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What authority can we trust to provide good answers to life's big questions? For questions about the physical world--how it got here, how it works, where we came from--the discoveries of science give us honest and reliable answers. But science does not claim to know the answers to moral and social issues, which are of utmost importance because they determine how well we can live together. Religions do claim to have the answers in this area, but how good are their teachings? A careful look at moral issues addressed by religions can tell us a lot, and maybe even provide a guide to validating our own moral choices.
What is real, and how do we know it? Religions and science put forward quite different answers to those questions, the gap becoming wider as the religious thinking becomes more fundamental. A comparison of the workings of religion and science shows which one we should trust for answers, even if we don't always have the interest or the patience to learn about and understand scientific discoveries (or to wade through religious rhetoric).
The group of people commonly referred to as Nones includes atheists agnostics, secular humanists and a variety of other skeptics and freethinkers all of whom have one thing in common--they are not affiliated with any organized religious group. Although some of them do believe in a Creator or some form of Supreme Being, most are nonbelievers, albeit with varying degrees of conviction. But they also have one other characteristic in common. If they reveal their disbelief--especially if they use the word "atheist," then they become targets of criticism, victims of ostracism and charges of "anti-Americanism."
Here is a problem: On the one hand, human society cannot survive without an injunction against the wanton killing of fellow human beings. On the other hand, man is an aggressive animal. Dehumanization (i.e., the likening and equating of human beings with animals) is often used by religions to justify the killing of others. While one code says "an eye for an eye," another commands you to "love your enemies." Here you read "Thou shall not kill!"; there you find "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them."
"As a humanist psychotherapist my view is that to promote secular ethics and create a humanistic world, we need to respect human rights and associate sex with love and affection, rather than sin and guilt. To grow as a human species and evolve as sexual beings, we need to embrace advances in science and psychology rather than age-old scriptures that impose contradictory sexual morals and create fear in people."
Richard Smith had been a lifelong Christian until he underwent an unexpected deconversion in 2011 at the age of 54. "From the Outside" explains his reasoning. As one of our reviewers commented: "Comprehensive in its coverage, has emotional impact, and is meaningful in its intent. Welcome to the sane world of atheism."
"By most religious reckoning, history is and always has been a foregone conclusion. All wisdom, all grace, all law was bestowed upon human beings long before the arrival of any now present, and so there is nothing for the living to do but fulfill someone else's plan for them. We are relieved of the burden of free will and responsibility for our misdeeds by a simple act of repentance. In effect, God finished us, and long ago. When a human being rejects this conception of the universe, they simultaneously reject the hubris and vanity required to create it in favor of a universe where real choice reigns, along with real possibility, opportunity, discovery, maturity and the right to know."
Stephen Meyer tries to make the case for "teaching the controversy" between Darwinian evolution and intelligent design by arguing (1) there is, in fact, such a scientific controversy, (2) voters support the idea of teaching the controversy, (3) the Constitution allows for and encourages the idea of teaching the controversy, and (4) that it makes good pedagogical sense to teach the controversy. I show that each of these points is either false or irrelevant. Further, Meyer charges the scientific community with censorship in keeping intelligent design out of textbooks and the classroom. To show this charge is false, I consider the lengthy evolution of continental drift/plate tectonics from novel concept to scientific orthodoxy.