Of various assumptions made by atheists I’ve read or heard, I’d like to take on these points in particular:
Every war and great evil in history has been about religion
Then explain Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union as a war of religion. Try convincing an ordinary person either Nazism and/or Communism is a religion like Judaism, Christianity, Islam or Buddhism.
The Nazis used religious trappings and language as a propaganda tool: Hitler intended to destroy Christianity after he did away with Judaism, so the idea the Nazis were Christians and/or in league with the Catholic Church is a bit crazy. The case that individual Catholics, especially German prelates living in Italy and Croatian bishops helped some Nazis escape after the war is true, but that’s never been proven as universal church policy. Calling Nazism a religion is something almost no reputable expert on religion would do: Nazism was about racial superiority developed from social Darwinism. Soviet Communism, Marxism-Leninism, came from social Darwinism as well.
Even if one could explain Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union as a war of religion, Stalin’s invasion of Finland in 1939 couldn’t be under any religious criteria. War is about forcing people to do your will, period. The only thing you could really expect to change a person’s mind about in a war is them deciding not to fight you after you’ve beaten them badly enough. To keep them in that frame of mind, you have to keep on beating them. Changing any other deeply held belief they might have is practically impossible.
Even though religion has been consistently used as a prime motivating factor to get people to take up arms and kill their fellow human beings, almost every war, including the wars the medieval Popes waged in central Italy as secular princes (against fellow Catholics) were about expansion of territory and income. Every war in human history can be adequately explained in terms of power politics and imposition of Will apart from religion. The Crusades were a sad tale of religion used as motivation for conquest. If there are valid explanations for war or any social ill apart from religion, it’s not fair for religion to take the entire blame.
I would be very interested in any objective sociological, psychological or scientific study in a refereed scholarly journal that could isolate religion as the sole cause for any evil.
The human race will evolve away from conflict after religion is eliminated. We are naturally communal creatures and will naturally help and support one another like ant colonies, beehives or groups of any other animal. Religion poisons this natural, mutually supporting state.
I’d like to know about the mutually helpful community attitudes of sharks, hyenas, lions and other alpha predators that occur in nature. Human beings seem to be more like them than like ants or any other more communal species. The species I’ve listed above seem to organize themselves along lines of domination and violence, if they live communally at all.
Beyond that, I would like to see a human evil that we’ve definitely evolved out of during the course of recorded history. Is there a character flaw of our species we used to have that’s been bred out of the human genome and gone? 5000 years of literate history should be enough of a sample, and the archeological record of prehistory should be enough to give some indication if that’s not enough. After all, we know a lot about the burial practices of Neanderthals; we should have some idea of a Deadly Sin we’ve left behind from archaeology. It would even be nice to know if there were any deadly sins the Neanderthals had that we don’t.
If we are to breed anything out of our nature, how does this happen within the context of allowing people freedom of choice? Are we to rewrite the laws to facilitate particular genetic traits, diminish others and how would we enforce them? Are we ready to tackle the ethical issues of who gets to reprogram the human race?
It would also be nice to find a culture that was naturally atheist without any kind of higher learning, other than a Star Trek:Next Generation episode. That happens as often as a native culture without any kind of music. Perhaps the answer to getting rid of religious sentiment is to get rid of music.
I tried to pray and it didn’t work, nobody was there and bad things happened to me. I told him to show himself to me and he didn’t.
I’ve already said a few things about prayer in this blog, so I’ll refer you there for starters. The shortest condensation I can think of is: God is NOT Santa Claus, and God doesn’t save us from our own willful stupidity. Daring God to prove He exists can be an exercise in the absurd, like Woody Allen once said in Without Feathers: “If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank.” For all we know, God has a Prime Directive like Star Trek: giving us conclusive proof is probably more than most of us could handle, ruin our drive to learn and achieve, both as individuals and a society, and make us less than human.
“A loving God would give someone what they want.” And if a given set of parents didn’t give their child what they wanted, would it mean they didn’t exist? “God wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.” Since “being hurt” is a subjective idea, how can anyone else keep someone else from getting hurt? People seem to have a great ability to take personal offense at almost anything.
As far as God protecting us, we need to remember God gives everyone and everything Free Will. After all, if we controlled the environment of a child of ours totally, never let anything bad happen to them, kept them safe from every germ, forced them to accept our authority in all things, didn’t let them go anywhere we didn’t want them to go, and didn’t let them move a muscle without permission, they’d die almost as soon as they left the cocoon and we’d rightly be in jail for child abuse. If God is our parent who wants us to make choices on our own, then He’d need to be indirect or we’d never learn anything on our own. We do tend to trust what we learn for ourselves more than anything else, whether we have faith or not.
At times, we’re faced with unfathomable Evil, such as the school massacre last month at Newton, CT. God didn’t will that to happen: God couldn’t protect the shooter from himself, his mother from her obsession with guns. God let them make their choices because that’s His Nature. Human life is fragile and can end in many unexpected ways at any moment. God connects to our suffering, particularly in the suffering of Christ. God helps us cope.
Science has the best explanation for everything in all cases
Then the best person to consult about where to go on a vacation is an auto mechanic. After all, he or she knows best how a car is put together and how it needs to work during a trip. Knowing how something works is the only knowledge you need of anything; why you should use anything other criteria to make a decision doesn’t make logical sense, such as the knowledge a travel agent might have? But we might get lucky, the auto mechanic may have taken some wonderful trips, even ones he didn’t drive to.
How can you know objectively someone loves you? There is evidence in a look, a touch, a word, a feeling, but nothing definite and nothing that could be proven scientifically. Science can explain some of the biology, but not why person X loves person Y and not person Z. Couples go through all kinds of games to prove love to one another, but any concrete commitment of any length of time is an act of faith whether the people involved have any kind of Faith or not.
Science answers “How” questions extremely well, that’s what it’s meant to do. I want fairly objective expertise in how cars work, how the human body functions, how the earth operates, and I want all scientific areas of knowledge to expand as far as possible. I want information about things I’ll never know in full, so I can choose when and where I make my leaps into the unknown. But science can never tell us “Why” something happens, can never speak authoritatively about subjective human feelings or motivations. Science can talk about the biological bond between parent and child, or between lovers, but it can never explain fully why one person would freely give up their life for any other person.
God is the ultimate subjective, so God cannot neither be proven or disproven by objective science. Science can gather data, provide evidence, explain the How until all the Hows are unfolded, but never Why unless Why is redefined into some version of How. Science can tell us the pitches of a Mozart Symphony or the pigments in a Van Goch painting, but not why their appeal that goes beyond words. I can think that someone loves me by a look, a caress, a feeling, even a profound physical expression of affection, but I will never know conclusively, even if I spend a lifetime with them, from scientific observation.
Science can tell us How things happen, and that’s very important. God helps us understand Why things happen.