Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Why religion is not going away and science will not destroy it (aeon.co)
71 points by urahara 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 206 comments



"belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge"

That's not what religion is, and it's rather upsetting to see supposed 'intellectuals' with such a sad failure to grasp even the basics of metaphysics, let alone spirituality.

There is no 'war' between Science and Religion.

Maybe a 'war' between 'Scientists' and 'Some kinds of religious people who believe some impractical things' ...

But the real debate is between 'Scientific Materialists' and 'Spiritualists' and that's a reasonable debate.


Your comment is basically the entire point of this article. There is no conflict between science and religion. There is a conflict between science and a fundamentalist straw man of religion (biblical literalism, for instance, or the Graeco-Roman pantheon).

I think the conflict idea is spread mostly by those who themselves encountered the idea that science and religion are in conflict before they learned much science or much about religion, so they've internalized the idea that the two are in conflict, and everything new they learn only serves to reinforce this.


Of course, there is a conflict between religion and science. They are based on competing and inconsistent methods of acquiring knowledge. On one hand, the empirical scientific method, and on the other revelation, authority, and faith. Whether you're a Biblical literalist or a Church of England progressive, your religion makes some truth claims that are not supportable on scientific grounds.

But this doesn't mean that science and religion necessarily have to be at war, or that one has to lose for the other to win. Human beings aren't perfectly logically consistent. We're quite adept at compartmentalising our minds so that we can apply one set of standards here and another there. A single human being can be a biblical literalist and a coldly-logical scientist at the same time.


> your religion makes some truth claims that are not supportable on scientific grounds.

We just have to accept that science isn't the sole arbiter of truth (in fact, science can't tell us what is true and what isn't, it can only tell us what is more likely to be true and what is less likely) and there are some matters outside the scope of science.


In particular, inductive reasoning starts reaching its limits when observability, reproducibility, and complexity are issues. Sometimes we invent things to push those boundaries (calculus, computers, drug trials on animals), but some complexity can be proven to be incalculable. And some results (The Milgram Experiment) are too terrible to reproduce to be worth the scientific knowledge they could offer.

I think there's plenty we should be eager to learn, but I think it's realistic to think there are areas where "less incomplete understanding" is the best we can hope for.


>We just have to accept that science isn't the sole arbiter of truth (...)

For the sake of argument, accepting that as true, why should religion then be accepted as the arbiter of truth for those matters outside the scope of science?


Because there are a lot of religious TV and Cable channels.


Or philosophy. Ultimately you get to choose your religion.


> ...your religion makes some truth claims that are not supportable on scientific grounds.

"Not supportable", "not true", and "contradictory" are three different concepts.

> Whether you're a Biblical literalist...

How does biblical literalism contradict the scientific method and other forms of scientific inquiry?


There not as competing or inconsistent as people often think. Faith is similar to the scientific method(s). You have faith in God not purely because he's god, but because he's proved himself to be god. We learn more for ourselves as we go along. An example is from university. In first year you'll have a math lecturer who knows a lot, but you're just starting out. They'll at times ask you to take their word on it, but they invite you to study it out yourself. Sometimes you can't yet to get know though, because of ability, time, etc.

And if they're so at odds, why throughout history as religion (and those practicing it) been 'scientists' themselves?


>You have faith in God not purely because he's god, but because he's proved himself to be god.

Convincing yourself that God exists, even believing that God exists, in no way proves that God exists.


> In first year you'll have a math lecturer who knows a lot, but you're just starting out. They'll at times ask you to take their word on it,

Math is perhaps not the best subject to illustrate this. Math lecturers tend to prove everything they teach.


Except axioms.


Agreed except there isn't a problem with biblical literalism. The arguments against biblical literalism generally boil down to metaphysical or theological arguments, which are fine, but they're not scientific. I'd challenge someone to demonstrate a bible passage that cannot be true given an all-powerful God.

They generally come down to "Could God make a fossil record and evolution in a 24-hour period?" I don't see why not. You don't have to think it's true, but it's logically consistent assuming an omnipotent God is possible.


The theological arguments are really much more important than the scientific ones. Genesis 6 conflicts with the basic monotheistic nature of Christianity, and means there's no real way to take Genesis literally while professing the Nicene creed (which pretty much defines Christianity).


In what way? Have you studied the underpinnings of the language used? Is this an interpretation based on you reading an English version of those passages?

Pray tell why it undermines the monotheism of Christianity?


We're talking about taking Genesis literally. Genesis 6 uses the phrase "sons of God" which contradicts the Nicene creed which states "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God".


The Nicene Creed was later amended in Constantinople to include the word "begotten" to clarify that Jesus was considered a natural born son of God, not simply an adopted son or someone with a special title. This was not an invention but a clarification since the word "begotten" (monogenēs in Greek) is used in the canonical bible, being one of the main points of John 1, but reaffirmed in Hebrews and John's first epistle.

It's pretty clear that the Genesis 6 "sons of God" is an idiom or group title of some sort, but it's not clear precisely what was meant.

More reading on the subject:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephilim#Interpretations

EDIT: It's important to read the Bible in the genre and context it was written in. Taking the bible literally means taking it seriously, not being overly literal. Often the Bible often talks about people "lying together" when it clearly saying "had sex", for example.


This is precisely my point. Why would you take this part metaphorically, but insist that God have literally created the world in 7 days?

EDIT: I think you misunderstood slightly. I consider Christianity to be defined by the Nicene creed. You're a Christian if you profess the creed, and you're not if you don't. Ergo a literal reading of the bible is incompatible with Christianity.


> Why would you take this part metaphorically, but insist that God have literally created the world in 7 days?

There are a few schools of thought about this, but three popular ones are:

1. The creation story is a different genre. It's a poem, not a historical account, so you can think the Bible is absolutely true while allowing for poetic license in these chapters. The genre shifts back to history later in Genesis (with various opinions on where that is, some saying one creation passage of Genesis is poetic, the other historical).

2. The word "day" is mistranslated. It's better translated as "era". As in "back in the day". So Genesis is describing seven prehistoric eras.

3. Since the passage also refers to sunsets and sunrises, it's literally a rotation of the Earth. But God is omnipotent, so it's fine.

...and there are a few other competing thoughts. Do you have a scientific problem with any of the ones I listed? Other objections are fine, too, but I'm mostly trying to show how science and biblical literalism are fine together.

The usual objections to #3 involve carbon dating, fossil records, etc., but none of them really refute the creation story as much as describe the world that already exists. Why couldn't God have created pre-decayed isotopes and a fossil record? That's a metaphysical and/or theological question, not a scientific one. So we don't really have a scientific conflict here.

In my mind, God could have easily tweaked input parameters (to, say, make sure Earth has oceans and continents) and "JIT recompiled" the universe like so much source code. Why didn't Genesis describe the creation process more specifically? That's, again, a theological question, not a scientific one. But, practically, how would you describe, say, writing software, to a literate ancient Egyptian Jew (i.e, Moses)?


So you don't even disagree with me. I didn't mean science is contradictory to believing the bible at all, that's why I singled out biblical literalism (i.e. believing the bible to be literally word for word true) as being a straw man.

> Why didn't Genesis describe the creation process more specifically?

Because it was written down by people who hadn't yet (or were only just) developing place value. They clearly wouldn't understand an even slightly accurate explanation.


> ... biblical literalism as being a straw man.

There are some definitional problems here (1). "Biblical inerrancy" is a more accurate term, but it's used interchangeably with "biblical literalism" for reasons I'm not clear on.

Nobody reads every word of the Bible literally. Portions of it are obviously poems. There perhaps wasn't really a Good Samaritan. That was a parable. But people who believe the Bible is inerrant do not think, "Hey, this part seems dumb to me. Let's just get rid of that part," which is a different reaction to reading the Genesis creation story.

But there are people who think the world was created in seven days 100k years ago (or even more recently). I was trying to describe a few different approaches, one of which involves interpreting a passage of Genesis as a poem. Other two approaches take that passage more literally. All of the above fit under the umbrella of "biblical inerrancy" rather easily.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_literalism#Background


#1 is not literalism, it is a reason for rejecting a literal reading of certain passages. “The Bible is sometimes literally true, but sometimes not” is the view that literalism is defined in opposition to.


People don't think God is literally a shepherd or he literally makes people lie down beside still waters. It doesn't mean they don't think psalm 23 isn't true. They just read it as a poem.

Part of the problem is that people used to call something "fundamentalism" but then the word "fundamentalist" started being a negative word and people had to find some other ways to describe themselves.

When people say they are "biblical literalist" (yeah, words drift), they basically mean that they trust the Bible to be absolutely trustworthy. It doesn't mean they don't practice critical analysis such as accounting for genre. It does mean they don't, say, commit adultery because "the Bible isn't literal".


> Part of the problem is that people used to call something "fundamentalism" but then the word "fundamentalist" started being a negative word and people had to find some other ways to describe themselves.

Literalism was not coined as a term in response to fundamentalism becoming negative with other groups; fundamentalists still call themselves fundamentalists.

Literalism has always been a term for a doctrine within they fundamentalist and Evangelical traditional, which is distinct from the simple inerrantism that is a more common Christian doctrine (simple inerrantism is basically the doctrine that the Bible, understood as intended, is correct in what it teaches; there are slightly different forms of this doctrine in the Protestant and Catholic communities, but they are generally similar and similar in how they differ from literalism.)

> When people say they are "biblical literalist" (yeah, words drift), they basically mean that they trust the Bible to be absolutely trustworthy.

No, that’s just inerrantism. Literalism at least purports to be a stronger position.

(In practice, I agree that it's actually not and that “literalism” is an empty conceit.)


There are infinitely many arbitrary statements. Prove the entire universe wasn't created as is (including all your memories) five minutes ago.

These are neither true nor false in a factual sense. They are untestable.


> These are neither true nor false in a factual sense. They are untestable.

Being untestable puts a statement outside the scope of science. It does not, however, mean the statement is neither true nor false (only that we cannot, through experiment, seek to improve our knowledge of whether it is true), nor does it mean the question is uninteresting or irrelevant.


> There is no 'war' between Science and Religion.

I agree. But there seems to be a war on science by religious fanatics.


There is a war on science from fundamentalists, sure, but it's not limited to theists.

Was Damore a religious fanatic? He was engaging in a rational, scientific discussion (merits of the attempt aside, that was the stated goal).

What about anti-vaccine people? What about there-is-no-good-GMO people?

I think it's inconsistent at best to think the biggest enemy of science is religious fanatics. In fact, the biggest enemy of science these days is bad science. Lack of replicated results, for example.


All 'anti-vaccine' and 'damorish' types I met were undereducated in one way or another. Not necessarily in terms of university education, often it was some gap in basic self-education resulting in the lack of quality reasoning or soft skills or breadth of knowledge. On the side of an average person, there are many other enemies of science like absence of intellectual honesty, sincere pursuit of truth and ability to work towards it (often combined).


> All 'anti-vaccine' and 'damorish' types I met were undereducated in one way or another.

I wasn't saying Damore was right. I was saying people who failed to respond in rational, scientific ways were being basically anti-science.


> I think it's inconsistent at best to think the biggest enemy of science is religious fanatics. In fact, the biggest enemy of science these days is bad science. Lack of replicated results, for example.

Good point on "enemies of science". Note though, the quote there seems to be a war on science by religious fanatics is different than science's biggest enemy is religious fanatics.

The second one complements the grandparent's view on war between science and religion which implies that there is some sort of common ground between the two; there isn't any.


And a war on religion by science fanatics. Science is already a religion, if you ask me. There are even a lot of Messiahs: Newton, Einstein, Tesla. But also a lot of oil snake salesmen.


I would say that the war is between religion and philosophic materialism (or physicalism, if you prefer).

Materialism is the dominant mental framework among scientists, but it is a philosophical position, not a scientific one. ("The physical universe is all that exists" is not scientifically provable, even in principle.)


Atheistic (or better, anti-theistic) fanatics, not science fanatics.


Science is based on "methodological naturalism" - assuming that everything in nature have natural causes.

This is the framework where science is made - it is not necessary to believe that it is true (that's called "metaphysical naturalism"), just work by the assumption.

That's why there can be religious scientists. They apply methodological naturalism at work (they explain everything without appealing to the supernatural), but they maybe believe in virgin birth / resurrection / other miracles, so they actually believe that naturalism in the metaphysical sense is false.

The successes of science may provide some confirmation that naturalism may be true in reality but of course can't prove it undoubtedly. But in practice it may work in this way: http://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/


Well put!

It also explains why science cannot disprove supernatural events and why science can't categorically contradict supernatural beliefs. If you start with methodological naturalism, of course you'll end up with either open questions or naturalist explanations. People have the prerogative to disbelieve miracles, but by definition, they're not testable by hypothesis from a rational foundation of methodological naturalism.


Science cannot disprove supernatural events/contradict supernatural beliefs because you cannot prove a negative. The burden is on the supporters of the supernatural events/beliefs to provide the proof.

It's not science vs religion, it's rational vs irrational thoughts.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russell%27s_teapot


Agreed on your first sentence. That's another way to think about what I said.

As to the rest, it's your prerogative to place the burden of proof wherever you'd like. Though it's not necessarily the case that a hypothetical God would agree with you about your standards for proof.

To think a God would be unfair to not provide clear proof about miracles, etc. is a fair point, but it's not a rational or scientific one.


It's not irrational. The absence of proof results in what is known as faith.

In security, you can't prove something is secure, because you can't prove a negative.

You can have reasonable faith that something is secure. We don't call that irrational thoughts. We can test for certain things, but not all things.

Perhaps someone has a better analogy, but that's one example off the top of my head.


> The absence of proof results in what is known as faith.

It's not. The Christian word "faith" (in Greek, pistis (1)) is better translated as "trust", "conviction", or "faithfulness". "Faith" and "belief" are also translations, but the English meanings of those words have been watered down over the years, hence a lot of this confusion.

Anyway, you don't need proof to trust something, to have conviction that it's true. And having incontrovertible proof doesn't mean you don't trust something anymore.

(1) https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?str...


Many people take faith to mean to blind believe. But it is not like that at all.

What does it mean to have faith? Have faith in what?

When Jesus says have faith, Jesus meant have faith in what he said. In other word, believe in what he says. But what does that mean though?

What Jesus meant by believe is this...

Jesus: "Dude, believe me, you can save yourself from a life of misery and pain if you just do these things I am about to tell you: Do not murder. Do not kill. Do not steal. Etc. And also, remember, I love you and God loves you."

But somehow, most people have misunderstood this to just mean blindly believing.


Perhaps that sentence was not clear, as I typed it in a hurry before my bus stop. What you described is what I meant to say. Thank you for taking the time to elaborate.


If we press enough, though, the evidence in question turns out to be divine revelation and the axiom that it genuinely happened.


On the other hand the UK was just in the news as the percentage "having no religious affiliation" just went over 50%. Its was 48% in 2015, 53% in the recent survey.

Not sure how much of that is science - we have Dawkins plugging away with his books and the like - and how much is bad press religion has had in recent times. Like the London Bridge stabbings don't exactly make you think wow isn't religion great. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/June_2017_London_Bridge_attack)


As more moderate people fall away from church congregations and other religious groups, only the hardliners and fanatics remain. I am convinced that the rise in religious fundamentalism (amongst all religions) is closely tied to the rise in secularism.


I don't think so, if you stop past my local church on a Sunday you won't have any worries about fundamentalism, you will just hear endless debate about where the nearest toilet is and what pills people are taking.


True, these places still exist, but let me put it this way: How many members of the congregation don't have white/grey/no hair?


That is my point, there is no great divide, just an ageing population with a less religious young.


An interesting thought. As the moderates leave, inevitably more extreme forces gain power.


I have a theory that, in Britain at least, the distribution of religious fervour is pretty much the same as it was 100 years ago. The difference is that the more moderate people now no longer go to church, meaning the churches are controlled by, and put out more fundamentalist viewpoints. This in turn drives more moderates away.

I am one of the moderates, I grew up part of a church congregation, but as I grew up I found almost everyone I met who identified as Christian to have beliefs wildly different from mine. Any Christian gatherings I attended tended towards fundamentalism and the quashing of inquisitive thought about the nature of the World, God etc. I do not believe in God, but I suspect that many churchgoers of 100 years ago didn't really either, and the focus was much more on tradition, ritual and community rather than actual belief. I mourn the loss of this, even though I barely knew it myself, but there are hardly any congregations left for people like me (and yes, I know about movements such as Sunday Assembly, which I have tried out but find equally unpalatable for reasons I can't quite put into words).


Interesting. What defines a Christian? One of the common aspects for our young people is to be able to logically discuss why they follow Jesus Christ. They can't rely on their parents or other people as to why they believe. They have to understand for themselves. They need to be able to ask questions and in turn study for themselves all the resources that will support their understanding. Then they have to apply and live by that understanding.

I have met many who have had great fervour but no knowledge and understanding and when push comes to shove, they let go. Whereas, there are others who by study and application become fervent and then you have a person that can answer the why of their lives and belief.

Seeking a congregation without seeking Him first is a act of futility, you would be better off finding a social club suitable to your interests. Seeking Him first and He will lead you to where He wants you to be. Keep in mind, though you may not believe in Him, He certainly believes in you and is more than willing to show Himself to you if you but willingly seek Him.


> Seeking a congregation without seeking Him first is a act of futility...

I also see the problem where people become "spiritual" without seeing the need to find a place to belong. Inevitably, when they are their own chief theologian, high priest, counselor, and source of accountability, they have difficulties and make a variety of mistakes.

I suspect a lot of the people "losing their religion" in recent decades fall into that category in one way or another. I'm not sure what the label "Catholic" means if you never engage as a Catholic. It becomes a tribal marker, but we have plenty of those in political parties, brand affiliations, nationalist (or cosmopolitan) sentiments, etc.


For many years I tried to find ways to assure myself that I had found Him. Baptised 3 different times, but never really feeling that something important had happened. Read the bible front to end many times.

Had a really sharp bible study leader. I kept challenging him to explain to me how I would know I had been 'saved'. He finally got exasperated and exclaimed, "When you no longer have any doubt about being saved, you're saved!"

I stood up and said, "Hallelujah! I'm not saved!!!" From that point on, I knew I could never be saved because of my doubt, and I stopped flagellating myself over Christianity.


Agreed except for the negative connotations that the words "hardliners" and "fanatics" carry. "Committed", "fervent", or "zealous" would have worked just as well.


Religious fervor travels in waves.

People yearn for belief, and secularism is as much a religion as a religion. The problem is without the moderating influence of less fervent believers, religions create powerful power blocs that can do all sorts of damage.

Examples abound. Look at the state of medieval Europe, bound by a reactionary catholic domination as compared to the more intellectual and cosmopolitan Middle East. Or look at the impact of the various "great awakenings" in US History.


> secularism is as much a religion as a religion

Not even close. Inability to understand this is a distinguishing marker of religious persons (no offense, it just happens very often).


> Inability to understand this is a distinguishing marker of religious persons

On the contrary, Christians just believe everyone trusts many things and thinks many things are true. It's not a question of "whether" you trust and think things, it's a question of "what" you trust and think.

You trust medications from doctors, for example. That's believing medicine will work and that's having faith in a doctor.

When a Christian talks about "faith" or "belief", they're mostly saying they think Christian theology is true and trust it to some degree. Thinking it's false and trusting other things (saving for retirement, the golden rule, "not thinking about it too much is best") is no less of a belief system.

So we can come up with other words for things, I guess, but all this is fundamentally a conversation about what words mean. I think religious people know what atheists mean when they say they have no faith. I don't think it's true that atheists necessarily understand what a theist means by "everyone has a religion".


> I don't think it's true that atheists necessarily understand what a theist means by "everyone has a religion".

I had plenty of discussions on this topic and explored this statement in depth. "Everyone has a religion" is good predictor of inability to see difference between beliefs backed by the best available methodology of constructing and falsifying beliefs and beliefs which are religious beliefs.

If we try to see what is the core of rationality belief, we find there few philosophical principlec like Occam razor. And even that principles are subject of doubt and refinement. Rationality has no beliefs which are not justifyed by practice.

But theists (or some of them) reject difference between justified belief and unjustified one, it allows them to say "every belief is a religious one".

I even can demonstrate it with your words:

> You trust medications from doctors, for example. That's believing medicine will work and that's having faith in a doctor.

No, it is not a faith in doctor. It is faith in medicine, which is complex system which is doing research, gathering data, training specialists, inventing pills and so on. I know that it is just system, that system can make mistakes, that system really make mistakes. I even know weaknessess of that system and know which kinds of mistakes are more probable and which kinds are unlikely. I prefer doctors over praying because research shows, that doctors are more effective than praying.

So I have faith not in doctors, but in rationality as system allowing me to make decisions. But even rationality itself is not unjustified belief for me: show me other way that better than rationality, and I'll stop using rationality.

You can spent millenia trying to show to theist that it is nessesary to differentiate between religious belief and justified belief, but he feels that if he accepts argument, than he ought to reject ideas "everyone has a religion" and "religious belief is no worse than justified one". Feeling this he just fails to hear argument. So, my understanding of "everyone has a religion" can be reworded as "la-la-la-la, what you say?, la-la-la-la, I can hear nothing".


A lot of atheists try to argue against religion on their own terms, using science, logic, and reason. Religion doesn't really stand a chance against that.

But it's far more convincing when faith and belief are considered in more non-rational human emotional terms. Having faith in a god is closer to appreciating a beautiful painting, feeling excited when you're about to go an adventure, feeling sad when a family member dies. Those feelings can't be explained through logic, you just feel them. This is nothing like having "faith" in a doctor or medicine. Further, while scientists may explain why humans evolved to have a particular feeling, they do not explain the feeling itself.

True, faith can be beaten back with logic and reason, much like a person can be convinced that a piece of music is bad. But the underlying emotion is integral to most people. Telling them to not believe is like telling them not to laugh.


>So we can come up with other words for things, I guess, but all this is fundamentally a conversation about what words mean.

And secularism does not mean what a lot of religious persons think it does, as, with respect, your reply demonstrates. It's not anticlericalism or anti-theism. If it was, the vanguard of secularism would not have been composed of ardent Protestants.


> ...your reply demonstrates

What did I demonstrate? It seems clear from the conversation (and, indeed, in plenty of other cases) that there are people who take exception when someone says "everyone has a religion" or "everyone has faith".

Secularism is another one of those tricky words with multiple meanings. I'm both for and against it depending on which one someone means. I'm for first amendment protections for people of all dispositions. I'm against people (again, of all dispositions) feeling like they have to closet themselves in an ever-growing set of contexts.

I hope everyone else feels the same way, but apparently not since things seem to be regressing as time goes on.


If it puts you in a camp, it's effectively the same thing.


This is exactly what I was talking about. It is not a camp, it is simply a normal state of mind, the baseline. Now religions will never ever agree with me and that is what makes us different.


secularism is as much a religion as a religion

I hear that endlessly and it's just not true.


Demonstrate it is not true.

Religion in the very general is about who or what you serve as the core of your life. Who or what you bow down to and worship and what drives you forward. Whether this be wealth, power, influence, movie/music/sports stars, knowledge, politics, any of the many religious and philosophical belief systems (including science, including secularism).


The definition of religion in the OED is "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods."

That pretty much excludes all your examples.


This perception of religion is precisely what TFA is trying to dispel.


The first people to preach secularism were practicing Christians.


It is unlikely to be science. I recall reading that scientists are somewhat more likely to be religious then rest of population. Scientists here means actual scientists that do science for living, not someone writing pop-books about it or doing videos/talks about it.


I wonder what's the percentage of "I don't really believe god exists, but I'm gonna check that checkbox just in case I'm wrong".


There are some truly weird sociological blind spots in the article.

I think the CIA and police torture might have had a tiny bit more to do with the collapse of USA-ally dictatorships in Iran, not a failure of science to triumph over religion. This highlights the international level importance of religious groups (as opposed to the belief of religion or the individual believer, its the group that matters). The current system propped up by the CIA sucks, revolution executes the war criminal US ally dictator, giant vacuum exists for an org to step in, what giant org with a chip on its shoulder of knowing the right answer all the time oh how about religion? Better a religious than a corporate takeover, probably...

Likewise on a smaller scale, inside nations, the article seems to miss the point that in the old days it was rather easy to discern if you were attending a fraternal social organization meeting like the freemasons or a religious service like pre-vatican-2 Catholic church. In the modern world both extremes have disappeared and merged into the middle. No amount of "science" can eliminate the traditional religious pre-game activities before the church knitting club meeting or the church singles club meeting or the Jesus themed rock music concert I attended one time at my local prosperity gospel church. I would theorize the collapse of the church in the UK is a mix of UK class separation and its related alienation leading to a lack of need for the church to be a social hub, plus mere individual anecdotal failure.

There are also issues that are pretty much banned topics on this site, like religious fervor being transubstantiated into other forms such as political belief. If you ban a belief, if just means conversations about the topic are going to be ineffective and confused, which is why I have to leave this third issue unresolved, although its obviously a major component of the big picture.


Science, and, with one or two exceptions, scientists themselves, have no issue with religion except when it tries to suppress science.


Too bad it ain't like that the other way around:

“Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”

- Martin Luther


Luther is pretty much defined by his opposition to the Catholic church. One of his complaints is that the Catholic church applies reason to scripture (in the form of a millienium and a half of philosophical and theological debate within the church, at Luther's time) instead of just taking it literally, as it was written. You can't quote him and generalize to all religion from that.


> You can't quote him and generalize to all religion from that.

I'd argue you can generalize pretty much most organized religions from that, but not everything spiritual or peoples actual believes.

Imho religion is merely a institutionalized form of spirituality, enforced on a whole community trough dogma. But dogma is never a good thing especially not for the seeking traveler because by it's very nature it's unreasonable and incapable of change.

The human mind most certainly needs a place to channel it's fascinations for the unknown and unanswerable, I'm just not sure that institutionalized religion is really a healthy way to "fulfill" that need.


He was criticizing Catholicism for relying on reason. You certainly can't then generalize and say Catholicism is anti-reason, so you can't say religion is anti-reason.

What you call dogma is largely a body of knowledge that has been passed down the same way scientific knowledge has been passed down. Ignoring it isn't very different to ignoring the body of published scientific literature and insisting on rediscovering everything for yourself.


> I'd argue you can generalize pretty much most organized religions from that

How can you generalize about organized religion from a quote whose thesis was specifically a disagreement with the largest organized religion in the world?


It was specifically in disagreement with the Catholic church, but that doesn't mean that Luther's suggestions and ideas had been any better in regards to "dogma over reason".

Contrary to popular believe Luther was not that flawless shining beacon of reformation he's often made out as, he and his believes came with their very own issues. Like him being a rampant anti-Semite and his views held a lot of weight with the German people. His influence on those matters can in large parts be directly followed to what happened in the Third Reich where a majority population of Christians (96%+) ruthlessly hunted down all "undesirables".

If nowadays anybody would publish a book called "On the Jews and Their Lies" you'd be hard pressed to defend such a thing without coming across like a total asshole with Neo-Nazi tendencies. For Luther is was merely one publication among many showcasing his deep hatred for Jews, yet this barely gets mentioned when his person is discussed, like it never happened.

Even in Germany, it's a rather recent development for people to shine a light on the questionable past of the "big reformer". During the last German Protestant Church Congress a protest group (they protested to stop government subsidies for churches, yes that's an actual thing in Germany) put up a large statue of Luther with some of his most distasteful quotes [0].

Organizers called police, police declared that these quotes are "Volksverhetzend" aka "hate speech/incitement of the masses" and with that they could ban the protesters from the premises. Mind you: Police declared Luther's quotes as hate speech, not statements made by the protesters.

[0] https://hpd.de/artikel/luther-polizeilich-attestierter-volks...


Well, sure, Luther says that, but Luther doesn't speak for all religion, or even all Christianity. There's a reason the movement he started is called “Protestantism”.

Contrast that quote from Luther and the attitude it expresses toward reason with, e.g., the Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 159; footnotes excluded):

---

Faith and science: "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth." "Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are."

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s1...


Luther was probably thinking more of philosophers, whose pesky questions challenged his theology's internal logical consistency, or at least its certainty. How religion deals with such matters is its own business, though it seems to me that for the most part, religion pays little heed to analytical theology.


> religion pays little heed to analytical theology

What do you mean by this? There's a very strong, very cerebral theological subculture in Christianity. I think they'd raise their eyebrows to be told they aren't analytical enough. And their works aren't widely read, but they produce memes that filter through popular Christian sermons and books as time goes on.

Or do you mean something specific by "analytical theology"?


I meant that, when compared to the numbers of practitioners, those who actively spend much time thinking analytically about theological issues form a very small minority. It does seem that some/many/most religions go through one or more periods when the outcome of such thinking filters through to everyday observances, and that the reformation, like the Council of Nicea, was one such time.

In Christianity specifically (and perhaps many other religions) there is also the tenet that faith trumps reason, which is what I think Luther was going on about in this quote.


> I meant that, when compared to the numbers of practitioners, those who actively spend much time thinking analytically about theological issues form a very small minority.

Somewhat, but how many people watch Transformers versus read the latest cryptocurrency paper?

And there are many styles of preachers that teach and talk much like an enthusiastic college lecturer. They are very erudite and draw large audiences once a week. To talk about philosophy, ethics, morality, and critical analysis, basically. And it's really common for congregations to break out into smaller groups throughout the week to have similar self-lead conversations.

> ...there is also the tenet that faith trumps reason...

That may be a cultural disposition among some, but it's not a tenet. In fact, Christ himself used reason, for example, when saying, "...[a] house divided against itself will not stand." He was using deductive logic in that case to refute that he was exorcising demons as an agent of the devil.


Luther, whose quote on the matter is the subject of this thread, seems to differ. I imagine he could find a counter-quote somewhere in the scripture.


> Luther, whose quote on the matter is the subject of this thread, seems to differ.

Luther's quote (as is the case of many popular quotes of the founder of Protestantism) was a direct reaction against a view opposing the quote held by the Catholic Church at the time (and, in this case, still today), not expressing a general and unifying belief of all or most religious (or even Christian) people.

So, yes, he would differ, but many religious people and institutions would differ with him on that point. The upthread quote shows Luther's attitude toward reason, but it's offering as illustrating the attitude of religion to reason fails.


I don't get the point of your comment, not even in the context of where I originally made this suggestion. That Luther was not speaking for all christians might be a valid alternative response to the post I was replying to, but that seems orthogonal to the issue of what Luther was railing against.

Does it help to replace 'philosophers' with 'philosophically-minded theologians'?


There was a cut-and-paste error, where a quote from a different post was included rather than the quote I actually was reacting to.

It has been corrected.


I think I was making a smaller point than you imagine - simply that if it came to a duel of biblical quotes, I imagine Martin Luther probably could have matched humanrebar one for one. I know I could not.


That's like saying that science has no issues with homeopathy or telepathy except when they try to supress science.


"That's like saying that science has no issues with homeopathy or telepathy except when they try to supress science"

No, it's not.

'Homeopathy' doesn't do anything. It posits a rational framework that is simply invalid.

Religions ultimately deal in matters of the 'soul' or whatever word you want to use that describes the nature we have beyond the material. If you want to accept the current 'Scientific Materialist' premise to it's full extent, then you must accept that you are a 'bag of random particles' and that there can be no 'live' 'love' 'culture' 'thought' or even 'intelligence' - after all none of those things can exist in pure randomness.

We all (well, almost all) believe that we are 'alive' - implying that life is something beyond the crude material, and it's the obvious 'fail' of materialism as a workable world view.

The 'trunk' of the tree of science as posited by Descartes is 'physics' - but the 'root' is metaphysics. Sometimes we forget the roots because they don't fit well into equations :) :)


There are large areas of religion that are not attempting to suppress either scientific research or the propagation of its knowledge.

As far as I know, believers in telepathy are not attempting to suppress science, they simply believe in something that has no scientific support.


I think the difference is that religion focuses on what happened, and science focuses on how it happened.

I know some do, but I think most Christian people don't actually believe it took god 6 days or 144 hours to create everything. I think the accept that it's a metaphor, that doesn't try to explain it.

While I don't believe in any religion, I still think these two things can coexists. For instance the originator of the Big Bang theory was both a scientist and priest.


I believe the Genesis creation story. I also believe it's a metaphysical question. Given an all powerful force, of course the universe could have been created to look any way at all, including the current configuration, fossils, evolution, and all.

The follow on questions are usually, "But how would God have done that and why?" Good questions, but not ultimately scientific ones. They are metaphysical and theological, respectively.

EDIT: Do downvoters care to comment with their thoughts?


Why do you believe that particular creation story instead of one of the hundreds of other creation stories [1] from around the world?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_creation_myths


Why believe they're all false just because there are many? Any atheist creation story is just one more in the list.

But, to narrow things down, the Genesis account is dislike most of those in that:

1. It's ex nihilo, so it doesn't leave loose ends out there like, "Yeah, but where did the giant turtle come from?" I'll point out that atheist philosophy has this problem at least with respect to matter and energy.

2. It's monotheistic, so complications about where the many gods come from, what rules they have to follow, and how they die are moot.

3. It doesn't make clearly-not-true claims about the nature of reality (great beasts, corpses of giants, etc.). I know people disagree on this point, but I think most people who reject the Genesis account haven't fully deliberated on this question.

Now, I didn't start at genesis and work my way through the Bible to my current beliefs. I don't find that people generally convert to Abrahamic religions that way. But I do find that people mistakenly think there's a contradiction between science (evolution, astronomy) and the Genesis story, which is why I said something.


> It's ex nihilo,

No, it's not.

> so it doesn't leave loose ends out there like, "Yeah, but where did the giant turtle come from?"

How is “Yeah, but where did God come from?” not a loose ends almost exactly like that?

> It's monotheistic, so complications about where the many gods come from, what rules they have to follow, and how they die are moot.

It has a single creator (like many polytheistic creation myths), and multiple supernatural entities raising the same type of questions (even if you literally interpret the serpent as just a really smart snake with an unexplained defiant streak, by the end of Gen 3 you’ve got the cherub with the flaming sword.) That the supernatural entities besides the creator in the Judeo-Christian tradition are called something other than gods doesn't actually eliminate any of the issues they raise.


>Yeah, but where did God come from?

Where is a question that can only be asked if there is a coordinate system.

What do I mean by this?

Okay, so you know the room God is sitting in? That room is also God. It's just a part of him that he turned into a room. Okay, but what about the thing outside of God? The thing outside of God is just God himself too. Because there is nothing outside of God. God already includes that everything outside and inside. Because there really is no outside and inside. To have an outside or inside, God have to split himself into two part, an outside part, and an inside part. At that point, the outside part and the inside part are still just parts of God. Also, a coordinate system doesn't even exist until God split himself into some kind of plane, and then separate that plane from the other unlimited part of himself. This is why they say God is truly unlimited, in every way.

But what about the guy that created God? Technically doesn't exist. However, God can split himself into some guy and pretend to create himself, if that's what he wants. Doesn't matter. In the end, it's all still just God himself. Just another part of God that he himself split into. All him. There is nothing else. Just God.

The universe? Just a part of God that he himself splits into, then afterward, he lay down some rules and laws for that part of himself to obey. He call these rules the Laws of Physics. Earth? Formed from the universe through the Laws of Physics that God set. Human? Evolved from evolution, which are rules naturally occurring in a natural environment in a universe bounds by the rules God had set.

Note that it is also meaningless to ask when God was created or when God first appeared, since time is an artificial restriction God created to bound our universe and to force our universe to play by. God is not bound by this rule. Which is why they say God is eternal. Because time is only an artificial restriction that God set upon our universe.


> Why believe they're all false just because there are many? Any atheist creation story is just one more in the list.

I didn't say or imply that they are all false. You are reading more, I think, into my question than was there.


Didn't mean to single you out. Apologies.

I was trying to point out (for the lurkers if not you) that atheism doesn't get a free pass just because there are all sorts of creation stories to consider. A materialist story is a story nonetheless.


I know you don't mean it to be, but the way you've worded that question makes it somewhat rude and very unlikely to generate the response you're hoping for.


Is that because I included the Wikipedia link, and Wikipedia calls them all myths?


There's that, and there's the fact that people of mainstream faiths tend to resent their beliefs being compared to primitive animism, and there's the fact that those comparisons are also an Internet atheist activist trope.

But more generally it's a little weird asking someone outright why they belong to a particular religion. It's not something you're meant to litigate. We rightly feel irritated when fundamentalist Christians proselytize to strangers; this is another instance of the same thing.


> But more generally it's a little weird asking someone outright why they belong to a particular religion.

Even in a thread whose whole point is a discussion of religious belief and why people are religious?

> We rightly feel irritated when fundamentalist Christians proselytize to strangers; this is another instance of the same thing.

When people proselytize for their religion they are implicitly if not explicitly telling you that your current beliefs in that area are wrong and that theirs are right. I agree that is irritating.

I don't think that asking someone why they believe their religion is the same thing.


I'm comfortable disagreeing on these issues (especially since they're subtle) if you recognize the concerns I mentioned that didn't make your reply. :)


Sure.

I wasn't trying to compare to animism. I included the Wikipedia link because I said that there were hundreds of creation stories and thought that if I didn't give some link to a bunch of them someone might get testy over the number. (I'm kind of surprised that hasn't happened anyway, as the Wikipedia list only has 40 or so).


It's interesting to consider how many things you believe at your core that you can't easily connect back to rationalism. Most western cultural values are ahistorical and disconnected from any modern notion of biological imperative.


I have thicker skin than that, but not everyone does. Thanks!


> I believe the Genesis creation story.

Which one? The one (Gen 2:4-) where the order of creation is man, then plants, then animals or the one (Gen 1:1-2:3) where it is plants, then animals then man?


>>> I believe the Genesis creation story.

>Which one? The one (Gen 2:4-) where the order of creation is man, then plants, then animals or the one (Gen 1:1-2:3) where it is plants, then animals then man?

Both.

They both are true, and they both are talking about two different events.

In Gen 2:4-, it is talking about men (men here = Adam and Eve) inside the Garden of Eden, while the Earth is still bare.

In Gen 1:1-2:3, it is talking about men (men here = Homo-sapians) outside of the Garden, on Earth.

So basically, God created men (Adam and Eve) inside the Garden of Eden at a time when the Earth was still bare. God then created the plants and the animals inside the Garden of Eden too (remember that outside, the Earth is still bare at this point).

Then, outside of the Garden, on a bare Earth, God created the plants. Then the animals. Then Homo-sapians, who will roam the Earth and evolve to eventually "have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth."

Adam and Eve, who are inside the Garden of Eden, are NOT the same as the Homo-sapians who roamed the Earth, though by the time Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden, the Homo-sapians will have already evolved to look like humans too.

In other word, in the Garden, Adam and Eve were created as perfect humans beings already. Meanwhile, outside the Garden, primates had go through an evolution process over millions of years to reach the point where they look like humans.


To me, this is equivalent to saying there are no scientific questions.


I don't understand what you mean. Validating the universal law of gravity is a scientific question, right?


In my view, yes. If there's an all powerful force with a mind then everything is a theological question, though. "Does God choose to present my senses with evidence that leads me to believe gravity works the same way as I remember it working yesterday?"

EDIT: most Christians I've heard talk about this say that God put natural laws into place but of course that is itself a theological point.


If you mean "you need to have a materialist metaphysical frame for science to work" then I agree. Theists often adopt that frame while pursuing scientific inquiry just like a physicist might presume point masses for the purposes of some reasoning. But they still ask and answer scientific questions.

In other words, it's extremely rewarding and useful to know how things work assuming no miracles. Just because you believe in miracles doesn't mean all the science is pointless.


Polls show over 40% in the US to believe in creationism http://www.gallup.com/poll/170822/believe-creationist-view-h...

Also religion is not only concerned with what happened, yet often very active in prescribing what has to happen: abortion, divorce, homosexuality,...


Which would also be true. Science would gladly welcome these concepts if there were a shred of evidence that they were real.


There will come a time where science will have advanced so far that scientists will be able perform miracles that are indistinguishable from the power of God?

Where Science finally converges with Spirituality because Spirituality is just really really advance science?


The feud between science and religion has as much to do with politics and power as it does with arguments about reason and faith.


I think the decline of religion that we see is due to decline of power of single authorities over large majority of population. With competing authorities (different religions), it's harder to sustain an unwarranted belief.

However, it's not clear whether this trend will continue, if there will always be multiple different authorities from this point on, or if humanity will largely again unify under a single overarching authority. Also I believe that many people have inborn tendency to value authority (we typically call this conservative beliefs), and it's not clear if this tendency is going away or staying.


> With competing authorities (different religions), it's harder to sustain an unwarranted belief.

True, but it's also difficult to even sustain warranted beliefs. I would not say that science is the new religion, but I don't deny it has a lot of power. And there are plenty of people out there who are more than happy to twist truths and break down the foundations of science to accrue some of that very warranted power.


American Christianity is thoroughly diffuse with few leaders with any literal authority. You get pastors of megachurches, but their following often wanes as they age, retire, or pass away.

Perhaps it's the decentralized organizational structure that has allowed American Christianity to fare better than its European counterparts.


Yes, but in the past, it was often difficult for people to get information or support outside their respective communities. Internet (and other media before that, to a smaller extent) changed all that.

I distinctly remember Laci Green's Youtube channel when she was 17 or so, and a closet atheist from a Mormon community. She talked exactly about this and how Internet let her to get to information that she otherwise wouldn't get to. There are many cases like that.


Sure, but there were always places people gravitated to when they wanted to get the hell out of the Bible belt. They had to wait until they were old enough and ready enough to pack up and move, though.


It's been fairly apparent to me that science doesn't really counter religious belief. I've been following the Closer To Truth series on Youtube for a while and although I find the atheist positions given much more convincing, the religious side always has some way out of a killing blow.

However what that series never seems to really tackle head on, and which I would have expected to be a much more powerful argument, is that although religious philosophers and theologians can always come up with some justification for believing in a universal creator, they never seem to come up with any argument as to what that creator is like. If the universe was created by god, what is that god like and why should I be a Christian rather than a Muslim, or Hindu, or Budhist? If Christian, why a Catholic, say, rather than a Methodist, or Calvinist, etc.

Science, or at least rational philosophy, can strip away much of the cultural detritus of religion. Ultimately though until it can answer why the universe exists, not just how, it can't land a fatal blow.

So to me the argument of science versus religion is kind of secondary. The real question is can't religious people see that they're just projecting arbitrary cultural baggage they happen to have been born into, that keeps changing generation by generation anyway, on a philosophical emperor that inherently has no clothes?


> It's been fairly apparent to me that science doesn't really counter religious belief.

Show me how one multiplies fishes.

There are 2 differents questions when it comes to religion.

One is philosophical : "Does a moral god exist?"

The other is historical: "Who wrote the bible or the coran the torah and co, and do these prophets who claim they have seen or talked to the divine told the truth?"

These are 2 separated questions. Science obviously can't answer the first one, it's purely philosophical, but science can absolutely answer the second one.

Finally, a last question. Does following a religion means believing in "god" or believing in the vision of god from another man?

edit: I'm focusing on what I know, AKA Abrahamic religions, and I'm not talking about the morality of religious texts nor whatever wisdom they contain. So don't take my comment as a personal attack against your faith.


> Show me how one multiplies fishes.

Not to detract from your argument, I think you're generally correct, but in this case: Two fish and 5 loafs of bread are enough to start a fish farm. Of course, I doubt this is what really happened, but this particular miracle is very easy to explain..


This is the correct answer.


Care to explain it, then? I'm not sure what the point of the answer is since the miracle referenced happened in the course of one meeting. A fish farm wasn't in the picture.


I was making an observation of what happens in the real world. I've never once witnessed someone be persuaded to ditch their religious beliefs due to a scientific argument, therefore it seems to me that science doesn't in practice counter religious belief.

I was not making a statement about my own opinion. I'm sure you can pout forth powerful arguments against religion, so can I. I'm just saying that in my experience, they don't work against religious believers. Does your experience differ?


If a superior entity created the earth including humanity, then surely it could make an exception to the rules as humanity studies it. Like using cheat codes in The Sims.


Why make exceptions to the rules to aid science? I don't know why God couldn't take premises (fundamental laws of nature) and follow them to their conclusions. Where are cheat codes needed?


>Like using cheat codes in The Sims.

Like that time when Moses hacked the Matrix to open the sea?


Those objections (fishes, etc.) only apply to literalism.


That argument if you deploy it against for example gender becomes rather inpalatable for most people.

Gender roles are to a very large extent made up of "arbitrary cultural baggage" but reasoning like that provokes almost an allergic reaction for people who after all base their identity and personality on them.

I imagine there are quite a lot of people who, if you insist on the argument that their male identity is an arbitrary construction, would literally hurt you rather than accept your argument... which probably says more about the specific nature of the male gender construct, but still.

Cultural constructs are extremely important and fundamental for people's identities, communities, narratives, etc. If you strip away enough cultural baggage, there is a reasonable fear that you would end up with no recogngizable human mind, no basis for any action or thought.

Christianity went through a phase of rational universalism, scholasticism etc, but now it doesn't seem to want to engage in the arena of global universal truth. Instead Christians are either "nationalistic", "pluralistically tolerant", or "individually mystical", I would say.

The concept of divinity is also extremely abstract, nuanced, slippery, and multifaceted; there are a lot of different theological theories, and they change over time.

My major point is that religions tend to have a privileged position as the root or ground of a whole cultural complex, and that makes them really hard to be rational about; you'd first have to convince someone that they ought to subject the very root of their identity and community to rational scrutiny, which does appear risky; that's why Camus said "to begin to think is to begin to be undermined."


Religion is not about the nature of the physical universe, even if a few of its proponents think it extends to that realm. Religion is an aspect of culture concerned with coping with existential dread - our knowledge of the mortality of ourselves and everyone we care about - which is not something that science can help with. There is no point in either party trying to shut down the other.


> Religion is not about the nature of the physical universe

Why not?

> There is no point in either party trying to shut down the other.

Agreed! There's definitely plenty of room for tolerance and appreciation of diverse perspectives.


I was thinking in terms of the practice of religion. While a religion often has an associated cosmology and other myths about the physical world, they have little effect on most believer's lives (not even in their religious observances, specifically), and religions do not generally change fundamentally, let alone fall, if their beliefs about the physical world are found to be unrealistic.


> While a religion often has an associated cosmology and other myths about the physical world, they have little effect on most believer's lives...

I'd go the other way and say that religions that have little effect on believers' lives don't mean much. They are just more fluid tribal associations.

> ...religions do not generally change fundamentally, let alone fall, if their beliefs about the physical world are found to be unrealistic

I think they do. I think Christian Science (not actually a type of Christianity, by the way) has been limited in popularity because of the failure of its beliefs to work in reality (1). So there's probably a lot of survivor bias going on.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Science#Child_deaths...


The 'they' in the first quote should probably have been 'these', as I was referring specifically to the myths regarding the physical world, not the religion as a whole.

Christian Science's biological beliefs may be an exception, but only an exception, and a small one at that. Roman Catholicism, for example, thrives despite its nominal (and once actual) cosmological beliefs being divorced from reality. Few, if any, lifestyle changes follow from abandoning a literal reading of the cosmological aspects of Genesis.


Ah. Gotcha.

You're right that in and of themselves, the cosmology of Genesis don't amount to much. But there's a real concern that if parts of the Bible are not trustworthy, other parts may also be untrustworthy. And a Bible you can pick your favorite parts from is practically dangerous. This is how things like chattel slavery were justified by "Christians".

There are also theological implications to editing your own holy book. You end up editing the book down to the God you want (who, strangely, thinks like you and has the same friends and enemies) instead of the God who exists. Of course, you can make those objections to the various canonical versions of the Bible. That's an interesting digression with good answers, but a digression nonetheless.

The point is lifestyle change. I'm saying ignoring this part of the Bible may not affect much there, but ignoring certain parts of the Bible certainly does. And how do we resolve the "who watches the watchers" problem? I guess you could say "only cosmological stuff doesn't matter too much" and be pretty much in line with a lot of Christians.


> Ah. Gotcha.

On the contrary, you end up agreeing with me, but you are attempting to draw a line at cosmology, so lets talk about biology, an area where religion actually is trying to suppress science.


In what way are biology and religion contradictory?

A lot of the conflict there comes down to misunderstanding (on all sides) which issues are scientific and which issues are metaphysical and theological. Can you describe where you see the conflict between biology and theism?


Are you not aware that almost all attempts to suppress the knowledge of evolution are driven by religious beliefs? Of course you are, so now you are just trolling - good-day to you.


> Ultimately though until it can answer why the universe exists, not just how, it can't land a fatal blow.

That's an impossible goal to set because you are pretty much asking for "a purpose" which is an utterly human concept completely alien to the universe and its mechanics. It's a philosophical question that can never be really answered by hard science.

We can ask how something happens on a mechanical level, but there is no bigger purpose, there is no "grand plan" behind all of it (which would assume a planer exists with a goal in mind) stuff just exists without any ultimate designs.

In my experience, it's that whole notion a lot of religious people struggle with, they can't let go of the idea that there always has to be a "why" a "bigger purpose" to their suffering or happiness, when in all actuality it's more often than not these emotions are the result of individual circumstances and/or pure chance.


Christians, Muslims and Jews believe in the same God, its the historical details they differ in. Buddhism is more a moral and spiritual framework than a religion (a lot of Buddhists are also Hindus).

Ultimately, all that science can tell us on this matter is that it is possible that God does not exist, and it is also possible that God does exist. The matter is outside the scope of science, but atheism (as opposed to agnosticism) is just as (if not more) arbitrary a belief as any mainstream religion.


> Christians, Muslims and Jews believe in the same God

On the contrary, while all claim to believe in the God of Abraham, the characteristics of each God are different enough to describe different gods.

For example, Jews and Muslims do not believe Jesus is God and existed before the world was created. Both consider the Christian Trinity to be heretical.


They all believe in the same God, they just don't believe the same things about Him. The details are important ones, but still, they're details.


> The details are important ones, but still, they're details.

Except for each describes salvation differently and each describes its method to salvation to be mutually exclusive from the others. Those aren't details. Not about the religion itself and not about the character of God.

I could believe in "medicine" which is filling a pool with water, adding a milligram of penicillin, then drinking a gulp from the pool. You could believe in medicine that is taking penicillin in doses as prescribed by a qualified physician. We both self-identify as believing in "medicine".

What counts as an "important" detail?


> Except for each describes salvation differently and each describes its method to salvation to be mutually exclusive from the others.

Christianity entirely builds upon Judaism, and Judaism doesn't provide a path to salvation that Christianity doesn't (not the opposite though). Islam is more distantly related, but they still believe in the same God.

It's more like I believe the US is free, democratic, and on the whole a good place to live, while someone in North Korea believes the US is a hellhole. (I live in Europe and haven't spent any significant time in the US, so my perspective isn't inherently superior to the North Korean's.) We have very different conceptions of the US, but we're still talking about the same US.


> What counts as an "important" detail?

I'm having a hard time parsing your answer to this question. You seem to agree that salvation matters but think they all have compatible salvation messages?

You reiterate that it's all the same God but ignore my point about Christ and the Christian Trinity. Is that an unimportant detail? Why?

Why are these three religions special? Rastafarians and Mormons claim Abraham as well. Zoroastrians and Sikhs also believe in one god.

One could believe in a form of Hinduism or Bahá'í, thinking that various gods could count in some way, but that's clearly different than Judaism, say.


My point was that they are different religions, absolutely, but they believe in the same God. They believe different things about what God did, and how He asks us to behave. They differ to their core, but still, they believe in the same God.

> Why are these three religions special? I didn't claim they were a complete set (they're not, you have to include Mormonism and other non-trinitarian religions that believe in Christ, then to a lesser extent you have Baha'i (which it turns out is literally answering this question) and the Yazidi faith, and probably more). Once you get to monotheistic religions that aren't descended from Abraham, it's a more philosophical question. If there were a tribe in South America that believed in a god that revealed himself to Atik and chose the Inca as his chosen people, on the other hand, would obviously be believing in a different god. Polytheistic or pantheistic (nature is God) faiths are quite clearly not believing in the same god.


> ...but they believe in the same God.

You've listed your thoughts in a lot of cases. Can you boil that down to some guidelines for how to decide? I'm not sure I'm picking up a clear way to distinguish.

If they say it's the same God, it's enough? If I praise Bill Gates for:

* founding Microsoft

* his ability to bench press 500 pounds

* his waist-length, beautiful hair

* his ability to fly

* his willingness to pay anybody 500 euros for a hug

...am I still talking about Bill Gates? Or am I talking about something else and just reusing Bill Gates' name?


Just because you're praising Bill Gates for things that aren't true doesn't mean you're not praising the same Bill Gates.


It depends how you look at it.

One way is to say no religion is any more or less convincing than any other, therefore any of them could be true. Also man of them share common features, so maybe they do encapsulate some underlying truth. That leads to Agnosticism.

Alternatively we could demand a higher standard and require proof. None of the religions is able to prove any of their theological beliefs or tenets. Therefore we reject every single one of them. That leaves you with Atheism, because all religions and theological positions are discarded as having no reliable explanatory power, leaving you with no theology at all.

Arguably the atheist position is just more rigorous and demanding, but I don't see how you can claim it is more arbitrary.


> One way is to say no religion is any more or less convincing than any other

Of course some religions are more convincing than others. The Graeco-Roman pantheon for instance, is trivially disprovable. The Abrahamic religions as a whole are more credible than the others.

> Alternatively we could demand a higher standard and require proof. None of the religions is able to prove any of their theological beliefs or tenets. Therefore we reject every single one of them. That leaves you with Atheism

You're still stuck at agnosticism, I'm afraid. Atheism is the positive belief that no god exists. If you require proof (or strong evidence, I suppose, since things can only be proven in mathematics) of your religious beliefs then this belief too needs proof.


Statistics is a science and it tells us that while god-entity may exist it most probably don't and definitely don't in the way described in "the books".


Statistics isn't a science, it's a mathematical tool. It certainly doesn't tell us that no God exists.

I suppose you could argue that the probability that the nature of God is precisely as described in your chosen sacred text is zero, but that presupposes that the text is simply uniformly sampled from the set of all possible natures of God, which isn't really a valid assumption.


> Ultimately though until it can answer why the universe exists, not just how, it can't land a fatal blow.

Well if it wasn't for Science, we wouldn't even know a universe exists.


Education is the logic explanation of Religion going away in Europe. (http://freakonomics.com/2011/04/25/does-more-education-lead-...)

I think this explains the high degree of religion in the US, some schools still want to teach creationism there.


Replace all occurrences of "science" in the article with "scientific method", and the entire article becomes a non sequitur.

This is a classic case of painting science as a noun; as an inanimate, fixed concept which is used to increase pleasure in human lives (a religious sin), and whose materialism is in direct conflict with "moral" values.

Questioning the scientific process yet accepting its fruits is a logical blunder often committed by religious apologists. Noun-ing science into a "thing" helps hide the incongruity of this idea.

For instance, take the mobile phone, a concrete result of science. There is no question it exists. But it did not originate from a religious process. It was instead based on empirical research, making mistakes and learning from them, all built over centuries of human struggle, all to understand a little bit more of the universe that we live in. That process is science. It is just a process; not an answer or a fixed idea. It doesn't guarantee that we'll discover all the secrets of the universe. All it does is ask questions and try to find answers using logically coherent, structurally consistent, independently reproducible methods.

There is an undeniable conflict between religious belief and the scientific process. Both of them tries to find answers to questions central to human existence - what is this place? why are we here? who made it? who made us?

A thousand years ago, we were asking other questions - what are the twinkling things in the sky? who brings the rain? which god causes the plague? The scientific process has answered them well enough that today's religious beliefs have shrunk in size, and refined themselves to focus on the questions that still remain transcendental.

Their answers however are in direct conflict with what the scientific process has discovered. They claim the universe was created by an all knowing God, without a definition of what the God is, and stonewalling further enquiry into the topic. Religions do not bring any additional meaning to the discussion, and by its very nature stands in the way of the scientific process.

The closing paragraph of the article is an ominous threat - "If anything, it is science that is subject to increasing threats to its authority and social legitimacy. Given this, science needs all the friends it can get". If it led to finding more allies in the religious world for the scientific process, I think it wouldn't hurt for scientific-minded folks to bend their outward convictions a little bit. But if it means getting rid of evolution from our textbooks and teaching kids that a voyeur in the sky is watching them all the time, waiting to subject them to eternal fire, I think it would be a hard bargain to drive.


> There is an undeniable conflict between religious belief and the scientific process.

How? I pray and do hypothesis testing, recording experiments that lead to independently reproducible results. I don't see why I couldn't even follow the scientific method for religious reasons.

> The scientific process has answered [questions about nature] well enough that today's religious beliefs have shrunk in size

But the scientific process doesn't answer "why" they happen. It explains mechanisms, but not why they exist. An atheist and/or agnostic answer is "There's no 'why' to be had. Cause and effect plus time eventually lead to hurricanes", but that's actually circular reasoning, since the scientific process presumes a materialist perspective, partly so that theists and atheists can learn about nature without arguing about theology.

"Why", therefore, is a metaphysical, philosophical, and theological question and outside the scope of reproducible and reasoned-through hypothesis testing and observation of material things like matter and energy.

> They claim the universe was created by an all knowing God, without a definition of what the God is, and stonewalling further enquiry into the topic.

Some do. Some don't. Lots of theists are more than happy to talk about these issues in a candid, honest, and reasonable way. They may seem to be hard to find, but part of that is religion is considered uncivil conversation these days, even if the tone of the conversation is benignly analytical.


There is a lot of upvote/downvote see-saw going on for my comment, so I appreciate you taking the time to actually respond.

I think there is a strawman in claiming atheists answer that "there is not a why".

We've already discovered reasons for a lot of natural phenomena, but that is an ongoing process: the why of the why of the why... and that line of questioning often ends up at universal physical constants and mathematical axioms. The good news is that we've been able to dig deeper into constants that we thought were impenetrable in the past, and go one more level deeper. The bad news is that there are still things that we don't know, and we don't even know whether we'll ever be able to unravel them. That is unfortunately the pain and pleasure of the scientific process.

Anyone who is curious about things by definition accepts that there are things that they don't know, but holds out hope that they might be able to figure it out.

> "Why", therefore, is a metaphysical, philosophical, and theological question and outside the scope of reproducible and reasoned-through hypothesis testing and observation of material things like matter and energy.

This is precisely why I think religious doctrine is antithetical to the scientific process. The moment we accept that some questions are ultimately un-answerable and settle for un-verifiable religious theology, we have effectively put a stop to the scientific process. The theology doesn't even add any more meaning to the discussion, yet it orders us to stop looking.

What if we kept on being curious we could figure out the ultimate nature of reality?


> I think there is a strawman in claiming atheists answer that "there is not a why".

Again, "why" as in purpose, not "why" as in mechanisms. People don't ask "Why did my kid drown?" to get an answer about the respiratory system or the importance of proper fencing around pools.

I think science is a great way to explore the physical mechanisms of things. I think it has limits when complexity, observability, or reproducibility are concerned.

> The theology doesn't even add any more meaning to the discussion, yet it orders us to stop looking.

So I think the disconnect here is about what counts as rational reasoning. There's a different kind of logic not taught very often called abductive reasoning (1). It's not any kind of scientific method, but it's hardly irrational. In fact, it's more or less what juries do when they deliberate on charges. So there's more to explore outside the realm of testing hypotheses in laboratories. It's unverifiable in a scientific sense, but it's not a dead end or even the end of a discussion.

For example, Isaiah 53 (2) was written by a Jew hundreds of years before Jesus was crucified, but it sounds a lot like a psalm about Christ written after his death. It's not scientifically verifiable whether it's a prophecy, coincidence, or misinterpretation, but it raises a lot of interesting questions that can be explored rationally.

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abductive_reasoning

(2) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+53&versi...


Durkheim's definition of religion:

> A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community.

A lot of things fall under this, even people who wear Oakley glasses or own an iPhone.


There is literally no argument in the whole article to support the title's conclusion.


He argues that America has more science than anywhere else, but is more religious than comparable first world countries.

That seems like an argument to me.

You could counter that America was filled early on with particularly zealous types, and that it's a big enough country that the science and the religion could find their own areas to bloom separately, but that may actually be supporting his argument.


What does it mean for America to have more science? There seems to be a very large portion of the population of America who don't understand even the basic tenets of the scientific process, and can't define science, much less know about specific theories and the math behind experiments.


That's an observation (which is false thus stated ; america produces science but people are not as scientifically literate as western europe. And still, loud religious zealots pose no threat politically like they do in Turkey). his argument is

> science will not destroy it


That's a claim, not an argument.


yep, a claim that's lacking arguments.



Interesting that on the evolution vs GDP graph, Turkey is another outlier, with even lower belief in evolution than their GDP would suggest. Turkey, and it's teaching of evolution is brought up in the original article as a failure of science to destroy religion. I wonder if that survey records that the teaching of evolution never worked, or reflects the backlash against that belief.


Evolution is a scientific fact for local adaptation, i.e. developing mechanisms to cope with environmental changes between generations. In a geological timescale it's just a theory, basically extrapolating local changes to creating whole new species (which we obviously can't observe yet). There are various issues with this extrapolation, i.e. from computational complexity point of view the time from the start of the Universe might not be sufficient to come up with precision needed for a new specie. This obviously then puts evolution among other hypotheses like the religious one (there is a God, or there are multiple gods, creating the world), simulation hypothesis (we are a hypercomputer game/reality show/testing ground/miniatures/VM etc.), chaos theory, total determinism a'la Bell equation etc. From these religion is the only one that gives most people some meaning/goal to their lives, especially during hard times when it's easier to off oneself, so no wonder it's going to stay. Evolution also plays against non-religious people as these often produce less children than religious ones, increasing odds of their genotype to survive and keep the same culture. So in fact being religious might be a better evolutionary strategy, which is quite funny.


Turkey isn't an outlier they are literally on the line.


The line is drawn including Turkey, but not including America. Visually, they both look like outliers.


1. Looking at this at a national level, you do not know whether the people earning all the wealth are also the people who have the same belief (although the _probability_ is higher). 2. There are large numbers of important countries excluded from both plots.


Historians often talk about waves of religiousity in the US. The puritans were just want strand of colonists, just the one America loves to enphasized the most. Jamestown was more economic than religious.


> He argues that America has more science than anywhere else, but is more religious than comparable first world countries.

That's making two statements, not arguing that those two things show the points in the title. Maybe those two things are an accident? Maybe they're unrelated to the conclusions. To make an argument they'd have to argue why they support those conclusions.


How exactly does America "have more science"? How do you even quantify such a thing?


By numbers of people who have gone to higher education?

By numbers of Nobel prize winners?

By numbers of practicing researchers?

By numbers of technological and scientific jobs?

By the presence of advanced technological infrastructure?

I mean there are tons of ways to "quantify such a thing", and in most of those America comes close to the top or at the top.


You'd need to bring down those numbers to a per-capita basis for them to be relevant though, I don't think America is anything special.


Well they have a lot of science but they lack proper education.


Except the several pretty crystal clear arguments and statistics it gives?


Because science is a religion.

That sounds like a boring statement, but it's still true. Science in its core shouldn't be religious. But we are humans. So applying science, working as a scientist, using science (even if just for small talk) is not possible without putting some faith in unchecked results.

To some degree we are all believers. The important part is to accept that and recognize it when you are about to do something which will yield bad results for you and humanity in general.


This is a very valid thought. I'm not sure why it's being downvoted.

In Christian theology, "belief" and "faith" is nothing more or less than what you put your trust in. Everyone trusts in many things and people all the time. From that perspective, the big question is whether a thing is trustworthy (science, God, seat belts), not whether trusting at all is even optional.


Religion will persist until humans will become smarter on average, meaning until humans will have bigger brain on average. But bigger brain may happen only if we solve how to birth babies with bigger heads or how to boost brain and head size after birth. Both requires significant medical and other breakthroughs.


Birth weights do seem to be going up, possible thanks to cesarian sections.


Yes, this gives me hope in our long term perspective.


> Religion will persist until humans will become smarter on average

How do you explain theists with high IQs then?


First of all IQ is commonly known to be a flawed metric, but more or less acceptable for many uses. Second - they are either outliers statistically or not really high IQ in the area of scientific methodology (which is incompatible with basic religion). People can know a lot and believe blindly in god-entity, people can do very hard calculus and believe. People can't do real scientific research about universe and blindly believe. They may use vague terminology about god-entity specifically because it is a clever concept that can't ever be disproven but really it is just a 3rd rate issue in large scale of things. Anyone claiming to be a theist and a scientist most likely never bothered to think about his "theism" much.


The author drops it looks like the real correlation is the social safety net + decent prosperity? Yet another reason to support having one.


"The US is arguably the most scientifically and technologically advanced society in the world"

Dear people in the US, I have unfortunate news for you: No.


Science is no more anti-religion than, say, a cold chisel is anti-hammer.

Science is a study of the natural world. It doesn't answer philosophical or religious questions. That is not its part to play.

However, saying that, each person will use science according to the base beliefs that person brings with them. It you come in as an atheist, those core beliefs will, generally, colour how you see the world around you. If you come in as a buddhist, this will colour how you see the world about you. if come in as a christian, the same will occur.

Now the results or outcomes discovered can and have changed the underlying base beliefs a person may have started with. So, an atheist may become a christian, a christian may become an atheist, etc, etc, etc.

In my case, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I personally believe that He is not only the creator of all the universe and everything in it, but He is my personal saviour and wants to know me personally.

I was given a good science and engineering education. I had no problems with such ideas as evolution and big bang, etc. Interestingly, it was people like Richard Dawkins and his work in genetics that raised significant questions over the viability of any evolutionary model. As I studied the results obtained from various reported experiments in evolutionary biology, it became obvious that the interpretation of their results and the results themselves were different. So over time, I came to see that evolution as a model of reality was not viable, though very useful for some very good scifi stories.

In turn, looking at other areas, the results seemed to be odds with the theories and models being propagated. This is turn, challenged me to look at the limits of what science could do. I think it is wonderful that we have the ability to systematically study and experiment with the world around. Science is a boon for that. But there are questions it cannot answer. We must look elsewhere for the tools to study those questions.

What has also become obvious over the last few decades, is that Science has become a religion to which it has many adherents. Those who have pushed for this (such as Richard Dawkins et al) have done a great disservice to Science. It is religion neutral. It has no care whether you are atheist, agnostic, moslem, chistian, buddhist, hindu or anything else. It has no care for your political belief, your sexuality, your social status, your ethnicity or anything related to the non-science beliefs you carry.

However, those non-science things will colour how you view the results obtained in your science. It will colour your interpretation and it will colour how you use the results.

Religion and science are not intrinsically incompatible. It is how people used them for or against each other that generates the conflicts.

My God has created an absolutely fascinating universe and His good pleasure is that we can study it to try and understand how it works and in doing so we can get to know Him. Just because we gain some understanding about certain aspects of the world around us, say how planetary motion works, does not mean in any way, that He is no longer in the picture. He is no God of the Gaps as Dr Neil Tyson or Bill Nye would have you believe.

Anyone who falls into the trap of believing that Science will replace or supplant religion has already made Science into religion.

There are no "stupid" questions and there is no problem asking questions about science, religion, philosophy or any other subject.


Atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins actually undermine one of the classic arguments against religion, as they and their followers have demonstrated repeatedly that the racism, sexism, xenophobia, hypocrisy, believing and repeating obvious lies, pseudoscience, favoring hierarchies with some people clearly marked as inferior, covering up for sexual assault and predation, wars etc. etc. that many would have previously associated with organised religion can bloom in atheist circles too.

I thought that might account for the low numbers of people identifying themselves as "Atheist" with a capital A, but on following the link it seems it's hard to get a straight answer on that for multiple reasons e.g.

"8% of those who call themselves atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit. Indeed, 2% say they are “absolutely certain” about the existence of God or a universal spirit."


That you associate them with any of the things you mentioned tells me you haven't listened to or read any of their works with the intention of understanding the contents, rather than picking out sentences that can be twisted to fit into your completely wrong image of them.


I was already an atheist and agreed with most of the points Dawkins makes in his books before I even read them. That doesn't detract from him demonstrating various human follies that could, and have been argued to be caused or exacerbated by organised religion. And if it was just one older gentlemen then you could probably just write it off, but when lots of younger atheists form communities to actively practice and promote many of these things, it really just blows that argument out of the water totally.


You are confused.

1) Sam Harris / Richard Dawkins are not promoting any of these Bad Qualities (xenophobia, racism, sexism, etc.). You seem to concede that because you now talk about "lots of younger atheists" that "form communities to actively practice and promote" these Bad Qualities. Probably some exist but I haven't seen any of consequence. In any case, they are not SH/RD so your entire opening statement is therefore baseless.

2) The main argument of SH/RD is NOT that only religious people or groups promote Bad Qualities. The main argument is that religious faith is a set of made-up doctrines and "truths" that can lead to a whole variety of behaviors depending on the specific set of "truths" and doctrines. Some of those are good, many of those are bad (see Bad Qualities). The Bad Qualities arise because the faith is made-up and therefore will unavoidably have components incompatible with the real world.

3) The good parts of religion can all, each and every one, be achieved without religious faith. Sam Harris especially has been advocating this. You can have "spirituality" and meditation without all the bullcrap of gods.


So...

1) yes they are, that's why I named them specifically as part of a broader group of "Atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins". Here's one item where Richard Dawkins apologized for doing so: https://the-orbit.net/greta/2014/08/07/richard-dawkins-apolo...

2) I never said it was the main argument, just an argument,

3) yes, I mostly of agree, but don't really see that much benefit if these non-religious people are still committing genocide based on pseudo-science or other such things. It's not the believing in nonsense part that ever really bothered me about religion, as I'm self aware enough to realise that atheists believe a lot of non-religious nonsense too.


I was not aware of this "Dear Muslima" thing, but let's analyze it.

Someone makes a video complaining about being propositioned (I didn't watch the video but read the context). Dawkins, a homosexual who as been around for quite some time, when things were not very pleasant for them, thinks this is really not anything to complain about so he makes this remark comparing the suffering of people under a particular religion. He then apologizes for the comment.

Was the comment unnecessary? Yes. Was the comment tacky? Yes. Is it indicative of sexism? I'll say not, given Dawkins' context, his previous statements and also importantly, the fact that he apologized.


I'm fairly certain Dawkins isn't gay. He's been married to women three times.

And I don't really see how telling people they're not allowed to complain about sexism unless they are the person most affected in the entire world would be made better if he was. It's a logically preposterous claim. If he truly believed it then he'd never have complained about religion, since people in other countries have it much worse than him.


>That you associate them with any of the things you mentioned tells me you haven't listened to or read any of their works with the intention of understanding the contents, rather than picking out sentences that can be twisted to fit into your completely wrong image of them.

So similar to how they read religious texts?


You're bringing up a straw man version of that "classical argument," arguing that religion is the source of all bad behavior is nonsense. The Dawkins/Harris versions are more that being raised with one clear form of indoctrination opens you up to others, and that morality doesn't need or even suffers from religion.


If it's a straw man, why did you close with a restatement of the same thing: "morality [...] suffers from religion"?

Clearly atheists can be terrible people. And collections of atheists can be terrible societies. It's certainly not a binary thing. I'd be looking for more data before concluding what kind of improvement (if any) you'd see if you removed religion totally. It would seem practical in the short term to just be against hierarchy, greed, war etc. separately from belief, rather than hope they'll all evaporate at once when religion is finally defeated. You'd likely find religious allies in most of these fights, as well as atheists on the other side.


It's not a restatement. General morality may be worse with religion than without, but terrible acts by atheists don't disprove that as there still wouldn't be "perfect morality."

Much of this argument draws from the nearly two thousand year Western belief that atheists are incapable of having morals and may not be tolerated. The general argument isn't trying to flip this around and say religion is incapable of morals, but that morals exist separately from religion and are not necessarily strengthened by religion.


No offense, but it's hard to take anything you write seriously when you keep on misspelling atheist like that. Makes it look like you are either trying to apply some kind of meme/trolling or you might merely really need better auto-correction on your browser.


No offense taken, it's better auto-correction on my fingers that will be needed, and having it pointed out makes it easier to fix.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: