Night Owl Mk. II

Return to "Religion" essay

Back to Philosophy page

Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!

Please report any problems with this page to the Webmaster!


Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the first of a four-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

Proselytizers differ from other believers in that they are the ones who are active in trying to recruit or convert others to their religion.
(R) But you can't make a blanket statement attributing this type of behavior to all proselytizers. I am a religious proselytizer and I do not claim to know God's plan, his attitude towards mankind, or his judgments. This failure of a single test makes your statement invalid.
(MB) I can make such a statement because I know what the word "proselytizer" means. All proselytizers are believers, but not all believers are proselytizers. The determining factor is whether or not an individual attempt to convert others to his religion.

What sets religious fanatics apart from any others is that adherence to their beliefs requires a total commitment of one's life and actions. There is no room for doubt or for questioning of the core beliefs.
(R) Similar statements can be made of other fanatics ranging from committed Marxists to physical fitness enthusiasts. I repeat my statement that religious fanatics have no monopoly on narrow-mindedness.
(MB) If you must, but that still doesn't make all forms of narrow-mindedness equal. Only religious fanatics make such total commitments of mind and body. When's the last time you heard about a bodybuilder car-bombing a rival gym?

A hydrogen atom is no more difficult to understand in a complex universe than it is in a simple universe.
(R) This is undeniably true, but it does not address the point I am trying to make--that it is impossible for me to perfectly understand anything in the universe. Your original statement in your essay on religion was that mankind's understanding of God is inaccurate, which I agreed with, with the reservation that it is impossible for mankind to understand anything perfectly. Your presentation of Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (which I've never heard of, but if it says what you say it does, I agree with it whole-heartedly) makes this point much more succinctly.
(MB) Your original point was that we cannot hope to understand the universe (or anything in it) because it is so vast. My point is that we can certainly understand bits and pieces of it. Once we understand enough of those bits and pieces, we have enough reliable information to be able to make excellent predictions about the rest of it. This is where our state of knowledge is today. Because of Heisenberg indeterminacy, all knowledge is statistical. But, when we state that we are more than 99.9% sure of something, it will take some pretty damning evidence before any idea which falls into the remaining miniscule percentage can be acceptable. That miniscule percentage is where supernatural explanations of the universe reside.

How exact would you like it? A hydrogen atom consists of...[long explanation deleted]. What's lacking in our understanding?
(R) To answer your first question, totally exact. I want to know exactly how it looks, what color it is, and how it behaves in every set of circumstances.
(MB) "Color" has no meaning here since the particles are smaller than any wavelength of visible light. All atoms consist of a central nucleus around which orbit the electrons at distances that mean that most of an atom is empty space. As to the last request, I'll need you to define what you mean by a "circumstance" and give me a sample or three that you would like to know about.

(R) Furthermore, although I know the proton and electron are made of subatomic particles, I want to know what the subatomic particles are made of. I thinks this answers your second question.
(MB) We are not lacking in understanding here, either. Electrons are fundamental particles. Protons and neutrons are each made of three quarks. According to the leading theory on the subject (superstring theory), all fundamental particles are made of small strings of very highly curved space (which is 10-dimensional in nature) and are manifested by varying vibrational properties of those strings. The mathematical basis for this theory is solid. The observational evidence was to have been provided by the Superconducting Supercollider. This massive particle accelerator was to have been built near Waco, TX, but Congress, in its infinite lack of wisdom, canceled funding for the project.

Yet, I think you have drawn a line between religion beliefs and scientific knowledge that you may not allow yourself to cross. If you can say that nobody will ever change your mind about your beliefs, then the line has been drawn.
(R) The only statement I've made in this regard is that my belief in God's existence cannot be shaken, because I know no one can prove that He doesn't exist. Virtually every other belief I hold is subject to logical, rational analysis and change.
(MB) However, if you want to have any hope of your belief in God being just as valid as any other belief, then it must be subject to the same standards of logic, analysis, and change as any other belief.

What do you do when science conflicts with religion? Is science automatically rejected or ignored in favor of preserving the religious belief?
(R) This can never happen, because as I've said, there is no conflict between true science and true religion.
(MB) "True" science, in the eyes (and books) of the Creationists, means that which is in agreement with religion. In fact, they go so far as to sign an oath which states, in part, that in all cases where science and religion disagree, that religion is automatically considered to be correct.

(R) Let me tell you why: If you believe in God (I state this rhetorically) and that He created the universe, you must realize that science is not against God, or in spite of God, but because of God. If God created the universe and every thing in it, it logically follows that science comes from God, because it is a part of the universe. The natural physical laws work because of God, not in spite of Him.
(MB) That reasoning is sound -- if and only if one accepts the basic premise that God created the universe. If one doesn't...well, then some evidence in support of the basic premise will be required.

(R) God is the Great Scientist-- the Master Physicist, the Ultimate Chemist, and the Supreme Biologist--who designed our universe and set it in motion. Let me emphasize that the above statements in no way prove the existence of God, because nothing can.
(MB) Still, there must be *something* concrete upon which such a belief is based -- something that can be observed, tested, analyzed and demonstrated. If not...well, it's no more believable than any other good, but still fictional, story and one could just as well believe in the Great Green Arkleseizure.

(R) It is presented merely dispute to the idea that science and religion are somehow in irreconcilable opposition to one another.
(MB) They're only irreconcilable to those who refuse to submit all ideas to the same standards of proof.

Anybody who has ever said "God said it, I believe it, that settles it". Anybody whose defense of his morality rests entirely within the pages of the Bible. Anybody who gives the slightest credibility whatsoever to Creationism.
(R) I agree with these remarks, but your not answering my question. I didn't ask you to describe the religious adherents you despise, I asked you how many religious adherents you meet hold these beliefs, every one or just some?
(MB) I did answer your question. Just add up the number of people who have the views I listed.

(R) Let me throw a fact at you: 84% of American adults indicate they are Christians, broken down as follows: 18% with conservative beliefs, 47% with moderate, and 19% with liberal. (These figures are drawn from the Ontario Center for Religious Tolerance, fascinating web site which I recommend highly.) Only conservative Christians with fundamentalist beliefs would be likely to express the views you attribute to all Christians; it is apparent your narrow portrayal of all religious persons as wild-eyed, Bible-thumping fanatics is far from reality.
(MB) You've completely missed my point again. First, I acknowledge that many, if not most, Christians are not fanatics. However, they are also not the ones that cause the problems. They are also the ones who have no problems with science. They don't proselytize or get indignant over skepticism. They don't lobby school boards to replace biology, physics, math, chemistry and other science curricula with Biblical creation myths. They have their beliefs because it makes them feel better, not because of any claim of providing all of the answers. It's the others (the fanatics, if you prefer) with whom I take issue. It's not just the religious fanatics, either, it's anybody who passionately defends or promotes nonsense in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
    BTW, isn't "Religious Tolerance" a bit of an oxymoron like "Military Intelligence"?

Anybody who thinks that any problem can be solved solely through prayer. For that matter, anybody who thinks that prayer, in and of itself, can do or change *anything*.
(R) If you are saying prayer accomplishes nothing, I do disagree with this remark, but that is another issue.
(MB) How do you know that prayer acomplishes anything? Is there a test which could conclusively prove that prayer caused something to happen that would otherwise not have happened?

Is that too harsh? I don't think so since those things help perpetuate superstition and ignorance -- two of the foremost enemies of reality and knowledge.
(R) No, it probably is not too harsh. But doesn't apply to all , or even the majority, of Christians and as only about 1/3 of the world's population is Christians, it certainly doesn't apply to all religious persons.
(MB) That, in itself, should say a multitude of things about how believable the God idea is. After several thousand years of trying, the idea still hasn't strongly motivated more than a very minor percentage of the population and hasn't produced a single piece of real evidence in support.

I don't believe in God because such belief has absolutely nothing compelling to support it and because I can find nothing in the Universe that could not be as it is through the actions of understandable natural law and would, therefore, have to have brought about via supernatural means.
(R) Aye, but there is also nothing which rules out supernatural intervention.
(MB) There's also nothing to rule out the Great Green Arkleseizure theory, but I won't place that one on the same level as science, either.

Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0 .......... Last Update: 04 Jun 98

Earthlink Network Home Page