I‘m so freaking tired of all the commentaries about ‘militant atheism’ I could puke.No matter how many times we lay out the arguments, some clown is always going to pop up, holier than thou, and claim the “middle high ground.” Nothing can be known, they say, and those who think the world can be explained by science are just as fundamentalist and wrong as the religious.
Now comes Don Rogers at the Vail Trail doing just that. His precise claim is that secularists are “more hard-headed than religious fundamentalists.” The guy looks a little too much like Chuck Norris to be calling other people hard-headed. But I’m more concerned with the wrongness behind his eyes than his appearance–which is of course a poor way to judge anyone.
Rogers’ words betray the intransigence of what I would call the militant agnostic. And he quotes the very same commentary by Tom Krattenmaker that I destroyed last week. (previous post) For such an indecisive and bull-headed agnostic, there is fierce pride in a kind of closed-minded skepticism that avoids coming to conclusions even when logic demands it. Rogers sees virtue in appearing to remain non-committal, and can’t stand that some among humanity may actually have thought things through and have some of the answers (not all).
I believe our religions — all of them — are too puny to explain the beyond. And our science is at the beginning of understanding even what can be sensed about existence, never mind what defies science. Science, after all, is a tool and not an end in itself. It’s ultimately too puny, too.
As I and many others have tried to explain, (previous post) science has never claimed to have all the answers. It is indeed a tool, and part of its gift is knowing its own limits. The same cannot be said for religion. This is the clearest and simplest of distinctions, and one of the most important we can ever make.
Books like “God is Not Great: How Religion Ruins Everything” aside, church faith is no more to blame for all the world’s ills than atheism as practiced by the world’s great mass killers, such as Hitler, Pol Pot or Stalin. It’s just not that simple.
Since Hitchens provides a scathing rebuttal to this silly (and repetitive) tu quoque argument in Chapter 17 “The Case Against Secularism,” and since Rogers got the title wrong (It’s actually “How Religion Poisons Everything”) I’d wager a month’s salary that Rogers never read it.
I’d argue that religious faith has brought humanity more peace, beauty and honor than otherwise, even with all the sins committed on behalf of a church. And yes, there have been plenty.
And Don, you would be engaging in hand-waving. This premise is something else Hitchens rebuts exhaustively. So dude, you never read the book. Shut up.
Science could well still lead to our extinction if we are not careful, despite all the blessings we enjoy through its discoveries. It’s no panacea; that’s proven.
Please show me this ‘proof.’ Everything we do on a daily basis is made possible by science. Everything. Including living past age 37 (average life expectancy 150 years ago).
Secularists have no moral high ground here at all.
Morality is not the domain of science. Evolutionary psychology can roughly describe why people do what they do and how it came to be that way. But it can’t say what they should do. This is a form of the is-ought problem. Science is often falsely framed by the religious as the kind of vacuous yet totalistic overlord they’ve been used to worshiping. But to the point: If science leads to human extinction, it will be because of unbridled human appetites–and craven and spineless politicians who are afraid to tell their constituents the truth about the resource limitations of life on earth. As a result, short-term greed and the power of technology could indeed combine (with fanatic religion) to provoke a final confrontation. But is that potential to be laid at the feet of science–or poor leadership?
So what does Rogers believe?
I believe in the human qualities that compel us to question and to test and to revise our conclusions based on what we’ve learned. I also believe in the human condition that inspires us to higher purpose.
Fair enough on revising our conclusions. But could our highest purpose not be realized within ourselves? Could it not be to promote the reduction of suffering right here on earth, instead of through some conveniently nebulous “higher purpose,” or in some out-of-reach heaven?
The basic paradox of existence should make us all very humble about our beliefs — and more respectful of others.
How did nothing at all become all of this? Or if you prefer the question asked this way: Who is God’s creator?
I love how militant agnostics throw down the unknowable like some kind of gauntlet. While at the same time throwing in the presuppositional question about “God’s creator.”
I’m crying foul. We’ve got to leave the origin of the universe in the realm of the unknown. We have no choice–it will never be known! To translate Rogers’ question into actual English, he’s asking, then answering his own question: “How did the universe begin? Ahh, I really can’t imagine how, so I’m going to imagine a being called ‘god’ and assume that he did it.” If we examine his question, it’s not agnostic at all. He comes to a conclusion. He is at the very least a deist. In fact, my concept of the “circle of knowledge” makes me far more of a true agnostic than Rogers (in his current state of mind) could ever hope to be.
We’ve got a long way to go along both paths, I suspect. Somewhere out there, millennia away, they may even meet. That is, if we survive the scientists and the priests.
Spoken like a true militant agnostic.