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Eyes wide shut: A response to ‘Atheism no smarter than Christianity
25/03/2015 00:00:00
by David Hofisi
 
 
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THIS paper refutes claims made in the article “Atheism no smarter than Christianity” by Learnmore Zuze (hereinafter referred to as ‘the author’). Using logical arguments, research findings and facts; it shows that the article is demonstrably fallacious and highlights the dearth of knowledge concerning secularism and objective morality. For those who have not read the article by Learnmore Zuze, it is available here: http://www.newzimbabwe.com/columns-21370-Atheism+no+smarter+than+Christianity/columns.aspx

1) “WITHOUT a Supreme Being (God) to account to, and in the absence of an ultimate authority in the universe, it logically follows that human beings are their own masters and a law unto themselves. In fact, more graphically, it translates to this: the wicked massacres of defence-less citizens by the wicked regimes of this world; the wanton rape; the abuse of the innocent; the senseless genocides and the numerous injustices witnessed over the centuries will be perfectly in place as there is no answerability and, consequently, no judgment.”

This is a claim against objective morality, apropos, without a deity we would all be murderers and/rapists. However, religion is not a moral system or even a system based on justice. It is a system of authority. Whatever the god-figure decrees is correct, the moral repercussions notwithstanding. In no other sphere would an edict to stone a person to death or sacrifice one’s own child in a sanguinary ritual be tolerated.

Religion justifies macabre acts using arguments from authority. We do not get our morality from religion; religion gets its morality from us. Nobody needs the Ten Commandments to know that killing is wrong. We have an innate sense of what is wrong and what is right which predates any born again experience. We know better than to stone people for working on the Sabbath or committing adultery even though religious texts demand it.

The absence of a divine supervisor does not preclude human compassion and empathy. In fact, the entire human understanding of law, justice and accountability is grounded in secular thinking. Objective morality is based on human desire for the highest attainable states of good. We make our own laws, draw up our own constitutions and enforce our own edicts; the era of the superstitious being the regulator of human conduct is far behind us.



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However, as the author himself alludes to, the Old Testament of the Christian Bible is an orgy of macabre acts done because of and not in spite of religion. Religion does not prevent the morally repugnant. In fact, it often requires and justifies it; prompting talk-show host Bill Maher’s dicta that the period in which religious thinking formulated public morality is still rightly referred to as the ‘Dark Ages.’

2) “Atheism, by rejecting the existence of God, is nothing but a secreted way of propping up lawlessness, anarchy and transgression in the universe.”

The author acknowledges that atheism is the rejection of the notion that a god exists then goes on to counter that claim by stating that it is a way of propping up lawlessness and anarchy. Atheism is just the rejection of one notion: theism. It says nothing about whether one is a pacifist, anarchist, environmentalist or any other such taxonomy.

However, as a response to that mistaken yet commonly held view, reference must be made to those countries where secularism has taken root and atheists are the vast majority of the population. The Scandinavian countries, Japan and Iceland are notable examples of countries in which secularism has taken root and religious people are in the minority. These countries are not synonymous with lawlessness and transgression as the author would seem to imply. In fact, they consistently rank amongst the top performers on scores of life expectancy, adult literacy, per capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate, and infant mortality.

On the other hand, the bottom 50 countries on the Unites Nation’s Human Development Index are consistently and unwaveringly religious. This does not mean secularism leads to greater prosperity or even more sustainable development and this may well be correlation without causation. However, it does refute the outrageous claim that atheism is an appeal to lawlessness and transgression; a claim further compounded by data recently revealed by Google showing that the majority of countries in the top ten of porn-searching countries are religious states.

In fact, one needs to look no further than the Middle East for evidence of how countries with high religious fervour are often caught up in century old conflicts which are made that much more insoluble due to the fanaticism and certitude that comes with religious worship.

3) “I have also realized that atheists, eccentrically, suffer from an extremely developed smarter-than-thou-complex.”

This is an unfair generalisation; the classical case of ‘judging us by the worst of us.’ Suffice to state that arrogance is a human trait shared across religious/non-religious persuasions which says nothing of the truth of one’s claims. Humility is not a test for veracity – for that we must look to experimentation and the scientific method.

4) “Paradoxically, atheists have been the most fanatical hatred spreaders against those who believe in religion. In the 20th century, millions were slaughtered by communist regimes that embraced militant atheism as part of their creed.”

Regimes which outlaw religion but demand worship of the national leader, as Joseph Stalin did, are not secular or irreligious. They simply transfer the massive political capital of subservience and the servile from religion and impute it onto the State. This is to misunderstand secularism and communist history. Further, this does not establish a nexus between non-belief and extreme hate or slaughter. The nefarious acts done because of religion are done to achieve a religious end, often allegedly at the command of a deity. This is markedly different from a person who claims to be an atheist and happens to be a mass murderer; that is simply correlation without causation.

5) “Whether from a scientific or religious view, atheism is no smarter than religion.”

This is actually an area in which widespread research has been conducted, largely finding that there is negative correlation between religiosity and intelligence. More fundamentally though, atheism is the rejection of a notion due to lack of evidence. Religiousbelief based not on evidence, but on faith – how this can qualify to be ‘smart’ is something the author does not address.

6)“Atheism is anchored in the belief that no deities exist.”

This is another contradiction in terms. Atheism is not the positive claim that no deities exist. It is the rejection of theistic claims. Anyone with trouble understanding the distinction will be enlightened by the parlance of court process: finding a person “not guilty” is not the same as claiming that they are “innocent”; one is a direct negation whilst the other is a positive claim. Atheism is not based on the claim that theistic gods do not exit, but is a rejection of the assertion that they exist. This says nothing about deism or deities per se. Theism is based on intervening god(s), deism is based on god(s) that do not intervene in our lives, pantheism refers to the laws of nature as a god and atheism is the rejection of theistic claims; distinctions not apparent from a reading of the article referred to.

7) “The ill-advised part of atheism is that it ridiculously demands proof of the existence of God by intending him to prove himself in a way they (fallible humans) have codified.”

This appears to be a tacit, though inadvertent, concession that there is very little evidence for the existence of god (at least, as the author put it, in the way fallible humans have codified). Proof is what we use to distinguish between fact and fiction and use to model our view of reality. Claims about the existence of god are hardly trite, and as the great Professor Marcello Truzzi put it, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Finding fault with demands for proof suggest absence of or in the very least, very poor proof, which points in the direction of unfounded claims.

8) “Science, in recent years, continues to make a case for God…The system we call the universe, itself; its structure and how it operates, from a purely scientific point of view incontrovertibly proves the existence of One who designed it. The evidence is simply overwhelming.”

There is no religious explanation/hypothesis which has overtaken the scientific in terms of plausibility. There is no single paper making a scientific case for god that has ever been published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal. There is no scientific proof for the existence of god, for there would be no use for faith. There are luminaries in astrophysics and cosmology who are irreligious (Stephen Hawking, Lawrence Krauss, Neil deGrasse Tyson) and those who are religious do not make the mistake made in the article of claiming that science makes a case for god.

From the recent discovery of the Higgs Boson to decoding the human genome and discovery of dark matter and dark energy, man has made great strides without the need for the supernatural/superstitious. The immortal words of French scientist Pierre-Simon de Laplace to Napoleon Bonaparte are apposite. After showing Napoleon a working model of the solar system as seen, for the first time, from the outside, the emperor asked Laplace why the figure of god did not appear in Laplace's mind-expanding calculations. His response was: "Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothese.” “I did not need this hypothesis.” And neither do we.

9) “Surely, it can only be the fool who has said there is no God.”

It is certainly ironic that the author, after accusing atheists of spreading hatred and intolerance, ends by effectively calling everyone who does not agree with him a fool. No doubt there is biblical support for his claim, which reinforces the argument regarding religious intolerance and self-righteousness.

The author of this article is reachable on 0773856538


 
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