When Religion Dies


Some, if not many, will argue that religion will never die. In spiteful parry I’ll ask what it takes for a religion to be alive? I’ll further argue that for a religion to be alive (not dead) it needs to be surviving, thriving, and flourishing. We don’t look at an apple tree and see rotting fruit on it’s branches and say “oh, sure, one bad apple… ” but that’s not the point. We don’t look at that rotten apple and think it is not dead. We don’t look at it and think “Oh, it must have been succulent at one time… I want to eat some of the other fruit on that tree!” In fact, we’re most likely to avoid that tree altogether unless we are really hungry and there is no other food in sight.

Basically speaking, it’s not a good analogy but it gets the point across. Religion is on it’s way to irrelevance, and for this I say that we are now listening to what it sounds like when religion dies. I’ve made a couple of posts but the evidence is a tsunami, not a small creek so rather than earn my blogging cred pointing out these noises as it becomes a deafening cacophony, I’m just going to put links on this page for all to use. There are other bloggers who do a damned fine job of documenting the tsunami.

Show me the list already

  • DoctorE – Most days when I think about pointing out the death sounds, DoctorE has already posted about it.
  • Machines Like Us – It will be science that pounds the final nails in the coffin. If you want a great way to keep up then this is the link for you.
  • freethinker.co.uk  – This is a nexus of ‘damn those religiots’ if you ask me.
  1. If you got rid of religion, you should do well not to replace it with a new, secular “God”. Who knows, science could just as easily take that role if we’re stupid enough, if we’re that blind enough to think that’s all there is rather than just a piece of the bigger picture. This is why we avoid a common scientific theory of everything, because then it becomes a new religion.

    • Well, there is the thing. Science is not and cannot be a religion:

      Over at Atheism: Proving the Negative is a good explanation

      Lots of people believe science should get off of its high-horse and admit it is a religion or just like a religion since it too is built upon apparent articles of faith. For instance, what scientist can deny that a world outside of humans, languages or minds actually exists? However, this article of faith is hardly unique to science: Religious people accept it too. In fact, I’ll wager that most all of the basic claims about reality that science accepts are also accepted by the religious. But wait, don’t scientists accept the Big Bang Theory or Darwinian Evolution, whereas many religious people do not? Nope. Many scientists do not accept Big Bang Theory but they do accept that the origin and the complexity of the cosmos need explaining. Similarly, many scientists are ambivalent about Darwinian Evolution and acknowledge that it is possible that many (maybe even all) complex life forms emerge without any natural selection operating whatsoever. Such scientists accept that life begets life and even that sometimes it is possible that non-life produces life but propose alternative explanations for life that either diminish the scope of natural selection as a creative force or supplants it with another natural (chemical, physical, probabilistic) process.

      What scientists believe as fellow observers of the world is that there are curious phenomena needing explaining. There appear to be law-like regularities in nature or curious organisms behaving in ways sometimes conducive to survival and sometimes not; they only sometimes accept explanations of these provisionally, based on observable, testable, imperfect evidence. Religious people agree superficially with this attitude, but, where they differ with science is in their purely faith-based belief (wholly not dependent on empirical evidence) that not only are such things describable by observation and inference, such things are only fully explicable by reference to at least one intelligent, super-powerful, supernatural creator-being or force whose existence cannot be doubted.

      Every article of faith in science is subject to doubt and only accepted conditioned on and constrained by empirical evidence. But most articles of faith in religion are never doubted, each is unconditionally believed and none are constrained by any evidentiary limits whatsoever. Faith overrides “reasonable doubt” in religion or when coupled with wishful thinking. Faith licenses the religious to accept what appears impossible: miracles, healings, epiphanies etc. In science, faith is the enemy of reasons for accepting; indeed, grounds for reasonable doubt are sought out—no scientist wants to accept what might be false or better accounted for by a more accurate theory. Religion says: “Many miracles are inexplicable, thus a mysterious divinity must be their cause.” Science says: “Many allegedly miraculous events have been reported and are heretofore inexplicable, thus we need to consider (a) whether such events occur and (b) whether other explanations account for what is alleged before we settle on any traditional, popular or untestable explanations.”

      Science can function without believing that whatever it accepts is true or beyond reasonable doubt. Religion cannot. For instance, science can explain religious experiences (REs) or near-death “out of body” experiences (OBEs) without referring to souls, spirits, gods or angels. Religious people think these are proofs of the divine or immortality or evidence of life-after-death. But scientists do not go so far, since they know, from careful, controlled observations that human minds are capable of imagining all sorts of things, especially under the influence of brain chemicals released during stressful events. Also, meditation, drugs, exhaustion, hallucination, seizures, brain surgeries and even memories induce and inform REs and OBEs. Religion cannot even entertain the possibility that prophets did not talk to God (or divine messengers) or that its messianic-heroes healed the sick or arose from the dead. Can a religious person really imagine there is no heaven or a life without meaning? Science routinely imagines the cosmos without a beginning or life without a purpose.

      So here are five big differences. (1) Religion presumes more than science, since it assumes the existence of entities or a non-physical realm about which science remains skeptical or silent, given that whatever science cannot examine and test science is neutral about. (2) Religion has too many articles of faith science can do without: In science, what explains with fewer commitments to unsubstantiated speculation or unobservables is better than what explains with more. (3) Religion has a built-in faith-based immunity to criticism and scrutiny which science rejects; the scientific attitude requires a perpetual, skeptical attitude about articles of faith however much these may support what one wishes to believe. (4) Religion believes what it does not bother to prove, since evidence is either not needed or optional as long as it is complementary; science accepts only what it proves (tests) and this is only conditioned upon the quantity and quality of the evidence available. (5) Religion never rejects or corrects its foundational beliefs, but science often does—this is the source of its honesty and its usefulness. Science is a self-correcting, revisionary, fallible process that routinely revises and even abandons altogether inadequate hypotheses in favor of better ones.

      Posted by Matt McCormick at 9:50 PM

      • I never said science was or is a religion, but I did say that, if we killed religion, but didn’t really change afterwards, we’d take up science as a new religion of sorts. The ignorance, apathy, and laziness of the masses is a dangerous thing.

        • The movie Idiocracy is truly a scary thing. I do think that you have a point, but don’t feel that it could come to fruition as science doesn’t provide the same ritual and tradition that religion does. The big unanswered questions will continue to be unanswered, so I don’t think that humans would simply transfer their feelings to science and worship there. There are plenty of people who are neither religious nor set on science and critical thinking alive today. For science to become a religion we should have already seen traces of it. Instead what we have are only empty, false claims of such made by those defending their own faith as if everyone must have a religion … they don’t have to. That’s a big part of the problem, the belief that everyone must have a religion.

          • It’s not about what science has, but of what people would turn it into. And I am not a Christian, I’m actually anti-Christianity (the religion, not usually people). I know, people don’t have to have a religion, but people are weak of mind, apathetic, and lazy. If we know the fools, they’ll make a new false god out of something. We first created gods (as in objects of worship) out our rulers, then religion, then our industrialists, then our economists, then our celebrities, then our scientific intellectuals, and many more people, and we still do. Remember, most of us are fools, and some of the fewer who aren’t will use anything to control them.

            In case you want to know, I’m an agnostic “pantheist” and spiritual agnostic. You can see my view of God, and what he logically could be, if he exists.

            http://mythoughtsbornfromfire.wordpress.com/2012/11/27/god-and-deity/

            • Since I last commented on this post, I have a different view of god. I don’t believe in the God, or more or less the concept of a creator and governor of the universe (in fact, I believe in an ungoverned universe where primal chaos is the foundation and prime element of all that is), but am still open about the existence of supernatural beings and am agnostic about the afterlife. All I’m certain of is that there’s probably more than just what we see. Is that agnostic, or something else, or some combination?

              • That would be deism – a position that I can find no real argument against. I can’t find one for it either. I was once deistic – before being agnostic.

                • I don’t think that’s deism. Deism is that reason and observation of the natural can determine the existence of God, or that God does exist, but after creating the world he just stepped back and didn’t interfere. Whereas I don’t recognize a governor of the universe (that would contradict both chaos and free will), just that I am open about the existence of supernatural beings, and am agnostic about afterlife. I don’t think it qualifies as deism.

                  • Rethinking it, that does sound more agnostic. By governor I thought you meant one that guides/controls. If by that you meant creator, then I’d say you are agnostic with a naturalist stance on origin… or similar

                    • In a way, I do mean one who guides, controls, governs, rules, and has authority over the universe. I do not believe in that concept, which we call God. Yeah, I think I am still agnostic. Maybe spiritually agnostic. In terms of something spiritual, I value spiritual power, the chthonic or inner flame, and I’m looking to know all that is primal, inside me and out.

                    • Maybe this is more like what you are thinking: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/exploring-the-meaning-of-spirituality.html and then being agnostic about gods and afterlife

                    • How does that link help? That aside I have a different idea of spirituality. It’s not about love and respect for God (how can I have any?), or unflinching compassion for everybody. It’s about what lies beyond what we see, and may incorporate what is within, though it’s also about the primal within reality, and in you.

                      Right now I’m wondering if chaos is carnal in nature, and thinking about the nature of demons.

                    • I’m still trying to get a fair understanding of what you are calling spiritual? I don’t think that it is as complex as that, but chaos related to humanity is not of external nature, such as demons, in my opinion. I think there is enough room in our brains to create chaos on our own – that being the case, such chaos would naturally be often enough carnal in nature given the pleasure it provides… or can.

                    • If you must know, it’s about a personal/emotional power, a truth, and a primal, almost divinely carnal nature and substance, all beyond what we see.

                    • I have some thoughts no that, where it might reside or emanate from in my recent post on free will part 4. I am of the thought that mind comes only from the brain and nothing in it is from anything external. I’ve tried to describe a framework for this but have not yet explored how such emotional feelings as you seem to be describing can be generated in that framework.

  2. Brave post.

    • It would have been brave a decade previous, today not so much

      • Not to you and me, but a lot of others still can’t speak out loud their truth about religion. But, absolutely, we’ve come a long way. Thank you.

        • It is still often enough more convenient to use pseudonyms than real names, but at least people are speaking out now. When I first thought I might be atheist, I couldn’t name one other person that I knew was an atheist except for Madeline Murray O’Hare. Now I can name dozens, visit with them, drink with them, laugh with them, and talk freely with them.

          • Yes, with regards to what you just wrote, that is true. I was referring to people speaking out about their real feelings about religion and their religion in general, all the conditioning that says it’s a faux pas. My religious views are something I tend to keep to myself, outside of proclaiming I’m an advocate for tolerance and believe in kindness and acceptance for all. Thanks for the great conversation.

            • Thank you, another post is coming out of this

  3. Freakishly good blog!

    • I’m glad that you are enjoying it. I’ve had a couple weeks off but have a couple of posts on the mend, so should have new stuff up shortly

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