Atheism 101: The anti-intellectualism of religion

Source: Examiner

Author: Staks Rosch

Emphasis Mine

As an atheist, one of my biggest issues with the Abrahamic religions is that they perpetuate a culture of anti-intellectualism. It isn’t hard to miss. For example, it is no surprise that the large numbers of evangelical Christians in America are ignorant and proud. The fact that one of the most idiotic President in our nation’s history (George W. Bush) was elected mainly because of the support of Christian fundamentalists speaks volumes. Not to mention that within the Republican Party there is continually a race to the intellectual bottom with most candidates and politicians touting their religious beliefs and conviction.

A quick look back at history also shows that the Church and various organized religions have done everything they could to restrict science and knowledge. At every stage of scientific achievement, fervent religious believers were always there persecuting those who wished to expand human knowledge and human progress. One of the humanities biggest loses came pretty early on too. In 415 CE a Christian mob brutally murdered Hypatia of Alexandria. I would go into more details about the brutality of that murder, but it is a bit graphic. Needless to say, it was much more brutal than what Christians often describe as the “Passion of Christ.” She was one of the bright lights of science in her time. Even today, almost half of Christians in America stand against the scientific theories of evolution, the big bang, and global climate change. Many religious believers even oppose scientific medical advances like stem cell research, vaccines, and blood transfusions.

The fact is, that the more religious someone is the less value they tend to place on science and education. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 93% of scientists express disbelief or doubt in the existence of a personal deity. 72% outright disbelieve in a personified deity. These are among the brightest minds on Earth. Both Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking (widely considered the two smartest men who every lived) had issue with the personified deity of the Abrahamic religions. These men joined the company of many of the most intellectual founding fathers such as Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, among other.

The concept of “faith” is a slap in the face to science and intellectual curiosity. Faith stops questions while science encourages questions. Faith provides dishonest, unsupportable, and unquestioned certainty while science leaves every conclusion open to re-evaluation with additional evidence and discoveries. With faith, no education is necessary. In fact, education seems to often be a determent to faith. This is one of the biggest reasons why Christian fundamentalists are so keen on homeschooling so that they can control the information their children are exposed to. Even in the Bible, the character of Jesus elevates blind faith above intellectual rigor, reason, and evidence.

This is not the only instance in which the Bible attacks the intellect. Corinthians is full of such examples. “God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise” – 1 Corinthians 1:27 and “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:5. There are many more examples where those came from. Just pick up your Bible and read it for yourself.

Science, reason, and intellectualism support the concepts of continued questioning, education, and human curiosity. Through the scientific method, the rules of logic, and the thirst to understand, people of reason are continually pushing the boundaries of human knowledge and helping to make life better and longer for us all. Yet, example after example, the Bible and the Abrahamic religions stand against the intellect and continue to propagate ignorance, fear, and unreason. Between the Creation Museum and the absolute unquestioning certainty of a divine deity, religion remains one of the biggest oppositions to human progress and the greatest threat to intellectualism and humanity’s continued survival on this planet.

Religion often starts with the conclusion and then tries to find justifications for that conclusion. Science and intellectualism on the other hand start with curiosity and then form conclusions based on the evidence and even those conclusions can be re-evaluated if new evidence comes to light.




Of Elephants and Elitists

On Thursday, March 5 at the Independence Library, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Northeastern Ohio Chapter, hosted a presentation by John Fazio: “Can Secular Humanists and Theists join together to keep religion and matters of faith separate from the affairs of the state to facilitate peace, harmony, and tolerance? ”   This delightful and informative presentation was a variation on his talk: “The Elephant is still in the Living Room”.  Mr Fazio, who, unlike (speaking of elephants), Rush Limbaugh, has looks sufficent for television, a voice sufficent for the stage, and knowledge sufficent for his subject, began with listing the recent cannon of popular books on atheism: Dawkins, Harris et all, as well as some on cosmology – e.g. Hawking.

He addressed the ultimate metaphysical questions on the origins, fate, and size of our universe, and stated that in his opinion, modern science has no actual better answer to these questions than religion, and that we are arrogrant to think we do.  Covering very recent history (about 1000 years), he elucidated that organized religion has no monopoly on inhumanity, citing many specific examples, including the Soviet Union, and the Peoples Republic of China, which he describes as the twentieth century’s two great experiments in atheism.

On a common, self elevating theme of free-thinkers – that religion has been a cause of wars, he observed:  religion had often appeared to cause wars, but, beneath the covers,  the real reason(s) were always material.

In recorded history, religion’s influenced has waxed and waned, but always come back.  His conclusion, then, is that religion is here to stay, it is hard-wired into our brains, we should accept this, and sit at the table with our devout brethren.   ( “…I start from where the world is, as it is, not as I would like it to be.”  – Saul Alinsky, “Rules for Radicals”. ) From a public relations point of view, he observes that our elitism and arrogrance will convert few.

Well stated and entirely valid: when Christians give us an equal place at the table, I will be happy to join.  As missionaries for Truth, Light, Reason, and the Human Way, we should keep his message in mind.

That having been said, let us consider the following:

The religions we have in the world today cover only 2500 years – a mere grain in the sands of our species’ time on this planet – and it is only about 300 years since the Enlightenment: the beginning of the end of Supernaturalism.

While we may not have advanced metaphysics, our science has, in its quest for ultimate origins, produced a vast amount of valuable wisdom.  Can the same be said for our mythologies?

All observed phenomena can be classified as having either a supernatural or a natural cause: the former is one basis for religion; the latter one goal of science.  As we explain more by natural cause, we have less need for the supernatural, and perhaps for  religion as well.  Is religion a relic of our evolution?

That the influence of religion has risen and fallen throughout history could be a result of many effects, including: a return to the ground of a basic human need, as Mr. Fazio suggests, or an example of action and reaction in history, as Dr. Marx proposed.

That the acceptance of religion is more widespread than the acceptance of science (e.g. natural selection), is a fact that we must keep in mind.  Another is that the tendency toward atheism among scientists increases with their level – is it elitist to mention that?

Returning to the question: “Can Secular Humanists and Theists join together to keep religion and matters of faith separate from the affairs of the state to facilitate peace, harmony, and tolerance? ”  Yes, provided that:

Theists gain the empathy and humility to accept that they have no monopoly on solutions, and listen to secular humanists.

Secular humanists gain the empathy and humility to accept that they may have no monopoly on solutions, and listen to theists.

The vast majority aquire learning sufficent to look for answers in science, not Genesis.

N.B.: The title: “Of Elephants and Elitists” is, of course,  a play on “Of Pandas and People”.