We do not know what awaits each of us after death, but we know that we will die. Clearly, it must be possible to live ethically-with a genuine concern for the happiness of other sentient beings-without presuming to know things about which we are patently ignorant. Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person you will pass in the street today, is going to die. Living long enough, each will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind... Read more »
There must be right and wrong answers to questions of morality and values that potentially fall within the purview of science. On this view, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life.
Norway, Iceland, Australia, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom are among the least religious societies on earth. According to the United Nations' Human Development Report (2005), they are also the healthiest, as indicated by life expectancy, adult literacy, per capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate, and infant mortality. . . . Conversely, the fifty nations now ranked lowest in terms of the United Nations' human development index are unwaveringly religious.
To speak specifically of our problem with the Muslim world, we are meandering into a genuine clash of civilizations, and we're deluding ourselves with euphemisms. We're talking about Islam being a religion of peace that's been hijacked by extremists. If ever there were a religion that's not a religion of peace, it is Islam.
God is great”). Conversations about the practical impossibility of God’s existence and the science-based irrationality of an afterlife slid seamlessly into xenophobia over Muslim immigration or the practice of veiling. The New Atheists became the new Islamophobes, their invectives against Muslims resembling the rowdy, uneducated ramblings of backwoods racists rather than appraisals based on intellect, rationality and reason. “Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death,
Advance warning of Katrina's path was wrested from mute Nature by meteorological calculations and satellite imagery. God told no one of His plans. Had the residents of New Orleans been content to rely on the beneficence of God, they wouldn't have known that a killer hurricane was bearing down upon them until they felt the first gusts of wind on their faces. And yet, as will come as no surprise to you, a poll conducted by The Washington Post found that 80 percent of Katrina's survivors claim that the event only strengthened their faith in God.
Ten years have now passed since many of us first felt the jolt of history-when the second plane crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. We knew from that moment that things can go terribly wrong in our world-not because life is unfair, or moral progress impossible, but because we have failed, generation after generation, to abolish the delusions of our ignorant ancestors.
Science has long been in the values business. Despite a widespread belief to the contrary, scientific validity is not the result of scientists abstaining from making value judgments; rather, scientific validity is the result of scientists making their best effort to value priinciples of reasoning that link their beliefs to reality, through reliable chains of evidence and argument.
It is terrible that we all die and lose everything we love; it is doubly terrible that so many human beings suffer needlessly while alive. That so much of this suffering can be directly attributed to religion—to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious delusions and religious diversions of scarce resources—is what makes atheism a moral and intellectual necessity.
To speak plainly and truthfully about the state of our world - to say, for instance, that the Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish - is antithetical to tolerance as moderates currently conceive it. But we can no longer afford the luxury of such political correctness. We must finally recognize the price we are paying to maintain the iconography of our ignorance.
Indeed, religion allows people to imagine that their concerns are moral when they are highly immoral - that is, when pressing these concerns inflicts unnecessary and appalling suffering on innocent human beings. This explains why Christians like yourself expend more "moral" energy opposing abortion than fighting genocide. It explains why you are more concerned about human embryos than about the lifesaving promise of stem-cell research. And it explains why you can preach against condom use in sub-Saharan Africa while millions die from AIDS there each year. (25)
Missionaries in the developing world waste a lot of time and money (not to mention the goodwill of non-Christians) proselytizing to the needy. . . . While missionaries do many noble things at great risk to themselves, their dogmatism still spreads ignorance and death. By contrast, volunteers for secular organizations . . . do not waste . . . time telling people about the virgin birth of Jesus. Nor do they tell people in sub-Saharan Africa - where nearly four million people die from AIDS every year - that condom use is sinful.
We have Christians against Muslims against Jews, and no matter how liberal your theology, merely identifying yourself as a Christian or a Jew lends tacit validity to this status quo. People have morally identified with a subset of humanity rather than with humanity as a whole.
Many scientists have been drawn to Buddhism out of a sense that the Western tradition has delivered an impoverished conception of basic, human sanity. In the West, if you speak to yourself out loud all day long, you are considered crazy. But speaking to yourself silently - thinking incessantly - is considered perfectly normal.
Water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. What if someone says, “Well, that’s not how I choose to think about water.”? All we can do is appeal to scientific values. And if he doesn’t share those values, the conversation is over. If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?
I think there are universal principles that we should want to understand, but that are not necessarily good for us. We could recognise universal propensities which current cultures can't fully eradicate, which we would want to eradicate if we could. Let's say, a tendency for tribal violence. Or racism.
We can either have a twenty-first-century conversation about morality and the human well-being - a conversation in which we avail ourselves of all scientific insights and philosophical arguments that have accumulated in the last two thousand years of human discourse - or we can confine ourselves to a first-century conversation as it is preserved in the Bible.
Mysticism is a rational enterprise. Religion is not. The mystic has recognized something about the nature of consciousness prior to thought, and this recognition is susceptible to rational discussion. The mystic has reasons for what he believes, and these reasons are empirical. The roiling mystery of the world can be analyzed with concepts (this is science), or it can be experienced free of concepts (this is myticism). Religion is nothing more than bad concepts held in place of good ones for all time. It is the denial-at once full of hope and full of fear-of the vastitude of human ignorance.
Religious faith is the only area of discourse where immunity through conversation is considered noble . It's the only area of our lives where someone can win points for saying, "There's nothing that you can do to change my mind and I'm taking no state of the world ultimately into account in believing what I believe. There's nothing to change about the world that would cause me to revise my beliefs.
It is time we realize that belief is not a private matter. As a man believes, so he will act. Believe that you are a member of a chosen people, awash in the salacious exports of an evil culture that is turning your children away from God, believe that you will be rewarded with an eternity of unimaginable delights by dealing death to these infidels—and flying a plane into a building is only a matter of being asked to do it.
It is safe to say that almost every person living in New Orleans at the moment Hurricane Katrina struck shared your belief in an omnipotent, omniscient, and compassionate God. But what was God doing while Katrina laid waste to their city? Surely He heard the prayers of those elderly men and women who fled the rising waters for the safety of their attics, only to be slowly drowned there.
If our well-being depends upon the interaction between events in our brains and events in the world, and there are better and worse ways to secure it, then some cultures will tend to produce lives that are more worth living than others; some political persuasions will be more enlightened than others; and some world views will be mistaken in ways that cause needless human misery.
The president of the United States has claimed, on more than one occasion, to be in dialogue with God. If he said that he was talking to God through his hairdryer, this would precipitate a national emergency. I fail to see how the addition of a hairdryer makes the claim more ridiculous or offensive.
Every one of the world's "great" religions utterly trivializes the immensity and beauty of the cosmos. Books like the Bible and the Koran get almost every significant fact about us and our world wrong. Every scientific domain -- from cosmology to psychology to economics -- has superseded and surpassed the wisdom of Scripture. Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music.
Nonbelievers like myself stand beside you, dumbstruck by the Muslim hordes who chant death to whole nations of the living. But we stand dumbstruck by you as well--by your denial of tangible reality, by the suffering you create in service to your religious myths, and by your attachment to an imaginary God.
Hope is easy; knowledge is hard. Science is the one domain in which we human beings make a truly heroic effort to counter our innate biases and wishful thinking. Science is the one endeavor in which we have developed a refined methodology for separating what a person hopes is true from what he has good reason to believe.
One of the greatest challenges facing civilization in the twenty-first century is for human beings to learn to speak about their deepest personal concerns-about ethics, spiritual experience, and the inevitability of human suffering-in ways that are not flagrantly irrational. We desperately need a public discourse that encourages critical thinking and intellectual honesty. Nothing stands in the way of this project more that the respect we accord religious faith.
It is merely an accident of history that it is considered normal in our society to believe that the Creator of the universe can hear your thoughts while it is demonstrative of mental illness to believe that he is communicating with you by having the rain tap in Morse code on your bedroom window.
About 120 million of us place the big bang 2,500 years after the Babylonians and Sumerians learned to brew beer. If our polls are to be trusted, nearly 230 million Americans believe that a book showing neither unity of style nor internal consistency was authored by an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent deity.