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October 13th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

Hitchens brothers debate if civilization can survive without God

Editor's Note: CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor Eric Marrapodi files this report from Washington, DC.

Brothers Christopher and Peter Hitchens squared off Tuesday in a debate over whether civilization can survive without God. Christopher, the older of the two, is a renowned atheist thinker and author. Peter, the lesser known of the two, is a practicing Christian and also a well-regarded author.

Christopher Hitchens is going through a very public battle with cancer, a subject that came up often during the debate. Michael Cromartie from the Ethics and Public Policy Center, moderated the debate and mentioned Christopher, who lives in the District of Columbia, was attending in between doctor appointments. Peter Hitchens had flown in from England specifically for the lunchtime debate.

Christopher Hitchens arrived with a white straw Panama hat. Beneath the hat he has no hair, lost from cancer treatments. Though noticeably thinner, Hitchens did not seem to suffer any intellectual consequences from his treatment.

He argued civilization could survive without God and in many cases is surviving without God.

“There used to be a word which could be used unironically,” he said. “People meant what they said when they said the word Christendom. There was a Christian world. Partly evolved, partly carved out by the sword, partly defended by the sword, giving way and expanding at times. But it was a meaningful name for a community of belief and value that endured for many, many centuries. It had many splendors to its name, but it’s all gone now.”

He said that today, in “huge parts of what we might call the industrialized modern world, tens of millions of people live in a post-religious society. It’s hard to argue that they lead conspicuously less civilized lives than their predecessor generations.”

He added, “I don’t think it’s really true to say that we live less civilized a life than those of our predecessors, who believed there was a genuine religious authority who spoke with power.”

To further his point he added examples from his own life of interacting with people of faith.

“If you go around the provincial halls and public theaters as I do, whenever I can, and engage in belief and the believers you’ll find to an extraordinary extent an ethical humanism with a vague spiritual content. It’s extremely commonplace.”

He specifically pointed to two American examples: Reform Judaism and self-described American “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose aspects of their faith they find appealing. That, he argued, proved God, and to a larger extent organized religion, are unnecessary to continuing civilization.

His brother Peter took the opposite side. He was quick to clarify later in the event he was arguing from the perspective of Christianity and not from the perspective of all religions.

In Peter Hitchens’ remarks he described his time as a journalist covering the fall of Mogadishu and the crumbling of his boyhood neighborhood in England to roving thugs. He said both examples showed a massive decline of civilization, and he said the civilization we see today could disappear.

“The behavior of human beings towards one another has sunk to levels not far from the Stone Age,” he said.

In addressing his specific boyhood neighborhood, he asked, “How has this decline come about in civilization?”

“Well I think it has come about, a least partly, and I’m not a single-cause type of person, but at least partly there is no longer in the hearts of the English people the restraints of the Christian religion that used to prevent this type of behavior. I think it would be completely idle to image the two things are not related.”

He continued and drew a parallel to his argument with American and British society. “The extraordinary combination which you in this country and I in mine used to enjoy, and may for some time continue, of liberty and order, seem to me to only occur where people take into their hearts the very, very, powerful messages of self-restraint without mutual advantage, which is central to the Christian religion.”

While the two were on opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to the role and place of God in civilization, they did find unique common ground on Christopher Hitchens' cancer.

During the question-and-answer session, NPR Religion Correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty asked Christopher about the prayers of support he had received from Christians.

Hitchens responded, “Obviously expressions of solidarity are welcome and very touching to me. And whatever form they take.”

But he continued, “I do resent, always have resented, the thought it should in some way be assumed now that you [with a potentially fatal illness] may be terrified, or that is to say, miserable. Or as it might be depressed. Surely now it would be the ideal time to abandon the principles of a lifetime. I’ve always thought this to be a rather repulsive approach.”

His brother Peter jumped in right after in a show of support and said, “I also think it would be quite grotesque to imagine someone would have to get cancer to see the merits of religion. It’s just an absurd idea. I don’t know why anyone imagines it should be certain.”

The event was put on by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. It was billed as a conversation between the brothers and the press. As a result, no winner of the debate was announced.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Christianity

soundoff (671 Responses)
  1. DarthWoo

    Plenty of other civilizations survived just fine without the Christian god or even any sort of overbearing, sadistic non-corporeal authority figure hanging over them. It was only when the rapacious followers of such supposed deities came along and pillaged their societies that they had such problems. Of course, I suppose the followers of those deities would argue that it was through their god's divine intervention that they were able to so thoroughly plunder another civilization.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:54 am |
    • jeff

      Name one. All civilizations had their gods and deities and most were way more vengeful then the Catholic God.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:58 am |
    • Luke

      Jeff – how about the entire history of life itself except humans? The Animal Kingdom did just fine without god (and still does) for the better part of 3.5 billion years before humans arose just 100 thousand years ago and the rise of religions about 6 thousand years ago. While primitive man did tend to put his faith in deities of all sorts historically, the advancement of knowledge across the globe has done just fine without god(s). I point my finger to the Nordics, which long ago rejected the supernatural as a society. The Far East currently has little faith as well. In other words, the shift has been to the idea of the Natural Order of Things and Scientific evidence rather than faith based cultural teachings. Sadly, America falls further behind the developed world each year with regards to math, science, literacy, life expectancy and technology, which can be directly related to its high religiosity, while the remaining parts of the developed world are lapping us. Just two weeks ago, we learned that the USA placed 27th out of 30 developed nations in science scores as a population. We'll soon fall into the ranks of Afghanistan and undeveloped nations in Africa at this current trajectory, all related to religious leaders and politicians that put values first and education second.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:10 am |
    • DarthWoo

      I'll grant you that there may have been some deities that were supposedly a bit more antagonistic than the Abrahamic god, but hardly "most" of them. It takes a special kind of sadism to wipe out all but 8 people in the world because you don't like their lifestyles and the fact that some are worshiping the wrong god(s). Of course it's not quite done there, it still has to send people out a few generations down the line to wipe out societies who are also worshiping the wrong god, and reinforce the idea that every last man, woman, child and animal of that village has to be wiped out, lest it have to punish its enforcers. If anything, I suppose the Abrahamic god definitely had much poorer aim than some of the other vengeful gods. As far as civilizations with benevolent deities or at least non-antagonistic ones, as the poster before me mentioned, they were common in the Far Eastern civilizations. Of course some of them may have still led to some various social injustices, but far from the abominations that the Abrahamic religions have inflicted on each other and others.

      I hesitate to inject politics into this discussion, but Luke has a good point about the fall of America in the field of academia. It seems as though one of the goals of the Tea Party, particularly with lunatics such as Christine O'Donnell, is to wipe away any sense of scientific inquiry from the country. It appears as though a majority of Tea Party members disdain such things as AGW and evolution.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:26 am |
    • pete

      Luke-
      you said- "Sadly, America falls further behind the developed world each year with regards to math, science, literacy, life expectancy and technology, which can be directly related to its high religiosity". As a person coming from the medical community, can you tell me how life expectancy is related to high religiosity?

      October 13, 2010 at 12:21 pm |
    • Luke

      pete – Medical technologies, such as stem cell research, which is generally rejected by the faithful. Just one example.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
    • pete

      Luke-
      I see your point with the stem cell research. I'm a believer and i believe that there is so much information/good things that can come from stem cell research. In the limited research there is, it has already be proven.

      All i ask is that you don't (or try, i know its hard when trying to talk/message back and forth with some people) not to paint all believers with such a broad brush. I like to read your posts, even though we have differing opinions on religion.

      October 13, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
    • Luke

      pete – I not so quick to generalize anyone. It is all too easy to do however. Since so many Christians have different views about the simpliest of things, there isn't much I can do to not offend someone.

      Regarding stem cell research, it's not just that. Given the current state of this country, there has been a backlash in general against science, and it all starts at square 1. You cannot argue with facts and data; nearly 40% of Americans reject the idea of evolution in favor of creationism. That is a staggering number for a developed nation. We find ourselves among the ranks of Turkey, which I remind you is partially Islamic and oppressed, on that survey. How can society advance its knowledge of science if the very basics are rejected by parents all over the country, by politicians that lead (or try to lead us) and school boards that dismiss scientists' writings in favor of their political agendas? I warn you very sternly that not understanding science and technology will very likely be the end of us if an asteroid or comet doesn't get to us first. I remind you that the highly religious want to exterminate the enemy. However, we now have 21st century weapons instead of swords like we did during the Crusades. That is, we have archaic cultures playing with technology we don't get. And it all starts with the population at a whole being absolutely awful with regards to science.

      October 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
    • Raison

      @Luke

      I like that post. I wish I could point at all the good ones, but this thread would look pretty strange if I did.

      October 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  2. Richard Diamond

    So long as there is dark there will be light. So long as there in undesirable there is desirable. God and Devil will always exist when there is no other answer.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Richard Diamond

      No other answer to what?

      October 13, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      Without light, there is no dark. everything has the exact same amount of light. None.
      with no gravity, there is no weight. kinda like your statement.
      Christians invented the devil. Jewish tribes used a scape goat. How about you take responsibility for your actions?
      Screw forgiveness. I want people to not be a55 hol35 in the first place.

      can I get a RAmen?

      October 13, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Richard Diamond

      Attempting to use the concept of 'perceptual contrast' = God and Devil exist, was a truly poor argument.

      October 13, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Selfish Gene

      Absolutely.... You get a big.. ..."RAmen" !!! for that brother, so sayeth his Holy Noodleness.. 🙂

      October 13, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
  3. brad

    Considering what human nature is capable of, from mere character assasination to mass murder, I agree with Thomas Merton. He said that if it weren't for the grace of God, we'd have destroyed ourselves a long time ago.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:47 am |
    • Luke

      There is yet to be any evidence of that. What he said was an unsubstantiated opinion. However, the contrary view has concrete data supporting it. That is, we know very succinctly that Islam calls for the destruction of rival religions. Christianity already tried to go that route and failed. It was the advancement of human knowledge and empathy that saved us from the brink in the past, and its further steamrolling will be the catalyst that propels us further, in my estimation.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:03 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Brad

      I could just as easily say, if the fairies living in my left shoe did not prevent it, the world would have perished long ago.

      There is no proof for your god having saved the world from anything. Ever.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
  4. JHu

    I understand that some people need religion as a sort of foundation or something.

    But what I don't understand:
    1. Why people think, imagined or not (I don't know), that civilization would not be civilization if religion disappeared. Why can't people be charitable and thoughtful of others without religion being involved?

    2. Why not just live and let live? Who cares what someone believes or doesn't believe? Just be a human and care.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:43 am |
    • David Johnson

      @JHu

      Please consider: What would the world look like if there was no god? Would there be wars and sickness and natural disasters that kill thousands, and multiple religions? And crime and murder?

      But, that's the way it looks right now and many say there is a god.

      If you can't tell the difference between god and no god, then what good is god?

      October 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
    • MK

      'If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed' ~ Einstein

      October 13, 2010 at 1:25 pm |
  5. IEK

    So civilization is falling apart because there are wars and crime? This might come as a shock, but even in the time when Christianity was the end all, be all in Europe people still engaged in wars and violent crime. At times carrying out those wars or acts of violence because of Religion. Nothing has really changed. Parts of the world where poverty is high, crime is high. Religion might convince individuals to stop, but as a whole the problem continues until the root of the problem is resolved. And a lack of communion is not the problem.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  6. AHMIowa

    What I am trying to understand is how mankind will survive WITH religion. I see no benefit in it for a modern, knowledgeable society, given that it only turns sect upon sect, and every group claims superiority, and thus, the need to convert everyone else, or destroy them in the effort.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:35 am |
    • thinkpoint

      You desire a world without windows? http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/a-world-without-windows-in-print/

      October 13, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • Bill

      Well said!

      October 13, 2010 at 10:58 am |
    • Bill

      I mean well said to AHMIowa.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:59 am |
    • Raison

      @AHMIowa

      I wish I had said that! That was very clear and well-written. More, please! 😀

      October 13, 2010 at 11:05 am |
    • CatholicMom

      AHNIowa,
      Tell that to the miners who are coming up out of the mine trap that they have been living in for months....

      October 13, 2010 at 11:38 am |
    • DarthWoo

      I think the miners owe more thanks to the mine-owners for having installed a safe-room system that actually worked this time, unlike in so many other tragic mining disasters. They owe thanks to all the people who converged on the site and worked to drill the supply and rescue shafts to them and provide them with the necessary supplies to survive for all that time, as well as entertainment to keep them sane. They owe thanks to their foreman, who managed to ration their meager 2-day emergency food packs to last until rescuers managed to first punch through. They owe thanks to each other for staying rational and not somehow further exacerbating the situation underground. There is very little, if anything, for which they owe thanks to religion.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:46 am |
    • David Johnson

      @AHMIowa

      I think religion still offers comfort to people. Linus's blanket gave contentment. Yes?

      October 13, 2010 at 11:59 am |
    • Luke

      CatholicMom – And say the same to the guys in West Virginia that perished in the same kind of accident. Nevermind, they're dead. What's most funny to me about the miners in Chile is that rival churches are claiming their house of god is responsible for the rescue. In reality, they should be thankful mankind is wise enough to build tools in order to make a rescue like this possible.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
    • Godless

      @ Catholic Mom:

      Um, is god the one pulling the miners to safety? Or is it human beings that are doing all the work, with no supernatural assistance whatsoever? Hmmm.....

      October 13, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
    • Frogist

      @CatholicMom: I think people need something to keep their spirits up too. They need some kind of hope. And the miners found it in their religion which served them well in their time of desperate need. Nothing wrong with that.

      October 13, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
  7. Thatguy

    I do recommend people to take a class that has to deal with New Testament Survey.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • David Johnson

      The New Testament was written to "prove" Jesus was the Messiah and to establish the Christian religion according to Paul.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • Kaonashi

      @ David. Don't you just love when Christians quote Paul and attribute it to Jesus? When you point out this fallacy, their only retaliations are more quotes from Paul.
      I seriously believe Christians should rename themselves Paulists.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Kaonashi

      You said, "Don't you just love when Christians quote Paul and attribute it to Jesus? When you point out this fallacy, their only retaliations are more quotes from Paul.
      I seriously believe Christians should rename themselves Paulists."

      You have spoken soooo much truth. Cheers to you!

      October 13, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • Inyourdreams

      @ David Johnson
      The New Testament was written to record historical facts and truths about the Messiah, which does prove that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. You only have to read it to realize it is true.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:50 pm |
  8. Mark Younger

    Fellow Christians , it pointless and fruitless and un Christlike to argue/debate with non Christians. Your life and actions should speak louder than words. If you do speak , point to sciptures and the Holy Spirit will do the rest. Blessed are those that hear the word of God and keep it. In other words , as the bible tells us , it will be between the person and God. We should pray for everyone and show Christ like love to all. Remember Christians – as Christ said , all the commandments and sciptures hang on these two things – Love God above all else with mind, heart and soul and love all as yourself all else is noise – love others as Christ loves us...

    October 13, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • Kevin

      LULz

      October 13, 2010 at 10:34 am |
    • IEK

      What are you talking about? The bible encourages believers to go out and seek to convert non-believers.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • Luke

      so in other words, ignore people with other opinions, come from other cultures or are connected to reality? And what of American Free Trade? Should we abandon that? You should run for President.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • MyFaith

      I agree with you @Mark Younger. When I was little girl with all the same questions my mother could not answer them and I had second thoughts but she told me that having faith in God is what keeps you strong, understanding that even though he is not physically here but spiritually here is what faith really is. I cannot see the air but I know its there and its keeping me alive. I cannot see God but in my heart, he is always with me. I'm not stepping on anyones toes or pushing my beliefs on anyone but that is my opinion on the matter. Personally, I can't live in this "civilized" world without my ethics, without my mother's wisdom, without my education, and without my faith. Its not about the facts or physical evidence but about love, faith and hope. God bless America.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • nord

      Faith, I'm glad you separated ethics and faith. Though the two can be related, they are far from synonymous. And IEK, no matter what the bible says, not all denominations evangelize.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Mark: I am glad that you ask for christians to keep their beliefs private. It would truly be welcomed that what they practice is their personal reverence for their beliefs without forcing them upon someone else. But on this blog we are here to learn from each other and debate in order to better understand each other's position. If you seek to not be part of this debate, that is up to you. But understand that when you do so, you are cutting off avenues that might help show others why you hold true to your faith. If you seek to be less misunderstood, not discussing what you believe, is counterproductive to tolerance.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:30 pm |
  9. JW

    2 Timothy 3:1 – 5

    This very subject with these very ideas and realizations are foretold beforehand as a warning. We live in the last days of this system of things, before Gods kingdom will rule over mankind. Yes, that very Kingdome that Christ told us about in the Lords prayer.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • David Johnson

      @JW

      All you believers are irritating in that you want to start every conversation with the assumption that there is a god.

      Yes, if there is a god and if the bible is the word of god, then your posting of his word would carry great weight. It would instantly end the conversation. But, you have not proven there is a god. If there is no god, then the bible is obviously not his word.

      If you and I were both believers, we could post biblical passages back and forth all day. But if you are talking to non-believers, this doesn't work. Cheers!

      October 13, 2010 at 11:47 am |
    • Joe

      The Kingdome? I thought they tore that down years ago. Has anyone told the Mariners?

      October 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
    • civilioutside

      Assume for a moment that you're writing a text designed to convince people of a particular worldview. Is it really such a stretch that you'd come up with "predictions," along the lines of "People are going to disagree with what I'm telling you. Don't listen to them, because their kind of thinking will lead to the end of the world"? There have, in fact, been people who disagreed with the Bible in every period of history. There's nothing special about now in that regard.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
    • Frank

      "If you and I were both believers, we could post biblical passages back and forth all day. But if you are talking to non-believers, this doesn't work. Cheers!"

      Just as your preachy self-righteous hypocritical arrogance doesn't work with 'believers'. So why bother? Either you respect other people's beliefs and hope to learn something from them, or you don't. Otherwise, just go away and talk about something you enjoy and believe in.
      Because you are seriously trollish, like 'Reality'.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  10. Thatguy

    Well that was a waste of time. I enjoy seeing lectures on the Bible not just two men trying to defend their position when you know in the end it will not produce anything at all.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  11. leo

    I live without even thinking about God on a daily basis. I'll never know who or what it is, cause we are merely humans that have not even gotten far past the moon, let alone our solar system.

    The real issue is that from birth, we are all told by our neighbors to think about god and afterlife, but this is CLEARLY and expectation that is set upon us from our environment. It comes from everywhere, and it's the only reason why many assume this has to be a question to be pondered.

    But it's not, humans will never know the answers to these questions (who or what is god, exactly how was the universe formed, what happens if anything when you die). to make up answers and to contemplate them on a daily basis is what our society trains us to do. However, I have lived very peacefully know that the answers to those questions are "I don't know". and therefore I feel great about not using made up answers. It really is a relaxing perspective. try it.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:23 am |
    • thinkpoint

      Do you really? If so, you are exceptionally rare. One of my favorite authors put it like this: “Unique among living species, human life is aware of itself, yet we find ourselves in a world that doesn’t explain itself. So we’re impelled to ask why things are as they are and how we fit in. What gives life to life? Why is there something rather than nothing? Deep inside us we know the facts of the matter are not the end of the matter. So we seek a final explanation, a source of meaning that goes as far back as one can go, an ultimate answer before which all questions cease.”
      “This will to find meaning is fundamental. It is ‘the primary motivational force in man,’ according to psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. ‘Meaning is not a luxury for us,’ says philosopher Dallas Willard. ‘It is a kind of spiritual oxygen, we might say, that enables our souls to live.’ Abraham Heschel expressed it from his Jewish viewpoint: ‘It is not enough for me to be able to say ‘I am’; I want to know who I am and in relation to whom I live. It is not enough for me to ask questions; I want to know how to answer the one question that seems to encompass everything I face: What am I here for?’” (Long Journey Home: A Guide to Your Search For the Meaning of Life,” Os Guinness).

      October 13, 2010 at 10:48 am |
    • Believer

      What is truly relaxing is the fact that God sent his son Jesus to pay for our sins! None of us are worthy of His grace but he gives it to us nonethe less. People that understnad this are the most relaxed and peaceful people in the world. Ask God to come into your life, give your life to Him and you will have peace like you cannot imagine, try it.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • dt

      Oh yea the favorite argument. Jesus as the Sin Sponge. The infinitely powerful being had to send a mortal being to earth to die, so he could let us all off the hook. I think if you just ponder it for a moment, you'll see how silly it is. God doesn't need Jesus' permission to forgive us, nor would he need a vessel to accomplish something that he could not.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • Luke

      Believer – What if I told you that the fact of evolution falsifies the Adam and Eve myth? Therefore, there is no original sin, and the entire basis of your religion disappears into a puff of logic.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:28 am |
    • dt

      @Luke: That won't work. You can't use science to disprove religion. Also, try to steer clear of assumptions built into your statements. Its a youthful tactic at debate.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:32 am |
    • Luke

      What assumption did I make? Evolution is a fact, which falsifies the Adam and Eve story. Therefore, there is no Original Sin. Hence, the entire religion fails. Where I am wrong?

      October 13, 2010 at 11:36 am |
    • David Johnson

      @dt

      I agree with Luke. Evolution is a fact. So:

      If we evolved, then no creation. If no creation, then no original sin. If no original sin, then no need for a redeemer.

      If we did not evolve, why are there transitional fossils? Did god keep making prototypes until he got it right?

      And yes, there are tons of transitional fossils. Cheers!

      October 13, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • Mike B.

      @Luke, @David Johnson
      Evolution is fact, yes. But the assumption you make is that all christians believe the bible to be literally true, and furthermore base their belief on it being literally true. I believe a small minority of christians do this, and this group is by definition not swayed by scientific evidence since they believe magic is real.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Believer: I gained much more peace and relaxation discarding the idea that an all-knowing being was looking at my every action thought and feeling for any semblance of what someone outside of myself decided was evil so that he could send me to he-ll for ever and ever all the while asking me to thank him for this and shun anyone who was different from me as a sinner. I was stopped in my tracks with a feeling of eternal grat!tude that, had I been an overtly religious person, would have confirmed me as a believer for life. Instead it confirmed my inquisitive nature and willingness to ask too many questions and being different, which were things not celebrated by my previous christianity. That grat!tude, peace and relaxation... I expect my feelings were not so different from yours.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
    • LP

      I'm with you, Leo. There are some things we don't know the answers to, and I'm okay with that. I expect we will learn the answers to many of them someday, but even if we don't, that's okay. The important thing is that we always keep looking, studying, investigating, questioning, pondering, testing. I am always puzzled by people who NEED to have an answer for everything . . . but are okay with a simplistic, made-up one.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Mike B.

      You said, "Evolution is fact, yes. But the assumption you make is that all christians believe the bible to be literally true, and furthermore base their belief on it being literally true. I believe a small minority of christians do this, and this group is by definition not swayed by scientific evidence since they believe magic is real."

      I am not sure I respect that. You claim to be Christian, but you pick and choose from a book which is supposedly the inspired word of god. How do you know what you accept is true and the parts you reject are false? What is your criteria?

      Is it the "funny-bone factor"? The parts that are just too ridiculous, too funny, you reject ?

      But what about the zombie messiah that nobody has seen for 2000 years and counting? That's actually pretty funny.
      He said he would be back in the 1st Century. He is really running behind. Death will do that.

      So, what criteria do you use to determine what you will accept from the 'ol King James?

      October 13, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
    • leo

      To All:

      There are clearly tests we take in like where the answer is "I don't know". It's one of the toughest thing it seems for people to deal with, but nonetheless logically that is the correct answer.

      Historically, that has never stopped people from making answers up. That is their problem, it becomes yours if you can't tell the difference. And yes, I truly live without thinking about any deities, and my life is fairly uncomplicated. If you want to call that rare, so be it. I know of others like me, and they seem to lead relatively uncomplicated lives as well. Not all of them thought! I am not saying that 😉

      October 13, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • Luke

      David Johnson – thanks for handling that. I grow tiresome of explaining that over and over.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • G

      @David Johnson,
      He said he would be back in the 1st Century. He is really running behind. Death will do that.

      When did he say that, again?

      October 13, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
    • Frank

      "Oh yea the favorite argument. Jesus as the Sin Sponge. The infinitely powerful being had to send a mortal being to earth to die, so he could let us all off the hook. I think if you just ponder it for a moment, you'll see how silly it is. God doesn't need Jesus' permission to forgive us, nor would he need a vessel to accomplish something that he could not."

      Most Christians believe in the Trinity and so Jesus isn't just God's Son, He is God Incarnate. The Enfleshment of the Most High. So it's not so much that God sent His Son to die for us, it's that God Himself died for us.

      October 13, 2010 at 9:58 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @G

      Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” – Matthew 24:34
      This controversial verse is in all three of the Olivet Discourse accounts. (These accounts are to be found in Matthew 24:1-51, Mark 13:1-37, and Luke 21:5-33). For some time, critics of the Christian faith have argued that Jesus explicitly said here that all of the events prophesied in the Olivet Discourse, including His return, would happen before the last person living at that time died.
      Jesus promised, that He would return within that generation, but He did not. Since He was wrong, He could not have been God, so the Christian faith, is based on error. To bolster the argument, in all of the other places in the Gospels where Jesus used the term “this generation,” he was referring to people living at that time.

      Fundies will use theological gymnastics to try to explain-away Jesus's words, but Jesus said what he said.

      The Preterists take Jesus at his word, and use an interpretation of Christian eschatology which holds that most or all of the biblical prophecies concerning the End Times refer to events which have already happened in the first century after Christ's birth. The system also claims that Ancient Israel finds its continuation or fulfillment in the Christian church at the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. For more info on this, google "preterist" Cheers!

      October 14, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  12. Jeremy

    religion was created only to CONTROL people

    October 13, 2010 at 10:20 am |
    • brad

      People don't need religion to be controlled. Their own vices will do that.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:42 am |
    • Luke

      But it is why it was created in the first place. It just isn't needed anymore.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:00 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Jeremy
      You said, "religion was created only to CONTROL people"

      I don't agree. I think the gods were invented because people feared death and because they didn't understand anything in the world around them. God comforted them.

      When floods and droughts and sickness came, it was decided god was punishing. From the fact that god would punish for acts He did not like, came the laws and the prophets. Cheers!

      October 13, 2010 at 11:34 am |
    • QS

      @David – Jeremy didn't say "god" was created to control people, he said religion was. There is a difference. Perhaps god was created by man for a means of comfort and a feeling of security, but that's a far cry from what religion has done to this world.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • TyrantsKill

      Sounds like our Government. Politics must be a religion as well?

      October 13, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  13. JohnLK

    What do they mean "IF society can survive without god". God has done NOTHING tangible for us. Its all been nature and evolution. We have been "surviving" without God since the beginning. God doesnt exist. Dont agree because the Universe must have a creator? Who created God then? Why does he get a free "creation" ticket"?

    October 13, 2010 at 10:17 am |
    • thinkpoint

      Ah yes, a common argument "If all things need a cause, then God must also need a cause." If God needed a cause, God is not God. Since we all know that something does not come from nothing, if God is a “something,” He must have a cause.

      Problem: The question works off a misleading assumption that God came from somewhere. The question itself is illogical.

      Someone compared it to asking, “What does blue smell like?” "Blue is not in the category of things that have a smell, so the question itself is flawed. In the same way, God is not in the category of things that are created or caused. God is uncaused and uncreated—He simply exists."

      "If we know that nothing comes from nothing, if there were ever a time when there was absolutely nothing in existence, then nothing would have ever come into existence. But things do exist. Therefore, since there could never have been absolutely nothing, something had to have always been in existence. That ever-existing thing is what we call God. God is the uncaused Being that caused everything else to come into existence. God is the uncreated Creator who created the universe and everything in it." (got questions)

      October 13, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • BW

      @thinkpoint
      So it's plausible that God has always existed and created the universe, but not that the universe has just always existed and everything stems from it?

      October 13, 2010 at 11:25 am |
    • David Johnson

      @Thinkpoint

      If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Indian’s view, that the world rested upon a tortoise; and when someone said, “How about the tortoise?”, the Indian said, “Suppose we change the subject.” – Bertrand Russell

      October 13, 2010 at 11:27 am |
    • Jess

      @ThinkPoint – While I hate to respond to someone who is obviously just poking around to get blog hits... Your argument isn't even an argument. You've decided to create for yourself a God who doesn't need explaining so that you can then say, "See, I don't need an explanation." I for one am not giving you that free pass. If you can just say "X doesn't need a creator, it just is!" then I declare that to be true of the universe and life as we know it. It just happened. Poof there was a universe and it happened to have a planet that we could evolve on. There you go, no argument needed.

      Think about it this way: If you said you had an invisible friend who watched out for you and listened to your hopes and dreams, and his name was Bob and he lived in your attic so you could look up to him at all times – what would you expect any other sane adult to think of your story? Do you think that just because you call your invisible friend "God" and point to millions of other delusional people that it is more realistic?

      October 13, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • J

      These arguments are always so silly. Just as God cannot be explained the question of the origin of the original atoms that collided to form the big bang cannot either.

      We are so focused on time being such a constrained idea that we do not like to admit that we don't yet have answers for everything.

      God, Big bang, or both – it doesn't really matter. We all die in the end and when we do maybe clearer answers will be made available to us. Or maybe our atoms will just be used to make something else and our egos will cease to exist.

      In the meantime, wasting all of this energy fighting and bickering over ambiguous answers to broad questions makes us all look foolish.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • JWG

      The beginning of wisdom is the belief in God. I hope you know that God loves you because He created you, along with everyone else in this world. Evolution is just a man made theory for those who choose not to believe in God. Why is there right and wrong then? With evolution, right and wrong mean nothing. We should all just start killing each other then because we are evolving, for bad. Once you lose God in society, it becomes hell on earth. The Big Bang theory holds no water. I don't get how we can all come from a big explosion that nobody started.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • Frogist

      @thinkpoint:
      "Therefore, since there could never have been absolutely nothing, something had to have always been in existence. That ever-existing thing is what we call God."
      To that statement, I would add "for now". We look to that ever present thing and call it god for now because we do not yet have the tools or knowledge to understand what that thing is. That doesn't mean we won't ever understand it. And it doesn't mean we are guaranteed to understand it either.It just means that as humans we are not at that point to understand it... for now.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
    • ScottK

      @ JWG "With evolution, right and wrong mean nothing" I've heard this statement many times, even from my family when I left the church, and I believe this is the reasoning of delusional people. Right and wrong are actually products of evolution which you would know if you took the time to study social evolution and the history of human civilizations. Infact the whole debate here of being able to survive with/without God is an example of our combined social evolution that we are even be able to discuss this openly. If it were up to most religions, especially those in our recent past (dark ages) we would not even be able to speak of such things without being in fear of our lives. But now we have evolved socially to the point where having a differing opinion as to our origins is mostly acceptable, and we can lay out the hard evidence that fosils and cave art and ancient tools can tell us about our ancestors.

      Right and wrong are based on risk vs reward in social groups, at home, at the office, around a fire or in a cave 30,000 years ago. We do good things to show our benefit to the group, and by that good is defined not by ourselves but others. Bad is the same, when we do something that hurts/harms the group we are chastised/punished based on the definitions of good and bad made by others in a group, which we often adopt as our own understandings of right & wrong /good & bad.

      However, religous people find no need for facts or research when they claim moral authority and make unprovable statements about right and wrong.

      October 13, 2010 at 6:58 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @ScottK

      Well said...

      October 13, 2010 at 7:23 pm |
  14. Tyler Durden the Narrator

    Hitch is the man

    October 13, 2010 at 10:14 am |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    The more likely scenario, is that organized religion will destroy civilization, through persecution and conflict between the various religions. We already see that the war of Islam against all other religions, appears to be a never ending war.

    October 13, 2010 at 10:12 am |
    • thinkpoint

      Interestingly, religion has not been the primary source of violence in the world: Another myth from the academy. See: Blaming Religion for violence in world http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2007/02/26/blaming-religion-for-violence-in-world/

      October 13, 2010 at 10:25 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      I don't blame small violence on religion. hate crime, genocide, that is religion. drive by shootings are pride, money or drug fueled.
      but keep promoting your boring blog.

      October 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
  16. brad

    "“The behavior of human beings towards one another has sunk to levels not far from the Stone Age,” he (Peter) said.
    Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-developer with Darwin of the theory of natural selection (why don't we ever hear of him !?) was doing research in Malaysia while Darwin was hisitating to make his theories public. When Wallace returned to England, he was appalled at the level to which society had descended in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. Man was supposed to be evolving, not devolving.

    October 13, 2010 at 9:50 am |
    • NL

      Perhaps he was just appalled by the rise of the middle class?

      I'm not sure that you can successfully argue that there was a time of greater personal security for the individual. Was the average European, for example, more secure during the Roman era, the hight of Christian dominance on that continent, or now?

      October 13, 2010 at 10:21 am |
    • brad

      Hi, NL
      I once read a book by Hillaire Belloc ( can't remember the name of the book). He made the point that during the High Middle ages, feudal as it was, everyone had a place in society and knew that he had a place. I don't know your experience, NL, but in mine, I never know what place i will have, if any, during the next layoff. At the same time, you're right. Insecurity is just part of the human condition. On another note, there's a paradox at work: the very conditions (evil, desease, death, etc.) that should convince us that God is non involved, often drive us into the very arms of God.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:31 am |
    • dt

      Hmmm. I think you've misrepresented the facts again. The paradox is in the fact that a benevolent god would allow evil. Not the fact that we fear it, and turn to something for help.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:20 am |
    • NL

      brad-
      If Belloc would measure paradise as where "everyone had a place in society and knew that he had a place" then should we assume that he would approve of North Korea? 'Knowing' your place often means being told what your place is, and that is not my idea of heaven. If your main concern is overcoming insecurity might I suggest studying some of the Eastern religious philosophies? They seem to have a greater concern for reaching human contentment than the Abrahamic faiths do.

      And yes faith can be a friend in good times and bad, much like alcohol can.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
    • ScottK

      Humans almost always, as a rule, hope that things will get better, and at the same time feel that things are going from bad to worse. This has been true for the last 6000 years of recorded history. I believe this is because as children many often have a much rosier view of the world, its a simpler time when we can run & play without to many responsibilities. Then as life progresses we start seeing the world through the eyes of responsibility and what part we must play to ensure a happy childhood for the next generation and often feel changes accutely since we wanted to raise our children just as we were raised but rarely are able to simulate that after 20+ years of change and feel upset or depressed.

      In reality, life has improved for hundreds of millions of humans and continues to improve beyond the dark ages, slavery, spiritual healers/doctors, drowning witches or heretics and many more abhorent behaviours that we have wisely (mostly) left behind. Someday that list might include religious fanatasism/extremism or even the belief in a human defined God. I for one feel this is progress in the right direction.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
    • Frogist

      @ScottK: I am in agreement.

      October 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
  17. brad

    Here in the southwest United States, the temperatures will soar over 100 F every day for weeks. The streets will bake all day, then when the sun goes down, the streets are hot well into the night. Imagine someone walking on the streets at night and saying "See. I can keep warm without the sun." History has been like this. For thousands of years, man has been "baked" in the moral principles ascribed to God. Now, we think we can live without God. If we can, it's only because of what we've absorbed from the beginning through religious teaching (not behaviou necessarily!) . We can never go back, start over without God, and see what would be the outcome.

    October 13, 2010 at 9:25 am |
    • Luke

      Your metaphors are so bad. The difference between your idea of god and reality is that if someone really subscribed to the idea that one could live without the sun because the streets are hot at night, they'd die. Whereas, someone like me would explain the science behind thermodynamics, heat transfer, radiation and how the sun is life's energy source even when the earth turns away from it for approximately 12 hours.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:16 am |
    • brad

      Thanks much. But as an engineer I already know about thermodynamics, heat transfer, fluid mechanics, stress analysis, and how to get a patent. No need to overstrain my metaphor. It came from the right side of my brain.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:35 am |
    • Luke

      brad – So then you do understand how your example fails miserably. Got it.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:39 am |
    • dt

      Oh the wonder of metaphors that make no sense. "I need food to live, I eat food, god created food, therefore god exists."

      October 13, 2010 at 11:16 am |
    • Mike B.

      "For thousands of years, man has been "baked" in the moral principles ascribed to God. "

      Well, if you're referring to Christianity then it's only been the last 2,000 years. So I suppose there couldn't have been any civilizations that existed without the Christian god anywhere on earth before 2,000 years ago.

      Let's stop with the silly analogies that are only relevant within their own parameters (and not actually applicable to anything in the real world).

      October 13, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • Frogist

      @Luke&brad: I can understand brad's metaphor. I think he's saying that since we have been taught about god for thousands of years we cannot say that we are currently living without god. That is, god is in our historical and moral makeup because of years of indoctrination through religions. And I agree that for us to live without the concept of god or religion, we would have to destroy humanity utterly and start over which is impossible. I am not sure I agree with the rest of what brad is saying however. If we agree that we have to be taught about god to know him, then who was the first teacher? It becomes a chicken and the egg issue. If we have absorbed morality and social consequences from our earliest consciousness as humans, then isn't it just as likely that this morality, this idea of god, evolved through trial and error just like everything else? But either way it does not cut the possibility of a god out of the picture, nor does it confirm a god's existence. Which pretty much brings us back to the beginning. If you believe, then you can see god everywhere, if you don't, then you don't see proof of god anywhere. And both paths mean you can choose to live with or without god.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @brad,
      "We can never go back, start over without God, and see what would be the outcome."
      I think you have it backwards, we can never go back and start over *with* God...

      October 13, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
    • Inyourdreams

      "Then you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." Why would anyone prefer to live in ignorance, secure in their day-to-day folly and toil.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:33 pm |
  18. thinkpoint

    Well, once again, I feel the heat without the light. Let's avoid general assessments like "you cannot argue very well." Put downs and personal attacks are tactics of manipulation not discussion. Stick with the actual arguments don't throw out general statements. As to the issue of "if we require a deity to ensure moral standards" it is not so much my point as bewilderment at the moralizing fundamentalism of atheists being such a blatant contradiction. I could respect them more if they were honest enough to at least say: We don't know and can ONLY share our feelings about right and wrong.
    I hope there is no God:
    http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2008/12/03/i-hope-there-is-no-god-thomas-nagel/

    October 13, 2010 at 9:17 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      There is no contradiction in the definition of atheist. The writings on morality from an atheist can no more be used to form blanket statements about all atheists than we can blanket christians as hate filled militia members. Your "argument" is a non-starter. Not all atheists are POLPOT, Not all catholics are HITLER. Not all muslims are BIN LADEN.do you see?

      October 13, 2010 at 9:43 am |
    • NL

      We may just as easily argue if parents need to encourage a belief in Santa to maintain the good behavior of their children. Such has been the function of Santa, as a kind of primer for the God belief, but every parent usually comes to the point when they consider letting the Santa belief slip away, right? After a certain age it becomes an embarrassment to the child and unnecessary once they've developed the cognitive skills to understand the inherent value of maintaining their own behavior without being bribed with rewards for doing so. So, my question to you is, is a belief in God necessary for a person mature enough to see the inherent value of doing no harm to others?

      October 13, 2010 at 10:03 am |
    • Raison

      @NL

      A great post again. 😀

      October 13, 2010 at 10:52 am |
    • ScottK

      Same thing can be said of almost all Christians I know – "I could respect them more if they were honest enough to at least say: We don't know and can ONLY share our feelings about right and wrong, I hope there is a God".
      Instead most Christians are attempting to force their beliefs into school, courthouses, marriages and our government touting their opinions as facts. When every single scientist believes, based on hard evidence, that the earth is over 4 billion years old, should we not tell our children? Or should we force them to hear the other sides story first, that God did it in 6 days about 6000 years ago? And the only evidence to base this belief on is a second hand account written by a guy in a desert 3000 years after the supposed fact?
      I'm happy to allow for the possibility of a higher power, but if there is one, I doubt very highly that anyone here on earth has it figured out correctly. So take your own advice and stop pushing your own religious agenda as some sort of fact based reasoning, it is merely your opinion.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
    • Teddy

      @NL: When do we become mature enough to see the "inherent" value of doing no harm to humans? When has humanity ever displayed such "inherent" value? There is no science that assigns worth to any human being. If the laws of nature are one's guides then there ought to be a sort of social darwinism–a survival of the fittest. The only people we would consider valueable are the ones who are our family and friends. Doing good to our enemies would have no "inherent" value. Who decides who one's enemies are? Will those lines be drawn based upon nationality? Ethnicity? Ideologies? Humanity has always gone to war and brutally terrorized one another over these very divides. At what point is humanity ever mature enough to understand the inherent value of doing others no harm?

      October 13, 2010 at 2:19 pm |
    • NL

      Teddy-
      Asking if humanity is presently, or has ever been, mature enough to understand the inherent value of doing others no harm is somewhat academic as we have never been called upon to do so. We're like the 40 year old who has always lived under our parent's roof; overprotective parents who have always made all the decisions for us. Maybe we could have made it on our own as a teen, or in our twenties, or maybe even a few years ago. Who knows because our societies have always had religion governing them. Had atheism taken hold before Moses then perhaps Jesus would have been born without a message to deliver, and humanity could have advanced without the Dark Ages or religious wars holding us back.

      We will never know when we could have made it without religion, but could we make it now? Fears of social darwinism make for good science fiction, but what you have described is actually true under religion. Religion has often devalued people based upon their ethnicity, race, social position, and religion, which is a form of ideology, yes? Religion has offered us answers to who our enemies are as well. Why wouldn't a secular nation offer aid to rival countries in hopes of fostering peace and better relations between them?

      Your argument, sir, is completely 'holy' and I also stretch that to mean that it holds no water. We've played our hand filled with nothing but holy cards since the beginning, and I fail to see how we are winning the game by doing this. It's hard to imagine how we could do any worse by throwing out these religious cards and getting a brand-new, secular hand.

      October 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • Raison

      @NL
      (jaw drops) wow! Where IS that "like" button? This website has serious flaws.......

      October 13, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
    • Teddy

      @NL:
      It seems a bit of a stretch to ascribe all of the blame for wars based on nationality, ethnicity, ideology to the sole cause of religion. That is an interesting interpretation of history. Was the reign of terror in France a holy war? Was World War 2 a holy war? Were the wars against Communism holy wars? Or were there ever wars fought solely upon the basis of national boundaries, ethnic purity, possession of material resources (like gold or oil), or ideological clashes? I dare say that there are other reasons for war and brutality besides religion. Religion is just one cause among many. It seems to me that the problem is human nature. We use numerous artificial barriers to divide ourselves and then wage war based upon those barriers. That has always been the history of humanity. Religion has been but one of those reasons for war, but not the sole source of all of these reasons.

      However, let us assume for the sake of argument that you are correct. Let us assume that somehow religion has so tainted all of humanity that it is the sole cause for all of the other reasons we go to war. That somehow religion is the parent ruling the household that you mentioned. Why would you assume that in overthrowing religion we would not find other reasons for war? In the vacuum left by religious belief, why would you assume that morality would fill that void? History has shown through the Communinist experiment among others that something will replace that void. Whatever that something is (nationalism, tribalism, materialism), it will be just as brutal as religion has been. The problem is human nature, not the "reasons" humanity uses to justify brutality.

      Also, if this moral code of treating humans fairly is somehow inherent, why hasn't it stopped us from exploiting and mistreating one another up until now. After all, your conjecture is that it is inherent. Is this morality an inherent quality of living like gravity? Whether I believe in gravity or not, when I throw something up in the air it always comes down. It is not subject to my personal belief system. Is this so-called "inherent" morality on that scale? If it is, it should have stopped us long ago from our inhumanity to other human beings regardless of our belief systems. If it is not, but requires a choice, who's to say that all should choose that moral code? Why not make exceptions for one's enemies, whomever they may be? If it is a choice, then this so-called maturity that you think we have grown into isn't a given outcome, but must be chosen.

      Your initial proposition, therefore, represents your hope for humanity. It is a hope that isn't founded upon empirical data or historical veracity. It is a hope, dare I say it, founded upon your faith in humanity. Yours is an argument for faith. You have just replaced God with humanity.

      October 13, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @ScottK

      Very well said....

      October 13, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @NL

      As always great postings.... Teddy, obviously (in my opinion), NL's arguments makes better sense to me.

      October 13, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
    • Teddy

      @Peace2all: why do you think NL's arguments are better. Do tell.

      October 13, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
    • Inyourdreams

      "the inherent value of doing no harm". What causes a person to recognize the "inherent value" of doing no harm? Either they want to avoid jail, or to have some sense of self preservation and thus avoid violence or they have some sort of moral code within themself. If we agree that they find some sort of moral code to direct their conduct, we have to ask where did they get this moral code, and how can any of us weigh it to decide whether it is good? Where do we get a notion of good unless we have a notion of something worse and of something also better. Therefore if so many of us can agree that something is morally good then there must be something outside of ourselves and higher than ourselves that provides our scales of measure. We could not individually come to the same collective moral rules, for instance it's wrong to kill, on our own accord; otherwise, perhaps half of the people might just as well say, "oh it's fun to kill; perhaps if you're not busy Tuesday, we'll go out and wipe out a hamburger stand".

      October 13, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
    • NL

      Teddy-

      Why assume that moving away from the house of religion would lead to disaster? My argument has been that life under that roof has been no picnic. Some of the more secular nations on the planet have been the most peaceful, with lower crime rates. There are disproportionately fewer athiests in our prison system, so why assume that a lack of religion leads to an immoral lifestyle? As Steven Weinberg put it "I think that on the balance the moral influence of religion has been awful. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil. But for good people to do evil – that takes religion." This probably accounts for the failure of many people's innate sense of right and wrong to prevent them from causing harm.

      I have no reason to be SURE that humanity will behave better without religion on a universal scale because we have never been without religion in our entire history, but I know what life has been like under religion, and I know what life is like in more secular nations, so I have reason to be hopeful that a secular world would do just fine. Think of it as moving out of our parent's house. If we succeed you could feel comforted with believing that we owe religion for having raised us well and for having given us a basic sense of right and wrong. But we're a new generation, and our parents' values just aren't suited to the world we are moving into. It's time to move on.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
    • NL

      Teddy-
      Due to technical difficulties this was supposed to go before the previous post.

      Not all wars are caused by religion, but plenty are. Remove religion as a cause of wars and you will have fewer wars, yes?

      The clergy class were a major factor in the French Revolution, and we believed God was on our side in every war we have been involved in, including the Cold War. We made the communists' atheism our primary reason for calling them our enemy. For many of the wars not started by religion, religion certainly has played a part, and I don't mean in making the conflict any less brutal. Quite the opposite, actuality. Religion tends to stir up the most brutal fighting.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
    • jonah of arkansas

      i like turtles

      October 13, 2010 at 11:48 pm |
    • NL

      Inyourdreams-
      You said "Therefore if so many of us can agree that something is morally good then there must be something outside of ourselves and higher than ourselves that provides our scales of measure."

      In a secular society we would have this greater, outside measure: Society. We as a group decide what laws to enact, where individuals may clearly have personal preferences. People can have a moral code without needing a god to act as the all-seeing hall monitor in everyone's lives. Considering how the vast majority of our prisoners are believers how effective really is God as a moral measure or a deterrent?

      The biblical moral codes, enforced by God's wrath and reward system of morality, seems to produce only a few genuinely moral people who live their lives without harming others. You have to wonder if these individuals aren't just naturally moral to begin with. It doesn't seem to prevent murder, or stealing, or adultery very much at all. Returning to my cards analogy, they're about as effective as setting your draw cutoff in Blackjack at 19. If you're lucky, you might win 1 in 4 hands, but it's not the smart way to make money.

      October 14, 2010 at 8:40 am |
    • Inyourdreams

      @ NL
      I disagree with most all you argument. Secular society doesn't just come up with moral laws out of the blue sky. There is an ingrained sense of right and wrong in everyone whether they live in the United States or the United Arab Republic. This sense of right and wrong is a part of our soul and was acquired at some point ( I happen to believe by God). Mere flesh and blood has no moral code. If your statement about secular societies coming up with their own moral law were correct, there would be a greater variety of moral ethics in the world, but nearly everyone can agree on good manners.

      October 14, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
    • NL

      Inyourdreams-
      Do wolf packs and lion prides have social structure because wolves and lions have souls nagging at their individual consciences? Some things are basic to all the social animals like 'protect the group' and 'defend from rivals'.

      I'm not saying that we should throw everything out and start completely fresh. For a long time, once our social groups grew bigger, religion served as the framework for enforcing our innate moral sense, but along with that began the abuse of such powerful beliefs by leaders seeking to control us. Some of the values and morals put forward by religions are still valid in today's society, but the rest are painfully outdated and hurting us.

      It would be unfair to say that modern secular societies come up with their ethics out of the clear blue sky, as you say. For, example, we've added various other philosophies to scriptural ethics here in the US to develop our own, unique ethic. Secular ethics would grow from the rootwork of what came before, in this case religious ethics, but much improved by not being chained to an irrational framework. The great majority of criminals in this country are professed Christians. Either these people take the redemption idea to heart and live however they choose with the plan of asking for forgiveness just as they are about to die, or they really don't take the idea of a judging God and Hell seriously at all, and ignore the morals they've learned were linked to these beliefs. Either way, religion fails to live up to it's promise to make people behave better, and society is suffering because of it.

      What's more, religion forces people to accept some ethics that we innately know are wrong. When discussing gayness with believers it will usually come to a point where they will agree that the only argument against accepting people as being gay are the scriptural references against it. They would be OK with it, but the bible says that God disapproves, so their hands are tied. So, ancient taboos trump our common sense. Does this make sense to you?

      October 15, 2010 at 11:26 am |
    • DANIEL REDMOND

      DEAR THINKPOINT, Christianity embraces the incredibly cynical viewpoint that human beings have no innate sense of right vs wrong. It assumes that for the hundreds of thousands of years prior to the purported appearance of Jesus that Mankind had no concept that theft or murder were wrong and that we were merely base animals at heart. By extension of that belief is the assumption that Christians themselves are essentially immoral beings who are guided not by a sense of justice but must be coerced with promises of rewards (Heaven) and threats of punishment (Hell) in order to do what is morally correct. What a cynical and dim view of humanity this illustrates?

      And what is the central theme of morality offered by Christianity? It is, as Hitchens has illustrated, the fundamentally obscene and immoral concept of "vicarious redemption," the notion that you can be absolved of guilt for your own sins or crimes by the suffering and death of another person (Jesus). Can there be any more depraved message than that in the whole history of humanity? Imagine murdering your neighbor and then watching as another neighbor his tortured to death as a scapegoat for YOUR OWN crime and then afterward feeling that you yourself have been totally absolved of any guilt by that scapegoat's brutal death? Only a psychopath would think this was justice. But this psychopathic notion of vicarious redemption is the central theme in all Christian teaching.......Christ died FOR YOUR SINS. Truth be told, Christianity is little more than a bizarre death cult that focuses relentlessly on the death of Jesus and devalues this life here on Earth in favor of some elusive, imaginary "afterlife" that you are supposed to get when you die as a reward for groveling before your imaginary deity. It is all quite perverse and ridiculous.

      November 16, 2010 at 8:37 am |
  19. Selfish Gene

    We tried religion for 2000 years. Why not give it a try without.

    October 13, 2010 at 9:09 am |
    • Mike

      The French has tried that with the enlightenment... they are returning to Christianity.

      October 13, 2010 at 9:46 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      Be truthful, they are being over run with muslim immigrants.

      October 13, 2010 at 9:53 am |
    • Luke

      Mike – Utterly false statement.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:12 am |
    • Zach

      Stalin tried it. It lead to 60 million dead.
      Mao Tse Tung also tried it. It lead to 70 million dead.
      Pol Pot tried it too. It lead to the deaths of a third of his country.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:22 am |
    • Roger

      Zach – All 3, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot created their own religious cult followings. So they replaced one set of religious beliefs with another set of beliefs which had to be followed. Bad examples. There was no free thinking going on there. Everyone was forced to think like the leader or die... very religious.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:54 am |
    • Joshua

      Nice reasoning.

      We've gone hundreds of years as a democratic society – how about we try functioning as a society without democracy?

      Point being, your argument is flawed.

      I am a Christian who believes that there SHOULD be a separation of church and state. It can be argued that America was founded upon Christian principles, but in reality, it was formed with the idea of religious freedom.

      Let us not become a "Christian nation" and become no better than those in Iran who religiously prosecute those who do not believe. For true freedom to occur – for me to be able to practice my Christianity freely, and for the freedom for others to choose there own path – we must NOT adopt a centralized religion and use it as a basis for running our nation.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
    • Mike

      it's not look into it. Being overran by something does not show a willingness toward something.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
    • Aaron

      Roger good to see you agree that forcing people to abandon their religion in favor of someone elses imposed belief no matter what that belief is a bad thing and would essentially amount to creating a new religion.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:20 pm |
    • DavidR

      @Selfish,

      Religion has never been a solution. However, you might want to try your creator ... oh, unless if you accept the "scientific fact" of the big bang hoax. Let me see, in order for something to qualify as true using the scientific method, there must be empirical evidence, and there is zero for an uncaused big bang. In other words, if the big bang happened once, it must be repeatable to qualify as scientific. Do you recall any observed big bangs? Really, if it happened once, what is preventing it from ever happening again? Can there be one in my cup of coffee?

      The big bang is an effect, but what was the cause? He's called "the uncaused first cause."

      October 13, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • Selfish Gene

      DavidR is using the Ray Comfort textbook. Scientific method is not the same as scientific theory, and nobody says the big bang theory is a truth, proof or fact. It is just one plausible scenario. Stephen Hawking has a theory that coincides with it. Maybe you've heard of him. I am open to any explanation that has merit.

      HOWEVER, "god did it" is such a cop out. And I absolutely refuse to take it "on faith". At least we have stellar drift (scientific fact) to back up a big bang.

      October 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @DavidR

      That is called the 'god of the gaps' argument. Anything that is not *yet* explained or repeated by the scientific method, quite often the 'religious folk' like to

      plug a god into wherever there may be any gaps in science.

      However, as science is continuing to evolve and discover and uncover more facts in our natural world, it is becoming harder for the 'religious fundamentalists' to continue to keep their old beliefs.

      At least I am seeing a few of the 'religious' at least try and keep up with the sciences and 'evolve' their 'model' of a god. That is something, in my opinion, is a step in the right direction.

      October 13, 2010 at 8:10 pm |
    • Inyourdreams

      We've also been baking bread for well over two thousand years, and you know what, it still tastes better coming out of a clay oven than from a factory. Just because something is old doesn't mean it isn't true. Some things are eternal truths.

      October 13, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
    • etna

      Hitler, Stalin and Mao tried it in less than 100 years and the results were devastating, more than 50 million killed. Thanks but no thanks!

      October 15, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
    • etna

      ATHEISM IS A RELIGION! It would kill for it's beliefs.
      I personally have no problem it you don't believe in God. I do have a problem with with atheists saying that their non belief is not a belief system. Because it Is! Just another religion. If Darwin came back to life you would offer human sacrifice to him.
      Selfish Gene can you please be a little original. Don't use the name if your not Dawkins ( Your Messiah ). I don't know if you can have multiple saviors in you religion.

      October 15, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
  20. Raison

    I think the question should be : "Can humanity survive without mental illness?"
    I say this because "civilization" is a subjective label that is meaningless without any particular context or definition...and because of the delusional aspects of religion that are a direct effect of mental illness and / or a lack of rational thought processes.

    To ask what would happen if "God" were to disappear when he does not and never has appeared in the first place is a complete waste of time.
    If a "God" were to actually exist, one would first have to define the attributes of said god in order to determine what the effects are in any case. And no one seems able or willing to come up with a list of attributes that matches what everyone can see of the universe...including our mental processes.

    So if "civilization" cannot be defined and "God" cannot be defined, then the question is, indeed, ridiculous, to put it mildly.

    Can humanity survive without mental illness? Only if nothing else wipes us out. One deadly disease with the right characteristics could wipe the planet of human beings quite easily.

    Maybe the question should be :"Can humanity survive WITH mental illness?"
    My answer would be a resounding "NO".

    October 13, 2010 at 7:29 am |
    • Frogist

      @Raison: I think you are doing a disservice to the faithful by equating religious belief with mental illness. Most people who seek a church, in my experience, are not mentally ill. They are looking for social comforts. And the church, and it's required religion, provides that comfort in spades. To say that these people are diseased because they seek meaning and care is a cruel and misguided point of view. (It's also highly divisive if you seek to bring people over to your way of thinking.) Atheists too seek care and meaning, they just seek it in another place. Reason, logic and numbers are only comforting to a certain extent. Even an atheist might still feel more comfortable getting into a car than on a plane, despite the fact that car accidents are much more common than plane crashes. And that fear, that emotional response, can only be allayed to a certain extent by statistical data or even reason. The comfort of a friend's hand, or a kind word, is much more effective. And that is what religious people get when they go to church. Is it fair to condemn the one person for reaching out for comfort, but not the other? The search for meaning and comfort are not a case of mental disease. I think atheists and religious people forget that we are essentially on the same quest. And we hurl insults at the other without seeing that we are both seeking cameraderie and meaning. The faithful think emotional comfort cannot be found in atheism, and atheists think truth cannot be found in religion. But neither are correct.

      October 13, 2010 at 9:10 am |
    • brad

      Civilization without God has already led to mental illness. I remember as a child in the 1960's having nuclear fallout shelters. We were told not to eat snow because of suspected radiation from nuclear testing. We lived in fear of the Soviet Union. Nuclear annihilation did not occur during the Cold War – not because of human reason, but because of a policy called MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction. It had nothing to do with God anymore than the experiments of Joseph Mengele of the Nazis. The fact that we can insult millions of each other with a click of the Internet button has nothing to do with God.

      As for evidence of God, two questions: 1) if you saw such evidence would you recognize it, 2) would you even look at the evidence? Scientific types are know to ignore evidence that disagrees with their theories.

      October 13, 2010 at 9:34 am |
    • Luke

      brad – Poor poor argument. First of all, we live currently in a state of the world very similar to the one you described, with the very real chance of terrorist attacks across the globe all in the name of god. Not someone else's god – your god. Are you not scared? Secondly, sure, the Soviets regime behind the Cold War was atheist. However, they did nothing in the name of atheism. It's equivelent to saying that Hitler had a mustache, so all leaders with mustaches are evil. It's just not the case and a logical fallacy. As Professor Dawkins would argue, there is no neurological link from the idea of rejecting theism to a certain political philosophy that condones murder and terrorism. The same cannot, nor ever will be, said about religion.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:12 am |
    • Raison

      @Frogist
      I am amazed, for your whole argument revolves around the fact that humans can comfort one another – which destroys your argument even as you try to build it!

      Yes, human comfort one another and we should all seek each other out to do this wonderful thing, but what does that have to do with religion other than having a handy excuse to gather? When did it become impossible to do so without religion?

      To search for meaning and comfort in religion is to have given up on reality.
      When you give up on what is real you are in a bad way. To find comfort in delusion is perhaps understandable (for so many do it) but it is NOT a mentally healthy way of dealing with emotional stress – for you are merely trading one sort of inadequacy for another one, but religion will not let you free from delusion, for it has tied the delusion to the emotional feedback loop that makes religion such a hard fantasy-world from which to extract the victims or from which to escape.

      I myself suffer from mental illness. I will not give up my rights or freedoms to religion because I do not want to add to my illness or my problems. I can seek the comfort of other people without needing the delusions and thereby receive a more rational form of comfort. All comfort is not religious in nature, and I wonder at your implication that this is how comfort must be. Comfort is comfort – it is not religion. If you force the issue and remove all other sources of comfort, as religion so often tries to do, then you have admitted that religion has to cheat and defraud in order to force people into seeking it.

      I live in a town where this has gone on for decades. There are an extremely small number of "secular" places and activities where people can seek comfort and fellowship. Everything else has been restricted, prohibited, and violently opposed for religious reasons. If you want to be with other people, you really have very little choice anymore. Drink alcohol with other Christians or go to church with other Christians. There is almost nothing else. Every dance hall has been driven out of existence here, one after the other. Every gathering place formed by young people has been harassed until they scatter and try to find another place. Everything is focused on forcing people to have no choice but religion. It is utterly disgusting.

      You think I condemn the mentally ill or the emotionally needy for choosing religion when it is so often presented as the only available choice to those who don't know any better. Is that freedom of thought? Of choice? It is a crime against humanity.

      I don't condemn the victims of religion who don't know any better. How could I? It would be like prosecuting a child as an adult when they did not know any better. It is the whole definition of "not knowing any better". Religion makes a virtue of ignorance and sins out of knowledge and reason and common sense. Religion is insanity wrapped in fraud with a pretty bow on top, and it leads us a sad dance of it, I'm afraid. Religion uses claws of fear to keep people in line, and violence to chase away any truth that threatens. It is a madness upon the face of the world.

      I may condemn their choice, but not the people themselves. They deserve pity and I wish there was some way of healing them of their delusional belief systems, but science has not gotten that far yet. We can only try to de-program them. Religion is delusion writ large.
      Have you ever seen the victim of a cult? Blind denial of everything that threatens their belief system. They cannot help it.
      Indoctrination of delusional beliefs is a crime against humanity and against every individual it is practiced upon.
      When done to children it is child abuse. They have no defense against what you would do to them. No defense at all. Their trust is betrayed, their freedoms ripped from them, their rights blatantly ignored and their world-views warped – often scarring them for life.

      If only for the children's sake I will fight against religion for the rest of my life. Religion is delusional and allowing it to be forced upon children is an utterly heinous crime. But how could I stop the parents when they are victims too?

      These are the sort of questions you HAVE to deal with when confronting delusional belief systems so deeply steeped in tradition that a solution becomes a compromise by necessity. A concession that humanity is well and truly fu-cked.

      As for doing them a disservice, if they are mentally ill and deluded beyond help thanks to the twisted half-logic that religions offer, then why is it a disservice to point this out and to call for reform? To stop the lies? To stop the fraud and the criminal and sociopathic behavior?

      Frogist, I really do care about everybody and earnestly desire the very best for humanity. In this case, that means pointing out the harsh truths in the light of reason, logic, and complete honesty.
      Comfort is not a guarantee in this universe, nor, I guess, is mental health.
      I am not expecting results overnight. Humanity is overburdened with delusional and irrational thinking thanks to our physical shortcomings. Any viable solution is likely to require an incremental approach and better progress in medical science.

      Even if a "new" type of ho-mo sapiens evolves or is somehow engineered, there will still be the billions of us who suffer the lack of comprehensive and error-free brains. We need to do the best we can.
      It is our only hope if we want to be free of madness.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:32 am |
    • JMO

      The problem with trying to decipher or decode God is that you cannot. God, if He exists, is so far beyond our comprehension that we could not begin to explain Him or break down His attributes into terms that make any sense to human logic. He created our logic. We are a creation. Things we create do not "figure us out". What they know is what we instill into them(computers, books, etc.). The creation is not meant to understand the Creator always. Obviously we are not inanimate objects, and we have a spiritual element that is not present in any other being, but the concept stands true. We will never be able to explain the Creator except through the Word He has given us and the experiences we have personally had with Him.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:33 am |
    • J

      Raison is what is wrong with this world. Beliefs do not make this world bad – unreasoned and unyielding hate and intolerance of others is what makes this world bad.

      Raison, so long as you remain hateful and intolerant you will never have any positive impact on this world.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:41 am |
    • Frogist

      @Raison: Actually no, my argument is not just that humans can comfort one another. It is that atheists also have basic human needs that are not extinguished by factual evidence or reason. So by your very definition, even atheists are mentally ill because they do not rely solely on logic and numbers. They rely on the intangible just as much as a religious person does. Religion IS a "handy excuse to gather" which you seemed to forget in your original post. You also seem to say that comfort, and not feeling alone in the world, is inherently bad when it happens in a church. And I am opposed to that view. Being part of a social structure is a necessary human component. Saying if people seek that component in a church they are mentally ill, but if they seek it in a bar they are sane, is illogical. They are both seeking human interaction and finding it.

      You say religious ideas of a a virgin birth and talking snakes are delusions. I say they are parables and metaphors. Not all religious people believe in these things literally. You argument ignores that there are people in the middle who do not throw out realistic pursuits and science and logic but still have an enduring belief that you cannot disprove. It is a belief based on emotional needs, and I think that is the real divide. Just because something has an emotional factor does not make it invalid. It only makes it difficult, maybe impossible to quantify or even define. I think you forget that people who are comforted by going to church or prayer or a carrying a cross are equally as valid as those who are comforted by going to a concert, or reading poetry, or carrying a lucky penny. Are the people who do that second group of things mentally ill? Hardly. They are doing what humans do.
      You claim to know a more rational form of comfort. I say there is no such thing. Things that are rational are not necessarily comforting, or vice versa. And that's the real point.
      Furthermore, religion does not remove all other avenues of comfort. The people who abuse their power in the name of religion are who do that. Religion is just another way of being comforted. And the sooner both hard line atheists and religious extremists figure this out, the better off we will all be.

      October 13, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • Frogist

      @JMO: I agree with you to some extent. If we say there is a creator who made everything, and we are still trying to understand how the things he created work, how can we expect to understand the creator of those things. I understand that. But then you say the only way we will ever be able to explain this being is through "the Word He has given us and the experiences we have personally had with Him". Except there is no proof that the Word or the expericences are from the creator. It is only our limited perception that may make us think so. And from what you said, that cannot be trusted as a means to understand.

      October 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
    • Teddy

      @Raison: Is believing in God a mental illness? How are you defining mental illness? No competent psychologist or psychiatrist (who make such designations) would ever consider such a classification. If 90% of the world population believes in God or some higher power, is it even reasonable to think that they are somehow all suffering from mental illness? And if 90% of all the world were suffering from mental illness, that mental illness would serve as the norm, not the exception–meaning, to the 90% the ones suffering from a mental illness would be the 10% not the 90%. I suppose you are trying to be provocative. If so, you are undermining your plea for rationality. If you actually believe this, then you are sorely misguided, at best, and dare I say, delusional, at worst.

      October 13, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
    • Rob

      Nice job Raison!!! If people could take responsibility for the Malady's created and perpetrated by humans. Then use Reason to change our behaviors and illnesses such as Greed, Power, Murder, Fear, cheating, etc.....may be embrace Love, understanding , oneness.....
      Then we would actually be one step closer to our own ascension to "god hood" as god is defined in holy writ. All without EVER having to prostrate ourselves on Sunday morning!

      October 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • Gregory Rodriguez

      Today, love is what is needed. God is love, according to the Holy Bible.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
    • Raison

      @Frogist

      You keep ascribing to me things I did not say and did not mean. Things that make no sense to me.

      I can only assume that you are either:
      1. reading my posts too fast.
      2. trying to read them in a distracting environment.
      3. deliberately appearing to misunderstand in order to distract.
      4. deliberately misunderstanding because you don't like my argument
      5. misunderstanding because you don't understand my use of English.
      6. misunderstanding because you are using different definitions.
      7. understanding me but refusing to address my points clearly.
      8. understanding me but refusing to argue honestly or
      9. doing these things for personal reasons not related to the argument
      or something else entirely or even a combination of some of these....
      ????
      Perhaps we are the sort of people who would need to argue in smaller pieces in person in order for our "disagreement" to go more smoothly. But I wonder...

      I have seen mangling of posts like yours before. Words I did not use, things I did not say, meanings I never even came close to saying...and twisting them all around to make an argument Sarah Palin might be proud of.
      I have to say that I have never liked that sort of thing and will never respect it or accept it, no matter who is doing it.
      (is this payback or something? What a day I am having with these people!)

      I am not trying to make an issue out of you being a woman, but I've studied women my whole life. Sometimes the reasoning can be very strange to me, perhaps using a sort of "emotional logic" that I have run into more than once. Maybe it's something like that, but I am willing to leave it as unresolved in the interests of peaceful relations with the "fairer" s-ex.
      But this is not the first time I have seen you go after something that wasn't there.

      But I like you anyway, sort of. We have Kate as a mutual friend. Perhaps she could mediate? I confess I am at a loss...

      October 13, 2010 at 2:15 pm |
    • DavidR

      @Raison,

      You sound like you are reading out of a useless philosophy textbook: "If a 'God' were to actually exist, one would first have to define the attributes of said god ...'
      Prove that your statement is true. Prove that you must define the attributes of God. Would our inability to define what the sun is negate the fact that the sun exists? If we were incapable of defining God's attributes, that means He doesn't exist? Your logic is completely flawed. A child's inability to comprehend quantum physics does not negates its veracity.

      "Can humanity survive without mental illness?" When you finally cease to exist, I'm sure humanity will survive just fine.

      October 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • Raison

      @Teddy

      To be as honest as possible, I happen to include ALL irrationality as being indicative of mental illness. Some of this is sure to be genetically based and some caused by environment, etc.
      I look upon the human brain as being erratic, limited, untrustworthy, etc. I have yet to see evidence to the contrary...
      We are not perfect. Most people can agree on that. But many refuse to consider that the brain is also not perfect, and thus fail to consider as many possibilities and probabilities as possible with our limited and "incompletely developed" brains.

      Delusional thinking has it's roots in the more primitive structures of the brain. If you were to pick one delusion that you have had in the past and try to trace its roots to see why it happened at all, you might get a better idea of what I'm talking about.

      As to why you would think that the words "mental illness'" must instantly mean that it must be rare or an exception or something like that, I can only guess that you are making a strange assumption there.
      As an example, everyone in the world carries the virus that causes the "common cold", yet it is an illness that everyone in the world has. No, wait. I'll bet there are a few people who actually do not have it, but that is a technical argument and I am not well-versed enough to hash all of that out.
      We all have brains. Some of them work pretty good, some pretty bad, etc. But if you were to pick some sort of "pinnacle" of human brain development that uses our current DNA as "ho-mo sapiens", you would find that that brain is subject to delusional and irrational thinking by it's very structure.
      We are not perfect, nor are our brains...and by extension our cognitive processes.
      (I am going to end this here. I have to run some errands. If you'd like to continue this discussion with me, please continue to ask me questions or attack my positions. I'll try to respond as best I can.)
      😛

      October 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • Teddy

      @ Raison: All irrationality is indicative of mental illness? Really? Once again, I am assuming that you are attempting to be provocative. Our emotions often lead us to do irrational things. Are you suggesting that having emotions is indicative of mental illness? You are straining the limits of credulity.

      October 13, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Raison: Since you cannot dispute my words, or choose not to, you ascribe my analysis of your inflammatory rhetoric as misunderstood according to my grasp of the emotional as a female... Well there goes your credibility.

      October 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
    • Rob Dinsmore

      I have no time for a well thought out response, but I did want to agree that religion is like a mental illness. It completely inhibits the freedom of thought needed to really understand oneself and human nature in general. It locks people into a mode that is harmful to themselves and to the advancement of society, and in that sense I think it is not only a mental illness but also a social one.

      October 13, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • Raison

      @Rob Dinsmore

      Your post seemed pretty well thought out to me. And you made a good point. One that I missed. Social illness. It is the most obvious yet the least mentioned or noticed for all that. Good catch.

      October 13, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
    • ANA

      Agreed....HOW TO DEFINE GOD? OR WHICH GOD ARE RELIGIOUS PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT?
      Is it Jesus' father? Muhammad? Yaweh? or whatever God? a Jewish God? or is it God the higher power?
      If it is just God...the higher, spiritual power...which is more likely...then all those religions are destructive (since they have fought against one another thru history, and continue to kill and murder in their respective names) and wrong...

      October 13, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
    • james

      Here is the thing: God Is. He will never not be. And He LOVES YOU. What is the purpose for debate? It defiantly is not a Godly one, so why do it? The thing I was thinking about was how the "atheist" (which is a word I despise) will probably never just sit down and honestly think about it because he is always trying to find a reason to deny the fact that Jesus is God and that God Is.SO LETS NOT DEBATE, BUT LETS LOVE INSTEAD.

      October 13, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
    • Raison

      @Frogist

      LOL
      Thanks for your support. 😛

      October 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
    • jhg

      raison; the bible describes Jehovah's main attributes as Love, Power, Wisdom, Justice and Holiness. jim

      October 13, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
    • Raison

      @Teddy
      I think I strained your brain.......sahhhrehhh!

      @DavidR
      It is clear enough to me and, I would bet, to a lot of other people that you do not understand clear reasoning, rules of evidence, or any of a good dozen different things about figuring things out.
      Well, I'm not your mother, so I will just suggest that you actually check out those "textbooks" you sneer at before asking questions like the ones in your post(s). Or reason it out from scratch if you're so clever. And have a nice day.

      October 13, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
    • Anita M. Tucker

      We are confused by the lunacy of our inferior intellects when we attempt to divide spiritual matters from the soulical perspective. Those who are enamored of their own intellectual reach have refused to acknowledge the stunted reasonings from the mind of man vs the intelligence of God. Hopeless individuals base their opinions on the sensical realm, that which they can see, feel touch, taste and smell, but have not included the dimension of the spirit. It is foolishness to the narcissistic scholar to suppose that there exists a superior being with superior ways and strategy. Man has been left to his own devices, since he sees no need for God and indeed has removed him from the equation of the infrastructure of society, relegating him to peripheral status. We get what we desire. Since we neglect to pursue a living God, we die again... mentally, spiritually and physically. It is a choice.

      October 13, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • Kendall

      I just don't understand the logic in using what is obviously meant to be insulting language. "Mental Illness"?? Come on....just because one cannot define something to suit you does not mean they have a mental illness. Nor does it mean that they do not understand reason. Many ppl of faith understand the concepts of the Big Bang, evolution..etc, but choose not to put their faith into those theories anymore than some would put into religion.
      So please, don't try to tear down ppl of faith while you stand on your shaky podium of logic. You are as much a creature of faith as anyone else....just go ask your priests....you call them scientists.

      October 13, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
    • yukonmukon

      @Raison.... Describing religious tendencies as mental illness isn't accurate, and this is coming from someone who does not believe in a god in any shape or form. Anthropology and the sciences of the mind continue to reveal that religious tendencies are quite natural and even somewhat predictable. The variety of cognitive "modules" within the human mind are calibrated to interact with the environment in very specific ways, each module with its own specialized function. When these modules are handling the input they're meant to, they work quite well; when they handle input that lies outside their specified "jurisdiction," they can lead to a lot of intuitively convincing but patently false conclusions.

      This is not unlike a moth's ability to navigate by referencing a light source. When used as designed (that is, using the sun or moon as the referent), it is an indispensable tool for moth survival. But artificial light sources can trigger this function too, and that's why porches everywhere feature moths doing the kamikaze into hot light bulbs. Flying itself into the sun was never a possibility in the original conditions, so moths are wholly unprepared for that development.

      Religion in humanity is the same type of idea. It's a totally natural occurrence when you consider the fact that here we are using the cognitive abilities for social interaction and aiming them at the universe at large. I recommend the work of anthropologist Pascal Boyer, who paints a rather elegant synthesis of the related sciences and research to capture this idea.

      October 13, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Raison

      Hey Pal..!! I see we have been making lots of friends today...?!! 🙂

      I 'do' understand your post and *get it* I think 'many' that are responding to your posting, are missing the 'subtle and fine distinctions you are making.

      Also, knowing @Frogist pretty well, I do basically understand(I think) where she is coming from as well.

      If possible, I will post more later on this....... I am in between work stuff.

      Peace...

      October 13, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
    • Polarus

      That's ridiculous. There is a fundamental wrong on the extremes of both sides of faith that I hope we can all agree on: There are atheists who seek to tear down the religious minded because they are social rebels or hurtful individuals, no argument from this atheist. The second group is the religious person who assumes that non-believers put blind faith in science. Both of them are idiotic positions. Both are harmful. A 'theory' is not an accepted fact by any means and anyone with an 8th grade education should know that. It is a scientific suggestion based on evidence (whether good or bad) that is open to questioning and invites criticism. The theoretical concepts people are talking about here, specifically evolution has a great deal of observable evidence to support it but it is just a good guess not another variety of faith, the one that most scientists (and a majority of Americans) believe to be the best idea for the situation in question. I think the world would be better off if we had faith in humanity and not a god. Atheists believe human society can be trusted to function without carrots (heaven) and sticks (hell). But at the very least I can acknowledge religion does good for certain people, why folk can't keep it a personal covenant is another question. Real atheists don't hate god or a god's people. Real atheists simply don't see god in the first place and when we talk about being faithless it's because it isn't as scary, dark, uncomfortable or as lonely as the faithful may imagine.

      October 13, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
    • Inyourdreams

      Actually it is a disbelief in God that leads to mental illness. Why is this so? Because those who refuse to acknowledge the truth have a skewed perspective on life. Deny that God exists and you begine to close the door to the truth. You'll soon think you can make up your own right and wrong and inevitably choose wrong. You will also open pathways for demons to attack you spiritually. They will lead you into all sort of schemes. Aren't our laws based on the fundamental Mosaic Law. If that law did not come from God then from where?

      October 13, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
    • Respondez

      yukonmukon,

      "It's a totally natural occurrence when you consider the fact that here we are using the cognitive abilities for social interaction and aiming them at the universe at large."

      Very interesting take. People are sometimes sort of insulted by the fact that humans are social mammals. They seek a leader (of the pack, if you will), who has qualities of wisdom, benevolence, and the power to protect them from harm. They range from leader of the tribe, to leader of the nation, or some other group unit. Sometimes these human leaders were considered gods. Since humans are aware that their lives will end, and they are not at all thrilled by this fact, they then seek an imaginary leader who will provide the same wisdom, benevolence and protection in a much hoped-for afterlife. It is not surprising that they envision this leader human-like characteristics of love, anger, wisdom, benevolence, etc.

      October 13, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
    • Josie

      @JAMES: I am an ATHEIST, though I respect that this is a word you despise and probably the same as I now despise the word CHRISTIAN. Hve YOU ever been personally hurt by an atheist ??????? I have not been, but have been personally hurt many a time by one calling themselves a Christian, including a Pastor who murdered my 4 yr old daughter. I just want to say that I was a Christian ( devout ) for 36 yrs. I was even studying to become a Pastor so I SAT DOWN AND THOUGHT ABOUT IT ALOT !!!!!! I did everything in my thought prosesses to try to FIGHT my logic and reasoning in order to hang on the beleif that Jesus was real, God was real and so on. It was a horrible time for me and becoming an Atheist was the hardest road travelled because I wanted to hang on to what I was always taught, yet those very things I was taught were the principles I used to justify my behaviors which were a way to distort reality and hide behind my problems vs owning up to my responsibilities. I do not particularly like the word Atheist, the same as I do not particularly like the word Bipoar Disorder and the reasons are because of the PERCEPTIONS others have and the stigmatisms attached to the words.

      You mention that Atheists will probably never sit down and honestly think about it & they are always trying to find a reason to deny the fact ( what you think is fact ) that Jesus is god. I am not sure where you are arriving at such assumptions as most of the people who I have engaged in conversations with who call themselves an atheist, have done the very opposite as you state. The reason they are atheist, is because THEY HAVE sat and honestly thought much about the isue, probalby more than YOU have thought about it. They ARE NOT always TRYING to find a reason to DENY Jesus being God, quite the opposite, they have spent lots of time trying to find the facts to support the claims and since there are none to be found, they have taken the stand as an atheist because they have taken the answer with the LEAST amount of evidence and tossed it aside.

      "Lets Love Instead" was a beautiful request. I have found that I LOVE so much more and have so much more compassion as a non-beleiver than I EVER had as a beleiver. The debates should not cease though and for my own personal reason; If I can love more and feel more compassion as a non-beleiver, than I wish to help others to expereince this truth.

      "You do not need the bible to justify love, but no better tool has been invented to justify hate. ~ Richard A. Weatherwax

      I agree with you tha we should love love love !!!! We can love through debate !!!!

      October 14, 2010 at 3:01 am |
    • jen

      Belief in God, the Holy Spririt, and Jesus requires faith. I believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. There have been too many instances of God working in my life to ignore. You have the right to reject God. But God, being God, has the right to be just in His response to your decisions. Many people, after reading the Bible, find that God speaks to man through the written word. You might try it. I hope that Satan is not able to blind you to the truth. God is the only truth, whether we like it or not. One not believing in God, does not make God go away or cease to exist. I am proud to be a Christian, but I am not perfect. I am very sad when I do not behave in a way that is pleasing to God, but hope that one day I will be with God for eternity.

      October 14, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • Benny Blanco

      I guess the way I see it is that none of this should matter. People believe what they want to believe and as long as that belief doesn't cause one to judge or discriminate against people with different views, then roll on. The idea of using Christianity or religion to guide ones actions by instilling fear of damnation or bribery with Heaven strikes me as a bit selfish in nature. Morals and love of all men and women can still be gained without religion. If one chooses to make the most positive impact in their life time, not because of fear or hope of something better; but because they choose to leave a better world for their children and the children, then we will be just fine. Evil has existed since the beginning of time and it always will. Lack of education, poverty, and corrupt morals can all lead to a decline in civility. Granted, our western religions are less violent than they were in previous centuries but we see that other religions have the power of doing great harm across the world. It boils down to the spirit of man and how they choose to lead their life. Good or bad. Just sayin =)

      October 14, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • kjcube

      appeal to ignorance fallacy!

      October 14, 2010 at 12:50 pm |
    • Sun Stevens

      God is real...we just have no way to define God using terminology based in the physical realm, simply because whatever/whoever God is chooses not to present himself/itself in that manner. Organized religion, on the other hand, is a control mechanism used to dictate human behavior and place those within the religion in position over those who aren't.

      October 14, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
    • Seeker

      Why is it tht Hitchens, Dawkins and the like have never demonstrated evidence of reading the great theologians? From Augustine, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Martin Luther, to the 20th century giants like Tillich, Lonergan, Rahner, Maritain, Barth,Kung, et al? They prefer to play games with fundamentalist Christianity while avoiding like the plague anyone with the intellectual firepower to take them to task. And why is that?

      October 15, 2010 at 1:54 am |
    • Khadija

      Hi,

      People are just too scared of the truth, even though in their souls they know what the truth is, if they believe what they believe is REAL, then they wouldn't be SCARED to read the QURAN, but they are because they know that the Quran has ALL of their answers.

      If you are not afraid then I challenge you to read it once weather you are atheist, christian, budist even a muslim etc......

      Please share your thoughts AFTER reading it.

      October 15, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
    • etna

      Your statements would be valid if you can prove that you are not insane yourself.
      Atheism is a psychological crutch. It spreads fear and makes money through books...

      October 15, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
    • etna

      ON OCT 13 2010 @ 10:32AM YOU SAID YOU ARE MENTALLY ILL YOURSELF. WWHHAAAT!!! PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY RESPONDING TO A SICK DUDE. How could a person question another person's sanity and then later say that he is very sick in the head. Too much DAWKIN'S GENES ???

      October 15, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
    • LoveAll

      @Raison I sure hope you have a happy life! To me it sounds a little lonely and sad to be above it all and above all these insane people! Don't mean to be judgmental, forgive me. That may not be you, but that's how you're sounding to me. Reading most of your post (too tired to real the whole thing as i should i confess) still leaves me puzzled about atheism. What is the point of loving humanity for the short amount of time we live for. Yes my delusion certainly feels better than whatever you have going one. As frogist said, i'm a Christian but also a scientist i don't believe in the god of gaps and through my hands up in the air because i don't understand something but i do believe in God, in a reason to do Good and i love the comment from the Christian brother that morality without God is like a compass without a magnetic field. We may not understand the whole thing but we are willing to admit that and be humbled by that. Granted i see a lot of bad done in the name of religion, perhaps more than the Good done by relation, though i really think the first gets more hyped. And i don't see much done in the name of atheism. Which i understand, because what would be the purpose. Have a good time for 100 years if we're lucky, try not to harm others only because it may make the time on earth more pleasant and then say our goodbyes. Don't get me wrong, i've heard many atheists say people create God because of their fear of death. I'm not afraid of death, i just believe it's not an end and i desire to be ready when it comes. And about proof and all that, i think Christians experience God, you can call it delusion and i like the atheist that say they might as well believe in a pink unicorn. Well if that works for them, more power to them, they may even get followers if it's so good to them.
      Basically, i'm still very skeptical that atheist live in piece with themselves and the world and i find it only sad. And if i'm wrong about you and others then i'm glad because my point is, why even be so concerned about calling others ill and convincing them of their illness? worry about yourself, do your thing and let people see how well that's working for you. That's the kind of Christianity i like.
      I don't want to be a salesman but a satisfied customer. Not a defense lawyer but a witness.
      Can't take credit for it. Was in "The Purpose driven life", but i absolutely loved it. It resonates with me 🙂
      Take care!

      October 26, 2010 at 12:59 am |
    • DANIEL REDMOND

      I am always somewhat uncomfortable with what I would consider to be excessively derisive criticisms of Christians. Although I myself am a life-long Atheist-now 62 years of age and raised by non-believers as well-I must admit that many of my closest friends are Christians and that they are very fine people. I do not consider them to be 'mentally ill' for harboring their beliefs, although I do consider their theism to be a form of delusional thinking born out of a primitive desire to live forever. As Christopher Hitchens has pointed out repeatedly, religion was "the first and the worst" attempt made by humanity to explain our existence. Science is also an attempt to explain our existence, however, science pursues this task with a level of reason and open-mindedness that is totally absent from religion. Science has a methodology grounded in experimentation that seeks to discover verifiable facts. Religion offers fairy tales written centuries ago by bearded nomads inhabiting, in most instances, barren deserts in the Middle East. Science has DNA analysis, radiocarbon dating of fossils, astronomical observation and the application of advanced mathematical calculations to discern the realities of our life and our universe. Religions, such as Christianity and Islam, offer the hallucinatory visions of holy men or prophets like Moses and Mohammad. Now in the 21st Century one would think that religion has outlived any past usefulness it may have once had, as we now have better ways of explaining our existence, yet millions upon millions of people still cling to it. I do believe that religious belief is now, and has always been, a hindrance to human progress. Virtually all of the advances and discoveries that have enhanced the quality of human life can be credited to scientific discovery and religion has fought most of them every inch of the way. The trial of Galilleo serves as a famous example of religion's hostility toward scientific discovery. Even today certain religious groups like Jehova's Witnesses or Christian Scientists actively refuse the use of common life-saving medical treatments such as blood transfusions in observance of their religious beliefs.

      Considering the history of religion in our human societies and the destructive role it has often played in history, perhaps the question to ask now is, 'Can humanity survive religion?' or 'Is the continued widespread belief in deities compatible with the continued survival of our species?' I don't know the answer to those questions but I am quite certain that we as a species will have a decidedly greater likelihood of survival if we can manage to toss religion and its motley crew of supernatural deities into the dustbin of history and be done with it once and for all.

      November 16, 2010 at 1:50 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.