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Posted by Aurino Souza on April 11, 2001 18:56:09 UTC

John,

I'm really puzzled by your post and since I understand you share the same views with most atheists, I'm rather curious as to what you really think. .

> the real goal is to establish the vast superiority of experimentally / mathematically / logically
> based science as a means to knowledge compared to faith-based superstitious religion.

That's fine but who are you really trying to convince? Scientists already know about that vast superiority so it can't be them. Religious fanatics cannot be convinced, they will always resort to "the devil is trying to deceive me" kind of explanation. You may not be fighting against God but you are definitely fighting against their idea of God so there's no chance you'll win. So who's left?

I suppose the real target of these kinds of argument are the "lightweight" religious, the kind of folks that profess faith in an invisible God, miracles, ressurection, reincarnation, and so on, when due to their level of education and intellectual skills they should know better. However, I don't think that kind of people accept things on faith without reasoning about it until they convince themselves (but not necessarily others) that there's nothing illogical/irrational/superstitious/ignorant about their beliefs. The two intellectual mechanisms most often used by those people are reinterpretation of scripture through ellaborate metaphors, and reinterpretation of concepts so that they fit into the gaps of science (which, you must acknowledge, there are many)

All in all, yes, I think you may reach some lightweight religious, perhaps even successfully convert some of them to atheism (it happens all the time). But beware of any individual's power to use their intellect to protect their psychological balance, no matter at what cost. Incidentally, as far as I can tell, most people who turn from religion to atheism do it precisely for the same reasons, even though they believe they are simply being logical.

The human mind is full of tricks...

> From an atheist's point of view it doesn't matter whether Jesus
> really existed or not, just whether what He supposedly said and
> did was true.

This is the bit that puzzled me. I thought a person who calls himself an atheist would just simply assume that those things are not true and don't bother himself anymore with the subject.

> Science is a powerful tool to distinguish fact from fiction.
> Religion is an unreliable source of knowledge, promoted
> throughout history primiraly by superstitious, scientific - illiterates.

I'm sorry but this is a biased, misinformed position, unless you think people like Thomas Aquinas, Descartes, Goethe, Einstein, were scientific-illiterates. Superstitious perhaps but not necessarily more so than you and I.

This kind of statement is one of the things that give atheism a bad name. Sorry for my sincerity.

> Even the most basic of Christian beliefs (that Jesus really lived) could
> be a lie. If it is a lie, then EVERYTHING else taught by Christians that
> violates scientific knowledge could also be lies.

This bit also puzzled me. It seems to imply that if the most basic of Christian beliefs were true then some of the things taught by Christians could also be true, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.

> Only those ideas confirmable by modern scientists without
> respect to one's religion (like the importance of being
> kind to each other, like you mentioned) should be retained.

I'm not aware that science has confirmed the truth of the "golden rule".

> We don't have to be kind or love our neighbor because superstitious
> people thought they were important. Educated people today can tell
> us they're important.

Educated people told the Germans that the Jews were not important. You know the rest of the story.

Education has as much to do with morality or ethics as religion or anything else. The true source of morality has not yet been found but it's certainly not in religion or education.

> Unbelievable claims like rotted corpses reanimating, or supernatural
> beings visiting us, or all-powerful creators of the universe that expect
> us to sacrifice some doves and lambs when we sin, etc. should be
> rejected until experimental and theoretical backing occurs.

You don't cease to puzzle me. I thought those things should be rejected, period. I thought it was clear to you that no experimental and theoretical backing could possibly occur.

> If one large religion, Christianity, can be shown to have been
> so dramatically caught up in believing a big lie (that the Jesus
> described in the NT really existed), then all similar faith-based
> systems (other religions) should be suspect.

What you are saying has already happened, several times over. Open any book in the Old Testament and tell me how many biblical "truths" have stood the scrutiny of science. Very few! Amazingly, the bible is still the best selling book in the world. How can that be?

The obvious answer is that what science says doesn't matter much in the minds of most people. They'll either reject science, reinterpret it, or reinterpret scripture. Nothing is more maleable than ideas, there's no end to the amount of combinations you can perform with them.

> One could use big lies taught by smaller religions
> like the Mormons, or Jehovah's Witnesses, or Branch
> Davidians, but that would not be as effective, I think,
> as demonstrating the lie of Jesus of Nazareth.

I'm sorry but this is also biased and misinformed. Have you ever read the gospels? Almost everything that Jesus said is either commonsense today (probably as the result of 2,000 years of Christianity) or just absolutely enigmatic.

See, you have to understand, Jesus is the role model of Western society for no insignificant reason. It's irrelevant whether he lived or not, whether he said the things he is supposed to have said or not, whether he was the son of God or just an impostor, what Christians really like about their religion is the spirit of the ideas. That's the true force behind it, a force that has resisted all sorts of assaults, not only from science but also from within the Church itself.

The battle between atheism and religion seems new but it's actually as old as civilization itself, perhaps even older. That's what most atheists miss, they think it's just a matter of explaining a few things to a bunch of ignorant, superstitious people. It isn't.

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