is insufficient evidence to warrant belief. Such blatant double standards on your part will hinder your re-education campaign of theists.

          The fact is that over the course of history, people believe in less gods.

          That hardly implies the arc of history is towards atheism. You could just as easily say the arc of history is towards monotheism.

          I see no reason that the shrinking should stop at one deity especially when we are seeing a rise in godlessness over the last decade.

          Your lack of imagination is not scientific evidence (the only kind of evidence you allegedly accept). Nor is a trend over the last decade (in the West only?) a good predictor of the distant future.

          1. That’s just bullshit right there, but I’ll play. I’ll “expand” my evidence to include photographs. Now there is evidence for Abe Lincoln, where is the evidence for God?

            You could say that the arc of history is toward monotheism, but as I stated before, why stop with one? Take that reasoning to it’s logical conclusion and you get zero.

            Actually, it is your lack of imagination if you are the one stopping the arc at one instead of zero. Like I said before, this is a hypothesis, which is just part of the scientific process. It is not a proven statement… yet. As I stated before, there is supporting evidence for my claim, but not enough to make it a fact. It is a hypothesis and so far, the evidence is backing it up. If you can point to nations with more social/cultural development and more gods, you could weaken my hypothesis. But as it turns out, the more developed a nation is, the less gods they tend to worship. Countries like the Netherlands and Denmark are arguably more developed than the United States (universal healthcare, gay rights, etc.) and they are also the among the most atheist countries. This again supports my hypothesis.

            But you don’t really care about facts anyway. You just want to argue to feel smart and smug. But the reality is that there is no evidence for your deity and it tears you up inside. The double standard is again on you. If someone where you conduct business transactions with you using your standard of evidence, you would laugh in their face. Disagree? then I have a bridge that I would like to sell you at a really cheap price. It’s a great investment.

            1. That’s just bullshit right there, but I’ll play. I’ll “expand” my evidence to include photographs. Now there is evidence for Abe Lincoln, where is the evidence for God?

              The authenticity of a photograph is supported by human testimony. Likewise, the resurrection of Christ is supported by human testimony. You can’t claim human testimony counts as evidence only for historical claims you accept. You fail to see that science and history, for example, rely on more basic forms of evidence that can also be used in arguing for God’s existence.

              You could say that the arc of history is toward monotheism, but as I stated before, why stop with one?

              Because the past does not allow us to predict the distant future. History is filled with radical changes.

              But the reality is that there is no evidence for your deity and it tears you up inside.

              Hardly. I just find it ironic that we theists need to be re-educated by someone whose idea of evidence is philosophically suspect and should lead him to reject many of his own beliefs.

              The double standard is again on you. If someone where you conduct business transactions with you using your standard of evidence, you would laugh in their face. Disagree? then I have a bridge that I would like to sell you at a really cheap price. It’s a great investment.

              I consider evidence for P to be any piece of information that is more probable given P than not-P. That hardly requires that I purchase your bridge since I make a distinction between evidence and sufficient evidence to believe P. I have no problem admitting that there is some evidence for many different viewpoints on God, including atheism. I just find the evidence to best fit monotheism. On the other hand, you seem to be adamant that there is no evidence at all for God’s existence.

            2. Again, your view is that all evidence is meaningless and therefore everything is permissible. Then you claim that you have just proven your deity of choice. But the fact is that there are facts. We have ways in which we know things (with relative certainty). A photograph could be faked, but we can test that photo and put it in context with other available evidence to conclude that Abe Lincoln almost certainly existed. But that isn’t really the point. The claim was that there was “more” evidence for Jesus than there was for Abe Lincoln. I have shown that this is patently false! Unless you can produce a photo of Jesus or some more compelling evidence the claim fails.

              You claim that there is more evidence for the existence of P than not-P. I will again ask you to present that evidence because I don’t believe that is true. I have yet to see any valid evidence for any concept of a deity at all and I certainly have yet to see any evidence for the specific Abrahamic deity. If you have a personal experience, it needs to be peer reviewed because your experience might not be what you think it was. That is the point of peer review. Sometimes our senses deceive us. Sometimes we want something to be true that we imagine that it actually is true. But there I go again, trying to discuss something in a genuine way with a disingenuous actor. So go ahead and tell me that atheism is a religion or that there is more evidence for God than there is for the computer you are typing on. Make assertion after assertion without bothering to back any of it up with actual facts… which according to you must not really exist anyway.

            3. Again, your view is that all evidence is meaningless and therefore everything is permissible.

              Wrong again. My simple point is that evidence is not restricted to scientific evidence and that scientific evidence relies on more basic types of evidence.

              But that isn’t really the point. The claim was that there was “more” evidence for Jesus than there was for Abe Lincoln. I have shown that this is patently false!

              Only by contradicting yourself as to what evidence is.

              You claim that there is more evidence for the existence of P than not-P.

              No, I said: “I consider evidence for P to be any piece of information that is more probable given P than not-P.”

              I will again ask you to present that evidence because I don’t believe that is true.

              I already alluded to some such evidence. The testimony contained in the NT is more probable given God resurrecting Jesus from the dead than if he did not do so. This simple fact, by itself, does not demand belief that Jesus was raised from the dead. But it is evidence as I defined it.

              If you have a personal experience, it needs to be peer reviewed because your experience might not be what you think it was.

              You don’t apply that standard to all personal experience. Generally, you believe your personal experience reflects reality barring a counter-argument. Such blatant double standards will hinder your re-education campaign.

        2. The web we create to trap and feed off the flies. The attention we seek when having a dangerous talk. The flies read what they dont want to, only to be trapped. For when freedom is sought truth remains. Truth is everything seen and unseen. The small atom of light that is surrounded by infinite darkness escapes creating a show we cannot comprehend. We theorize. Questioning, seeking, and arguing without stopping only to see the truths pass by. Closing the truth from perception. The harmonic field which creates all things, experiences, and love, is a place so close that we forget to listen. A song played, music to the ears. Take a swim and find your tune. For when this happens you see behind the scenes. A soft voice we overlook that speaks with all because its family as is everything. But we don’t listen, we act. Controlling through fear, loosing our grip and getting trapped as I have. Break free. Bringing all those with you, accepting all. For those including me, the flies caught in the web rise above and love all with thanks. Everything is truth not theory. Look behind the scenes as Einstien did. Find the place which is intertwined with the present, past, and future. For when we do, we create ideas and thoughts into substance. For when the wires cross a spark is created, causing fire.

          A prior atheist I am. Finding peace through cycles of experience.

            1. I appreciate your input. I was a christian, then atheist. I said I was a prior atheist because I used to consider myself one. I do not label my beliefs anymore, i do not follow, there is no wrapper or mask that I wear I am an individual as is everybody. The illusion we create by following and leading is the mirror. The mirror of ourselves is in what way we presume to something to be true. For one to grow and learn new things we must have a mind open to interpret. The first reply holds great meaning that I hold close to my heart. For one might see as puzzling another might see clear as day. I am not as you perceive as you are not what I do. I listen and appreciate any input.

      2. Really? In no place and at no time have atheists murdered theists?

        Your question implies a different point has been made than what Staks is talking about. This entire essay is about “new atheism” meaning relatively recent & current atheism (and, generally, the West). Why then do you ask about any time and any place? This seems like a deliberate attempt to distort the essay. That’s not very cordial.

        1. Why then do you ask about any time and any place? This seems like a deliberate attempt to distort the essay.

          First, to make sure he acknowledges such abuses. Second, if the words of new atheists echo the words of other atheists who have used force or violence that might lead us to wonder what is really in store if new atheists have political power. For example, I’ve heard atheists who want religious belief to be considered a mental illness and to be treated as such. This echoes the abuse of psychiatry by the USSR.

            1. Except I’m not making what you call the Stalin argument. I’m not claiming that all atheists bear responsibility for Stalin’s crimes. I’m saying that when an atheist sounds kind of Stalin-y it raises moral questions about the atheist in question.

              What would you say to an atheist who thinks religiosity is a sign of mental illness and such people should be sent to a mental facility for treatment?

            2. Actually you are making the Stalin argument because Stalin didn’t hunt down religious believers because he was an atheist and they were religious. He hunted them down because he was a fascist and they challenged his authority.

              Second, while some atheists like Dawkins have claimed that religious belief is a form of mental illness (a position I disagree with), he did not claim (nor have any atheists that I am aware of) that religious believers should be sent to a mental facility.

              For the record, I think religious belief is similar in some ways to a mental illness. Studies have actually been done to see if there is something within the brain that makes people more likely to be religious and I think they have found that there is. This would lend support to the mental illness view so some degree. However, it would be inaccurate to compare religious belief to something like schizophrenia despite the obviously similar symptoms.

              Getting back to my original point. Religious thinking hasn’t changed much since the Inquisition. Modernity has shifted morality in such a direction that religious institutions simply couldn’t get away with those tactics today… in most countries. But if they could get away with torturing non-believers, they certainly would. When you think about it, in their mind the non-religious are going to be tortured any way, so what does it matter? Jesus said it himself in Matthew 5:29. Isn’t it better to be tortured for a few days year on Earth than to be tortured for all eternity in Hell?

              Like I pointed out, the Christian “love” in response to this post has already started. Here is what one Christian had to say: “You eliminate, touch my Religion; we eliminate your Atheist Religion! Life is a two-way street!”

              Clearly that person either didn’t read the post or didn’t understand it. But that person’s hate and violent undertones are plenty clear.

            3. First, I referred to psychiatric abuse in the USSR, which was mainly post-Stalin. Nor did I say the motive of the atheist I heard was identical to the motive of the USSR. I merely noted the dangerous parallels between the two. Once a person is considered mentally ill it should not be surprising that others will want to treat him.

              Second, I referred to an atheist I heard, not some famous atheist like Dawkins. Apparently your personal experience counts as evidence but mine doesn’t. And since we generally try to treat mental illness it’s hardly comforting to know that Dawkins doesn’t want to round us up for treatment. Someone will want to take that next step, especially since, we are told, religious is so dangerous.

              Third, anything found in the brain could just as easily be considered evidence that atheism is a mental illness. If the brain is, say, hard-wired for religion then the atheist brain can be seen as abnormal and in need of treatment.

              Fourth, torture wouldn’t change your heart towards God so your argument doesn’t even get off the ground. Nor do all Christians view hell as a torture chamber.

            4. 1. Again, even post-Stalin, the Stalin argument doesn’t hold up. The USSR so the State as God and went after any challenge to the State. See my article I posted above.

              2. You have a history of being disingenuous, so I don’t take your alleged experience as being truthful. But the old Slipper Slop argument is a logical fallacy.

              3. Our brains are hard-wired for religion, but that doesn’t make religion true. It just makes our belief in them true. That is my point!

              4. Tell that to the Christians of Dark Ages!

          1. Staks has no need to acknowledge points irrelevant to his essay, but even if he did, you would still be wrong to imply that he said something other than what he did, it remains a dishonest tactic. You owe him an apology.

            re: If… then’s. Yes well if theists act like other theists (say, of the second century, or many modern places like Saudi Arabia) they’ll want to execute blasphemers. So what? This is fantastically irrelevant supposition (to the essay at hand). If you can not address points that have actually been made by Staks in this post with actual evidence or reason not pie-in-the-sky hyperbole, then please stop.

    2. “New Atheism” is a coherent label. It describes a particular incarnation of secular activism with the critical features A. massive media success (i.e. best-selling books, articles, etc) and B. an unapologetic aggressiveness. That certainly is new, as previous secular activists are bascally unknown in the wider culture.

      I don’t think that Christians imagine atheists are literally militant or likely to use physical force. I think that is meant metaphorically to apply to strident activism. It’s mean to impugn the style of debate (as hostile and close-minded) and political aims (as pushing for reforms that marginalize theists and advantage atheists unfairly).

      There are atheists with highly aggressive and poorly considered persuasion styles, but the insult is still largely overblown and arises from the sacred-cow-ness of religion that even many secular people unconsciously apply.

      1. Being vocal about atheism isn’t new. Mark Twain, Robert Ingersoll, and many others were doing the same thing a long time ago.

        I know that the media uses the phrase “militant atheists” metaphorically, but the problem is that there actually are militant theists. So this phrase attempts to equate the two when one group isn’t actually militant and the other group actually is.

        1. I didn’t mention vocality.

          I don’t think anyone believes there are paramilitary atheist groups, outside of the complete nutjobs. Anyone who is trying to spread the belief has failed miserably.

    3. Thanks for this steaming pile of regurgitated pseudo-intellectual neck bearded blather, you Hitchens-Dawkins parroting basement dwelling megadouche. Yours is a petty trivial localized earth bound philosophy unworthy of the universe.

      1. I get that you keep asserting God to be real, but when it comes to actual evidence… you are a little short. Anyone can assert anything, but that doesn’t make it true. That is why we have the scientific method.

      1. Again, I ask for evidence of this. Science doesn’t work on authority. It works on evidence. So I could tell you that science has proven something to be true, but that doesn’t mean that it is. Not long ago, the news reported that a team of scientists have disproven Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. But a few months later other teams of scientists peer reviewed the data and it turns out that the original team made a mistake. Science relies on peer reviewed research. So far as I am aware, no studies have ever proven that God exists. Many studies have attempted to prove various aspects of the Bible or of Christian belief, but at the end of the day they always come back empty handed.

    4. You rely to much on the internet, and science. Why don’t you get off your couch, and computer for once and check out the real world.

      1. Science is the real world!!! You rely on science too, but you just don’t acknowledge it. You live in the modern world with computers, automobiles, iPads, medical doctors, and a multitude of other things science has provided for you. The buildings we live in use scientific engineering to make sure they are stable. The food you eat has been scientifically manipulated and grown/bred. Almost everything you take for granted has been provided by the hard work of scientists over time.

    5. Yeah i’m not on it 2/4 7 making a website against Catholics, and Christians. I at least take some time alone away from this “modern” world.

      1. This website isn’t about you. I don’t target Catholics (who are Christians). I criticize all religions. I also discuss politics and humanism. And obviously I’m not writing 24/7. I wish I could be that productive. But even when I am not online, I live life. That means science. Everything in the modern world uses science. EVERYTHING!

    6. Not the mind, you can clear your mind of everything around you and see the truth iside, and yes you are practically targeting all religions, making fun of them.

      1. You accused me of targeting one religion. That is not the case. I am critical of all religions. More than that, I am critical of all bad ideas. Religion just so happens to be a really bad idea that causes a lot of the problems in this world.

    7. Not really. It is not an idea, it is what God gave us, to follow him, we are all his disciples, some (like in you case, and many of the people that leave comments.) walk away and get lost.

      1. Yes, I once did believe in God and yes, I did walk away. I walked away because I realized it was bullshit! The problem of evil did it for me, but there are many other problems with religion. The more you take it seriously the more problematic it gets. You are still young and believe what you were taught by people you trust. That’s cool, but I encourage you to research those claims on your own. Today we have the internet and Google. Use them. Spend some time on Wikipedia and research various arguments for and against god. Learn about your own religion apart from what your priest tells you to learn. Ask atheists why we don’t believe and think about the things we say. I’ll start. Why do you believe that of all the gods humans have ever invented, that the god of Christianity is the one true god? Why do you believe that of all the sects of Christianity, that Catholicism is the one true sect?

    8. Staks Rosch:
      “The problem of evil did it for me, but there are many other problems with religion.”

      And yet, you behave evil. Or are you perfect and sinless and blameless and without fault or error?

      Atheism has no moral foundation (of its own), and all morality is relative to you…
      So, who are you to question and judge what is good and evil?

      Hypocritical?

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