Recently on The Daily Tarheel, I posted a comment in support of same-gender marriage in which I chided religion for inhibiting advancements in the human condition. A contributor responded with a few questions which seemed to show that some good, religious folks have misunderstood the roll of atheists in relation to advancements in the human condition. Although I had not mentioned atheism in my original post, he wanted to know what atheism has contributed to humanity. I took this as an opportunity to elaborate, and decided to share the debate here.
I begin with my reply to his questions, which are incorporated below and are marked by <>:
Thank you for the questions. I always appreciate a civil debate. Forgive the lengthy reply, but your questions cannot be answered in a few words.
First, my argument has nothing to do with atheism. It has everything to do with religion-free Reason. Perhaps you could call it humanism. There are atheistic humanists, spiritual humanists, and religious humanists–and every shade within that spectrum. This applies, as well, to scientists the world over.
<>What advancements do you believe the anti-religionists of the 20th century brought to the world and the human psyche?
The question is a straw man argument. Again, I am not arguing atheism v religion. Advances in human societies have nothing to do with atheism, but everything to do with critical thinking. Better to ask what advancements have dogmatic religion brought to the world and to the human psyche. Dogma, by its very nature, is not a result of critical thought. (no condescension meant).
Once science divorced itself from religion and threw off (or set aside) the yoke of religious dogma, we achieved great strides in knowledge. In medicine, for example, we found that illness was not caused by demons, a devil, witchcraft, and/or a god’s punishment, but by organisms too small to see with the naked eye. The religion-free Scientific Method brought us cures for most of those diseases, and it will be religion-free science that conquers the Ebola virus.
For contrast, I researched the effectiveness of prayer and know that it does not work–subjective opinions notwithstanding. See: http://new.exchristian.net/201….
Too, science gave us knowledge that mental illness is not demonic possession, and this advancement led to cures and therapy instead of exorcisms. We no longer burn people to death because Reason has brought us empathy and understanding.
The Enlightenment brought us real astronomy (fought against by the church, fang and claw). Astronomy was nurtured by the birth of physics (where was the church here?)
The short if it is that the exclusion of religion in science has opened up humanity to every advancement known to the world and religion has been dragged along kicking, screaming, and killing. Reject science and you get ISIS (as an example).
<>If theism is out, what reason do you propose for our ability to reason?
My powers of reason (and yours) are a product of evolution. It developed because of its survival value just like most traits of all other species.
I sense that you would not agree with that. I will welcome your thoughtful arguments for Intelligent Design, but before you start, check out the documentary and trial transcripts of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. You can find them athttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/e…. Dr. Behe testified, and the judge was a conservative, appointed by a conservative.
<>When you consider world history, how has atheism fared in the promotion of world peace?
Again, it isn’t atheism v. religion. it is about Reason. Unfortunately, partly because of religion, science has had little effect on the human psychological thirst for domination and territoriality, and this, too, is a result of those traits we inherited from our evolutionary past. It is only when humanity realizes its own nature and whence it came will we be able to collectively do something about it. Better to ask what religion has contributed to world peace. Here is an article that will answer this question..
<>What religion(s) do you see killing each other in the names of their loving, merciful gods?
When you realize the real reason you disbelieve and oppose other religions, then, and only then, will you realize why they disbelieve and oppose yours. Muslims of every persuasion believe their god to be a loving god, so long as one is faithful to Islam. Christians believe their god to be a loving god so long as one is faithful to Christianity.
In the Muslim world, however, having rejected the Enlightenment, various denominations are even now killing each other. Surely you’ve noticed. Listen to many fundamentalist Christians who think we should nuke the Muslim nations and kill them all. I’ve debated many who advocate a “finial Crusade.” I suppose you might call that their “finial solution.” It is such a sad view, I think.
<>Where does the “golden rule” come from?
From many religions as well as the ancient sages. I’ve researched this as well: See: https://thebenevolentthou.com/2… for the list and the quotes.
<>How do you know that’s the only doctrine humanity needs?
The last answer lays out the reason.
<>Why do you list “love” as a prerequisite to marriage?
I did not “list” love as a “prerequisite” to marriage. This question is an equivocation on my argument that no one in this nation (U.S.) should be denied the right to marry someone he or she loves. This is not a theocracy. It is a secular nation. No religion has a right to dictate to others in society that they must abide by certain religious beliefs. You may not like what others do because of your religious beliefs, but since their actions bring no harm, they have every right to marry someone they love–the same right you reserve for yourself.