Will the True Nonbelievers Please Shut Up?

| May-June 2010

Science versus religion: The ancient battle has escalated into an all-out intellectual brawl, fueled by a seemingly interminable debate over evolution. But what if all the arguing, name calling, lobbying, op-ed writing, and book publishing is a distraction? What if that distraction is harmful to society?

The “new atheism” movement, led by biologist Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), neuroscientist Sam Harris (The End of Faith), and philosopher Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell), has helped whip the debate into a fever pitch. The movement attacks in-your-face theism with in-your-face atheism. Exhibit A: UK buses plastered with ads stating “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Everyone needs to remember, however, that “not all of the religious have a problem with science,” Chris Mooney, author of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, tells Free Inquiry (Feb.-March 2010). An atheist (and one-time atheist activist), Mooney finds fault in pitting science against religion. While he advocates for defending science education, in order to do so “it is critical that we mobilize the pro-science moderates,” he tells the secular humanist publication.  “The new atheism, as a strategy, flies in the face of this, since it is often about attacking and alienating the religious moderates.”

More than any other field, science plays a starring role in many of the most important policy debates and decisions of our time. “Broadly speaking, scientific illiteracy is the cause of 20 years of gridlock on the global-warming issue,” Mooney says. His recommended course of action: Give up the grudge match and allow scientific literacy to become a shared social priority.

5/26/2010 9:58:09 AM

I find this quote poignant because it came from a contempary source, "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful." ~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca "the Younger," Roman stoic philosopher, writer, and politician (4-65) Conscious or subconscious I think there is a wide range of definitions regarding a topic such as this. God is not defined by everyone the same way or called God for that matter. We cannot deny there is a "force" (too much Star Wars) that has effect on our planet and it's inhabitants. I never argue the exsistance of that force or the unknown effects is has on me. I also can't help but sense an undercurrent of narcissim in folks who "know " the maker of that force, particularly when it looks and acts like them. I beleive there is WAY too much out there to think we are that special. Some folks don't. We will see. Unfortunately, there is only one way to find out. I'm having too much fun at the moment so that will have to wait. "If you don't set goals you can't regret not reaching them." Yogi Berra

David Kimball
5/26/2010 6:48:50 AM

On a scale of 1 - 5 for how people are in love with the level of their conviction, there are probably at least 5 levels. And you're right in that a moderate Humanist is never going to convince a level 5 theocrat. (I prefer the term Humanist because that says what I believe and what my values are but "atheist" says neither. I, as a Humanist, believe that I have the ability and the responsibility to do all that I can to develop all that it means to be human both in myself and in others.) Perhaps I might cause some Level 3's to question some things - but not 5's. So maybe we need some vocal Level 5's that can return the spit and the spittle coming from the Theocrats. I don't have a problem. Just like I don't even bother listening to the right wing-nuts, I would expect that Level 1, 2 and 3's not even bother listening. And the Level 1, 2 and 3's of the supernatural religionists shouldn't bother to listen to the Level 5's in-your-face atheists. So what's your problem? Why are you asking the Level 5 atheists to shut up but not the level 5 religionists? It sounds to me like you have a bug up one of your orifices.

Andrew Hughes
5/25/2010 8:51:46 PM

Oh and I suppose I should just talk nice over a cup of tea and hold hands. Is that it? Give me a break! This just a pathetic attempt to shut the atheists up period. A smokescreen to deflect criticism of religion. Deists cannot handle the challenge of having their belief system questioned and now smugly and hypocritically seek to define the parameters of the debate. It's not going to happen. Live with it and loose the fatuous handwringing. Deists have had a long run and a virtual monopoly on the subject for millenia by imposing there will through the use of propaganda, law and violence. This is such BS!