Category Archives: Religion/Atheism

Imagine No Religion: A Reply

This is one of possibly more replies to the Explore God campaign in Austin, Texas. Specifically, an article written titled “Imagine No Religion” that I had some comments on.

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. The title says it all. Religion is not something author Christopher Hitchens finds merely unhelpful, unpleasant, or out of place within his own life. Rather, religion is “a poison . . . a menace to civilization . . . a threat to human survival.”1

Sam Harris agrees. His 2004 work, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, Harris likens religion to the medieval practice of alchemy. He suggests that all “faith-based religion must suffer the same slide into obsolescence.”2

These are not new arguments. A hundred years ago, Sigmund Freud described religion as “a universal obsessional neurosis.”3 He believed that humans created religion as a coping mechanism in light of their fears and unfulfilled desires.4 But science, he argued, has shown religious belief to be an illusion that must be rejected for human civilization to march forward.5

While I am not Harris nor Hitchens, I think what they might be trying to say is that we cannot move forward as a species if our ideas are not examined rationally. That is, if we simply accept on faith, our ideas may be unsound, and unsound ideas generally don’t benefit us. Note that I use generally. Religion can provide many people with comfort, social support and interaction, and a sense of purpose. However, it comes down to one basic question: Do we value truth or belief? The difference is one is rationally investigated and one is not. One has evidence to back it up and one does not. (Please note that while it seems I am saying “Non-belief is truth and religion is mere belief”, what I mean is “Regardless of what is true, non-belief or a religion, let’s look at evidence and come to conclusion, whatever that conclusion may be.” On a side note, if anyone has proof or evidence they want to share, I’m still researching and deciding what I think about things, so by all means share it with me.)

But is religion the chief cause in all these instances? How much do other motives—such as greed, politics, survival, duty, bloodlust, or even nationalism—play a more prominent role?6

My personal view on this is that religion is a sort of mask for both good and bad results; people are behind this mask. It’s the people that started the wars and made the great scientific discoveries, and it’s the people who killed others for not believing in the Spanish Inquisition and it’s the people who help out the homeless.

If this is the case, shouldn’t we also question their existence when they lead to harmful outcomes in society? Why aren’t Hitchens and Harris calling for an end to sports and video games?

I’m sorry, but sports and video games do not count as religion or religious beliefs. Yes, people can get worked up over them, but no one (or hardly no one) is worshiping a ball or their Xbox controller. Also, I’m quite sure that if these things were harmful, Hitchens and Harris would be against them, but they just are not.

That’s not to say the term “religion” is useless. But it means that ideologies often labeled as secular or simply not categorized as religious should receive no less scrutiny than religion. Put another way, perhaps we should be asking: Wouldn’t the world be better off without patriotism? Capitalism? Marxism? Liberalism? Any “ism,” really?

Nobody is saying that no secular “-ism” should be questioned. In fact, I agree with the writer on this one; we should always, always question what they think is true in order to see if it is true. If it’s not true, we must discard it. If it is true, we must keep it.

Here’s the Explore God post, for reference.

Anyway, what are your thoughts?


Euthyphro and His Unheard of Dilemna

Well, for my first post, I’ve decided to pose a question that I think should be much more common in the discussion about religion. It’s called “Euthyphro’s Dilemna”, and outside of my Philosophy class, I’ve only heard it brought up once, and it was mentioned in passing. Now perhaps I was in the wrong places to stumble upon it, and it is talked about commonly, but it can’t hurt to add to the discussion.

Neither answer to this guy’s dilemna is proof of existence or non-existance; instead, think of this question as more of a chance to figure out which viewpoint, assuming you are already a theist, you stand with.

The dilemna, taken from Socrates himself, is as follows:

“Consider this: Is the pious being loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is being loved by the gods?”

If you find yourself stratching your head as to what this old geezer from centuries ago is trying to say, you’re not the only one. It can be rephrased like this:

“Think about this: Does God love something because it is pious (that is, because it is righteous with or without God), or is something pious because it is loved by God (that is, it is righteous simply because it is loved by God; if God does not love it, it is not righteous)?” (Replace “God” with “gods/goddesses” according to your particular faith.)

If the former is true, it raises some questions as to the power of God, such as: Is He omnipotent and all-powerful if He cannot make something evil right? What if God commands something that is not right?

Yet the latter also poses problems: How does God determine what is right and wrong? Is it according to His whim and particular liking? Also, how does one figure out what God wants? There is so much diversity of opinion as to what He truly commands; what is the mechanism by which we can determine this?

At any rate, it’s an important question to answer theologically and philosophically, as it determines some of the nature of His power, your relationship to Him, as well as other things.

The Wikipedia link to Euthyphro’s Dilemna is below, for those interested in reading further.