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What's New Archive2018December

What's New on the Secular Web?


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December 31, 2018

Added Science vs. Religion: The Conflict Thesis Revisited (2018) by Bart Klink to the Science and Religion page in the Modern Documents section of the Secular Web Library.

It is commonly held that science and religion are in conflict, but a number of sophisticated believers and historians have disputed this. They have pointed out that there has never been a state of continuous conflict between science and religion, and that many scientists have been religious. Though both of these points are true, neither speak to whether the content of religious doctrines remain tenable in light of various scientific developments. In this essay Bart Klink argues that there is indeed a genuine conflict between science and religion, and that it manifests itself on four different levels. Historically, there has been conflict between the content of religious doctrines and the developing body of scientific knowledge. Sociologically, scientists are significantly less religious than nonscientists, and people of faith explicitly reject scientific findings on religious grounds. In psychology, the cognitive science of religion has had a debunking effect by providing naturalistic explanations for religious beliefs that, while not strictly refuting them, nevertheless render supernatural accounts of their origins improbable. Finally, there has been a philosophical conflict in the sense that the sciences have made the existence of a personal God and other theistic claims (e.g., to divine revelations, miracles, and answered prayers) improbable. Science has historically 'desupernaturalized' phenomena and provided a coherent naturalistic big picture of the universe that has only lead to a monologue between science and religion—one in favor of science.

New in the Kiosk: Why Would Anyone Believe Justin Barrett's Theistic Arguments? (2018) by Michael D. Reynolds

Christian psychologist Justin Barrett argues that belief in immaterial minds is similar to and justifies belief in God. In this essay Michael D. Reynolds demonstrates that Barrett's concept of mind is outmoded. Moreover, Barrett does not distinguish between innate beliefs in other people's mental abilities and the cultural concept of mind, which is learned, not innate. The belief that other people think, have emotions, and so forth is supported by evidence, but there is no evidence for the existence of God.

Barrett presumes that "atheism" is difficult to maintain because innate ways of thinking promote belief in spirits. In response, Reynolds provides some of the reasons for nontheism and refutes Barrett's arguments that having moral principles and confidence in one's beliefs pose special problems for nontheists. Reynolds concludes that, to the contrary, living as a nontheist is not difficult and does not require social and cultural segregation to sustain it.

December 22, 2018

Please help up keep the momentum of the demographic shift away from religion going by pitching in to keep the Secular Web online now.

A familiar commonplace tells us that we ought to treat religion as a highly personal matter, one best avoided altogether at the dinner table. Yet in the last year, despite widespread opposition from the general public, Christian conservatives have now secured a majority on the Supreme Court of the United States, whose decisions have to potential to undermine the freedoms of millions of secular Americans for decades to come. Worse still, for almost two years the circuit courts have been quietly stacked with conservative judges holding lifetime appointments, whose decisions will determine the outcomes of the majority of cases declined by the US Supreme Court.

Despite these gloomy events, the populace itself has been moving in the right direction. Only a little over half of the youngest generation (those born since 1999) identify as Christian or Catholic, a trend that The Barna Group's Brooke Hempell blames in part on younger generations' perceptual shift toward the view that science and religion are in conflict. A survey of 106 countries over the past decade similarly found that, by several measures, "young adults are drifting away from the faith commitments of their elders," as Religion News Service put it. RNS also notes that even though people have tended to become more religious as they get older, as the members of today's younger generations age, "they will likely be less religious than previous generations." Although the survey didn't look into the effect of the Internet on religiosity, lead researcher Conrad Hackett suggested that "in many countries there is a pattern of lower religiosity among younger generations that may be the unfolding of secularization."

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