Skeptic Michael Shermer is pleased the number of folks with no religious affiliation is growing, and will likely continue to grow.
One estimate is that “there are more than 64 million American atheists, a staggering number that no politician can afford to ignore.” There are about 358 million people in the USA, making about 18% who are effectively atheist. That’s on the low end. The same estimate suggests the number may be as high as 26%, or 93 million.
He says, “This shift away from the dominance of any one religion is good for a secular society whose government is structured to discourage catch basins of power from building up and spilling over into people’s private lives.”
This is not only not true, it is willfully blind. The catch basin of power known as the State has not only spilled over into people’s lives, but it is overtaking them. Each day the State discovers a new area which it can control, regulate, manipulate, “nudge”, or direct. Religion and the family were able to hold the State at bay, at least to some extent. Which is why it is not surprising these institutions are under attack by the State.
An Unreasonable Suggestion
Moreover, if these trends continue, we should be thinking about the deeper implications for how people will find meaning as the traditional source of it wanes in influence. And we should continue working on grounding our morals and values on viable secular sources such as reason and science.
This is wrong. And also frightening. We cannot ground our morals on reason and science. Reason may assist but science is as silent as Hell is not on which morals and values a society should favor. Science is in the measurement and not the judgement business. It can tell us, say, how many heads are lopped off the world over, including those in would-be mothers’ wombs, but it cannot say whether lopping itself is good or bad. Reason should have told Shermer that.
Maybe it did but he wasn’t listening. The message isn’t one he’d like to hear. But it’s as simple dropping a piece of toast buttered side down.
The Silence of Science
Science cannot say if murder is right or wrong. That is a moral judgement and moral judgments are not scientific. Science can describe where and when murders take place, and under what circumstances, and it might even be able to predict with varying accuracy where murders are going to take place, or possibly even who might commit them.
These activities involve measurement, modeling, and prediction. That is what science does, and only what science does.
A scientist can say, “Click here to read the rest.“
Categories: Culture, Philosophy
The keep pretending that Atheism isn’t a religion. It’s almost funny yet sad. I would pity them if they weren’t so Hell bent on banning all other religions, or at least just Christianity, taking over the world, and remaking it into Moloch’s image.
I don’t believe that religion alone makes people moral. After all, what about the Albigensian Crusade? Religions always want to promote external conformity rather than interior transformation. Religions are mostly concentrated on securing the obedience of the dull normal majority and typically war with rival religious groups. Even bland, mellow mainline Protestant groups typically began by brutalizing dissenters, as of course was the case with the Church of England which would brand and mutilate persons written up by the religious police [yes, even they had them] for refusal to attend Holy Communion. Religious groups typically will not behave themselves until they are stripped of their power by secularists. And never forget that the Papal States used foreign mercenaries to slaughter their own people who supported the formation of the modern state of Italy.
Marc writes “I don’t believe that religion alone makes people moral.”
Rewritten to active voice: I believe that religion, by itself, does not make people moral.
I agree; the claim puts the cart before the horse. I believe that moral people seek religion, and if none exists that matches her sense of morality, starts a religion. It might get a name and a tax exemption, might not.
What a religion accomplishes is *alignment* of moral values and makes society possible!
“After all, what about the Albigensian Crusade?”
I don’t understand “what about” questions generally, but I’ll eventually look into this crusade.
“Religions always want to promote external conformity rather than interior transformation.”
No. Your knowledge of “religion” is narrow. Some, such as Buddhism, are exactly opposite to your claim.
People want conformity; part of that process which you and I are demonstrating this very moment is preaching one’s beliefs to others. Remove the people and what is left of religion? Absolutely nothing.
“Religions are mostly concentrated on securing the obedience of the dull normal majority”
You describe socialism which can be seen as a type of religion.
“Religious groups typically will not behave themselves until they are stripped of their power by secularists.”
At which point the secularists are now guilty of every sin you suppose exists by religious people.
Symmetry. It is a human condition. I do what you do, but I insult you and praise me.
Marc writes “After all, what about the Albigensian Crusade?”
A group of people, called Cathars, decided that not only The Church but all governments were wicked (how many here disagree?). Where they really got themselves into difficulty was they refused oaths of allegiance and military service to France.
At that time, church and government were pretty much one and the same thing; with an ecclesiastical branch of preaching and a government branch of actions.
That is true even today; but the religion is socialism with punishments for heretics (*) similar to that experienced by the Cathars.
Socialism has always been promoted as a redemptive creed, a form of religion. It had no morality.
Socialism is a jealous god, and will permit no others.
This is post is like saying that religion cannot cure our physical illness, and therefore a society ruled by religion would certainly be a sick and weak and gloomy and hopeless and whatnot place… as if religion would prevent medicine from working in our society and science would cease our ability to form moral judgments.
Are you saying that than non-scientists receive moral training somewhere, and are required to read history or study philosophy, and can look on religion as something?
I know it must be a non-abstract thing, but what is one supposed to look on religion as?
Do you read history or study philosophy only when you are required to?
Scientists receive no moral training? Forget the fact it is an insult to their parents and grandparents, does a person need the said moral training, whatever it is, to form moral judgments.
While it might be true that in general people who have studied certain areas in philosophy in depth may be more equipped at forming moral judgments, there is no guarantee their judgments are right. Who is right when there are differences between Pope Francis and Cardinal Dolan in their moral judgement? Of course, the one you agree with is right because you know the Church teachings better than the one with whom you disagree.
I do find the program Pope: The Most Powerful Man in History – CNN interesting.
The probability of a dropped piece of toast landing butter side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpeting.
Michael2 is not quite right about the Cathars. Church and State were not One at the time. (In fact, the whole medieval struggle was to maintain the Church’s separation from the State.) However, the Cathars did preach that oaths were not binding and in the medieval world, which was built on oaths, this was nothing less than a call for anarchy. It was comparable to the militia movement and their claim that signed contracts were not binding, albeit the Cathars were more extensive. They also taught that sex was dirty and marriage to be avoided by the Pure. If they hadn’t started burning churches and hadn’t assassinated a papal legate, they likely would have died out due to Darwinian natural selection even if the crusade had not been preached.
Claiming that 64 Million are effectively Atheist is one of the reasons I am no longer a subscriber to Skeptic. It is not a skeptical thing to say. Claiming anything about atheists is not something atheists should be saying. But staying in the public eye is a part of our modern work ethic.
Gotta find progress to stay relevant. If you can’t show an increasing trend, you aren’t relevant.