Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Will science be the death of religion?

A friend commented to me one day, "It's almost as if they (Christians) live in a parallel reality where things like the Enlightenment never existed. But even as they circle their wagons against the perils of liberalism and genuine science, they don't realize that they are a dying breed and that resistance is futile." That of course changes nothing for the conservative Christian who is believing typical preaching about the end times though. They have an answer of faith for everything, including this. The funny thing is when Christiandom says that even their dying out is all part of the plan! "It is lamentably true that many are turning their backs on Christianity. But the truth, as revealed in the Bible. . . will never be defeated. If we have eyes to see, we can see signs of Christ’s present and coming kingdom everywhere."( (Translation for the non religious: "we are about to see our enemies wiped out, and our beliefs validated, as "every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. . .")

  In this day and age we now try to use science to support our thoughts and beliefs, (usually coming in the way of scientific studies, stats, and logic) or we classify them as "opinions", "fables", or at best "theories". In science we can disprove more easily than we can prove, but with certainty we can also see truths in the laws of nature and mathematics.

  Religion, on the other hand, can only tell of experience and circumstantial evidence (like personal empowerment or near death experiences) to support their belief in their book or their god who is worshiped in it. These may seem like very real experiences though and all the support that is needed for the individual to believe in whatever supernatural being they were expecting to see or feel or hear. Unfortunately they are in fact no more real then science tells us placebos and near death experiences are, though they are something real in a sense, they are also common to all humanity. . . and known by science to be just how the brain works. In other words, "it's all in the head" and religion is a delusion.

 There is actually a book out called "The God Delusion". Wikipedia calls it a "2006 bestselling non-fiction book by Richard Dawkins. In The God Delusion, Dawkins contends that a supernatural Creator almost certainly does not exist and that belief in a personal god qualifies as a delusion which he defines as a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence. He is sympathetic to Robert Pirsig's statement that 'when one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion'."

  Trusting in anything because of mere feelings and experience is against scientific reasoning. Voltaire said it this way, "The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reason."

  While on the surface it may seem like Christians are both smart and reasonable in a lot of ways (and they are), sadly, when it comes to their religion, they are not able to reason or question the foundation of their beliefs without immediately losing their status and respect as a "faithful Christian."  Because "without faith it is impossible to please God."  Also, faith is what you need for salvation, so without it you may be accused of not being saved, now, or even in the past, and/or not being then capable of having the Holy Spirit's leading. Because the Holy Spirit is suppose to be the only one that can lead you into all truth, you are then suddenly said to be "deceived by Satan" into doubting God or the Bible. Then when you really become a heretic you are the "fool" who has said in his heart "there is no God." So as you can see, questioning is both not allowed, condemned, and harshly punished. . .but in a round about way so no one suspects. Some do go so far as to physically shun, but all seek to humiliate and discredit anyone who would dare be a freethinker and doubt.

  That has always been the bondage of religion. Those who are in it though never see it as bondage, they think they are free. . . all the while being told what to think, who to talk to, what to read, and who to listen to, lest they stray or be deceived by the "world." (If you're still reading this though, you might be a bit of a free thinker. . . at least secretly.) Not only do religious people not see this bondage, but they believe it's a safety net for their soul, and are scared what would happen if they let their guard down for a minute. Voltaire has a few good thoughts on that too. "It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere."

I am not a pessimist though, and there is great hope for the future, because the delusion is dying out. Europe is leading the way. "In Prague, the lovely and lively capital of the Czech Republic only 19 percent of the people in this once-religious country still believe that God exists. Many surveys in Europe show that there is a sharp drop-off in church attendance and religious practice. In five key countries (France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy) regular church attendance since 1970 dropped from about 40 percent to about half that. When the new constitution for the 25-nation European Union was debated, the drafters rejected all proposals to include a reference to the Christian faith, on the ground that 'such mention would be exclusionary and offensive to non-Christians.'
Subsequently, Italy’s nominee for justice minister of the EU, Rocco Buttiglione, was rejected because of his Christian faith. Every major religion except Islam (probably because of their culture staying to itself, and Islamic people flooding there for religious freedom as Christians did here when they were treated badly elsewhere. . .) is declining in Western Europe. This study finds that this decline is most evident in France, Sweden and the Netherlands, where church attendance has dropped to less than ten percent in some regions. The Pope said: “There is no longer evidence for a need of God, even less of Christ. The so-called traditional churches look like they are dying.”

New evidence hints that Christianity is quickly losing its grip on America as well, and it may become a minority religion within a single generation.  According to the book "Is Christianity dying? Ninety-nine Reflections in religion, science and morality", it is dying.   "Are all religions losing adherents? On the surface, you might think everything is fine for Christian churches in America. Christianity though is losing ground, but the trend is slow, right? Just a percent here and there. . . But it turns out there is some very bad news, (for the Christians) hiding in those numbers..."

 A new report from the Pew Research Center shows that among "millenials" – those born after 1980 who became adults after 2000 – twenty five percent, one quarter of them, are not affiliated with any religion. That's double the number of non-religious compared to the older generation! Sometimes statistics can hide what's really going on. Surveys that report on the overall trend of the religious in America are burying the true trend by averaging young and old. But when you break it down by age group, it's obvious that Christianity, and religion in general, is going the way of old wives tales, myths and superstitions.

Some see this as an obvious trend, while others break it down by 1st world or 3rd world differences, or co-hearst non belief in communist countries that are gaining their freedom then turning in bitterness or rebellion to a God.  Even that the religious folks have more children and the non religious have fewer, and are more concerned about overpopulating makes a difference that some bring up. Here is one guys views of all those differences.

That guy is apparently a Christian himself as he bemoans the fall of Christianity in first world nations saying:
"I have checked the eleven First World industrial democracies with populations greater than a million and Christianity is a declining portion of the population in all but South Korea and Japan. Conversions away from the faith are the reason for the First World decline in Christianity. The Atheist and non-religious populations are growing, often fairly rapidly, in spite of the generally lower birth rates for these groups. I was disappointed to see that the trend in Western European nations is away from faith. I had assumed that a lot of the strength of atheism in Western Europe was related to communism and would fade with the fall of communism. It is disappointing to see that atheism and other forms of non-belief have expanded after the fall of communism in the Soviet Block.
Atheism and other forms of non-belief have been expanding in the United States (as well).  With Communism gone, atheism is not as tainted as it was (once) in this anti-communist country.
As a progressively larger portion of the world becomes affluent, Christianity will have to face the challege of thriving in a First World environment." (There is more info about Third World nations becoming First World nations where you can read about this in more detail.) 
So Christianity is (as we also see in this country) very popular with mainly the very ignorant and poor populations of the 3rd world countries. I see this as just an obvious outcome of our affluent 1st world  missionaries going over to proselytize the third world because they see them as miserable heathens without God. . .and next thing you know, the missionaries become an idol of brilliance and wisdom to these ignorant and desperate people. (I.E. my own beloved Grandparents who were in Liberia west Africa for 35 years as Missionaries) So anything these Missionaries say then becomes absolute truth to these people, and they are sometimes led astray because of their sheep-like worship of money, industrialized nations, as well as these Missionaries who are clean, kind and knowledgeable of healthcare. (Not to say there isn't a lot of good to learn from a person from a 1st world country like ours, but the poor and desperate often don't consider that they also have their biases too and just follow them blindly.)

Is it possible that with the Christianizing, and clothing of these poor countries, as well as giving them all our old religious cast off books, we've done more harm then good? It has started families fighting, tribal warfare and going away from some very good, traditional and eco friendly practices. . .but it's also brought in some cleanliness and some education. . .

Christianity is getting a lot of bad press lately, but the Christians would call it "persecution" when they see it overseas, or deny any connection with these people who claim Christianity, but give it a bad name in this country. The abuse of Christians, though definitely around worldwide, is mainly well deserved, and the bad press largely self inflicted. As a Christian, I use to believe that was true of the extremist Islams, and their fight for their intolerant views of a one god, and all the issues their inspired book causes. . .but I couldn't see how my religion was doing the same thing! The headlines are filled with stories of pedophile priests, homophobia, violence against abortion clinics, hate crimes, Koran burning and sex scandals of the professing Christians, but if we look at statistics of the Christians in jail, we can see an even bigger picture. . .Of all the people in jail, Atheists account for 0.209% of them. While the latest stat for their percentage in the populous is 14.1% as seen here. If that present history doesn't say enough of the Christians contributions to society, history has and is being uncovered now that the worst crimes of the past were almost exclusively religiously motivated!

Presuming you are a Christian who is sure they aren't delusional, feel free to doubt, and is not phased by the masses dropping away from all religions. . .including Christianity, there should still be a few questions in your mind: Why is the Christian faith losing its grip on America? Why are specifically more and more young adults abandoning the "faith of their fathers" ... permanently? Why have evangelical Christians taken such a dramatic right turn that mainstream Christians are embarrassed and alienated from their own fellow Christians? Yet why do the mainstream Christians show no difference in lifestyle than any other moderate religion, making the "true Christians" want to disown them as fakes? Why is the separation of church and state more important now than it's ever been in American history?

I will attempt to answer those here.
In 1898, Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), a professor and co-founder of Cornell University, wrote a rather notorious book called "A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in Christendom." He tracked many religiously-based conflicts, and showed that they often take decades or even centuries to resolve. His book documents a pattern in these conflicts: they often go through eight stages before being finally resolved:
  1. Some individual or group will propose a new belief system that is in conflict with established religious beliefs. The official religious institutions generally ignore this.
  2. A growing number of people will start to disagree with church teaching.
  3. Churches issue statements which condemn the proposal, citing Biblical passages as justification for their stance.
  4. Support for the proposal continues to grow among the public.
  5. Churches issue a statement pointing out that belief in the proposal negates the entire Christian message, or attacks a fundamental Christian principle.
  6. Public support continues to grow.
  7. Churches begin to ignore the proposal, and sometimes ignore the Biblical passages that it once quoted in opposition to the new idea.
  8. Many decades or centuries later, churches may incorporate the proposal into their beliefs.
Since the advent of the modern/fundamental divide in Christianity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, religious liberals have tended to readily accept scientific findings and incorporate them into their theology and morality.

Thus White's eight step process now mainly applies to religious conservatives.

  Of course, there are many scientific theories that never pass through these steps either. The theories are introduced, gain some acceptance, and collapse due to lack of evidence, typically within two decades. Quasi-scientific theories do not endure. . .and it looks as if religion is one of them.

  Christian's claim of course that there is good science behind the Bible, and their beliefs. Sadly, that seems to be a claim based on nothing but presuppositions of their source's authority. Science on the other hand says otherwise.

 The following can be found on the American Scientific Affiliation's website.  I will share some of what I found there concerning the many areas where science and religion make conflicting claims:

bulletCosmology, geology, astronomy, etc. Many believers within the conservative wing of Christianity claim that the earth is less than 10,000 years of age. They interpret the creation and universal flood stories in the Biblical book of Genesis as being literally true. 95% of scientists reject a literal interpretation of the book of Genesis. They believe that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, that no world-wide flood has happened, that humanity and other species evolved from a common ancestor, etc. 
bulletLinguistics: Most conservative Christians claims that the Tower of Babel story in the Biblical book of Genesis describes a past event in the Middle East in which humanity abandoned a single language. They then separated into many different cultures, with various languages. Scientists generally disagree that languages developed in this manner.
bulletMedicine: There are many conflicts in health related topics:

bulletSome faith groups promote healing using just prayer and spiritual techniques that they believe are superior to modern ones. Physicians tend to disagree in the effectiveness of prayer. It is no better then a placebo effect that works equally well (or poorly) for every culture and religion.
bulletSome faith groups teach that human personhood begins at the instant of conception. Upon this belief they base their assertion that abortion is the killing of a human being -- a practice than they feel should be stopped. Others teach that life becomes human life much later in pregnancy and that abortion is sometimes the least immoral choice in certain circumstances.
bulletSome faith groups believe that only God gives life and only God should take it away. They oppose physician assisted suicide. Others believe that when a terminally ill person is in pain and wishes to die that physicians should be allowed to assist them in dying.
bulletReligious practices:
bulletA common Pentecostal practice is "Speaking in tongues" where one believer will speak in what appears to be gibberish to the casual observer, while another believer interprets the meaning of the speech for the congregation (assuming they are practicing it biblically).  Pentecostals and investigators have reached different conclusions over the significants of speaking in tongues.
bulletMost theists believe that they can assess the will of God. There is a pilot study which appears to indicate that determining God's will is not possible, and will only lead you to your own inner feelings on the subject.
bulletReligious events: Various faith groups make certain claims about historical events.
bulletOne example is the belief by the Mormons, that there were three mass migrations from Palestine to North America circa 600 B.C.E.. This belief has been rejected by essentially all non-Mormon archaeologists.
bulletAnother is the Shroud of Turin which many believers regard to be the burial cloth 
          of Jesus. Many scientists disagree, having dated its material to the middle ages.
        Also even Christian Archaeologists will say "The fact is that not one shred of    direct archaeological evidence has been found for Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob or the 400-plus years the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt. The same is true for their miraculous exodus from slavery." (Which should be quite obvious in archaeology because of the sheer numbers and details of the story.)
bulletHuman sexuality: Many conservative Christian groups teach that homosexual behavior is unnatural,  a choice, not genetically determined, and can be changed through prayer and counseling. Researchers into human sexuality generally believe that homosexual orientation is normal for a small percentage of the human race, natural, not chosen, at least partly determined by one's genes, and cannot be changed through prayer and counseling.
Generally speaking, in these areas of overlap:

bulletWhen religious claims are evaluated using scientific methods, they are found to be false.
bulletWhen scientific claims are evaluated using faith on the Bible as authoritative, they are found to be false. 

  The result is stagnation. Neither side can easily convince the other of their truth. (ital. mine)  Sometimes, the conflict continues over centuries before being resolved. Some conflicts may be permanently irresolvable. 

  Thus the reason many a war has started. . . "Of all religions, the Christian should of course inspire the most tolerance, but until now Christians have been the most intolerant of all men."

If we ever expect to have world peace, it will not be by starting a war with all the people who oppose religion (as the Christians are all gleefully looking forward to winning that battle with God in the endtimes). Peace will come instead by educating the religious that they have been fooled into believing fables are facts.  Quoting from one of my readers, "I think it's better to have a peace which comes from understanding, than a peace which surpasses understanding." We first need to have an inner peace, before we can bring that into our actions. Considering that Fundamental Christianity does nothing but stir up hate and pity for themselves, I don't think that shows the peace that they claim to have. We need to stand in the gap and be peacemakers between them and all the groups they preach about being Hell bound sinners.

How can we change, and not go against our conscious?

Will we follow our own wisdom, and what we see? Follow what our small circle of friends sees? Follow what our church teaches? Follow what the media tells me? Follow what the Bible says? (And if so, what does the Bible say? Last time I checked, the Bible says the "Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth", and "you have no need of a teacher". . .while you can also find verses of subjugation to all leadership.) 

What if we just simplified things and "every man did that which was right in his own eyes", would that be bad, or good?

  I believe the stats of countries that are "godless" with just the golden rule and selfishness guiding them have answered that for us. Those countries with the least religion have the highest quality of life, the most education, and the least crime. We can see the crime rate proved out here too, as the Atheists are a rarity in the jails, as mentioned up above. Look at a cool video on YouTube called "God prefers Atheists" for those stats and more.

  So, another question: how do we adapt to change in our life? Do we humbly and wisely keep our mind open to new info, or do we try to stick our head in the sand and proudly claim we have the unchanging truth? One mindset is scientific, one is religious. put it this way:

Science and religion have different methods of adapting to change:

  • Science (that is not controlled by greed of those in power or by those in religion) generally welcomes change. Many false hypothesis are proposed and later rejected or modified as new data becomes available. This is the method by which science continually advances. It is ultimately self-correcting. All scientific beliefs are subject to being falsified if new evidence is uncovered.

  • Religious beliefs, particularly those based on a sacred text, change much more slowly. In fact, many faith groups stress the unchangeable nature of their beliefs. There are three main methods by which religions modify their teachings. In Christianity, for example: 

Some Biblical passages that were once considered to be literally true are now interpreted symbolically. Heaven is no longer considered to be somewhere "up there."  Hell is no longer believed to exist inside the earth. Over the past century, Bible passages that describe torture methods inflicted on Hell's inhabitants (worms, pain, flogging, heat, thirst, darkness, unbearable heat and flames) have been downplayed and often treated as symbolic. Hell is now viewed as being isolated from God.
    2.Some Biblical passages are ignored. We no longer execute prostitutes. Sections of the Bible that condone and regulate slavery are rarely if ever quoted. The Bible contains dozens of passages that are profoundly immoral by today's secular and religious standards of behavior. These verses are largely ignored today.
   3.Still other passages are interpreted as perhaps being valid for the culture and age for which they were written, but not binding in a different society or era. Male control over women, treating wives as property, restrictions on female ordination, prohibiting women from certain professions, etc. have being largely rejected as sexist, at least by mainline and liberal Protestants.

  Those who are slow to change attempt to keep us in the past and all it's many problems. They are dissatisfied with the present and not living in thankfulness, but bitterness, inadvertently hurting themselves and others. When bitterness turns to anger we see judgments of natural disasters being from God, while fellow religious extremists (but of another religion) are "terrorists". . . yet our hate and bigotry goes unseen by us and unpunished by others. More and more, as science gains ground in our culture, actions of bigotry and hate are not tolerated thankfully.

  If we cannot change like science does, with the growing knowledge of this age, and instead choose to religiously stick with the knowledge from the past, we are liable to go back to the views of that time as well. Do we really want to go back to the slavery, wars, witch hunts, hangings, burning at the stake for a woman who wore pants, rampant murder and rape of virgins, sexism, racism, and so many more problems of the past? The teachings in the Bible have been used to justify all of these atrocities.

  If a pastor still has the persuasive powers to make a person believe the Bible is God's word, in this enlightened era, then watch out for what else he can persuade you to do:  giving your money to him is of course presumed (tithes and offerings--remember "God loveth a cheerful giver" :) , but besides that he is likely to make you go against your conscious and not follow the golden rule.  As Voltaire said,

"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."

Peace to all.

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