Published: 11 June 2009(GMT+10)
1. Definition of “Atheism”
2 Atheism as nature worship or neo-paganism
“I find that a chilling, spine-tingling, exciting, perspective-raising, consciousness-raising experience. It’s said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience.”7
“The Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us—there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as of a distant memory, of falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”
“If religion and spirituality are supposed to generate awe and humility in the fact of the creator, what could be more awesome and humbling than the deep space discovered by Hubble and the cosmologists and the deep time discovered by Darwin and the evolutionists? Darwin matters because evolution matters. Evolution matters because science matters. And Science matters because it is the preeminent story of our age, an epic saga about who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.”9
“Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality … This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today…
"As a social reformer therefore, Huxley, known in the papers as ‘Pope Huxley’, was determined to find a substitute for Christianity. Evolution, with its stress on unbroken law—which could be used to reflect messages of social progress—was the perfect candidate. Life is on an upwardly moving escalator…
“Indeed, recognizing that a good religion needs a moral message as well as a history and promise of future reward, Huxley increasingly turned from Darwin (who was not very good at providing these things) toward another English evolutionist. Herbert Spencer—prolific writer and immensely popular philosopher to the masses—shared Huxley’s vision of evolution as a kind of metaphysics rather than a straight science…
“Evolution now has its mystical visionary, its Saint John of the Cross. Harvard entomologist and sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson tells us that we now have an ‘alternative mythology’ to defeat traditional religion … If people want to make a religion of evolution, that is their business … The important point is that we should recognize when people are going beyond the strict science, moving into moral and social claims, thinking of their theory as an all-embracing world picture.”10
“you and I probably do have … feelings that may very well be akin to a kind of mystical wonder when we contemplate the stars, when we contemplate the galaxies, when we contemplate life, the sheer expanse of geological time. I experience, and I expect you experience, internal feelings which sound pretty much like um, what mystics feel, and they call it God. If—and I’ve been called a very religious person for that reason—if I am called a religious person, then my retort to that is, ‘Well, you’re playing with words’, because what the vast majority of people mean by religious is something utterly different from this sort of transcendent, mystical experience [ … ]“The transcendent sense … the transcendent, mystic sense, that people who are both religious and non-religious in my usage of the term, is something very very different. In that sense, I probably am a religious person. You probably are a religious person. But that doesn’t mean we think that there is a supernatural being that interferes with the world, that does anything, that manipulates anything, or by the way, that it’s worth praying to or asking forgiveness of sins from, etc. [ … ]“I prefer to use words like religion, like God, in the way that the vast majority of people in the world would understand them, and to reserve a different kind of language for the feeling that we share with possibly your clergyman [ … ] the sense of wonder that one gets as a scientist contemplating the cosmos, or contemplating mitochondria is actually much grander than anything that you will get by contemplating the traditional objects of religious mysticism.”11
[the un-bracketed ellipses appear in the original transcript denoting Richard Dawkins’ halting way of speaking, the bracketed ones were added]
“science does have some of religion’s virtues … All the great religions have a place for awe, for ecstatic transport at the wonder and beauty of creation. And it’s exactly this feeling of spine-shivering, breath-catching awe—almost worship—this flooding of the chest with ecstatic wonder, that modern science can provide. And it does so beyond the wildest dreams of saints and mystics…
“Science can offer a vision of life and the universe which, as I’ve already remarked, for humbling poetic inspiration far outclasses any of the mutually contradictory faiths and disappointingly recent traditions of the world’s religions…
“The universe at large couldn’t possibly be anything other than indifferent to Christ, his birth, his passion, and his death … I want to return now to the charge that science is just a faith. The more extreme version of that charge—and one that I often encounter as both a scientist and a rationalist—is an accusation of zealotry and bigotry in scientists themselves as great as that found in religious people. Sometimes there may be a little bit of justice in this accusation; but as zealous bigots, we scientists are mere amateurs at the game. We’re content to argue with those who disagree with us. We don’t kill them.”
“‘Einsteinian religion is a kind of spirituality which is nonsupernatural … And that doesn’t mean that it’s somehow less than supernatural religion. Quite the contrary … .Einstein was adamant in rejecting all ideas of a personal god. It is something bigger, something grander, something that I believe any scientist can subscribe to, including those scientists whom I would call atheists. Einstein, in my terms, was an atheist, although Einstein of course was very fond of using the word God. When Einstein would use the word God, he was using it as a kind of figure of speech. When he said things like ‘God is subtle but he’s not malicious’, or ‘He does not play dice’, or ‘Did God have a choice in creating the universe?’ what he meant was things like randomness do not lie at the heart of all things. Could the universe have been any other way than the way it is? Einstein chose to use the word God to phrase such profound, deep questions. That, it seems to me, is the good part of religion which we can all subscribe to…
“What I can’t understand is why we are expected to show respect for good scientists, even great scientists, who at the same time believe in a god who does things like listen to our prayers, forgive our sins, perform cheap miracles … which go against, presumably, everything that the god of the physicist, the divine cosmologist, set up when he set up his great laws of nature. So I don’t understand a scientist who says, ‘I am a Roman Catholic’ or ‘I am a Baptist’…
“I suppose my hope would be that science—the best kind of science, the sort of science which approaches the best sort of religion, the Einsteinian spirituality that I was talking about—is so inspiring, so exciting that it should be sellable to everybody…
“We have something far better to offer … Why are we freethinking secular scientists not getting into that same marketplace … and selling what we’ve got to sell? Because it’s a far better product, and all we’ve got to do is hone our salesmanship to the level that they are already doing it.” [italics in original]
“ … men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man … Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity … because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind … ” (Romans 1:18b–28, ESV).
“There is therefore a purely civil profession of faith of which the Sovereign should fix the articles, not exactly as religious dogmas, but as social sentiments without which a man cannot be a good citizen or a faithful subject. While it can compel no one to believe them, it can banish from the State whoever does not believe them. It can banish him, not for impiety, but as an anti-social being, incapable of truly loving the laws and justice, and of sacrificing, at need, his life to his duty. If any one, after publicly recognizing these dogmas, behaves as if he does not believe them, let him be punished by death: he has committed the worst of all crimes, that of lying before the law.”12
“We discuss what it might look like, this world without God. ‘There would be a religion of reason’, Harris says. ‘We would have realized the rational means to maximize human happiness. We may all agree that we want to have a Sabbath that we take really seriously—a lot more seriously than most religious people take it. But it would be a rational decision, and it would not be just because it’s in the Bible. We would be able to invoke the power of poetry and ritual and silent contemplation and all the variables of happiness so that we could exploit them. Call it prayer, but we would have prayer without bull**** … At some point, there is going to be enough pressure that it is just going to be too embarrassing to believe in God.’”13 [italics in original]
“Dennett tells me that he takes very seriously the risk of over reliance on thought … It interests me that, though Dennett is an atheist, he does not see faith merely as a useless vestige of our primitive nature, something we can, with effort, intellectualize away. No rational creature, he says, would be able to do without unexamined, sacred things … This sounds to me a little like the religion of reason that Harris foresees. ‘Yes, there could be a rational religion’, Dennett says. ‘We could have a rational policy not even to think about certain things.’ He understands that this would create constant tension between prohibition and curiosity. But the borders of our sacred beliefs could be well guarded simply by acknowledging that it is pragmatic to refuse to change them. I ask Dennett if there might not be a contradiction in his scheme. On the one hand, he aggressively confronts the faithful, attacking their sacred beliefs. On the other hand, he proposes that our inherited defaults be put outside the limits of dispute. But this would make our defaults into a religion, unimpeachable and implacable gods. And besides, are we not atheists? Sacred prohibitions are anathema to us. Dennett replies that exceptions can be made. ‘Philosophers are the ones who refuse to accept the sacred values’, he says. For instance, Socrates. I find this answer supremely odd. The image of an atheist religion whose sacred objects, called defaults, are taboo for all except philosophers—this is the material of the cruelest parody. But that’s not what Dennett means. In his scenario, the philosophers are not revered authorities but mental risk-takers and scouts. Their adventures invite ridicule, or worse. ‘Philosophers should expect to be hooted at and reviled,’ Dennett says.”13
“As I sat and gazed upon the surrounding hills gently sloping to an inland sea, a feeling of peace came over me. It soon grew to a blissful stillness that silenced my thoughts. In an instant, the sense of being a separate self—an ‘I’ or a ‘me’—vanished. Everything was as it had been—the cloudless sky, the pilgrims clutching their bottles of water—but I no longer felt like I was separate from the scene, peering out at the world from behind my eyes. Only the world remained. As someone who is simply making his best effort to be a rational human being, I am very slow to draw metaphysical conclusions from experiences of this sort … There is no question that people have ‘spiritual’ experiences (I use words like ‘spiritual’ and ‘mystical’ in scare quotes, because they come to us trailing a long tail of metaphysical debris) … While most of us go through life feeling like we are the thinker of our thoughts and the experiencer of our experience, from the perspective of science we know that this is a false view. There is no discrete self or ego lurking like a minotaur in the labyrinth of the brain. There is no region of cortex or stream of neural processing that occupies a privileged position with respect to our personhood. There is no unchanging ‘center of narrative gravity’ … As a critic of religious faith, I am often asked what will replace organized religion. The answer is: many things and nothing … But what about ethics and spiritual experience? For many, religion still appears the only vehicle for what is most important in life—love, compassion, morality, and self-transcendence. To change this, we need a way of talking about human well-being that is as unconstrained by religious dogma as science is … I believe that most people are interested in spiritual life, whether they realize it or not. Every one of us has been born to seek happiness in a condition that is fundamentally unreliable … On the question of how to be most happy, the contemplative life has some important insights to offer.”
“I recently spent a week with one hundred fellow scientists at a retreat center in rural Massachusetts. The meeting attracted a diverse group: physicists, neuroscientists, psychologists, clinicians, and a philosopher or two; all devoted to the study of the human mind … We were on a silent meditation retreat at the Insight Meditation Society, engaged in a Buddhist practice known as vipassana (the Pali word for ‘seeing clearly’) … Of critical importance for the purposes of science: there are no unjustified beliefs or metaphysics that need be adopted at all … Research on the functional effects of meditation is still in its infancy, but there seems to be little question that the practice changes the brain.”
“ … mysticism is a real psychological phenomenon, that I have no doubt it genuinely transforms people. But it seems to me that we can promulgate that knowledge and pursue those experiences very much in a spirit of science, without presupposing anything on insufficient evidence.”
“Faith is nothing more than the license that religious people give one another to believe such propositions when reasons fail … scientists and other rational people will need to find new ways of talking about ethics and spiritual experience. The distinction between science and religion is not a matter of excluding our ethical intuitions and non-ordinary states of consciousness from our conversation about the world; it is a matter of our being rigorous about what is reasonable to conclude on their basis. We must find ways of meeting our emotional needs that do not require the abject embrace of the preposterous. We must learn to invoke the power of ritual and to mark those transitions in every human life that demand profundity—birth, marriage, death, etc.—without lying to ourselves about the nature of reality. I am hopeful that the necessary transformation in our thinking will come about as our scientific understanding of ourselves matures. When we find reliable ways to make human beings more loving, less fearful, and genuinely enraptured by the fact of our appearance in the cosmos, we will have no need for divisive religious myths.”
[In The End of Faith] “I used the words spirituality and mysticism affirmatively, in an attempt to put the range of human experience signified by these terms on a rational footing … this enterprise is not a problem with my book, or merely with Flynn, but a larger problem with secularism itself … secularism, being nothing more than the totality of such criticism, can lead its practitioners to reject important features of human experience simply because they have been traditionally associated with religious practice. … Our conventional sense of ‘self’ is, in fact, nothing more than a cognitive illusion, and dispelling this illusion opens the mind to extraordinary experiences of happiness. This is not a proposition to be accepted on faith; it is an empirical observation … The only ‘faith’ required to get such a project off the ground is the faith of scientific hypothesis. The hypothesis is this: if I use my attention in the prescribed way, it may have a specific, reproducible effect. Needless to say, what happens (or fails to happen) along any path of ‘spiritual’ practice has to be interpreted in light of some conceptual scheme, and everything must remain open to rational discussion. How this discussion proceeds will ultimately be decided by contemplative scientists … [who will] develop a mature science of the mind … The problem, however, is that there is a kernel of truth in the grandiosity and otherworldly language of religion … Most atheists appear to be certain that consciousness is entirely dependent upon (and reducible to) the workings of the brain. In the last chapter of the book, I briefly argue that this certainty is unwarranted … the truth is that scientists still do not know what the relationship between consciousness and matter is. I am not in the least suggesting that we make a religion out of this uncertainty, or do anything else with it.”
“In order that religious humanism may be better understood we, the undersigned, desire to make certain affirmations which we believe the facts of our contemporary life demonstrate … which requires a new statement of the means and purposes of religion. Such a vital, fearless, and frank religion capable of furnishing adequate social goals and personal satisfactions may appear to many people as a complete break with the past … To establish such a religion is a major necessity of the present. It is a responsibility which rests upon this generation.”14
3 Why Atheism is chosen
“Until my twenties, I was an atheist. Although I felt the spiritual world, I used atheism as a reaction to a very difficult childhood. My mother died when I was 8 years old. Although my father was concerned with giving us a comfortable childhood, it was … sad.”15 [emphasis added]
“I find that I don’t seem to have a choice over whether or not I believe in God, I simply find that I do not. Either you have faith or you don’t. Either you believe or you don’t.”
Orso: “I was once talking with a Chinese friend. She asked whether I believed in God. I told her I did. I returned the question. She said ‘no,’ and I asked her why not. Her father, she explained, had told her there was no God when she was a child. Shehadn’t really thought about it much since then.”16 [emphasis added]
“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”17[emphasis added]
“I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I’ve been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn’t have. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I’m a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time.”18 [emphasis added]
“At dinner parties or over drinks, I ask people to declare themselves. ‘Who here is an atheist?’ I ask.
Usually, the first response is silence, accompanied by glances all around in the hope that somebody else will speak first. Then, after a moment, somebody does, almost always a man, almost always with a defiant smile and a tone of enthusiasm. He says happily, ‘I am!’“But it is the next comment that is telling. Somebody turns to him and says: ‘You would be.’‘Why?’ ‘Because you enjoy [irritating] people ....’ ‘Well, that’s true.’“This type of conversation takes place not in central Ohio, where I was born, or in Utah, where I was a teenager, but on the West Coast, among technical and scientific people, possibly the social group that is least likely among all Americans to be religious.”13
“contrary to myth, Darwin did not become an atheist because of evolution. Instead, his growing resistance to Christianity came from his moral criticism of 19th-century doctrine, compounded by the tragedy of his daughter’s death.”13,21
“CNN founder Ted Turner was suicidal after the breakup of his marriage to Jane Fonda and his loss of control of Turner Broadcasting … his marriage to Fonda broke up partly because of her decision to become a practicing Christian …22
“Turner is a strident non-believer, having lost his faith after his sister, Mary Jane, died of a painful disease called systemic lupus erythematosus. ‘I was taught that God was love and God was powerful’, Turner said. ‘And I couldn’t understand how someone so innocent should be made or allowed to suffer so.’ …
“He told The New Yorker ‘his father was often drunk, beat him and sent him to military school’ and committed suicide when Turner was 24 years of age.”
“ … we shouldn’t spend too much time trying to answer the ‘why’ questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can’t someone else get sick? We can’t answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer. The natural reaction is to turn to God and ask him to serve as a cosmic Santa. ‘Dear God, make it all go away. Make everything simpler.’ But another voice whispers: ‘You have been called.’ Your quandary has drawn you closer to God, closer to those you love, closer to the issues that matter, —and has dragged into insignificance the banal concerns that occupy our ‘normal time’. There’s another kind of response, although usually short-lived an inexplicable shudder of excitement, as if a clarifying moment of calamity has swept away everything trivial and tiny, and placed before us the challenge of important questions … even though God doesn’t promise us tomorrow, he does promise us eternity … This is love of a very special order. But so is the ability to sit back and appreciate the wonder of every created thing. The mere thought of death somehow makes every blessing vivid, every happiness more luminous and intense. We may not know how our contest with sickness will end, but we have felt the ineluctable touch of God.”
“Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us, loud and clear, and I must say that these are basically Darwin’s views: there are no gods, no purposive forces of any kind, no life after death (when I die I am absolutely certain that I’m gonna be completely dead, that’s just all, that’s gonna be the end of me), there is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans either … The question is, ‘Can atheistic humanism offer us very much?’ Well sure, it can give you intellectual satisfaction, and I’m a heck of a lot more intellectually satisfied now that I don’t have to cling to the fairytales that I believed when I was a kid. So life may have no ultimate meaning but I sure think it can have lots of proximate meaning.”24
Satanic and self-deception
Another reason for rejecting God (choosing atheism), is a willing acceptance of satanic deception.
The angel Lucifer (“luminous one”) fell and became Satan (“adversary”) due to his desire to supplant God. This was Lucifer’s single-minded obsession.
He not only rejected God by attempting to supplant Him, but he urged humans to do likewise. Satan urged Eve to choose against God for her own self-fulfilment:
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5 ESV).
The tactic is clear: firstly, question God’s statements, then, contradict God’s statements and, finally, urge rebellion in seeking equality with God.
This manifests in atheists as
This satanic deception appeals strongly to atheists as it bolsters two of their desired delusions: 1) absolute autonomy—being free to do as they please, and 2) the lack of ultimate accountability—there are no eternal consequences for doing as they please.
4 Atheism and ethics/morality
“By using games with fewer rules than Candy Land, the Darwinian game theorists are claiming ‘to uncover the fundamental principles governing our decision-making mechanisms.’ We’d better take a closer look, starting with their presuppositions … The answer seems to be that whatever has survived must be the most fit; therefore whatever exists must have been the result of natural selection. Fairness exists; therefore, it must be the result of natural selection. Q.E.D. It is always convenient to have a theory that cannot possibly be proved wrong.”27
“I support a woman’s right to choose an abortion. I think it’s a good thing. I think abortion is actually a good thing for society. If I can borrow a religious word, a word that my mother-in-law uses, I think abortion is a blessing for many, many, many women.”29
“Atheism and Freethought and true humanistic morality are, are so much more clear, so much more useful, so much more reasonable so, you know, without all the negative baggage of theology and judgment and hell and, and you know, and the supernatural. My goodness, you know, I used to believe in the supernatural and, and now to realize I don’t have to try to prop up this phony supernatural system in, in reality it’s very freeing, very relaxing. I’m not afraid of being judged and going to hell anymore. I’m responsible for my own actions, the consequences are natural and I live with them and, and it actually turns out that most atheists and agnostics are more accountable; they are more moral they, they have more responsibility in their lives because they realize that it, it’s what matters is this world not an imaginary supernatural world … true humanistic morality which is much superior to Christian morality.”32
“if you wish to be … a healthy person” (meaning mentally healthy).
“if you wish to be labeled ‘ethical’ by other people.”
“if you wish to be viewed by your society as ‘a good person’.”
“if that’s something you wish.”33
“It’s best to be honest because … I’m happier and feel better about myself if I’m honest.”34 [emphasis and ellipses in original]
“if one does horrible things to people, that person will eventually have horrible things happen to him.”35
“If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, Harris explains, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion.”38
“there are many things about us for which we are naturally selected, which we repudiate in moral terms. For instance, there’s nothing more natural than rape. Human beings rape, chimpanzees rape, orangutans rape, rape clearly is part of an evolutionary strategy to get your genes into the next generation if you’re a male. You can’t move from that Darwinian fact about us to defend rape as a good practice. I mean no-one would be tempted to do that; we have transcended that part of our evolutionary history in repudiating it.”39
Justin Brierley (JB): If we had evolved into a society where rape was considered fine, would that mean that rape is fine?Richard Dawkins (RD): I, I wouldn’t, I don’t want to answer that question. It, it, it’s enough for me to say that we live in a society where it’s not considered fine. We live in a society where uhm, selfishness, where failure to pay your debts, failure to reciprocate favors is, is, is regarded askance. That is the society in which we live. I’m very glad, that’s a value judgment, I’m very glad that I live in such a society.JB: When you make a value judgment don’t you immediately step yourself outside of this evolutionary process and say that the reason this is good is that it’s good. And you don’t have any way to stand on that statement.RD: My value judgment itself could come from my evolutionary past.JB: So therefore it’s just as random in a sense as any product of evolution.RD: You could say that, it doesn’t in any case, nothing about it makes it more probable that there is anything supernatural.JB: Ultimately, your belief that rape is wrong is as arbitrary as the fact that we’ve evolved five fingers rather than six.RD: You could say that, yeah.40
“Morality is a biological adaptation, no less than are hands and feet and teeth … Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction.”41
“nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”44
Claim: “In the USA it is absolutely illegal to run a red light in a non-emergency response vehicle.”Response: “If that is the case, then why do some people operating non-emergency response vehicles run red lights? It must not be true that there is such an absolute law.”
“The foundational line of true ethical behavior, its main guiding principle valid across all times and cultures, is the degree of freedom from self-centeredness of thought and behavior, and willingness freely to give up one’s own self-interest on behalf of others.”51
“you can’t just make up facts, including moral facts; you’re under obligation, moral obligation without God, you don’t need God for this, you have a moral obligation to not murder, not rob people … All I ask you to do is believe there’s no God but still murder is wrong. There are moral facts, as well as physical facts, as well as mathematical facts, that’s all I’m asking … It’s just a basic fact, a basic moral fact, that murder is wrong.”
“if you wish to be … a healthy person … if you wish to be labeled ‘ethical’ by other people … if you wish to be viewed by your society as ‘a good person’ … if that’s something you wish”33 “I’m happier and feel better about myself if I’m honest.”34 “if one does horrible things to people, that person will eventually have horrible things happen to him.”54
5. Religion as child abuse
“ … many declare, there is the sacred and inviolable right of life … On the other hand, many of the same people declare that, once born, the child loses its right not to be indoctrinated or brainwashed or otherwise psychologically abused by those parents.”55
“It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in?”56
“A phrase like ‘Catholic child’ or ‘Muslim child’ should clang furious bells of protest in the mind … Catholic child? Flinch. Protestant child? Squirm. Muslim child? Shudder.”
“‘How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents?’ Dawkins asks. ‘It’s one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods?’”57
“It is evil to describe a child as a Muslim child or a Christian child. I think labelling children is child abuse and I think there is a very heavy issue.”58
6. Atheism’s arguments against theism, or Atheism’s “atheology”
7. Arguments for God’s existence
“ … when I used to teach philosophy to undergraduate college students, I would sometimes ask them to tell me what the number one is. They would usually reply by writing some of the many symbols we use such as ‘1’ or ‘I’. I would then explain that such symbols are not really the number we are seeking but are only convenient ways we use to refer to the real number one. No wise person should ever confuse a symbol for something with the thing itself.So what then is the number one? The first step is to recognize that the number one is a concept.
What is a concept? The short answer is that it is an idea.The next step is to ask where the concept of oneness exists. The idea of oneness, like all ideas, exists in minds.The third step is to note that the number one is eternal. If someone has trouble with this claim, ask when the number one began to exist.Not only has the number one always existed, it is impossible for the number one ever to change. If the number one were ever changed, it would cease to be the number one. After all, if the idea of oneness changed, let us say, into the number two, then it would no longer be the number one.So where are we? I believe we can show many people that the concept of oneness is an eternal and unchanging idea that exists in some mind. And, the only kind of mind in which this kind of eternal and unchanging idea could exist must be an eternal and unchanging mind. When I reach this point in my little example, some student in the back of the classroom usually raises his hand and asks if I am talking about God.”65
8 Atheism and science
“the point of evolution: mother nature without father God.”68
“Although we seldom recognize it, scientific research requires certain basic beliefs about the order and rationality of matter, and its accessibility to the human mind . . . they came to us in their full force through the Judeo-Christian belief in an omnipotent God, creator and sustainer of all things. In such a world view it becomes sensible to try and understand the world, and this is the fundamental reason science developed as it did in the Middle Ages in Christian Europe, culminating in the brilliant achievements of the seventeenth century.”69
“It is commonly supposed that when in the early modern period individuals began to look at the world in a different way, they could no longer believe what they read in the Bible. In this book I shall suggest that the reverse is the case: that when in the sixteenth century people began to read the Bible in a different way, they found themselves forced to jettison traditional conceptions of the world.70
“Had it not been for the rise of the literal interpretation of the Bible and the subsequent appropriation of biblical narratives by early modern scientists, modern science may not have arisen at all. In sum, the Bible and its literal interpretation have played a vital role in the development of Western science.”71
“Now of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against miracles, if in other words they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle.”72
“Some investigators concluded that the first organisms consisted of RNA … Although this scenario is already ensconced in textbooks, it has been seriously challenged of late … molecule cannot easily generate copies of itself …“Many investigators now consider nucleic acids to be much more plausible candidates for the first self-replicating molecules … there is a hitch. DNA cannot do its work, including forming more DNA, without the help of catalytic proteins, or enzymes. In short, proteins cannot form without DNA, but neither can DNA form without proteins. To those pondering the origin of life, it is a classic chicken-and-egg problem: Which came first, proteins or DNA? …“RNA might be the first self-replicating molecule … But as researchers continue to examine the RNA-world concept closely, more problems emerge … Once RNA is synthesized, it can make new copies of itself only with a great deal of help from the scientist, says Joyce of the Scripps Clinic, an RNA specialist. ‘It is an inept molecule’ …“Julius Rebek, Jr. … created a synthetic organic molecule that could replicate itself … Rebek’s experiments have two drawbacks, according to Joyce [Gerald F. Joyce of the Research Institute of Scripps Clinic]: they only replicate in highly artificial, unnatural conditions, and, even more important, they reproduce too accurately. Without mutation, the molecules cannot evolve in the Darwinian sense. Orgel agrees. ‘What Rebek has done is very clever,’ he says, ‘but I don’t see its relevance to the origin of life’ …“‘The simplest bacterium is so damn complicated from the point of view of a chemist that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened’, says Harold P. Klein of Santa Clara University, chairman of a National Academy of Sciences committee …“Even if scientists do create something with lifelike properties in the laboratory, they must still wonder: Is that how it happened in the first place? …“It was Urey’s work that inspired Miller … Yet over the past decade or so, doubts have grown about Urey and Miller’s assumptions regarding the atmosphere … ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which today is blocked by atmospheric ozone, would have destroyed hydrogen-based molecules in the atmosphere. Free hydrogen would have escaped into space …“Miller … notes that modern [deep ocean] vents seem to be short-lived … superheated water inside the vents … would destroy rather than create complex organic compounds. If the surface of the earth is a frying pan, Miller says, a hydrothermal vent is the fire …“Gunter Wächtershäuser[‘s theory] … calls for a very specific solid surface: one made of pyrite, or fool’s gold, a metallic mineral consisting of one iron and two sulfur molecules … The first cell, he conjectures, might have been a grain of pyrite enclosed in a membrane of organic compounds …“A. G. Cairns-Smith … proposes that life arose on a solid substrate that occurs in vents and almost everywhere else, but he prefers crystalline clays to pyrite … Unlike some origin-of-life theorists, Cairns-Smith cheerfully admits the failings of his pet hypothesis: no one has been able to coax clay into something resembling evolution in a laboratory; nor has anyone found anything resembling a clay-based organism in nature. Yet he argues that no theory requiring organic compounds to organize and replicate without assistance is likely to fare any better. ‘Organic molecules are too wiggly to work’, he says …“If neither the atmosphere nor vents provide a likely locale for the synthesis of complex organic compounds, maybe they were imported from somewhere else: outer space …“Christopher F. Chyba … and others suggested that any extraterrestrial object large enough to supply significant amounts of organic material to the earth would generate so much heat during its impact that most of the material would be incinerated … ‘It’s too much like manna from heaven’, says Sherwood Chang of NASA Ames, an authority on extraterrestrial organic compounds …“Svante A. Arrhenius, who asserted that microbes floating throughout the universe served as the ‘seeds of life’ on earth. In modern times Hoyle and … Sri Lankan astronomer N. Chandra Wickramasinghe … continue to promulgate this notion … About a decade ago Orgel and Crick … speculating that the seeds of life were sent to the earth in a spaceship by intelligent beings living on another planet … intent: to point out the inadequacy of all explanations of terrestrial genesis. As Crick once wrote: ‘The origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going’ …“Stuart A. Kauffman … [proposes that] simulations demonstrate that a system supplied with a sufficient number of such [“generic”] polymers will undergo a ‘phase transition’ that causes it to become ‘auto-catalytic’ … Kauffman says he is absolutely convinced … Asked if he has any test-tube results to back up his computer simulations, Kauffman replies: ‘No one has done this in post, but I’m sure I’m right’ … ”
“Crick insists that given the weaknesses of all theories of terrestrial genesis, directed panspermia should still be considered ‘a serious possibility’.”
“What’s truly amazing is that creationists aren’t giving scientists a harder time over all this … they could cause some real aggro by pointing out that science can’t explain how life exists in the first place. Come on guys, get stuck in.”77
9 Atheism in the public school classrooms
“Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomenon are its by-products … In Darwin’s world we are not helpless prisoners of a static world order, but, rather, masters of our own fate … And from a strictly scientific point of view rejecting biological evolution is no different from rejecting other natural phenomenon [sic] such as electricity and gravity.”
“Surely, the best way to construct the infrastructure of a bat’s wing is not also the best way to build a whale’s flipper. Such anatomical peculiarities make no sense if the structures are uniquely engineered and unrelated … . A more likely explanation is that … all mammals [descended] from a common ancestor … The historical constraints of this retrofitting are evident in anatomical imperfections. For example, the human knee joint and spine were derived from ancestral structures that supported four-legged mammals. Almost none of us will reach old age without experiencing knee or back problems. If these structures had first taken form specifically to support our bipedal posture, we would expect them to be less subject to injury.”
“By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous.”
“I want to put on the table, not why 85% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences reject God, I want to know why 15% of the National Academy don’t. That’s really what we’ve got to address here … if you can’t convert our colleagues, why do you have any hope that you’re going to convert the public?”85
“Education is thus a most powerful ally of humanism, and every American school is a school of humanism. What can a theistic Sunday school’s meeting for an hour once a week and teaching only a fraction of the children do to stem the tide of the five-day program of humanistic teaching?”86
“I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects what theologians call divinity in every human being.“These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level—preschool day care center or large state university.“The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new—the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism.
It will undoubtedly be a long, arduous, painful struggle replete with much sorrow and many tears, but humanism will emerge triumphant. It must if the family of humankind is to survive.”87
“And how does a god die? Quite simply because all his religionists have been converted to another religion, and there is no one left to make children believe they need him. Finally, it is irresistible—we must ask how we can kill the god of Christianity. We need only insure that our schools teach only secular knowledge; that they teach children to constantly examine and question all theories and truths put before them in any form … If we could achieve this, God would indeed be shortly due for a funeral service.”88
“RICHARD DAWKINS, the Oxford University professor and campaigning atheist, is planning to take his fight against God into the classroom by flooding schools with anti-religious literature.
He is setting up a charity that will subsidise books, pamphlets and DVDs attacking the ‘educational scandal’ of theories such as creationism while promoting rational and scientific thought.
The foundation will also attempt to divert donations from the hands of ‘missionaries’ and church-based charities.”89
“Evolution is one of those subjects. It attempts, insofar as science can, to answer the questions of what our life means, and why we are here, and where we came from, and who we are related to, and what has happened through time, and what has been the history of this planet. These are questions that all thinking people have to ponder.”93
“Darwin matters because evolution matters. Evolution matters because science matters. And Science matters because it is the preeminent story of our age, an epic saga about who we are, where we came from, and where we are going.”94
“So where does life come from? What is it? Why are we here? What are we for? What is the meaning of life? There’s a conventional wisdom which says that science has nothing to say about such questions. Well all I can say is that if science has nothing to say, it’s certain that no other discipline can say anything at all. But in fact, of course, science has a great deal to say about such questions. And that’s what these five lectures are going to be about. Life grows up in the Universe by gradual degrees: evolution. And we grow up in our understanding of our origins and our meaning.”
“We are machines built by DNA whose purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA … It is every living object’s sole reason for living.”95
“ … our ways of learning about the world are strongly influenced by the social preconceptions and biased modes of thinking that each scientist must apply to any problem. The stereotype of a fully rational and objective ‘scientific method’, with individual scientists as logical (and interchangeable) robots, is self-serving mythology … The myth of a separate mode based on rigorous objectivity and arcane, largely mathematical knowledge, vouchsafed only to the initiated, may provide some immediate benefits in bamboozling a public to regard us as a new priesthood … the myth of an arcane and enlightened priesthood of scientists … ”96
“Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogenic myth of the twentieth century. Like the Genesis based cosmology which it replaced, and like the creation myths of ancient man, it satisfies the same deep psychological need for an all embracing explanation for the origin of the world which has motivated all the cosmogenic myth makers of the past, from the shamans of primitive peoples to the ideologues of the medieval church.”97
10 Atheism as “scientific” story telling
“Um, there’s got to be a series of advantages all the way in the feather. If you can’t think of one then that’s your problem, not natural selection’s problem. Natural selection, um, well, I suppose that is a sort of matter of faith on my, on my part since the theory is so coherent and so powerful.”99
“Chance, luck, coincidence, miracle … events that we commonly call miracles are not supernatural, but are part of a spectrum of more-or-less improbable natural events. A miracle, in other words, if it occurs at all, is a tremendous stroke of luck.”100
“It is as though, in our theory of how we came to exist, we are allowed to postulate a certain ration of luck.”101
“ … when we are prevented from making a journey in reality, the imagination is not a bad substitute. For those, like me, who are not mathematicians, the computer can be a powerful friend to the imagination. Like mathematics, it doesn’t only stretch the imagination. It also disciplines and controls it.”105
“ … science is storytelling, albeit of a very special kind.”106 [italics in original]
“ … we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”107
“If any of the rest of the scientific community is inclined to snigger at the embarrassment of paleoanthropologists over all this [the identification of theory as narrative], pause and reflect. I bet that the same basic findings would apply to the origin of mammals, or of flowering plants, or of life … or even the big bang and the cosmos.”108
“Scientists are generally aware of the influence of theory on observation. Seldom do they recognize, however, that many scientific theories are essentially narratives … they may be unaware of the narrative presuppositions which inform their science … Multiple interpretations and ambiguity are no strangers to readers of evolutionary biology … by comparing the narrative ‘roles’ played by fossils, scientists may become more explicit about the subjective—and often highly imaginative—ways in which they reconstruct human ancestors.”110
“Metaphors cast powerful spells not only in everyday life but also in science … When Stern and Sussman say that ‘A. afarensishad traveled well down the road toward fulltime bipedality,’ not only do they speak in metaphor, they also tell a story.”111
“Paleoanthropologic literature is ‘thick with interpretation not about what the fossils look like but also about what they mean.’112
“the idealized image that scientists project of what they do: that elusive ‘objective search for the truth’.”113
“People always come up to me after my talk and say, ‘You should take a look at our science, I’m sure it’s going on there too.’ And this is from physicists, ecologists, even biochemists—all kinds of scientists.”114
“we can rephrase the question to ask whether there is any way to present an evolutionary or historical account that does not involve storytelling … Rather than avoid them, scientists might use them as they are used in literature, as a means of discovery and experimentation. Treating scientific theories as fictions may even be a way of arriving at new theories … In science, too, telling new stories will require skill as well as imagination.”115
“Could it be that, like ‘primitive’ myths, theories of human evolution reinforce the value-system of their creators by reflecting historically their image of themselves and of the society in which they live?’…This is precisely what we would expect of a scientific myth.”116Roger Lewin also notes that some of the greats of paleoanthropology in the 1920s and 1930s:“considered themselves to have written scientific analyses of human evolution, they had in fact been telling stories. Scientific stories, to be sure, but stories nevertheless.”117“paleoanthropology alone among all the sciences operates within the fourth dimension, with humanity’s self-image invisibly but constantly influencing the profession’s ethos.”118“Clifford Jolly, a British researcher at New York University, proposed the new hypothesis in a new classic paper in 1970, titled simply, ‘The Seed Eaters’. The term ‘classic’ is used here, as in most fields of science, to mean that the paper is almost certainly wrong in every detail, except one: its underlying philosophy.”119“The epic nature of much of this writing is evident from the tone of the language once one has been alerted to it.”120
11 Atheism and physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and societal health
“ … values advocated by conservatives—from church attendance and two-parent families to the Protestant work ethic and a distaste for government-funded social services—make conservatives more generous than liberals. When it comes to helping the needy, Brooks[ 122 ] writes: ‘For too long, liberals have been claiming they are the most virtuous members of American society. Although they usually give less to charity, they have nevertheless lambasted conservatives for their callousness in the face of social injustice’ … secular liberals who believe fervently in government entitlement programs give far less to charity. They want everyone’s tax dollars to support charitable causes and are reluctant to write checks to those causes, even when governments don’t provide them with enough money … liberals give less than conservatives in every way imaginable, including volunteer hours and donated blood. Harvey Mansfield, professor of government at Harvard University and 2004 recipient of the National Humanities Medal, does not know Brooks personally but has read the book. ‘His main finding is quite startling, that the people who talk the most about caring actually fork over the least,’ he said. ‘But beyond this finding I thought his analysis was extremely good, especially for an economist. He thinks very well about the reason for this and reflects about politics and morals in a way most economists do their best to avoid.’”123
“In 2000, religious people gave about three and a half times as much as secular people … religious conservatives are far more charitable than secular liberals, and that those who support the idea that government should redistribute income are among the least likely to dig into their own wallets to help others … religious people are more likely than the nonreligious to volunteer for secular charitable activities, give blood, and return money when they are accidentally given too much change. ‘There is not one measurably significant way I have ever found in which religious people are not more charitable than nonreligious people,’ Mr. Brooks says.“Byron R. Johnson, a sociology professor and co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University, says he recently gathered data that show similar results—such as high levels of civic engagement among religious people—while assembling a report on faith in America that was released in September .‘It was not surprising to me that the lil ol’ farmer in South Dakota outgave people in San Francisco’ …households headed by a conservative give roughly 30 percent more to charity each year than households headed by a liberal, despite the fact that the liberal families on average earn slightly more …“Most of the difference in giving among conservatives and liberals gets back to religion. Religious liberals give nearly as much as religious conservatives, Mr. Brooks found. And secular conservatives are even less generous than secular liberals … religious people, on average, give 54 percent more per year than secular people to human-welfare charities.”124
“They are less likely than active-faith Americans to … volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit … to describe themselves as ‘active in the community’ … and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person …The typical no-faith American donated just $200 in 2006, which is more than seven times less than the amount contributed by the prototypical active-faith adult ($1500). Even when church-based giving is subtracted from the equation, active-faith adults donated twice as many dollars last year as did atheists and agnostics. In fact, while just 7% of active-faith adults failed to contribute any personal funds in 2006, that compares with 22% among the no-faith adults … atheists and agnostics were more likely than were Christians to be focused on … acquiring wealth …[Barna Group President, David Kinnaman, stated] ‘Proponents of secularism suggest that rejecting faith is a simple and intelligent response to what we know today. Yet, most of the Americans who overtly reject faith harbor doubts about whether they are correct in doing so. Many of the most ardent critics of Christianity claim that compassion and generosity do not hinge on faith; yet those who divorce themselves from spiritual commitment are significantly less likely to help others.’”125
“Religious attendance is associated with U.S. adult mortality in a graded fashion: People who never attend exhibit 1.87 times the risk of death in the follow-up period compared with people who attend more than once a week. This translates into a seven-year difference in life expectancy at age 20 between those who never attend and those who attend more than once a week.“Health selectivity is responsible for a portion of the religious attendance effect: People who do not attend church or religious services are also more likely to be unhealthy and, consequently, to die.
However, religious attendance also works through increased social ties and behavioral factors to decrease the risks of death. And although the magnitude of the association between religious attendance and mortality varies by cause of death, the direction of the association is consistent across causes.”127“ … those [Mexican Americans aged 65 and older] who attend church once per week exhibit a 32% reduction in the risk of mortality as compared with those who never attend religious services. Moreover, the benefits of weekly attendance persist with controls for sociodemographic characteristics, cardiovascular health, activities of daily living, cognitive functioning, physical mobility and functioning, social support, health behaviors, mental health, and subjective health … Our findings suggest that weekly church attendance may reduce the risk of mortality among older Mexican Americans.”128“In a nationwide cohort of Americans, predominantly Christians, analyses demonstrated a lower risk of death independent of confounders among those reporting religious attendance at least weekly compared to never.”129
“After adjusting for age and sex, infrequent (never or less than weekly) attenders had significantly higher rates of circulatory, cancer, digestive, and respiratory mortality (p < 0.05), but not mortality due to external causes. Differences in cancer mortality were explained by prior health status. Associations with other outcomes were weakened but not eliminated by including health behaviors and prior health status. In fully adjusted models, infrequent attenders had significantly or marginally significantly higher rates of death from circulatory … mortality … .These results are consistent with the view that religious involvement, like high socioeconomic status, is a general protective factor that promotes health through a variety of causal pathways.”130
“Religious people are happier than those without spirituality in their life, says psychologist Dr Stephen Joseph from the University of Warwick, and those who celebrate the original, Christian, meaning of Christmas are, on the whole, happier than those who primarily celebrate the festive season with consumer gifts. Research entitled ‘Religiosity and its association with happiness, purpose in life, and self-actualisation’ published inMental Health, Religion and Culture reveals a positive relation between religiosity and happiness …“Dr Stephen Joseph, from the University of Warwick, said: ‘Religious people seem to have a greater purpose in life, which is why they are happier. Looking at the research evidence, it seems that those who celebrate the Christian meaning of Christmas are on the whole likely to be happier. Research shows that too much materialism in our lives can be terrible for happiness.’ …“Results showed that religious people are happier, and that the relation between religiosity and happiness is, in part, related to a sense of purpose in life.”132
“From Hollywood to the academy, atheists are convinced that a decline in traditional religious belief would lead to a smarter, more scientifically literate and even more civilized populace. The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won’t create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that’s not a conclusion to take on faith—it’s what the empirical data tell us.“‘What Americans Really Believe,’ a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians …“While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things [dreams foretelling future, existence of Atlantis, haunting, necromancy, Bigfoot and Nessie], only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did … In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.“This is not a new finding. In his 1983 book The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, skeptic and science writer Martin Gardner cited the decline of traditional religious belief among the better educated as one of the causes for an increase in pseudoscience, cults and superstition. He referenced a 1980 study published in the magazine Skeptical Inquirer that showed irreligious college students to be by far the most likely to embrace paranormal beliefs, while born-again Christian college students were the least likely.“Surprisingly, while increased church attendance and membership in a conservative denomination has a powerful negative effect on paranormal beliefs, higher education doesn’t. Two years ago two professors published another study in Skeptical Inquirer showing that, while less than one-quarter of college freshmen surveyed expressed a general belief in such superstitions as ghosts, psychic healing, haunted houses, demonic possession, clairvoyance and witches, the figure jumped to 31% of college seniors and 34% of graduate students.”133
“We can’t even count on self-described atheists to be strict rationalists. According to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life’s monumental ‘U.S. Religious Landscape Survey’ that was issued in June, 21% of self-proclaimed atheists believe in either a personal God or an impersonal force. Ten percent of atheists pray at least weekly and 12% believe in heaven.”
“ … the [Journal] article does not say what Ms Gledhill reports … Ruth Gledhill’s news report in the Times misrepresents the content of Mr Paul’s study.”
“The plan of the study is to gather and compare data for countries he refers to variously as ‘prosperous developed democracies’ and ‘developing democracies’. The definition of these terms is never discussed … Eighteen countries are included for data comparison; among those omitted without clear explanation are: Italy, Greece, Finland, Luxembourg, and Belgium.“Why are these left out? He mentions in passing that ‘[t]he especially low rates [of homicide] in the more Catholic European states are statistical noise due to yearly fluctuations incidental to this sample’, but no statistical evidence corroborating this assertion is provided …“Mr Paul’s sample frame appears arbitrary. Obviously, in a sample of eighteen observations, inclusion or exclusion of only one or two observations can make a big difference in the results … At best, this is very sloppy statistical practice. If one were suspicious, one might point out that this makes cooking the results child’s play.”
“ … doesn’t stick to his field of palaeontology, he goes into the field of what I would call sociology without preparation or evidence or discipline and make some assertions about it.”137
“In order for the author’s bold claims against religious commitment contributing to society to hold true, he would have to refute the hundreds of volumes that have proven otherwise. From discussions on parenting and fatherhood, to mental and physical health, the weight of empirical evidence is against Paul’s assertions: religious commitment has notably positive effects on the individual and collective levels of human society.”
“The fury of the debate between faith and atheism leaves little room for an inquiry as to why 90% of Americans say they believe in God or a supreme being and more than 40% say they attend religious services each week … The study analyzes the results mostly in terms of political divisions … The political findings are intriguing, but not nearly as interesting as the way the question and the answers it elicited get at deeper, core issues. It appears that we do believe out of need, but it’s not, as Marx suggested, primarily because of material deprivation. Instead, it looks as if faith answers fear, and many different kinds of fear, which we can begin to delineate in some detail … ”138
“Political conservatives operate out of a fear of chaos and absence of order while political liberals operate out of a fear of emptiness, a new Northwestern University study soon to be published in the Journal of Research in Personality finds.”
“I previously referenced the number of atheists being held by the prison system of England and Wales, where it is customary to record the religion of the prison population as part of the Inmate Information System. In the year 2000, there were 38,531 Christians of twenty-one different varieties imprisoned for their crimes, compared to only 122 atheists and sixty-two agnostics. As Europe in general and the United Kingdom in particular have become increasingly post-Christian, this would appear to be a damning piece of evidence proving the fundamentally criminal nature of theists while demonstrating that atheists are indeed more moral despite their lack of a sky god holding them to account.”140“ … there also happened to be another 20,639 prisoners, 31.6 percent of the total prison population, who possessed ‘no religion’. And this was not simply a case of people falling through the cracks or refusing to provide an answer; the Inmate Information System is specific enough to distinguish between Druids, Scientologists, and Zoroastrians as well as between the Celestial Church of God, the Welsh Independent church, and the Non-Conformist church. It also features separate categories for ‘other Christian religion’, ‘other non-Christian religion’, and ‘not known’. At only two-tenths of a percent of the prison population, High Church atheists are, as previously suggested, extremely law-abiding. But when one compares the 31.6 percent of imprisoned no-religionists to the 15.1 percent of Britons who checked ‘none’ or wrote in Jedi Knight, agnostic, atheist, or heathen in the 2001 national survey, it becomes clear that their Low Church counterparts are nearly four times more likely to be convicted and jailed for committing a crime than a Christian.”141
“Very little else has produced as much euphoria in atheists than Christian researcher, George Barna’s announcement that Born Again and other Christians have a very high rate of divorce, while atheists have the lowest rate. Atheist web sites immediately announced the glorious news worldwide. The divorce rates they published were the following: Jews: 30%; Born Again Christians: 27%; other Christians: 24%; atheists only 21% ...“Was George Barna quoted correctly?… Yet the survey found that the percentage of atheists and agnostics who have been married and divorced is 37%—very similar to the numbers for the born again population. [ref] [emphasis in original]“The sample used by Barna was a bit less than 4000. Atheists and agnostics make up about 10% of the American population (2% being atheists). That means that about 400 of the people sampled were atheists/agnostics (About 80 being atheists). This is hardly a sufficient sample to reach any reliable conclusion …“According to Barna, ‘Forty-two percent of adults who associate with a faith other than Christianity had co-habited, while atheists were the most likely to do so (51%).“It is critical to stress that it is a well known fact that cohabiters experience a very high number of ‘breakups’ before getting married. ‘Millions of people … believe that cohabitation is a prelude to marriage. And for many, it is. However, Smock reports that 45% of cohabitations break up with no marriage. Another 10% continue cohabiting.’ [ref]“Barna did not include this enlightening fact in his research. Thus, if 21% of atheists divorce after marriage, and 45 % break up once or more before marriage, what we have is the astounding rate of about 66% of atheist couples experiencing ‘at least’ one break up. If, however, the number is 37%, then we have a shocking figure of 82% …“What needs mentioning is the fact that many atheists do not cohabit as a prelude to marriage. They in fact see cohabitation as ‘equivalent’ to any marriage relationship … These break ups were not included in the Barna research …“The appellation ‘Christian’ a Christian does not make. There are great numbers of people in this world who call themselves ‘Christians’ but have never internalized the teachings of Jesus Christ …“Recently the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has published its mammoth study on Religion in America based on 35,000 interviews. The results are quite enlightening in further elucidating the topic of atheism and divorce. According to the Pew Forum a whopping 37% of atheists never marry as opposed to 19% of the American population, 17% of Protestants and 17% of Catholics.(9) How enlightening… Not only do atheists cohabit and break up in very large numbers, they also do not marry in very large numbers.”142 [all emphasis by Caputo]
“the 2001 ARIS study … a much larger study that reaches precisely the opposite conclusion … according to ARIS 2001 more than half of all atheists and agnostics don’t get married … If one correctly excludes the never-married from the calculation, then atheists are 58.7 percent more likely to get divorced than Pentecostals and Baptists, the two born-again Christian groups with the highest rate of divorce, and more than twice as likely to get divorced than Christians in general.”143
12 Atheism and Communism
“Darwin’s book of Natural Selection. Although it is developed in the crude English style, this is the book which contains the basis in natural history for our view … Darwin’s book is very important and serves me as a basis in natural science for the class struggle in history.”144
“We call our dialectic, materialist, since its roots are neither in heaven nor in the depths of our ‘free will’, but in objective reality, in nature. Consciousness grew out of the unconscious, psychology out of physiology, the organic world out of the inorganic, the solar system out of nebulae … Darwinism … was the highest triumph of the dialectic in the whole field of organic matter.”
“Social-Democracy bases its whole world-outlook on scientific socialism, i.e., Marxism. The philosophical basis of Marxism, as Marx and Engels repeatedly declared, is dialectical materialism … a materialism which is absolutely atheistic and positively hostile to all religion. Let us recall that the whole of Engels’s Anti-Dühring, which Marx read in manuscript, is an indictment of the materialist and atheist Dühring for not being a consistent materialist and for leaving loopholes for religion and religious philosophy … Religion is the opium of the people—this dictum by Marx is the corner-stone of the whole Marxist outlook on religion … Marxism is materialism. As such, it is as relentlessly hostile to religion as was the materialism … This is beyond doubt … it applies the materialist philosophy to the domain of history, to the domain of the social sciences.”145
“You’d better have less conscience. Some of our comrades have too much mercy, not enough brutality, which means that they are not so Marxist. On this matter, we indeed have no conscience! Marxism is that brutal … .We are prepared to sacrifice 300 million Chinese for the victory of the world revolution”147 and “Look at World War II, at Hitler’s cruelty. The more cruelty, the more enthusiasm for revolution.”148
“ … it occurred to me—let’s think about Stalin for a moment. Was he an atheist? You might say well of course he was an atheist. No, on the contrary. In a certain sense, he wasn’t an atheist at all. He believed in god. Not only that, he believe in a god whose will determined what right and wrong was. And he was sure of the existence of this god, and the god’s name was Stalin.”152
“At a very early age … began to read Darwin and became an atheist” and that Stalin stated, “You know, they are fooling us, there is no God … I’ll lend you a book to read; it will show you that the world and all living things are quite different from what you imagine, and all this talk about God is sheer nonsense … Darwin. You must read it.”153
“The Party cannot be neutral towards religion, and it conducts anti-religious propaganda against all religious prejudices because it stands for science, whereas religious prejudices run counter to science, because all religion is the antithesis of science.”154
“I want to come back to Darwinian evolution. The connection is this: science and appeals to scientific socialism have been rooted in Darwinism by those who claimed that it provided a basis for Marxism … Aspects of evolutionism are consistent with Marxism. The explanation of the origins of humankind and of mind by purely natural forces was and remains as welcome to Marxists as to any other secularists … ”155
“The whole Darwinist teaching of the struggle for existence is simply a transference from society to living nature of Hobbes’s doctrine of bellum omnium contra omnes [a war of all against all] and of the bourgeois economic doctrine of competition together with Malthus’ theory of population. When this conjuror’s trick has been performed . . . the same theories are transferred again from organic nature into history and it is now claimed that their validity as eternal laws of human society has been proved.”
“Chinese socialism is founded upon Darwin and the theory of evolution.”157
“I do not agree with the view that to be moral, the motive of one’s action has to be benefiting others. Morality does not have to be defined in relation to others … People like me want to … satisfy our hearts to the full, and in doing so we automatically have the most valuable moral codes. Of course there are people and objects in the world, but they are all there only for me … People like me only have a duty to ourselves; we have no duty to other people … Some say one has a responsibility for history. I don’t believe it. I am only concerned about developing myself.”158
“The roots of Marxist-Leninism are perhaps not to be found in Marx at all, but in a deviant version of Darwinism … applied to social questions with the same catastrophic results that occur when such ideas are applied to racial issues … In 1922 alone, more than 8,000 priests, monks, and nuns were executed in the Soviet Union … In 1967, Albania declared itself the world’s first officially atheist nation and reduced more than 2,000 churches and mosques to rubble or expropriated them for state use [from 1917 to 1969, the Communists destroyed 41,000 of Russia’s 48,000 churches] … Almost fifty percent of all Catholics were killed in Cambodia … Moslems saw more than 40% of their co-religionists killed. Mosques and The Koran were burned and Pol Pot’s henchmen sadistically forced followers of Islam to eat pork … The Romanian Secret Police encouraged prisoners to devise ‘reeducation’ programs. The leader of one such program named Eugen Turcanu devised especially diabolical measures to force seminarians to renounce their faith … Some had their heads repeatedly plunged into a bucket of urine and fecal matter while the guards intoned a parody of the baptismal rite.”
“I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval.”161
“It was Dostoevsky, once again, who drew from the French Revolution and its seeming hatred of the Church the lesson that ‘revolution must necessarily begin with atheism’. That is absolutely true. But the world had never before known a godlessness as organized, militarized, and tenaciously malevolent as that practiced by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin, and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principal driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot …“But there is something they did not expect: that in a land where churches have been leveled, where a triumphant atheism has rampaged uncontrolled for two-thirds of a century, where the clergy is utterly humiliated and deprived of all independence, where what remains of the Church as an institution is tolerated only for the sake of propaganda directed at the West, where even today people are sent to the labor camps for their faith, and where, within the camps themselves, those who gather to pray at Easter are clapped in punishment cells—they could not suppose that beneath this Communist steamroller the Christian tradition would survive in Russia. It is true that millions of our countrymen have been corrupted and spiritually devastated by an officially imposed atheism, yet there remain many millions of believers: it is only external pressures that keep them from speaking out, but, as is always the case in times of persecution and suffering, the awareness of God in my country has attained great acuteness and profundity …“The concepts of good and evil have been ridiculed for several centuries; banished from common use, they have been replaced by political or class considerations of short lived value. It has become embarrassing to state that evil makes its home in the individual human heart before it enters a political system …“Western societies are losing more and more of their religious essence as they thoughtlessly yield up their younger generation to atheism …“Atheist teachers in the West are bringing up a younger generation in a spirit of hatred of their own society …“All attempts to find a way out of the plight of today’s world are fruitless unless we redirect our consciousness, in repentance, to the Creator of all: without this, no exit will be illumined, and we shall seek it in vain.”
“Apparently it was just an amazing coincidence that every Communist of historical note publicly declared his atheism … .there have been twenty-eight countries in world history that can be confirmed to have been ruled by regimes with avowed atheists at the helm … These twenty-eight historical regimes have been ruled by eighty-nine atheists, of whom more than half have engaged in democidal162 acts of the sort committed by Stalin and Mao … .163“The total body count for the ninety years between 1917 and 2007 is approximately 148 million dead at the bloody hands of fifty-two atheists, three times more than all the human beings killed by war, civil war, and individual crime in the entire twentieth century combined.164“The historical record of collective atheism is thus 182,716 times worse on an annual basis than Christianity’s worst and most infamous misdeed, the Spanish Inquisition. It is not only Stalin and Mao who were so murderously inclined, they were merely the worst of the whole Hell-bound lot. For every Pol Pot whose infamous name is still spoken with horror today, there was a Mengistu, a Bierut, and a Choibalsan, godless men whose names are now forgotten everywhere but in the lands they once ruled with a red hand.“Is a 58 percent chance that an atheist leader will murder a noticeable percentage of the population over which he rules sufficient evidence that atheism does, in fact, provide a systematic influence to do bad things? If that is not deemed to be conclusive, how about the fact that the average atheist crime against humanity is 18.3 million percent worse than the very worst depredation committed by Christians, even though atheists have had less than one-twentieth the number of opportunities with which to commit them. If one considers the statistically significant size of the historical atheist set and contrasts it with the fact that not one in a thousand religious leaders have committed similarly large-scale atrocities, it is impossible to conclude otherwise, even if we do not yet understand exactly why this should be the case. Once might be an accident, even twice could be coincidence, but fifty-two incidents in ninety years reeks of causation!”165
13. G. K. Chesterton’s Conclusion
“But the new rebel is a Sceptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything.“For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it.“Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself.“He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself.“A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble [mock scepter of office], and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble.“The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts.“In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men.“Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”
Some readers’ comments
Patrick A., United States of America
It is good (as well as alarming) to be reminded of the true nature of atheism and, interestingly, its direct connection to Darwinian evolution. If the statistic of “148 million dead in 90 years at the hands of 52 professing atheists” isn’t sobering then perhaps our conscience is indeed “seared” as the Apostle Paul points out. I’m afraid that the mass murder which marred the twentieth century will only be outdone by what lies in store for our current century if we don’t, as Soltzenytzin urged, repent and return to our true Creator. Great article, and well worth the extra space!
Clinton P., South Africa
Absolutely brilliant. Very well constructed.
Tim H., Netherlands
That’s a lot of ignorant and apologetic [expletive deleted] you’ve collected there!
Smarter Than You, Greece
More propaganda for your blind sheep huh? Figures. Nothing in this stupid post was even true or even logical. Damn retards. You people should stopy lying to people!
Jennifer P., Australia
Wonderful complilation on Atheism. I was blogging on American Thinker last night as a so called ‘Jenn’ wrote AN ARTICLE that she is a lapsed capital ‘A’ Atheist. I suggested she investigate creation.com. One can only hope and pray people will honestly keep searching or that some bloggers on the site will do the same. ... Thanks again and God bless you all for the wonderful work you do.
Clinton P., South Africa
Smarter than You from Greece and the gentleman from the Netherlands claim that this is false, propaganda and ignorance(?), yet provide no evidence to support their stance. I found the article to be well referenced, so unless these detractors can prove otherwise, I suggest that they start researching that which they are making claims about. I firmly believe that as Christians, we are able to give a logical and reasonable answer for the faith we hold so dear. Once again, thank you CMI for your consistent stance on the Gospel and for providing a much needed ministry and outreach. God bless you and your ministry.
Michael W., United States
Amazing article, very valuable and comprehensive. The major comment I would add to help your readers is that all the various logic of God cannot prove or even indicate a triune God or the divinity of Jesus Christ. If we “prove” God exists because we need a basis for morality, or a cause for the universe, we do NOT prove that God is in particular Jesus Christ, or has a personality, or has given the particular 10 commandments we know to Moses. I suspect we learn a lot about how we think about the world when we contemplate these various logical and philosophical considerations, but we learn nothing about the connection or lack thereof of any God we thus conclude exists to the God and his rules described in Scripture.
Editorial comment: we can only agree. See our article on this same problem with the Intelligent Design approach.
Peter D., Australia
One thing I appreciate is honesty. So often atheists wish to pose as objectively scientific and to characterise Christians (especially the young earth kind) as ‘biased against reality’.
This well-documented article serves as reality check for such unfounded statements. It should also encourage Christians to cease being ashamed of what is overall a good record. After all, modern science itself owes much to Christian men and Christian presuppositions.
We ought to look to the ultimate end of any system of thought to see where it leads us. Here atheism and Christianity both have the runs on the board—with two totally different ‘scores’.
Stuart H., United Kingdom
“Atheist” is actually defined in Ephesians 2:12-“without God” (see the original Greek). As the New Living Translation has it:
“You lived in this world without God (atheoi) and without hope”.
Sums up the atheist’s position succinctly!
A reader from Greece
Finally someone pointed out the obvious. YES atheism IS evil, no, decent, God-fearing people are not "hindering progress", unless that progress is on the highway to hell.
Do you know how many people the proverbial Spanish Inquisition sentenced to death in its hundreds of years of existence? The number didn’t even get up to three thousand… Stalin killed more people in a day.
Terribly sorry, I went on a rant there… anyhow, congratulations!
This article was posted June 11 2009, so the opportunity for submitting comments for posting has long since passed.Note that some substantive, reasoned comments by defenders of atheism have appeared as weekend feedback. See, for example, Stereotyping atheists? Readers can still submit feedback, which will be responded to and passed to the author.