“If we are honest — and scientists have to be — we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can’t for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit. Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. Hence the close alliance between those two great political forces, the State and the Church. Both need the illusion that a kindly God rewards — in heaven if not on earth — all those who have not risen up against injustice, who have done their duty quietly and uncomplainingly. That is precisely why the honest assertion that God is a mere product of the human imagination is branded as the worst of all mortal sins.”—
Paul Dirac, remarks made during the Fifth Solvay International Conference (October 1927), as quoted in Physics and Beyond : Encounters and Conversations (1971) by Werner Heisenberg, pp. 85-86
When the Islamists in Iraq took over the government through the elections in 2005, it was a wakeup call to me and all those who believe in human rights, freedom and humanism. In addition to the Islamist control of the government as well as the destruction of the civil society by radical Islamic militias, some […]
“I give theists a hard time for not accepting the implications of modern science, but I am also happy to give naturalists a hard time when they don’t appreciate the enormous task we face in answering all of the questions that we used to think were answered by God. We don’t have final answers to the deep questions of meaning and fulfillment and what it means to lead a good life. Religion doesn’t have the final answers, either; but maybe it has learned something interesting over the course of thousands of years of thinking about these issues. Maybe there is some wisdom to be mined from religious traditions, even for naturalists (which everyone should be).”—
“As a political process, however, multiculturalism means something very different. It describes a set of policies, the aim of which is to manage and institutionalize diversity by putting people into ethnic and cultural boxes, defining individual needs and rights by virtue of the boxes into which people are put, and using those boxes to shape public policy. It is a case, not for open borders and minds, but for the policing of borders, whether physical, cultural or imaginative.”—
“It doesn’t seem to me that this fantastically marvellous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil—which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.”—
Richard Feynman, interview for Viewpoint, conducted by Bill Stout for KNXT Television, c. 1959; collected in Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track (2005)
“Too often I find that faith is mysterious only selectively. Believers constantly attribute all sorts of qualities to their gods and have a list of doctrines as long as your arm. It is only when the questions get tough that, suddenly, their God disappears in a puff of mystery. Ineffability becomes a kind of invisibility cloak, only worn when there is a need to get out of a bit of philosophical bother.”—
“During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.”—
James Madison, later 4th President of the United States (1809 – 1817), “A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments”, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, 20 June 1785
Theology is the purest expression of rationalism in the sense of proceeding by logical deduction from premises ungrounded in observable fact—deduction without reference to reality. The so-called “thinking” involved here is purely formal, observationally baseless, devoid of facts, cut off from reality. …
Here is the tragedy of theology in its distilled essence: The employment of high-powered human intellect, of genius, of profoundly rigorous logical deduction—studying nothing. In the Middle Ages, the great minds capable of transforming the world did not study the world; and so, for most of a millennium, as human beings screamed in agony—decaying from starvation, eaten by leprosy and plague, dying in droves in their twenties—the men of the mind, who could have provided their earthly salvation, abandoned them for otherworldly fantasies.
“The Tragedy of Theology: How Religion Caused and Extended the Dark Ages : A Critique of Rodney Stark’s The Victory of Reason” by Andrew Bernstein
These clips come from last night’s HBO documentary Questioning Darwin. Says the first interviewee you’ll see above, Pastor Peter LaRuffa, “If somewhere within the Bible, I were to find a passage that said 2 + 2 = 5, I wouldn’t question what I’m reading in the Bible. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it.”
I’m tired of being told to shut up about what I think. I am especially tired of being told to shut up about what I think by people who think I am actually right. […] My problem is with people who ostensibly do see things as I do and yet complain that I or others like me dare to say what we think. I am tired of being told by atheists not to argue about the truth of theism.
I am tired of being told by fellow evolution supporters that it’s only appropriate to criticize creationism and that it is somehow inappropriate to argue that accepting the factual dynamic of natural selection philosophically requires either outright abandoning Christian theism or, at least, drastically revising it in ways few Christians are willing to deal with.
The most necessary task of civilization is to teach people how to think. It should be the primary purpose of our public schools. The mind of a child is naturally active, it develops through exercise. Give a child plenty of exercise, for body and brain.
The trouble with our way of educating is that it does not give elasticity to the mind. It casts the brain into a mold. It insists that the child must accept. It does not encourage original thought or reasoning, and it lays more stress on memory than observation.
Thomas Edison (attr.), A History of US: Reconstructing America: 1865-1890 by Joy Hakim
The humanist philosopher Simon Blackburn recounts a wonderful anecdote told to him by a colleague about a high-powered interfaith panel discussion.
Each speaker took turns to explain some key ideas of their faith – Buddhist, Hindu and so on – and the response from other panel members was always along the lines of: “Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great.” The same response greeted the Catholic priest who talked of Christ and salvation, but instead of being pleased with their enthusiasm “he thumped the table and shouted: ‘No! It’s not a question of if it works for me! It’s the true word of the living God, and if you don’t believe it you’re all damned to hell!’”
"And they all said, ‘Wow, terrific, if that works for you that’s great.’"
The puzzle for many of us is why this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often. The simple fact is that almost everyone who is serious about their religion believes that others have got it badly wrong. If they’re not going to hell, then they are at least missing out on life’s most important truths. So why the silence about the errors of other faiths?
“We atheists, however, need to buck up, assert our rationality, and change the way we deal with the religious, with everyday affronts delivered (at times unknowingly) by believers, with the casual presumptions that historically have tended to favor the faithful and grant them unmerited respect. A lot is at stake. Religion is a serious matter, reaching far beyond the pale of individual conscience and sometimes translating into violence, sexism, sexual harassment and assault, and sundry legal attempts to restrict a woman’s right to abortion or outlaw it altogether, to say nothing of terrorism and war. Now is the time to act. Polls … show the zeitgeist in the United States is turning increasingly godless, that there are more atheists now than ever before (surely thanks in part to the efforts of the New Atheists).”—
“As for why atheists speak up against religion – it’s because it’s harmful. It’s harmful when children are left to die because of religious misconceptions and fear of things like blood transfusions and vaccines. It’s harmful when people are encouraged to rely on revelation instead of knowledge. It’s harmful when members of a technologically advanced society denounce science and hope for the end times. It’s harmful when people are psychologically abused into thinking they are sinners when they are normal human beings and it’s especially wrong when atheists who have the courage to say they do not believe and you are harassed and threatened by believers.”—Diana MacPherson, comment on “Another billboard kerfuffle”, WEIT
“We need to pay attention to this world, the real world, the mundane world, the world that has such creatures in it… because it’s where we are. We’re no good to each other if we’re concentrating on imaginary Beyonds. We can’t understand this world properly if we think it’s underneath a better, brighter, more special one Out There Somewhere.”—Ophelia Benson, “In praise of the mundane”, Butterflies and Wheels
The claim that religious beliefs don’t need any defense is a very sophisticated-sounding defense in itself.
Depending on how you do it, you can imply that spiritual truths are too basic, or too subjective, or too personal, or too necessary, or too mystical, or too obvious, or too hidden, or too useful, or too beautiful, or too traditional, or too therapeutic, or too philosophical, or too transcendent — or all of the above – to be questioned by outsiders. That’s why skeptics ought to keep their skepticism to themselves.
There is a relativist culture of non commitment and neutrality that has been expanding – certainly in the West, under the influence of liberalism, of human rights organisations and of political correctness and the fear of appearing racist. Accordingly, everything is equal; everything has to be respected on par – the right of the capitalist and the right of the worker, the right of the one who holds the gun and the right of the one who runs for his life away from the gun… It is high time to admit that there are conflicting rights, antagonistic rights.
It seems to me that progressive people have forgotten the virtues of being partisan. I want to stand for the right of the worker, not that of the capitalist, for the right of the man who runs for his life, not for the right of the man who holds the gun, and for the right of women to live their lives without interference from extreme-Right religious people.
“I am a sceptic. I have never seen a sign that there is in the scheme of things an intelligent purpose. If the universe is the contrivance of some being, that being can only be a criminal imbecile.”—“Another Man Without a Country” (1926 as “French Joe”) by Somerset Maugham
“… during the filming of this series I developed a deep irritation with the intellectual vacuity of those who actively seek to deny the reality of evolution and the science of biology in general. So empty is such a position, in the face of evidence collected over centuries, that it can only be politically motivated; there is not a hint of reason in it. And more than that, taking such a position closes the mind to the most wonderful story, and this is the tragedy for those who choose it, or worse, are forced into it through deficient teaching.”—
It’s extraordinary. It’s always the children who say, “Sir, sir! What’s the point of geometry?” or, “What’s the point of Latin?” who end up having no job, being alcoholic, and they don’t notice that the ones who actually find knowledge for its own sake and pleasure in information, and the history, and in the world and nature around us actually getting on and doing things with their fucking lives.
“I think the trouble with being a critical thinker or an atheist or a humanist is that you’re right. And it’s quite hard being right in the face of people who are wrong without sounding like a fuckwit. People go, ‘Do you think the vast majority of the world is wrong?’ Well, yes. I don’t know how to say that nicely, but, yes.”—
“… battling the evolution deniers seems to be a thankless, never-ending task because no amount of effort in science education or good science in the media seems to make any difference. Their numbers (around 40% of Americans) have remained constant in the polls over many decades, no matter what approaches are tried. This is an endless source of frustration for many of us, since creationism is like the many-headed Hydra in the labors of Hercules: every time you cut off one head, it grows back two more. Science never seems to make any progress in blunting their efforts to contaminate schools with their religious dogma.”—
“Ask a child if it’s hard to believe in Santa Claus. It’s not at all if people you trust keep telling you a lie that this being is real, and praise you and give presents when you accept their nonsense.”—“clubschadenfreude”, comment on WEIT