IPH views on religion


IPH (2008-03-23)
This is about my views on religion and related beliefs.

After abandoning religion at the age of 18, I have maintained a position of scientific detachment — indeed, robust empiricism — about the big ontological and epistemological questions.

My position on theism is not all that far from that of Bertrand Russell with his celestial teapot, and my position about creationism and the notion called “intelligent design” is not far from that of Richard Dawkins in all his books, including the famous The Blind Watchmaker and his now even more famous 2006 book The God Delusion, although I disagree with some of the usages in the language of Dawkins, particularly on the verb “believe” when referring to the opinions and other thought processes of scientists (that is, empiricists): in my opinion, he would do much better to avoid the word unless referring to religious belief. However Professor Dawkins is a very brave man to place himself “out there” in the current world climate of aggressive religionism, as was the late, lamented Mr Christopher Hitchens, whose book God Is Not Great is also on my shelf. I have also read related titles by Daniel Dennett and others.

There is a whole discussion of the issue of belief in deities, and the lack of such belief, in my page The semantics of belief.

On the whole phenomenon of religious belief and its huge prevalence among human beings all over this planet, there are, it seems to me, three major spheres within which we can examine evidence and try to formulate a rational empirical view of what is the situation:

Let us look briefly at these and summarize the rational, robust empricist view on each.

Cosmology

Some religionists concentrate, in their attempts to justify their beliefs, on the question of how and why the universe exists. The general outline of the rational, empiricist view on this is that the available eviidence indicates a singularity at a time around 13.8 billion years ago, called the Big Bang, about which the general assumption is that the universe did not exist before that moment in time. Theists/religionists who go so far as to accept this (in contrast with young earth creationists who simply assert that their naive literal reading of the Old Testament excludes scientific chronology) claim that the change from nothingness to the universe requires a creator of the kind they believe in. However, this makes a false assumption: that the fact that the nature of the singularity hypothesized cannot be identified in more detail, and that nothing can be detected about what existed further back in time than that, means that there was nothing. In fact we can only say that at present science cannot detect, or (therefore) say, anything about the time before that moment.

Prevalence of theism

This is about persistence of the naive bronze age assumption, seen now in our society in small children, that the cause of and reason for everything is that some unknown personage did it, if we do not know of a human agent.

Scripture

The careful examination of the writings on which religionists base their worldview suggests that they are not just fiction, but widely copied — plagiarized — across the ancient world. Many detailed and learned examinations of the Bible have now been done, including such works as No Meek Messiah by Michael Paulkovich, which show how we can be sure that the stories in the writings called “scriptures” by the naive, credulous religionists are almost entirely fiction, with just occasional mentions of places or events that actually existed. (Note that some of the places named have been fabricated since, by believers, to support their mythology.)