To start, I have but one agenda, and that is follow the models of Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, the gay movement, and other peaceful and accepting movements that have made changes. Peace and understanding never comes about through hate, intolerance, and violence. I know that the term “atheist” can mean many different things and that atheists are just as diverse and Christians. The show South Park gave a humorous example of this by showing two different groups of atheists fighting after religion no longer existed. Scholars have also pointed out the fact that the atheist community is divided, or at least shares many views. Both Michael Shermer-
( Michael Brant Shermer is an American science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine Skeptic, which is largely devoted to investigating pseudoscientific and supernatural claims. Wikipedia)
And Stephen Prothero-
(Stephen Prothero is a professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University and the author of numerous books on religion in America. Wikipedia)
Have point out that some atheists, Sam Harris, specifically, is a fundamentalist that would justify killing tens of millions of innocent people in a preemptive nuclear strike of the Middle East. You do not have to take my word for it, you can use Mr. Harris’ words…
“Some propositions are so dangerous, that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim but it is merely an enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extra ordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense…” (Harris, End of Faith p. 52-53)
“What will we do if an Islamist regime…ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime-as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day-but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.” (Harris, End of Faith)
This type of attitude will only create more tension, not peace. I would be what Stephen Prothero calls a “friendly atheist.” I am not hostile towards religion and simply ask for tolerance and understanding on both sides. The peaceful method has had much better outcomes. My agenda is to HELP the atheist movement and to promote science and facts.
My personal opinion does not play a role in this, nor do my wants or desires. Do I want there to be a god? Don’t care…Do I want to see my loved ones in Heaven? Maybe, that might be desirable. Do I want a million dollars so I never have to work again? Yes. Do I want to have sex with Taylor Swift? Yes. Me wanting any of these things does not make them plausible or true.
I view religion in this way. I do not like it or dislike it. I simply evaluate the evidence and present the facts, even if they are an “inconvenient truth.” I have come to learn that religion is a tool used by biological instincts to attain desired goals, whether these are good or bad. Culture and society are much more of a driving force than religion is and this is an obvious conclusion if one studies religion in the fields of sociology or anthropology. Without diving into a bunch of detail, I will give you a few examples.
To start, why do religions have different denominations? Generally, it is a cultural or moral issue. If religion was the driving force, there would be 1 Christian denomination. Culture and morals trumped the religion and they basically “invent” a new religion. In Islam, there is the Sunni-Shiite conflict. What is the root of the conflict? Simple, it is the Persian culture verses the Arab culture.
Next, I will stick with Islam. Time and time again atheists, and Christians, are throwing up pictures of women with their faces covered and talking about the stoning, and utter disrespect for women, in Muslim countries. And it is a simple truth that this happens, so it must be Islam (religion) right? Then explain to these pictures.
These pictures come from the city of Dubai, in the United Arab Emerates, a Muslim country in the Middle East.
Their faces do not appear to be covered, matter of fact, they are wearing bikinis. A little different than the pictures I am generally shown of Muslim countries.
In addition to that, Muslim countries have elected female leaders.
There are many more contemporary examples of women leading Muslim-majority countries. The majority of all Muslims in the world live in countries that have, at some time, elected women as their leaders. Indeed, the three most populous Muslim-majority countries have had women as leaders:
- Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country, elected Megawati Sukarnoputri as president
- Pakistan, the second most populous Muslim-majority country, twice (non-consecutively) elected Benazir Bhutto as prime minister
- Bangladesh, the third most populous Muslim-majority country, elected Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina as prime ministers.
Other Muslim- majority nations which have had female political leaders include:
- In the Muslim majority region of Kosovo, President Atifete Jahjaga was unanimously elected by the Assembly of Kosovo on April 7, 2011
- Roza Otunbayeva, an atheist, was sworn in as President of the Muslim-majority Kyrgyzstan on 3 July 2010, after acting as interim leader following the Tulip Revolution.
Nearly one-third of the Parliament of Egypt- the fifth most populous Muslim majority nation- also consists of women. (Wikipedia)
This is painfully obvious stuff that anyone with an ability to type things into Google could find out…
So how does religion explain these 2 Muslim examples? It appears that some Muslim countries are total opposites. How does this happen if they are all of the same religion? It is because it is a cultural issue, not a religious one. Religion is a tool, not the force. I could provide dozens of examples to illustrate this point.
Before I go on, I will tell you a little about what I study. You can get the full story here…
In short, I have majors in Religious Studies and History. I also have a minor in Jewish Studies. Much of my study has been in the History and Philosophy of Science (Biology specifically) and the History and Philosophy of Religion. I am formerly an Education major, which forced me to be well-rounded and have a class in nearly every area. I also lived in Germany for 2 years and have been to 2 Muslim countries and worked alongside their people.
I am not asking you to flat-out believe me, and please don’t. Look for the answers yourself. I can give you books to read…I just typically find that most people do not like to sit around and read textbooks for fun…
On to some of the points about science. Dark Poet, you said “Science describes and explains. That’s how I understand it.” Yes, science is a method of gathering data and facts by observation and testable hypotheses. It involves philosophical Logic and inductive reason. But one of the big aspects is that something must be falsifiable. This means science cannot deal with things that cannot be falsified. This means that God is not a scientific question. This is also why Intelligent Design is not science. Basically, in science, we consider things to be true, until they are falsified. Newton was right, until Einstein showed he was not.
There are two points to be made about science. First, it was not always as good as it is today, and even today people can manipulate numbers or leave out details to obtain a desired result. Typically we solve this problem by peer-reviewing and running statistical analyses. Intentional fraud can result in huge fines and a loss of one’s Ph.D. Typically issues come about through bad science, in which they did not consider all the factors or use too small of a sample size. In addition to that, the media takes insignificant results and portrays them as something significant. The point is, one can still mislead people using science. But this was much easier before…
Today it is harder to do bad science, but science, as we know it, is a fairly new thing. Good science really started coming about around the time of Darwin but it was also easy to abuse.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection made massive changes in society, religion, and science. By 1900, evolution was the big thing. This lead to some things called “race science” and Eugenics. Eugenics is the science of bettering the human race by selecting desirable traits. This is what we do with crops and farm animals to produce a more desired product. This was the science of the day and also validated racism. The problem comes in when we attempt to define what is desirable. Who decides? Some thought women having a child out of wedlock was a bad thing and they suffered forced sterilization, here in the United States, until as late as 1980! Yes, 1980, that is not a typo. This took the desired traits out of the gene pool.
Hitler had utopian dreams of a master race. He wanted to create this master race by perfecting the human race. He would do this by getting rid of bad traits, which apparently were being Jewish, homosexual, gypsies, and many other things. He was using Eugenics. Where did the Nazis get this Eugenic plan? Well California, of course. California was the center of the Eugenics movement and made laws based on this science. Here is a short article about what I am talking about…
We now know how bad this “science” was, but the fact of the matter is that this was the science of the day, and Hitler used this science as a TOOL to achieve his goals. Did he also use religion as a tool to achieve his goals? Sure. Do I think he was a follower of Christ? Nope…but let’s put it this way…if you were an atheist that is running for office in the Middle East, it might be best to come off as a Muslim…
The point is science played just as much of a role as religion did. They were tools to achieve his socio-political and personal goals. If you are still convinced religion is the problem, let’s talk about Stalin. Stalin was an atheist and was trying to create an atheist country by exterminating people and eliminating the Christian Church. Generally there are two atheist responses to Stalin.
1. That wasn’t atheism, it was atheism acting as a religion, hence religion is the bad guy again. Or
2. His goals were political or socio-political, or anything other than atheism.
Shall I use the same inept arguments made about Hitler? Hitler SAID he was a Christians. Hitler SAID he was doing God’s work, therefore he is a Christian. Well Stalin SAID he was an atheist, therefore he is an atheist…end of that inane argument. The truth is that neither RELIGION or ATHEISM or SCIENCE were the driving factors. They were the tools that were used.
There are a lot of shitty people in this world. People are selfish and greedy by nature, that is biology. Bad people will do bad things and they will find tools or justifications to achieve their goals. Religion is not the problem, bad people are the problem. Religion also does many good things. If you think religion is the problem, that is an uniformed opinion based on as much faith, and as little fact, as atheists claim religious people use.
Besides, one cannot help having the religious “style” of thought. It is an expected outcome of the evolution of decision making. I would strongly suggest reading Michael Shermer’s book Why People Believe Weird Things, to help understand that. Disliking someone because they are religious is like disliking someone because they are gay. Looking down on religious people is the definition of bigotry. We need to eliminate this type of thinking.
And are religious people incapable of logical thinking or science? Obviously not…Darwin was religious and loved William Paley. Even after his theory, he never became an atheist. He became agnostic but this was due to the death of his daughter, not his theory. Also Darwin’s biggest supporter and champion of his theory was Asa Gray, the most important American botanist of the 19th century, was a devout Christian. Every professor that taught me about the Hebrew Bible, leading to my conclusion that it is false, is religious. My wife is a nurse, an RN, with a 4 year degree, yet she is religious.
During the 20th century in the United States, Ashkenazi Jews represented approximately 3% of the population, but won 27% of the US Nobel Prizes in science, and 25% of the ACM Turing Awards (the Nobel-equivalent in computer science. (Wikipedia)
The fact of the matter is that many smart people are religious and can separate their faith from their science. Not every religious person is bound to be dumb and ignorant. Oddly enough, I can explain examples of how atheists are just as dumb and faith-driven.
I would suggest learning about religion and getting to know the people and attempt to understand them. Religion has certainly led many people to do bad things, but we ignore all the good it has done. Every progressive social movement in the world, ever, has been done by religious people. How do I know this? Give me one example of an atheist majority country or social structure. We need to applaud the good ones, the Liberal Christians, and embrace them. We need to make the world better TOGETHER.
Thanks for reading.