Religion Verses Atheism: A Misunderstood Debate

religion and science debateRecently 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.

HOMOSEXUALITY: Perception and Fear v. Reality and Reason

I have been arguing that universal empathy is the only path to peace and that organized religion builds walls that block the path. Few subjects make my case better than this one. Around the world in many countries, social and political forces work feverishly to suppress homosexual behavior. In the U.S., religious/social conservatives try to establish laws against same gender marriages.

In at least 10 countries, homosexuality may be punishable by execution. Why are homosexuals so feared? Homosexuality isn’t a disease, communicable or otherwise. It affects no one detrimentally.

Among the most favored arguments is that everyone’s sexuality is a choice. Yet, if you ask, I suspect most heterosexuals will deny they’ve ever been romantically attracted to their same gender (I’d love to get comments in this particular assertion).

Still, I can judge with certainty, only one person–myself. I’ve never been romantically attracted to another male. Am I to assume I am different from most folks? Are all conservatives, who make the choice-argument, really bisexual–equally attracted to both genders? I think not.

I offer four rational arguments that I hope most readers will spread:

1) Natural Law: When their biblical argument against homosexuality does nothing to convince lawmakers to make laws against same gender marriage, social conservatives turn to the deceptive and bogus “Natural Law” argument. They claim that in order to determine how humans are genetically programmed–how they should naturally act (unspoken: according to God’s Law)–we draw our conclusions from nature. Yet, it appears that few religious conservatives know much about nature.

The Catholic Church is a good example, as well as conservative Justices on the Supreme Court of the United States (and most in Congress). The Roman Catholic bishops, when Illinois legislators approved civil unions in 2011, said “Marriage comes to us from nature. . .That’s based on the complementarity of the two sexes in such a way that the love of a man and a woman joined in a marital union is open to life, and that’s how families are created and society goes along. … It’s not in our doctrine. It’s not a matter of faith. It’s a matter of reason and understanding the way nature operates.”

Never mind the thinly veiled and false statement that “it’s not a matter of faith,” just a modicum of research would have told them that their uninformed opinion is not the way nature operates. It took me about five seconds to find the facts. Same gender attraction and sexual play occurs naturally in many species besides Homo sapiens. Among the best examples is the bonobo, sometimes called the pygmy chimpanzee. Research on this can easily be found online.

2) Science: A phenotype is a genetic trait that manifests physically (easily seen by the eye). A genotype is a genetic trait that manifests psychologically–a predisposition to certain behaviors, such as sexual attraction (heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual).

      a. Phenotype: An estimated 1 in 4,500 infants are born with ambiguous genitalia. This is a condition in which the gender of a baby cannot be determined, having both male and female reproductive organs. This situation can become tragic when parents decide which gender they believe, or want their child to be, and then order the surgery. As the child grows, he/she discovers that the parents made the wrong choice. The question now becomes; Would religious conservatives deny that person’s right to pursue happiness by marrying a person of the same (apparent) gender?

      b. Genotype: Recall that “genotype” is really all those genetically predetermined behavioral characteristics of any person. Therefore, the genes predisposition a person to be romantically attracted to the opposite gender, the same gender, or to both genders (think of the indisputable variations in phenotype).

3) Strict Constitutionality: The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment forbids the government from making laws respecting an establishment of religion. This is made applicable to the states by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Anti marriage laws are based solidly in religion. These laws represent government recognition and support of the theological belief of an establishment of religion, and are therefore, strictly unconstitutional. To fully understand the intent of the Establishment Clause, see Thomas Jefferson’s The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. This is the document from which the Establishment Clause was crafted.

4) Reason: Religious conservatives are often complaining that the government should stay out of their lives. They call it “intrusive government.” Yet, they are quick to use government as a blunt instrument with which to bludgeon the rest of society into living by their religious beliefs. This should be pointed out by people of empathy at every opportunity.


———————————
What is wrong with allowing every citizen, in this “land of the free,” to seek happiness according to the dictates of his or her own conscience–the same right social conservatives claim for themselves?


— Max T. Furr is author of The Empathy Imperative, a philosophical novel that brings the true nature of justice, mercy, and love into sharp focus. It must be read with an open mind. What sort of world would a truly benevolent god have created?

When Civil Rights and Libertarianism Collide

Image   What does it take to create a harmonious civil society? Individual rights are extremely important, but so are civil rights. Should individual rights trump civil rights? For me, a recent exchange of opinions with a self described libertarian on the social blog, SodaHead, highlighted this conflict.

First, I understand the position of the libertarian and I do sympathize. Libertarians believe that the individual is the sole arbiter of his associations, and not the government. I agree to an extent, but I argue that for the purpose of building and maintaining a civil society, there must be at least two exceptions, e.g., commerce and religion.

This clash of rights came to light lately when a baker refused his service to a gay wedding. The baker was not required to attend the wedding, but simply to bake and decorate the cake. He based his refusal on his religious beliefs. At first blush, one would tend to agree with the baker. After all, we do have the right to practice our religions. Yet, this practice sometimes runs afoul of law, which is the manifestation of the government’s obligation to guarantee all citizens equal access to commerce.

The government (We the People), have a compelling interest in the promotion of a civil society. While the baker, in his private life, has a sovereign right to association, in his business practices, he does not have the right to select which customers he will not serve. The gay couple’s right to equal access to commerce outweighs whatever right he may think he has for refusing his service.

He who has a business open to the public, must serve the public. Besides, the baker is not being forced to associate on a social bases with them, he is merely obligated to operate his business as usual, even if his cake does have two male or female figurines on top. This case illustrates my argument that religion is often divisive–a major hindrance to peace and harmony. Were the baker to follow the path of benevolent reciprocity–do unto others as you would have them do unto you–empathy would have dictated his actions. We should not be in the business of building walls, but dismantling those we’ve built.

Of Homosexuality, Phyllus Worship, and Family Values

On a recent post at SodaHead.com, a contributor opined that “it hurts me to see my country turned into one of those barbaric nations that worship phallus; they have closed down roadside rest areas, beach side bath houses because of homosexual men soliciting young boys for sex; homosexuals having full blown sex in one of those public places; the male prostitution, the pornography, all the foul lewd lascivious behaviors they portray. I don’t want my nation celebrating filth and lasciviousness.”

 

First, it is not his nation, it is our nation. Why would any of us want to dictate to all other citizens how they should live their lives? This is a major difference, I think, between conservatives and liberals: conservatives think in terms of “me,” but liberals and progressives think in terms of “we.” Thus, it isn’t all about me, it is about us.

As to his points, however, I used to be a long haul professional driver, visiting many rest areas and public rest rooms in almost every contiguous state in the nation. I never once saw what he described, but I know some of it goes on. Republican Senator Larry Craig, for example, was caught soliciting another man not long ago. But it wasn’t Craig’s desire to have sex with another man in a public rest room that bothers me and it is not why I condemn him. I condemn him for his hypocrisy. He was a strong anti-gay advocate in Congress and obviously his marriage was only a front.

From http://www.ontheissues.org/se…

LarryCraig’s record:

Rated 0% by the HRC, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance, Amend Constitution to define traditional marriage,

Voted YES on prohibiting same-sex marriage,

Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination by sexual orientation,

Voted NO on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation,

Voted NO on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes,

Voted YES on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.

If homosexuals such as Craig were not often successful soliciting in some rest areas, then they wouldn’t be doing it. Their success likely implies that there are many more men with a homosexual bent than most of us think. And likely there are far more LBGTs out there than we think.

The driving force behind the covert actions of some homosexuals is the religiously based the hatred a declining but significant portion of society has for them. Republican coverts, in particular, feel that the only way they can be successful in politics is to remain closeted and vote against their own conscience, and they are quite correct. Likely it is the same in many professions, especially “manly” sports like football.

I admire the courage of those who come out. They know they will become a lightning rod for bigotry, but at the same time they are making more folks realize just how common homosexuality truly is. Thus, society is beginning to turn another page on religious dogma.

Homosexuality, in and of itself, is not deviant. Some heterosexuals and homosexuals do deviate from their norm. Family values, however, should include love and understanding. Take a look and listen to this clip:

 

–Max is the author of The Empathy Imperative, an adventurous novel into the meaning of justice, of love, and of benevolence.

Hallmarks of a Good Person: Homosexuality, Reason, and Empathy

 

***Max is author of The Empathy Imperative***

 

I believe two of the greatest hallmarks of a good and (almost) complete person are the attributes of empathy and understanding. By “almost,” I mean that although empathy is a mark of a good person, universal empathy does not exist. That would make a person, “complete.” I don’t think, however, that the attainment universal empathy is quite possible yet, but it should be our goal.

Why can’t an individual have universal empathy? Because of our attributes gained through evolution, such as the impulse to xenophobia and aggression. Therefore, I think universal empathy is something that can be achieved only by a few thousand years more of social evolution based on reason.

Far back on our evolutionary path, xenophobia (fear or suspicion of strangers, foreigners, and people who are “different”) and aggression were survival instincts we had no choice but to follow, but now they are impulses controlled by reason, more or less, in each individual.

Regarding homosexuality. empathy will dictate to a good person of understanding that:

1) No one would choose a lifestyle that a large segment of society hates and taunts, and some want to kill,

2) Homosexuality is far more prevalent than most people think,

3) Intellectual honesty would dictate that, for heterosexuals, their sexual preference is not a choice, therefore, neither is that of homosexuals,

4) Understanding that some babies are born with ambiguous genitalia, it is quite logical that many babies are born with a heterosexual predisposition, some are born with a homosexual predisposition, and there are babies born at every predisposition in between,

5) Homosexuality hurts no one, and even though some homosexuals are promiscuous, so are heterosexuals,

6) Even though some homosexuals are pedophiles, so are some heterosexuals,

7) From a religious standpoint; “Judge not that ye may be judged”),

8) For the establishment of a just society, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

9) Homosexual marriage does not “redefine” marriage, because marriage is supposed to be the religious and civil bonding of two individuals who love each other, and homosexuals are just as capable of love as any heterosexual,

10) If a heterosexual does not want government intruding into his personal social life dictating whom he may marry and whom he may not, then he should not want the government intruding into the personal lives of anyone else,

11) No one should dictate to others how they may or may not be happy, and no one should strive to deny others the right to seek happiness according to the dictates of their own conscience.

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