Tag Archives: values

Is Religion Evil?

From the time of the Enlightenment (17th and 18th centuries), many have viewed religion with indifference or hostility, but there has never been such widespread hatred of religion as can be seen today in popular culture. One manifestation of hatred towards religion is the popularity of so-called “new atheism.” Here are some typical “new atheist” quotations:

That religion may have served some necessary function for us in the past does not preclude the possibility that it is now the greatest impediment to our building a global civilization. —Sam Harris

We keep on being told that religion, whatever its imperfections, at least instills morality. On every side, there is conclusive evidence that the contrary is the case and that faith causes people to be more mean, more selfish, and perhaps above all, more stupid. —Christopher Hitchens

One of the things that is wrong with religion is that it teaches us to be satisfied with answers which are really not answers at all. —Richard Dawkins

Nothing is wrong with peace and love. It is all the more regrettable that so many of Christ’s followers seem to disagree. —Richard Dawkins

Most conscientious people know why the “new atheists” feel the way they do. Religion is often misused to rationalize violence, misuse of authority, hatred, and war. But many good things can be used for evil purposes, including family and ethnic loyalty, philosophy, patriotism, and political/economic theory. In fact, although “new atheists” look to science as the basis of rationality and human dignity, science is no more immune to misuse. Principled opponents of eugenics programs have been called “antiscientific,” and the Darwinist principle of the “survival of the fittest” has been used to rationalize slavery and ethnic cleansing. Marxist dogma claimed a “scientific” basis for exterminating entire classes of people it labeled “parasites” or “enemies of the working class.”

Although reason and science have proven their power, they are useless as moral guides without the guidance of religious principles. During World War II science made it possible to incinerate Dresden, Tokyo, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima, but contributed nothing to the discussion of whether doing so was justifiable.

Most people recognize that knowing whether a potential action is “good” or “bad” is more important than merely knowing how to do it. Determining whether an action is moral or immoral is a judgment of value and faith, not of mere reason. Values and faith are intrinsically linked to religion. Even the most basic assumption of science that “knowledge is good” is a judgment of value—a religious act. (See What is religion?)

Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and other “new atheists” aren’t the only people who recognize how destructive misused religion can be. One need not be educated in Oxford or Harvard to recognize religious fanaticism. People from every historical period and every culture know the dangers of religion gone amok. A short list of those who warned against religious dogma and religious excesses would include Confucius, Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), Isaiah, Zarathustra, Socrates, and Jesus Messiah. Despising religion instead of seeking its renewal isn’t a step towards enlightenment but a step towards nihilism and despair.

Religion—in the sense of a faith system that establishes parameters for good and evil—is just as necessary as science. Rather than being the enemy of science, true religion humanizes and civilizes it and keeps it from creating monsters.

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Why Believe in God’s Existence, When It Can’t Be Proven Scientifically?

Something that can be demonstrated by the scientific method is a scientific fact. But it doesn’t follow that just because something can’t be demonstrated scientifically it is less “real” or important than “scientific fact.”

For example, the survival of human civilization depends on the distinction that most people make between good and evil. Yet moral values like good and evil can’t be scientifically proven. Does the fact that moral values can’t be proven imply that they are less real—less “factual” in an ultimate sense—than the things that science can prove?

Most people would consider it morally evil for a man/woman to abandon his/her wife/husband and young children to begin a new life with another woman/man. Most people would consider this a serious moral failure, one of the “worst” things a person could do. But is there any compelling “scientific evidence” that could be brought to bear on such behavior to “prove” that it is wrong?

What “scientific evidence” could prove that murder, rape, and robbery are wrong?  What would become of our system of justice if the prosecution had to scientifically prove that it is wrong for one person to kill, rape, or rob another person!

The existence of love, evil, and good are not “falsifiable hypotheses.” Yet most people—including atheists—admit that values like “love,” “goodness,” “friendship,” and “loyalty” are moral/spiritual realities that truly exist. Theists, whether Christian or non-Christian, have long considered the mind-boggling complexity of the material universe as evidence of a Creator. Although the scientific “spirit of the age” of the 20th century once insisted that the material world was nothing more than the product of impersonal, random evolution, today’s scientific consensus is shifting towards the conclusion that the universe was consciously designed (with incredible exactitude) for the development of life.1

Just as it is reasonable to assume that everything in physical reality has a cause, it is reasonable to assume that everything in spiritual reality has a cause. Immaterial spiritual values like love and goodness are even more amazing than the material wonders of the universe.

God’s existence cannot be proven scientifically. But although God’s existence can’t be proven, reasonable people acknowledge that the small number of alternative explanations for the wonders of material and spiritual reality can’t be proven either. Although faith is as much a matter of the heart as the mind, and belief in God is a moral as well as a rational decision, the rational case for the existence of God as the source of all reality is stronger than any other explanation.

  1. Anthony Flew, an eminent British philosopher who has been widely published as one of the world’s most intellectually capable and well-known atheists, has recently become a theist on the basis of scientific evidence for design:
    Darwin himself, in the fourteenth chapter of The Origin of Species, pointed out that his whole argument began with a being which already possessed reproductive powers. This is the creature the evolution of which a truly comprehensive theory of evolution must give some account. Darwin himself was well aware that he had not produced such an account. It now seems to me that the findings of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design. (From an interview with Anthony Flew by Gary Habermas, published by the Journal of the Evangelical Philosophic Society.Back To Article
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