Mar 29

Books on Science and Religion #40: The Atheistic Perspectives of Nietzsche

 Stephen FribergTo believe in God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter. To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Mar 29, 2015

Nietzsche1882Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was one of the most influential cultural figures of the 20th century, an honor he shared with Freud. Atheism was an essential part of what both had to say. In Atheists: The Origin of the Species, Nick Spencer provides an overview of their atheism, which we review here. Our last blog looked at Freud. We consider Nietzsche below.

Nietzsche continues to fascinate us, whereas Freud has lost much of his charm. For example, consider the uncritical panegyric that the usually reliable Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers us. Stanford’s Nietzsche is a romantic Dionysian guru-hero encouraging healing, creativity, and playful exuberance:

[Nietzsche] challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity, power, and the realities of the world we live in, rather than those situated in a world beyond.

Nietzsche, it seems, affirmed life and inspired people:

Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation,” which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially prevalent those views might be. … Nietzsche’s revitalizing philosophy has inspired leading figures in all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets, novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and social revolutionaries.

Nietzsche, Christlike, even suffers great agony:

That Nietzsche was able to write so prolifically and profoundly for years, while remaining in a condition of ill-health and often intense physical pain, is a testament to his spectacular mental capacities and willpower. Lesser people under the same physical pressures might not have had the inclination to pick up a pen, let alone think and record thoughts which — created in the midst of striving for healthy self-overcoming — would have the power to influence an entire century.

Thus Spake ZaruthustraThere is something stunning – and strange – about these paragraphs, written by the respected clinical psychologist Robert Wicks, an active proponent of spirituality, therapy and prayer. (The whole of the Stanford piece continues in this lyrical and uncritical vein). Somehow Nietzsche’s dark side and the role that he played in encouraging a widespread embrace of barbarism – the vicious, murderous European barbarism of the 20th century – is sidestepped and ignored. And this uncritical reception of Nietzsche is common.

And Nietzsche survives even critical investigation. More careful thinkers – even those aware of Nietzsche’s fanatical hatred of liberal values – still admire his intellectual honesty, the force and power of his thought, and his extraordinary literary powers.

I have to make a confession here – I too fell under Nietzsche’s sway as young man. I too – like Nietzsche’s hero in Thus Spake Zaruthustra – went into the mountains and lived with my animals, a copy of Thus Spake Zaruthustra in my backpack. I too, emerged transformed. But I became a Baha’i, thank God, not a Nietzschien Overman!

Nietzsche’s Atheism

“God is Dead” is how Nietzsche phrased it. Not “God doesn’t exist.” Not “God is the opium of the people.” Rather “God is dead. … And we have killed him.”

Here is how he phrases it in The Gay Science (as translated by Walter Kaufmann):

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

the screamThis is post-atheism. We have killed God. Now some of us – the best – have to become gods to replace Him. Nietzsche’s analysis is that European society has been fatally compromised by Christianity and has to be turned to a new direction. He suffered few illusions, according to Nick Spencer, about the difficulties, chaos, and confusion this would entail:

Perhaps because his childhood faith had been sincere, Nietzsche was never under any illusion about the enormity of what he – and Europe, he believed – was doing … Whereas Marx saw a new Jerusalem, ascending from the proletarian ground rather than descending from heaven, Nietzsche saw the ruins of a civilization. ‘[Very few have grasped] how much must collapse because it was built on this faith … our entire European morality … [few have grasped] the long dense succession of demolition, destruction, downfall, upheaval that now stands ahead’.

The collapse of Christianity, Nietzsche believed, was the collapse of a “slave morality” he saw as a fundamental part of European civilization:

[T]he historical origins of this slave morality could be traced beyond Christianity to slavery itself, specifically to the enslavement of the Jews in Babylon 500 years earlier. Having once been sovereign and belligerent, the Jews had found themselves conquered, captured and powerless to challenge their captors in any of the obvious ways. In response, through priestly cunning, they abandoned their more violent god of earlier ages, and worked out a deliberate act of revenge by which they might take power once again. By revaluing basic human values – so powerlessness became humility, impotence goodness, cowardice friendliness – they turned the tables, enervating their oppressors and elevating themselves.

This – of course – sounds like standard anti-Semitism. Nietzsche, however, took it further. Christianity, he opines, and then all of Europe, fell prey to this ‘Jewish slave morality':

lohengrin

A Wagnerian Hero

This morality, designed by slaves to emasculate their masters, was adopted and adapted by early Christians, especially in their attribution of equality and free will to all … The crucifixion ‘was the masterstroke in all this, locating triumph in failure, and placing all men for ever in God’s debt.

Christianity then spread not due to any genuine moral worth, still less on account of its inherent truth, but through a mixture of fear and guilt.

Modern Europe was so corrupted by Christianity that it rejected “everything self-glorifying, manly, conquering, autocratic, every instinct that belongs to the highest and best-formed type”.

Nietzsche had no room for liberal, humanitarian European values. To him, they reeked of “the decaying detritus of Christianity,” Its “other-focused slave morality.” They must be replaced – and they must be replaced by the “self-focused master morality” of his beloved Greeks (Nietzsche was, by trade, a professor of Greek philology). Or they must be replaced by Richard Wagner’s German heroes of pre-Christian mythology.

This led, logically and apparently irreversibly, to Nietzsche’s exaltation of the will to power:

The idea, with its roots sunk somewhere in Darwinism, was that every organism, including human, was driven by an ineradicable lust for strength and supremacy. This was more than mere survival. ‘Life itself is essentially a process of appropriating, injuring, overpowering the alien and the weaker, oppressing: being harsh, imposing your own form, incorporating, and, at least, at the very least, exploiting’.

nietzsche2And thus, German soldiers marched to war with Nietzsche’s books in their satchels and dreams of Nietzsche’s Übermensch driving them to deeds of valor – and their leaders dreamed of mass murder. And of course, to further designs to bring the end of Christianity:

Towards the end of his book The Antichrist, Nietzsche outlined various prospective laws against Christianity, such as all priests were to be either expelled or imprisoned and churches razed.

In this he would foreshadow much twentieth century atheism, although the twentieth century’s atheistic violence would owe more to scientific atheism than to Nietzsche’s unique and unflinching mixture of classical virtue and Darwinism. Nevertheless, his unflinching gaze into a future that no longer dwelt in the shadow of Christianity was to prove prophetic.

Analysis and Summary

It is not going too far say that Nietzsche is the closest thing in modern European society to an old testament Biblical prophet. His long flirtation with Wagner and his music, his rejection of Wagner because of Wagner’s anti-semitism, his infatuation with the beautiful and brilliant Lou Salome, his self-exile in the Alps and Italy, his final years of insanity, his embrace of a Dionysian Greek culture that he seemed constitutionally incapable of enjoying, and above all his extraordinary command of language and his searing criticisms of modern society – all of this works to strengthen an iconography of prophethood – of speaking truth to power – that is still deeply embedded in the European psyche.

moses-old-testament-prophet-1152289

Be that as it may, the content – as opposed to the style – of Nietzsche’s grasp of religion was mundane, stereotyped, firmly based on 19th century opinion and its rampant anti-clericalism, on social Darwinism, on an uncritical appropriation of an imagined Greek, Roman, and Germanic past, and on a glorification of artists, poets, and intellectuals typical of the time. And for all of Nietzsche’s claims to have rejected religion, he embraced ts pageantry, its mythology, and its dramatic turn while rejecting its civilizing values and while urging an uncritical embrace of the barbaric superstitions of the ancient past.

But, he is a great – even inspiring – read!

Next Blog

In the next blog, we will consider 20th century atheism, including that of the philosopher Bertrand Russell and of logical positivism.

………………………

This is the 40th in a series of blogs on the modern science and religion literature. The author, Stephen Friberg, is a Bahá’í living in Mountain View, California. A research physicist by training, he wrote Religion and Evolution Reconciled: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Comments on Evolution with Courosh Mehanian. He worked in Japan for 10 years before joining the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley.

Share
www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

Mar 22

Books on Science and Religion #39: The Atheistic Perspectives of Freud

 Stephen FribergTo believe in God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter. To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Mar 22, 2015

Freud and Nietzsche were two of the towering intellectual figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and their atheism was a major part of what they had to say. In Atheists: The Origin of the Species, the author Nick Spencer provides an overview of their influential points of view on religion. In this blog, we look at Freud. In the next, Nietzsche.

The Baha’i Writings have only very little to say about Freud and his methods. The only mention I have been able to find is the following from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, head of the Baha’i Faith from 1921 to 1957:

Greatest-Name-Emblem2There is nothing in our teachings about Freud and his method. Psychiatric treatment in general is no doubt an important contribution to medicine, but we must believe it is still a growing rather than a perfected science.

As Bahá’u’lláh has urged us to avail ourselves of the help of good physicians Bahá’ís are certainly not only free to turn to psychiatry for assistance but should, when advisable, do so. This does not mean psychiatrists are always wise or always right, it means we are free to avail ourselves of the best medicine has to offer us.

Sigmund Freud and His Modern Reputation

Sigmund_Freud_LIFE

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the father of psychoanalysis, was one of the most influential thinkers of the last 200 years. In a tribute after his death in 1939, the poet W. H. Auden captures the flavor of the regard with which he was held. “Freud, he wrote, was “a whole climate of opinion / under whom we conduct our different lives”.

But current thinking holds differently and Freud no longer enjoys the intellectual status he once commanded. A.C. Grayling, in Sigmund Freud: Scientist or Storyteller, captures how our understanding has shifted:

Criticism from science and philosophy …  charge[s] that the empirical basis of psychoanalysis is inadequate, that its central concepts are untestable, and that its aim – which is to give a complete theory of human nature – is overambitious. Its methodology is inadequate, they argue, because it rests on speculation and subjective insights, not on objective examination of public and repeatable phenomena. It depends on generalisation from single cases or very small samples… It assumes that mental activity is causally deterministic, and a number of philosophers, among them Wittgenstein, note that Freud also conflates the concepts of an action’s causes and the reasons why it was performed.

Above and beyond these criticisms are concerns about the role that Freud proposes for the unconscious mind. Grayling summarizes these concern as follows:

unconscious mindAt base, Freud’s theory rests on a claim, which, expressed unadorned and without preamble, looks frankly absurd: that an infant sexually desires its parent of the opposite sex, and is therefore hostile towards, because jealous of, its parent of the same sex; and that because neither the desire nor the hostility is acceptable, these feelings are repressed into the unconscious, as a result of which internal conflicts arise; and that this – the Oedipus complex – is the key to human nature. It is not, note, the key only to pathological human nature: but to human nature as such.

It is against the backdrop of Freud’s ambitious attempt to explain human nature on the basis of these claims that we must look at his atheism.

Freud and Atheism

Spencer describes Freud as “the third great icon of this age of atheist promise after Marx and Darwin.”

Freud, born in the latter half of the 19th century, grew up in an age of disbelief. He rarely questioned the received perspectives about religion of his time:

He never had any religious beliefs, nor any doubts that science would one day utterly vanquish religion. “The scientific mind generates a specific way of approaching the things of this world,” he would write in The Future of an Illusion. “Faced with the things of religion, it pauses, hesitates, and finally here too steps over the threshold. The process is unstoppable.”  Religious ideas … were illusions, ‘fulfilling the oldest, most powerful, most pressing desires of the human race’.

His point of view, Spencer tells us, was highly derivative:

This was pure Feuerbach, although Freud would add some psychological depth, and not a little colour, to these already well-established arguments.

349px-Freud_1885Freud, as you might expect, thought that religion was rooted in the unconscious. “A personal God” he wrote in 1910, “is psychologically, nothing other than an exalted father … the roots of the need for religion are in the parental complex”.

He expanded on this theme in Civilisation and its Discontents:

[Religion is composed of] doctrines and promises which on the one hand explains to him the riddles of this world with enviable completeness, and, on the other, assures him that a careful Providence will watch over his life and will compensate him in a future existence for any frustrations he suffers here. The common man cannot imagine this Providence otherwise than in the figure of an enormously exalted father. Only such a being can understand the needs of the children of men and be softened by their prayers and placated by the signs of their remorse.

He sometimes argued against religion on the basis of the Oedipus complex, his aforementioned view that children want to have sex with their parents, a view that has not aged well nor found empirical support (see Oedipus Complex).

Spencer outlines Freud’s argument:

Humans, he argued, had once lived in hordes that were ruled by a despotic, primal father who enslaved the men and possessed the women. Tyrannized beyond endurance, the men eventually banded together to kill their oppressor, a crime for which they felt such intense guilt that they subsequently deified the murdered father figure, thereafter honouring him through ritual and obedience. Religiosity was thus a kind of collective human neurosis, from which science in general, and psychoanalysis in particular, offered liberation.

OLd FreudOn his deathbed, Freud kept to his atheism, but began to find something to appreciate in religion. His last book, Moses and Monotheism, often reads like a bad historical novel, but it says something positive about religion. Here is how Mark Edmundson, author of The Death of Sigmund Freud, writes about it in the New York Times (see Defender of the Faith):

[Freud] makes a point that is simple and rather profound … . Judaism’s distinction as a faith, he says, comes from its commitment to belief in an invisible God, and from this commitment, many consequential things follow.

Freud argues that taking God into the mind enriches the individual immeasurably. The ability to believe in an internal, invisible God vastly improves people’s capacity for abstraction. “The prohibition against making an image of God — the compulsion to worship a God whom one cannot see,” he says, meant that in Judaism “a sensory perception was given second place to what may be called an abstract idea — a triumph of intellectuality over sensuality.”

If people can worship what is not there, they can also reflect on what is not there, or on what is presented to them in symbolic and not immediate terms. So the mental labor of monotheism prepared the Jews — as it would eventually prepare others in the West — to achieve distinction in law, in mathematics, in science and in literary art. It gave them an advantage in all activities that involved making an abstract model of experience, in words or numbers or lines, and working with the abstraction to achieve control over nature or to bring humane order to life.

Summary and Comments

Critics like Karl Popper, Frederic Crews, Frank Sulloway and others have come down hard on Freud in the last 30 years. Their claims are that his work is pseudoscience, that psychoanalysis is ineffective as a therapy, that immense harm has been done by his focus on repressed and recovered memories, and that Freud’s very simplistic emphasis on sexuality was not only inaccurate but destructive.

Its tempting take a Freudian slant on all this and conclude that Freud’s views on religion were just an illusion, a rejection of the authority of his father rooted in his unconsciousness thought, a form of wish projection, or just another of those unknown and unknowable urges we are prone to. There is much that is correct about this approach, I believe.

But perhaps it would be better to recognize two other aspects of his thought.

One is his attempts to look for new answers. Certainly, religion seemed to have failed western Europeans. Thinkers like Freud, eager to exercise the authority of science, were rejecting old modes of thought and desperately looking for new paths forward. That some of the paths would generate tremendous excitement is not surprising, nor is it surprising that they would seem wrong and foolish – the verdict on Freudianism today – at a later time.

Bridgeman ImagesThe second is his idea that there are aspects to our lives that are unconscious. The idea certainly has truth value to it – as all who are on the path of spiritual growth know. So, we can readily accept some aspects of Freud’s thought on the basis that he was on the trail of something important, even if his pursuits were derailed by his – and his era’s – limitations.

What WAS that something important? Clearly, some of it had to do with medical and mental health conditions, we now know.

But Baha’is and others can readily acknowledge that there are deep, dark – even subterranean – forces at work within us. For example, Shoghi Effendi – who speaks authoritatively on the Baha’i point of view – talks about about the two meanings of self, one being created by God, the other due to our animalistic (evolutionary?) side:

[The] self has really two meanings, or is used in two senses, in the Bahá’í writings; one is self, the identity of the individual created by God. This is the self mentioned in such passages as “he hath known God who hath know himself”, etc. The other self is the ego, the dark, animalistic heritage each one of us has, the lower nature that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on. It is this self we must struggle against, or this side of our natures, in order to strengthen and free the spirit within us and help it to attain perfection . . . .

It is in this realm of the self that Freud seems to have found his explanations for human nature. Insufficiently aware, apparently, of the spiritual aspects of our nature, a child of materialistic philosophies wedded to a narrow scientism, his attempts to describe our basic nature fell “into the despairing slough of materialism.”

Next Blog

In the next blog, we will consider that atheistic writings of Nietzsche, a thinker who commands extraordinary respect to this day and whose understanding of the consequences of the European rejection of the God and religion far exceeded that of most of his contemporaries, even as his philosophy contributed to the chaos, confusion, and sheer barbarity of the modern age.

………………………

This is the 38th in a series of blogs on the modern science and religion literature. The author, Stephen Friberg, is a Bahá’í living in Mountain View, California. A research physicist by training, he wrote Religion and Evolution Reconciled: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Comments on Evolution with Courosh Mehanian. He worked in Japan for 10 years before joining the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley.

Share
www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

Mar 20

A Hero Goes into the West — from my personal blog

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks

I was shocked and saddened to hear that one of my greatest heroes is dying.

I have experienced Oliver Sacks as a being of great wisdom and compassion. His work has been a blessing and an illumination to me as both as a writer and a human being, and has gifted me with many deep insights into the human spirit that have informed my own craft.

Anthropologist on Mars Dr. Sacks has written extensively about conditions that impact the way affected individuals experience the world—migraine, sleeping sickness, manic-depression, synesthesia, autism (it was through Sacks’ book An Anthropologist on Mars that I first “met” the indomitable Temple Grandin, who has become the face of autism for many people). But he has also lived with such conditions (prosopagnosia or face blindness, and the loss of his stereoscopic vision) and has written extensively about and chronicled these experiences as eloquently as any fiction writer has chronicled the epic adventures of her characters. An Anthropologist on Mars remains one of the favorite and most significant books of my reading and writing life. I highly recommend it to anyone who has not had the immensely moving experience of reading Professor Sacks’ work.

Though I understand that his adventure is, in many ways, just beginning, I mourn our collective loss of this great humanitarian intellect and selfishly wish we might be allowed to keep him just a bit longer.

Share
www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

Mar 15

Books on Science and Religion #38: Nick Spencer’s ‘Atheists and the Origin of the Species’ Part 6

Stephen Friberg

To believe in God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter. To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Mar 15, 2015

Manchester

Manchester in the 1840s

In the last several blogs, we have been studying the history of atheism as outlined in the excellent and informative Atheists: The Origin of the Species, written by Nick Spencer, research director of the Christian think-tank Theos.

Most of the time, we have been studying the atheism of the intellectual elite – in Britain it was the atheism of the romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, of Jeremy Bentham, the founder of modern utilitarianism, and of the not-quite-an-atheist Charles Darwin.

However, differently than was the case in France, Germany, and Russia, the strongest promoters of 19th century British atheism were not the elite thinkers, but rather working class intellectuals.

Most of us, if I judge correctly, are unfamiliar with working class movements in Britain in the 19th century, despite their enormous importance and their leading role in the English-speaking industrial societies of the world. The British working class was the first industrial working class in the same way that the British industrial revolution was the first industrial revolution.

Usually we have heard of Robert Owen, the founder of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement. Although a manager and visionary entrepreneur, he is mainly known for improved the working conditions of factory workers. But he also was a prominent atheist – more about his views later in the blog. And there were many other influential working class thinkers, writers, and intellectuals whose contributions were the equal of – or even more important than those of – the elite intellectuals we usually consider to everyone else’s exclusion. And many of them were atheists. Read the rest of this entry »

Share

Mar 08

Books on Science and Religion #37: Nick Spencer’s ‘Atheists and the Origin of the Species’ Part 5

Stephen Friberg

To believe in God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter. To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Mar 8, 2015

Why did atheism become a state religion in the Soviet Union Dead treeand not in, say, Britain?

Atheists: The Origin of the Species – by Nick Spencer – addresses this question by looking at the growth of atheism in 19th century pre-Soviet Russia and contrasting it with atheism in 19th century Britain.

Atheism has many causes and takes on many forms and colorations. Two causes in particular feature in the discussion of atheism in Russia versus atheism in Britain. One is what happens when a church or a religion become corrupt and ineffectual. The Baha’i writings describe this using the image of a tree. According to `Abdu’l-Baha, head of the Baha’i Faith from 1892 to 1921,

Religion has grown into a tree which has put forth leaves and branches, blossoms and fruit. After a time this tree has fallen into a condition of decay. The leaves and blossoms have withered and perished; the tree has become stricken and fruitless. It is not reasonable that man should hold to the old tree, claiming that its life forces are undiminished, its fruit unequaled, its existence eternal.

So people turn away, looking for something that is life-giving.

Russian Orthodox IconAnother cause, seen time and time again in these discussions, takes place when church and state become closely entwined and simultaneously oppressive, rigid, and intolerant. This was the case in France during the French Enlightenment and it was the case in 19th century Russia where the governing regime and the Russian Orthodox Church worked closely together and tolerated little or no dissent. Atheism, correspondingly, was particularly harsh in these environments. In contrast, 19th century Britain lacked powerful ecclesiastical institutions and was much more tolerant of different ways of thinking. Atheism, because of this tolerance, lacked targets and was unable to develop the same strong and powerful emotional response that it achieved in France, Germany, and Russia.

Russian Atheism

Karl Marx didn’t envision his ideas taking hold in Russia, the bulwark of orthodox Christianity. But things would change:

Marx’s ideas would transform Russian society far more than any in which he actually lived, but that was many years in the future. At the time, Russian atheism faced more determined opposition than anywhere else in Europe. Read the rest of this entry »

Share

Mar 06

Los Angeles marks Education is Not a Crime Day

1041_09LOS ANGELES, 3 March 2015, (BWNS) — Over 1100 people gathered at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, 27 February to honor those Baha’is who have been denied the right to higher education in Iran.

“Education is Not a Crime – Live 2015″ was a major event for the “Education is Not a Crime” campaign launched in November 2014 by Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker who was himself imprisoned in Iran in 2009. The campaign was inspired by the film “To Light a Candle”, a documentary made by Mr. Bahari.

“To Light a Candle” highlights the constructive resilience of Baha’i youth who have expressed their desire to pursue their education by developing an informal arrangement, called the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), through which they could access university-level studies.

Over the course of the weekend in over 300 localities around the world, from the Antipodes to Canada, from the United Kingdom to Brazil, and India to the Netherlands, the film was screened. There have been numerous interviews with university lecturers who serve as volunteer tutors of BIHE students and the highlighting of the denial of access to higher education to the Baha’i youth of Iran. Articles and reports have been published on many websites including the Daily Beast, the Globe and Mail, Star Tribune, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), the Irish Times, The Telegram, Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Amnesty International, and World Religion News.

At the Los Angeles event, it was announced that letters had been received from four members of the California congressional delegation – Karen Bass, Janice Hahn, Alan Lowenthal, and Edward Royce (Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives), emphasizing the importance of universal education and written in support of the event.

The evening featured a range of musical performances interspersed among narrative readings and live interviews with Baha’is about the persecution they had experienced in Iran, conducted by Mr. Bahari.

1041_00In a conversation on stage with the evening’s emcee, actor Rainn Wilson, Mr. Bahari commented that when he first learned of the story of the Baha’is he was “surprised by the way they resisted through education and nonviolence”. He added that “many people around the world need to learn from the Baha’is”.

Actress Eva LaRue performed an emotional dramatic narrative written by Alistaire Taylor.  It was based on the thoughts of Keyvan Rahimian – a Baha’i sentenced to 4 years imprisonment for his involvement with BIHE – as he was awaiting the call that would summon him to begin his incarceration.

In addition, Quattro Sound, a Grammy Award-nominated instrumental ensemble, performed an upbeat and rhythmic piece.

There followed an interview conducted by Mr. Bahari with Farideh Samimi, the wife of one of the eight members of the second National Spiritual Assembly (the national governing body of Baha’is) in Iran who were arrested, summarily tried, and executed in December 1981.

Actor Justin Baldoni recited a fictional narrative of a young woman named Behfar, who, in attempting to take university qualifying exams in high school, is refused permission to sit for the exams because she is a Baha’i. She then declares that the “government will never stop us from studying. Education is one of the 12 pillars of our religion”.

Mr. Bahari also interviewed Marjan Davoudi about being expelled from university in the early 1980’s. She said that the Dean of the university told her: “You are not human. You are lower than an animal. Get the hell out of my office.” Although heartbroken, she told herself at that time that she would never stop learning. She later had the opportunity to take correspondence courses with Indiana University, explaining that all of the materials, except for one original textbook kept in a central location, were photocopies. It took her twelve years to obtain her Bachelor’s degree from Indiana University.

Later, a touching narrative was read by actor Anthony Azizi which portrayed Sonia, a fictional Baha’i student, who was taught from an early age that Baha’is do not lie about who they are. She was put to the test when the receipt of her prize for best student in her high school was made conditional on her denying her Faith. She refused, lost her chance to go to university, and eventually enrolled in BIHE.

This was followed by one of three short clips from “To Light a Candle”. Mr. Bahari then added that the Iranian government will make every form of accusation against Baha’is, but the nature of its accusations are such that they actually increase the curiosity of Muslim youth about the Baha’i Faith.

The two-hour programme concluded with a lively and rhythmic musical finale featuring Ozomatli, Quattro Sound, Ellis Hall, and K.C. Porter – an appropriate way to end an evening that, though it had many somber moments, was also full of inspiring instances. Ultimately, it was a celebration of the Iranian Baha’i community’s resilience in the face of adversity.

Share
www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

Mar 02

Books on Science and Religion #36: Nick Spencer’s ‘Atheists and the Origin of the Species’ Part 4

Stephen Friberg

To believe in God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter. To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Jan 25, 2015

Atheists: the origin of the speciesAfter a three week hiatus, we return to the excellent and informative Atheists: The Origin of the Species, written by Nick Spencer, research director of the Christian think-tank Theos. We pick up where we left off – at the beginning of the 19th century. This means that we are covering territory we have covered before, namely in our look at Richard Olsen’s excellent history of science and scientism in the 18th century as reviewed in Books on Science and Religion #10, Books on Science and Religion #11, Books on Science and Religion #12, Books on Science and Religion #13, and Books on Science and Religion #14.

Early 19th Century Atheism in France

The French revolution is often thought of as the triumph of enlightenment atheist thought: it disenfranchised the Catholic church for several decades and cost several thousand Catholic clergy their lives. But it wasn’t atheism that emerge as the big victor, it was reason. Reason, rather than atheism, was the battle-flag of the French revolution.

When the revolutionary leader Pierre Gaspard Chaumette, president of the Paris Commune, publicly voiced his doubts about the existence of God, he was tried for impiety and guillotined. His crime? “Seeking to destroy all morality, efface any idea of the divine, and founding the government of France on the principles of atheism”. For the revolutionaries, or at least some of them, atheism “could be judged as much of a threat to morality by those who worshipped Reason as by those who worshipped God.” Read the rest of this entry »

Share

Feb 23

Books on Science and Religion #35: A Final Round of Pausing and Considering

Stephen Friberg

http://www.amazon.com/Atheism-For-Dummies-Dale-McGowan/dp/111850920XTo believe in God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter. To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Feb 22, 2015

religion and science the basicsOver the last 35 weeks, we have been looking at the modern literature on science and religion. So far, we have looked at 13 books. Four of them (Religion and Science: The Basics; Logic and Logos; Science and Religion in Quest of Truth; The Great Partnership) argue strongly in favor of having both science and religion. Six of them argue – usually vehemently – in favor of keeping science and jettisoning religion (The God Argument; Atheism for Dummies; God and the Folly of Faith; God: The Failed Hypothesis; Not By Design; The Meaning of Human Existence). And three of them provide overviews and perspectives on scientism, atheism, and modern thinking related to these topics (Science and Scientism in Nineteenth-Century Europe; Atheists: The Origin of the Species, and The Modern Mind).

Logic and logosGenerally speaking, the books arguing against religion – the several books by Victor Stenger, the book by Anthony Grayling, the book by McGowan – do a poor job at making their case. Like the New Atheist books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett, they are excellent at conveying the antagonistic feelings and antipathies towards religion of their authors. And sometimes, yes, they provide a convenient enough rehashing of arguments from philosophy that are sometimes taken to show religion to be wrong. But these books are almost uniformly unconvincing and lacking in solid and believable argument. (The book by E.O. Wilson is the exception, but perhaps it is because Wilson appropriates all of religion’s best stuff and makes it sound like he – and science – invented it).

Why! Why do the arguments against religion that these books provide come across as fanatical, illogical, anti-intellectual, or just plain irrelevant? Is it that we have heard them for so long that we have become inured to them? Or is it that those that embrace both science and religion have upped their game to such a degree that those making the arguments against religion look tired and old-fashioned in comparison?

41gig2OS1YL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Both, I think. Here I argue two additional points: that those arguing against religion fall into the trap of labeling – of labeling those who believe in religion as “the other”. They lump all believers together and demonize them, not realizing that the primitive evolution-induced religious tendencies they argue against are not true religion. And they fail to realize that they have fallen victim to the same tendencies they decry in others.

Atheism as Prejudice

As I have indicated before, I think that reasonableness, rationality, objectivity, and intellectual fairness are mainly, if not exclusively, on the side of those arguing for both science and religion. I don’t mean that all those who don’t believe in religion are unreasonable, irrational, unobjective, or intellectually unfair. Its only those whose views morph into ideology and fanatical belief – as had happened for many in the 20th century – that raise concern. In other words, the problem with atheism, much as is the case for religion, is fanaticism and extremism directed at others, not personal belief and persuasion.

The-Great_PartnershipThose who argue vigorously and passionately against religion, like Victor Stenger, A.G. Grayling, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins, and those who are argue against belief in God and hold that religion is intrinsically evil, are making arguments that are attacks on people. They are arguing against the validity of people’s belief in God and that, in turn, means that they are arguing for the stupidity and cupidity of those who allow themselves to entertain such beliefs. Surely, there is validity to some argumentation of this sort – there are religious nuts and terrorists aplenty in modern times. But such extremism and fanaticism exists in many different ways and for many different causes, not just religion. It attaches itself to many ideologies. Religious extremism, if body counts over the last several hundred years are taken as an indicator, is much less dangerous than extremism of the scientific type as manifested in social Darwinism and communism, or in nationalism and colonialism, or in other popular ideologies that roil the world.

God_The_Failed_HypothesisTo repeat, the crux of the aggressive atheist argument, it seems to me, is that that those who believe in God are deluded and fooled by their own ignorance, the manipulation of priests, and their own innate tendency to believe. In a modern evolutionary guise, this view holds that those who believe in God are deluded by a tendency to ascribe agency to a supernatural cause on the basis of inherited evolutionary traits. In its extremist form, the argument is that those who believe in God are simply ignorant and have been manipulated. But labeling a whole group of people this way is no different than racism, or sexism, or any other kind of ism. It essentially holds that those who believe in God are unreasoning beings, stupid and manipulated, views that echo almost precisely how earlier Europeans tended to view colonials, or people from non-European races, or the poor, or the disadvantaged, or women.

We have to ask: how are these views different from views that portray all who think or act differently than one does oneself as being inherently evil – as the other?

atheism for dummiesMany educated thinkers agree with much of what the atheists believe, but think it wrong thing to paint religion and belief in God as deluded, evil, and ignorant. To think in such a strong and hateful way, as many of my parent’s generation came to understand, betrays a fanaticism and a fundamentalist and ideological mindset. My parent’s generation remembered the havoc wrecked by extreme belief – not from religion, but in many cases against religion – and were not always lucky enough to live through the wars and persecutions that such beliefs engendered.

And the World has Changed: The Advance of Knowledge Favors those who Acknowledge Religion

GodandFollyThis leads to the final point..

In the modern world, we now have much more knowledge about religion, much more knowledge about science, scientism, materialism, and science-based creeds, and much more knowledge about the history of religion than that had by enlightenment atheists, by 19th century social Darwinists, by Marxists, by colonialists, and by materialists of all persuasions.  We know much more than they did and we are not persuaded by blanket claims that religion is bad because some people have used it badly.  We are more sophisticated than that now.

Another thing: the arguments are no longer just about Christianity. Modern thinkers are increasingly familiar with other religions and fewer advance the view that Christianity is the only valid religion or hold to such purely Christian points of view as the idea that miracles are the proof of the existence of God. Much as science is a moving target, so too is the understanding of religion.

Atheists: the origin of the speciesBecause of the increasing sophistication of thinkers they oppose, Dawkins, Harris, and others insist that moderate and reasonable thinkers are not truly representative of the religious urge. This suggests to me like they are conceding that they lack the knowledge of religion and sophistication about theology and metaphysics possessed by educated moderates and that they are trying to sidestep refutations of their views by capable and sophisticated thinkers. Or perhaps they are inadvertently taking a step towards recognizing that there is a difference between true religion and “evolutionary” religion (i.e., belief based on innate tendencies to believe).

Rather than insisting that religion is what the extremists or the gullible believe, we need to look both at religion’s strengths and its weaknesses. This, rather than uninformed claims to the effect that religion is inherently wrong or evil, is a step towards the truth.

Next Blog

In the next blog, we will continue our review of the history of atheism.

………………………

This is the 35th in a series of blogs on the modern science and religion literature. The author, Stephen Friberg, is a Bahá’í living in Mountain View, California. A research physicist by training, he wrote Religion and Evolution Reconciled: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Comments on Evolution with Courosh Mehanian. He worked in Japan for 10 years before joining the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valle

Share
www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

Feb 16

Books on Science and Religion #34: More Pausing and Considering

Stephen Friberg

To believe in God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter. To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Feb 15, 2015

There is website called You May Be a Fundamentalist Atheist If… that is both funny and disheartening. It has a list of entries that capture much of the flavor of online conversations about religion, atheism, science and religion. Personally, I’ve been on chat groups where even the slightest indication that you are in favor of religion can lead to furious attacks on your character, your integrity, and your mental capacities. (Of course, it goes without saying that atheists have found themselves in similar positions on some strongly pro-religious sites.)

Blake Dante HellHere are some representative quotes. You may be a fundamentalist atheist if:

You say things like, “I can’t tolerate religion because religion is intolerant. And no type of intolerance should be tolerated.”

You believe the astronomical size of the universe somehow disproves God, as if God needed a tiny universe in order to exist.

You think you arrived at your position because you are a free-thinker who rationally weighed the evidence, and then freely chose atheism over theism. YET, you also believe that your thinking and actions are nothing more than the FIXED reactions of the atoms in your brain that are governed by the Laws of Chemistry and Physics.

You think that religious wars have killed more people than any other kind of war, even though the largest wars of the last 200 years (World War I and II, Civil War, etc.) had no discernible religious causes.

The distinguished British philosopher and educator A. C. Grayling takes strong objection to the characterization of some atheists as fundamentalist. In “Can an atheist be a fundamentalist,” he writes that atheism is “a philosophy, or a theory, or at worst an ideology” and that therefore it cannot be fundamentalist because it isn’t a religion. Fair enough. But he ruins the effect by following up with an intemperate attack on religion that seems to be the very personification of what people mean by fundamental atheism:

256px-AC_GraylingWhat would a non-fundamentalist atheist be? .. one who does not mind that other people hold profoundly false and primitive beliefs about the universe, on the basis of which they have spent centuries mass-murdering other people who do not hold exactly the same false and primitive beliefs as themselves – and still do?

Christianity is a recent and highly modified version of what, for most of its history, has been an often violent and always oppressive ideology – think Crusades, torture, burnings at the stake, the enslavement of women to constantly repeated childbirth and undivorceable husbands, the warping of human sexuality, the use of fear (of hell’s torments) as an instrument of control, and the horrific results of calumny against Judaism.

These views are basically the same those advanced by d’Holbach and other anti-religious atheists France 250 years. And they are completely out of touch with the findings of historical and religious studies. Grayling even claims that “no wars have been fought, pogroms carried out, or burnings conducted at the stake, over rival theories in biology or astrophysics.” Astrophysics, no, but is he uninformed about social Darwinism, communism, fascism, and colonialism and the extraordinary loss of life – in the tens or hundred’s of millions of men, women, and innocent children – that it has entailed?

Why are these “fundamental atheist” views, views both profoundly anti-intellectual and at odds with what we know about the world, so often voiced with such extraordinary vitriol? Certainly, it is easy to become incensed about Islamic terrorism – provided that you don’t know much about the last two hundred years of history of colonialism, the extraordinary history European occupation of Islamic countries, and Western military campaigns during the last twenty years. But the antagonism to religion seen in many “fundamentalist atheists” is far beyond what a reasoning observer of the current scene would expect.

baron_dholbachTwo of the things that are occurring, in my view, are as follows:

  1. One is a rearguard response to the failure of irreligion and materialism to transform the world, a failure now apparent everywhere.This is a response of anger and frustration over failure of a system of thought that seemed foundational to many.  It strikes me that it is much the same as that which inspires modern Islamic anti-western theologies and appeals so strongly to disenfranchised Muslim youth.
  2. The other is the failure to follow the systematic methods of science, a failure that was characteristic of the rise of modern scientism and that still characterizes its approach. Science in the 19th century enjoyed such incredible prestige that pronouncements in its name – often on very vague and speculative grounds – were accepted as if they were proven scientific fact. The failure to distinguish between scientific fact and scientific fiction is at the basis of much “fundamentalist” atheist belief.

A Legacy of Distrust

It seems to me that those who rail so strongly against religion – the new Atheists, angry secular humanists like Steven Pinker, Victor Stenger, A.C. Grayling, and their equally impassioned co-workers – are part of an intellectual rearguard action stemming from the leftover dreams of the enlightenment and powerful 19th and early 20th century visions of the world as a secular paradise free of the baneful effects of religion. (Whereas once the devil reigned as the king of evil, religion is now deemed his modern replacement – this upgrade seems to have struck some thinkers as more intellectually respectable.)

Their opposition – a legacy of a time when the rise of modern industrialization, the rapid growth of technology, and a veritable explosion of scientific creativity was accompanied by a widespread rejection of religion – now comes across as dogmatic, ill-informed, lacking in logic, and unobjective. And it is derisively scornful and dismissive of religion, its history, its core beliefs, and the multifold forms it takes.

industrializationAgain and again, what strikes me is the unwillingness to recognize the near-universal role of religion in the affairs of the world throughout all of history. And they fail to see the extent to which their own perspectives and views fall into the category of blind belief and religious fanaticism. Yes, among these thinkers there are some apparent exceptions to the rule. Daniel Dennett, many say, wishes to study and understand religion. But he writes with the same scorn and derision about religion as used by French ancien regime philosophes accustomed to veiling their hatreds and antagonisms.

Jonathan Sacks, writing in The Great Partnership: Science, Religion, and the Search for Meaning, describes their approach too well:

Atheism deserves better than the new atheists, whose methodology consists in criticising religion without understanding it, quoting texts without contexts, taking exceptions as the rule, confusing folk belief with reflective theology, abusing, mocking, ridiculing, caricaturing and demonising religious faith and holding it responsible for the great crimes against humanity.

Religion has done harm; I acknowledge that candidly … But the cure of bad religion is good religion, not no religion, just as the cure of bad science is good science, not the abandonment of science.

The critics of new Atheism, even the moderate “old” atheists, are coming around to the same point of view. Some too are calling the new, populist, best-selling versions of atheism fundamentalist atheism or evangelical atheism and see it as following the same methodologies, the same spirit of intolerance, the same lack of openness to reason, and the same ideological fixedness that they see in religious fundamentalism.

And this stands to reason. Atheism and materialism – world dominating creeds and ideologies that came of age in the 19th century – have run through both their rise and fall. The later, thanks to the information age, is plain to see. Yes, on one hand, atheism and materialism has played a major role in the shaping the modern world, especially the European and American versions of it. And this role has included seminally important contributions in all aspects of human life. But on the other hand, the “moral vacuum” of the 20th century, and the untold deaths, disruption, and misery that make up the century’s death toll is no longer veiled by history. Thanks to the television and internet, all can see the results.

scientific methodIgnoring the Scientific Method in the Name of Science

I’m puzzled and alarmed by how the materialists, atheists, secular savants, and the like-minded we have been reading or reading about have ignored the basic fundamentals of science, especially the need for empirical validation of hypotheses. Rather than recognizing that most of the inferences they had drawn about the social world – the world of day-to-day life – are speculative theses, not scientific facts of proven validity, they ignore the need for test and confirmation.

Social Darwinists – from Darwin’s time to E.O. Wilson and the 21st century evolutionary psychologists – have been among the worst of the offenders. (Communism, of course, was the very worst.) By social Darwinism, I mean the application of ideas derived from evolutionary science to social phenomena – national policy, health, economics, and so no.

By no means is social Darwinism automatically a bad thing. Think of the extraordinary progress made in medicine and health care that derives from an understanding of evolution and the related areas of genomics, ideas inspired by evolutions.

But, social Darwinism also means things like scientific racism – some of the greatest scientists of the 19th and first half of the 20th century believed that there were distinct subspecies of humankind that had evolved competitively, Amazingly, shockingly, and certainly altogether unscientifically, they believed that Northern European – the British, Germans, French, and white Anglo-Saxon Americans – were shown by science to be the superior breed. And this morphed into eugenics – the idea that undesirables (meaning the weak, the infirm, the mentally handicapped, and those who were non-Northern European races such as southern European, Jewish, Slavic, and other non-northern European races and nationalities) had to be prevented from having children (or in the case of German eugenics, just prevented).

Clearly, these were conclusions unsupported by any scientific evidence or any empirical results. My guess is that much that pertains to materialism, atheism, and the like are just surmises, wild-eyed guesses, prejudiced enthusiasms, bigotry, or ideas concocted for political or material gain. If they were to be investigated scientifically – if standards of scientific proof were to be applied rigorously – many of them would just dry up and blow away.

Next Blog

In the next blog, we will continue our review of the history of atheism.

………………………

This is the 34th in a series of blogs on the modern science and religion literature. The author, Stephen Friberg, is a Bahá’í living in Mountain View, California. A research physicist by training, he wrote Religion and Evolution Reconciled: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Comments on Evolution with Courosh Mehanian. He worked in Japan for 10 years before joining the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley.

Share
www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

Feb 08

Books on Science and Religion #33: We Pause and Consider

Stephen Friberg

To believe in God means to see that the facts of the world are not the end of the matter. To believe in God means to see that life has a meaning.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Feb 8, 2015

It is week #33 of our review of the modern literature on science and religion – and a good time to pause and take a perspective.

I want to consider two things in today’s blog:

  1. The basic question that this literature seems to be addressing, and
  2. The impression that this literature conveys that logic and reasonableness seems mainly on the side of those who embrace both science and religion.

The Basic Question

The underlying question that this literature is almost always addressing seems to be the following:

What is the best way to achieve significant and important goals of health and good functioning for ourselves, for our families, for our communities, for our societies, for our environment, for all the life on the planet, and for progress of the world of humanity?

QuestionBoth the books for the unity of science and religion and the books against the unity of science and religion – the later exclusively being against religion as opposed to being against science – pose this question, sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly. This a significant point of unity! At issue, then, is the best way to achieve these goals.

The argument, it seems clear enough, boils down to something very simple. Should we have religion or not? (There is never an argument in the literature we are reading against having science. Even arguments against evolution are not arguments against science! This can be seen by looking at both creationist and intelligent design arguments against evolution – both are framed in terms of questioning the correct scientific description.)

The Dalai Lama, in his wonderfully-entitled Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World, summarizes the anti-religion arguments splendidly. Let me quote him at length:

… as science began to advance rapidly in Europe, there was a move toward greater rationality. And this rationality involved, among other things, a rejection of what came to be seen as the superstitions of the past. For many radical thinkers from that time to our own day, the adoption of rationality has entailed a rejection of religious faith. The French Revolution, which expressed so many of the new ideas of the European Enlightenment, is a good example of this, with its strong anti-religious element.

Of course there was also an important social dimension to this rejection. Religion came to be regarded as conservative, tied to tradition, and closely associated with old regimes and all their failings. The legacy of this history, it seems, is that for more than two hundred years, many of the most influential thinkers and reformers in the West have viewed religion, not as an avenue to human liberation, but as an obstacle to progress. Marxism, one of the most powerful secular ideologies of the twentieth century, even denounced religion as the “opium of the people”—with tragic consequences, as communist regimes forcibly suppressed religion in many parts of the world.

Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole WorldAccording to the Dalai Lama, we must look to recent European history to understand the arguments against religion:

It is a result of this history, I feel, that in the West the idea of secularism is so often understood as being antagonistic toward religion. Secularism and religion are often seen as two opposing and mutually incompatible positions, and there is considerable suspicion and hostility between the followers of the two camps.

The arguments against religion, viewed thus, are understandable:

While I cannot accept the suggestion that religion is an obstacle to human development, I do feel that, in the context of history, anti-religious sentiments may be understandable. History teaches the uncomfortable truth that religious institutions and adherents of every denomination have been involved in exploitation of others at some stage or another. Religion has also been used as a pretext for conflict and oppression. Even Buddhism, with its doctrine of nonviolence, cannot escape this charge entirely.

The conclusion I come to is that the arguments against religion are best understood as arising from historical circumstances that led to those making the arguments concluding that religion was out of date and a barrier to progress.  Add to this the underlying tendency to demonize those whom you are opposed to – a fault that Europeans religious and anti-religious alike seem to be especially prone to – and you have the essence of the case against religion. The rest is conjecture, ideology, theorizing, and brainstorming interpreted by those doing the brainstorming as scientific fact.

The Impression that Logic and Reasonableness Seems Mainly on the Side of Those who Embrace both Science and Religion

In the literature we have been reviewing, what stands out is the reasonableness and logic of those authors, often distinguished scientists, who embrace both science and religion. They tend to have humanitarian and world-embracing perspectives, a familiarity with the diversity of the world’s religions, knowledge of the world’s sciences, informed perspectives on the history of the interaction of the two (meaning that they typically understand the different strands in the enlightenment and in various bifurcations and movements in the religious traditions of the world.) And this same breadth of perspective is often found in the moderate atheists and materialists who maintain an objective and open-minded approach towards social and individual phenomena that may not be fully to their taste but whose reality they want to understand.

Does this sound too positive? Am I being too selective in my reading?

Dalai LamaThis is the 21st century and I am describing the thinking of people who are informed and comfortable with all parts of the human experience – science and religion, spiritual needs and material needs – in an age that has witnessed a century of chaos, war, and disintegration associated with the rise and enormous influence of materialist ideologies. This is a time that sees continuing and growing failure to address material inequalities, racial inequalities, religious inequalities, and environmental problems, an age that is witnessing the spread of a consumer culture that praises selfishness and desire as a social good.

And this is an age where – through the internet, through the unprecedented expansion of learning and scholarship, through the streams of refugees and the diasporas from broken and war-torn regions – we have more access to knowledge and information than we ever have had before. And it is also an age that has an inexhaustible hunger for spiritual growth and an age that has rediscovered religion (both the good and bad of it!).

We are in a different time.  We now know enough, including enough history, to recognize that the faults of religion that once so incensed people were very real, but also artifacts of the time and the place. And the systems of government and governance that replaced religion and affiliated religious systems were often much worse than what they replaced.

Those who reject religion, it seems to me, see it monolithically, as if it were somehow one big concrete thing where religion everywhere were the same. This simply isn’t true. There are many, many flavors and types of religion. People can even make religion out of science! Or they believe that belief in God is illogical and conclude that it forces people to be illogical. But this simply isn’t true. The world’s greatest scientists have believed in God and they have proven themselves logical. Or they believe that science has proven that all of life is material and that belief in God is the view that reality is more than what is material, therefore wrong. But, science has not proven that, it is only a surmise, a belief.

Rejection of religion may well be valid as a personal option. But when a thinker goes further and decides that everyone else must accept their personal conclusions as valid universally, then they are trespassing into the realm of imposing belief on others. It was precisely this in 18th century religion that so incensed people.

For all these reasons, those who reject religion as wrong are making a different argument than those who reject religion privately.  They are making the same claim, in essence, that those who persecute people who don’t believe “correctly” are making – they are attempting to enforce ideological purity.  And it is this imposition – with all that it entails of fanaticism, illogic, and demonization – that gives such a strong impression of lack of logic and reasonableness.

Next Blog

In the next blog, we will continue our review of the history of atheism and the book

………………………

This is the 33rd in a series of blogs on the modern science and religion literature. The author, Stephen Friberg, is a Bahá’í living in Mountain View, California. A research physicist by training, he wrote Religion and Evolution Reconciled: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Comments on Evolution with Courosh Mehanian. He worked in Japan for 10 years before joining the semiconductor industry in Silicon Valley.

Share
www.pdf24.org    Send article as PDF   

Older posts «