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Occasional Articles — The Trouble With Religion & The Trouble With Atheists

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Here’s another nice symmetrical pairing of two articles, both dealing with different aspects of the current state of organized religion and the newer ‘organized atheism’ (and would it surprise you to know that I think both writers are correct at the same time?  I’ll throw my musings into the comments).

First up is Christopher Hitchens, again, because you obviously can’t have this type of debate without him.  Nominally, if not intentionally, one of the leaders of the so-called ‘New Atheists,’ Hitchens here takes aim at the misunderstandings involved with ‘free exercise of religion’ under the U.S. Constitution.

Free Exercise Of Religion?  No, Thanks.


Next is a rebuttal to the kind of (alleged) atheistic surety that is being propagated at the moment by writers like Hitchens and Richard Dawkins — another article from Slate, by Ron Rosenbaum, calling for more agnostic ideals to come to the fore.

An Agnostic Manifesto

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, September 7, 2010 9:16 pm

    Obviously I agree with Hitchens’s misgivings about organized religion, and I’m pretty confident in my atheistic belief that all the religion we have in the world is man-made — stories created by ancient civilizations to explain the strange world around them.

    But, I don’t go as far as whomever exactly it is that Rosenbaum is criticizing when he talks about people who look to science as a religion and say that science ‘will definitely tell us everything.’ I think he’s purposely being a bit disingenuous, because I don’t think many scientists even go that far (although Stephen Hawking just did).

    People who have a true understanding of science, I think, realize that if we are ever going to figure stuff out, science will be the only way, but it is quite possible we never will, and so we have to live with that and just keep plugging away until we do, or never do, actually figure it out. Rosenbaum seems to almost casually dismiss science simply because it can’t, at the moment, describe the very instant of first creation, that moment of ‘something out of nothing.’ Okay, fine, science hasn’t proven that yet, but religion’s explanation isn’t exactly bulletproof either; besides, science has been able to take us back, all the way back, to, like, 40 seconds after the moment of creation, and for me, that’s really good enough.

    Every single thing we currently know about the entire universe — from microbes to galactic super-clusters — has come from science, not religion; if there’s only that one big question left about what started it all (Big Bang or no Big Bang — remember, that’s still just a theory too, no good scientist would say it’s fact yet, except Stephen Hawking), well, so be it.

    Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

  2. Tuesday, September 7, 2010 10:48 pm

    This is good:

    Full article here:

  3. Wednesday, September 8, 2010 3:02 am

    I just found out now about his cancer — wow.

  4. Sunday, November 28, 2010 2:20 am

    Only just read the Rosenbaum article (haven’t read the Hitchens one, unless it’s one I’ve already read, which is very possible), and just thought I’d comment … but it appears James beat me to what I wanted to say. Yeah, this guy’s whole premise is flawed — scientists don’t have some dogmatic belief that “through science we’ll eventually know everything.” That whole concept of knowing everything doesn’t even make sense.

    But having “faith” that the scientific process will reveal more truths about the universe makes sense, since that’s exactly what it has been doing since we set about using it, and at a hell of a rate. I wouldn’t use the word “faith” here, though, I’d use “trust.” “Trust” is belief based on supporting evidence; “faith” is belief despite contradictory evidence.

    And his point against the certainty of knowing there’s no deity doesn’t work for me either. If you apply the same logic to that question that you would to any other “does it exist or not” question you’ve ever asked, you accept that there’s no such thing. Until there’s some decent evidence to suggest it exists, you go ahead and believe it doesn’t.

    And if there’s a question you don’t have an answer for, big or small, you should feel perfectly fine in saying “I don’t know.” Good scientists are all about this — “hypothesis” and “theory” are words they use for shit they’re very, very, very certain are true, but cannot absolutely prove by their very natures. For things they genuinely don’t know, origin of the universe and such, “I don’t know” is the answer, with the caveat that they’re going to try to find out. The way Rosenbaum “respects and celebrates uncertainty” strikes me as a different side of the religion coin — answering a question with “God did it” is like cheering “I don’t know and I never want to know.”

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