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The Internet Social Networks Science

How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion 1037 1037

pitchpipe (708843) points out a study highlighted by MIT's Technology Review, which makes the bold claim that "Using the Internet can destroy your faith. That's the conclusion of a study showing that the dramatic drop in religious affiliation in the U.S. since 1990 is closely mirrored by the increase in Internet use," and writes "I attribute my becoming an atheist to the internet, so what the study is saying supports my anecdote. If I hadn't been exposed to all of the different arguments about religion, etc., via the internet I would probably just be another person who identifies as religious but doesn't attend services. What do you think? Have you become more religious, less religious, or about the same since being on the internet? What if you've always had it?"
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How the Internet Is Taking Away America's Religion

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  • by darkeye (199616) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:36AM (#46674739) Homepage

    access to unfiltered information will make people THINK!

    who would have thought? :)

  • by brambus (3457531) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:38AM (#46674745)
    Great video by a Youtuber on exactly this topic: The Internet: Where Religions Come To Die [youtube.com]. Religions simply can't survive on the open marketplace of ideas. Religions work by indoctrination, shaming and isolating subjects to get them to believe absurd shit and then try to shield them from outside influences to make sure they don't find out. On the Internet, this ploy simply doesn't work.
  • I think it's not so much access to unfiltered information as it is access to non-religious people. We have seen that people tend to seek out information that confirms their existing beliefs online, but what they can't control is how other people in forums and games behave.

    Most regions rely on making themselves a big part of a person's life from an early age. Everyone in the community goes to the same church, attends religious social events and is friends with other believers. Then they get on the internet and are exposed to people with other cultures and ideas who don't make the same assumptions they do, and it makes them realize that there is another way of thinking.

    The same thing happens with people who have never been abroad or outside of their home county/state. It happened to me when I first started visiting Japan and realized that there is a completely different way to look at the world.

  • by Zocalo (252965) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @05:56AM (#46674805) Homepage
    I think there's more to it than just being exposed to skepticism from existing atheists/agnostics too. You get much more exposure to people who are from different cultures and religions that you might in your own little neighbourhood, both knowingly and unknowingly, and when that penny drops, that's when the thinking part kicks in. Generally you are going to you realise that, hey, they are not that unlike us and we actually share many of the same views on life - most religions teach the same core principles wrapped up in some slightly different stories, after all. It's fairly well understood that major cities with cosmopolitan populations tend to be more open minded and their populations tend to have a less religious view than those from more rural communities, so I suspect this is just the same principle manifesting itself on a much grander scale.
  • by SpaghettiPattern (609814) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:08AM (#46674835)
    Whatever you do, the Internet speeds up personal development processes as huge amounts of information is readily available. Without the Internet you would have come to the same conclusion but it would have taken just a bit longer. Internet can feed both limits of the scale, atheist and believer.

    (I attribute my becoming an atheist to myself. I stepped renounced my religion at the age of 8. Simply deduced that there is no such thing as a god from observations and reasoning. That was in the early 70s. Internet would have merely sped the process up.)
  • by bloodhawk (813939) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:16AM (#46674861)
    hardly surprising really, religion relies heavily upon ignorance and superstition. The more information and world views you expose yourself to the more likely you are to come out of the dark ages.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:26AM (#46674889)

    i've heard it said that "if you study one religion you can be absorbed for a lifetime. if you study two religions, you can be done in a day."

  • by The Cisco Kid (31490) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:36AM (#46674913)

    the Internet offers.

    Learning about reality is a GOOD thing.

    Learning that the silly myths and superstitions pounded into your head when you were a child are silly myths and superstitions, and NOT universal facts, is a GOOD thing.

    I know it wont be in my lifetime and probably not in my children's either, but someday, humans will shed all religious superstition.

  • Burning books (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:37AM (#46674915)

    The church has always tried its best to keep people ignorant.

    Imagine where mankind could have been by now, if it wasn't for that.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:4, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:44AM (#46674947) Homepage

    The fruit of knowledge. There was a reason the bible described things as it did. Knowledge isn't just the anti-christ, it's the anti-god.

  • Re:More various (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:45AM (#46674955)

    > Each has truths to share with you

    No truths there. Just ignorance and lies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @06:52AM (#46674969)

    The replacement hasn't had millions of people killed in it's name. At least not yet...

    I'll throw my hat into the ring.

    Urge your senators to grant me Imperium and the position of Dictator of the Internet for a period of four years, and I will put every last spammer to the sword upon the sands of the iColosseum. Live streaming available.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:21AM (#46675079)

    Most regions rely on making themselves a big part of a person's life from an early age. Everyone in the community goes to the same church, attends religious social events and is friends with other believers.

    Exactly so. The Tech Review summary doesn't mention, but it's in the original reference. The single greatest influence over a person's continuing religion is habit - having been raised in a religion (ie, going to church, not being a cult member) - accounting for almost 90% of adult practice. The real article also attributes more than 50% of the 'loss of religion' to generational turnover - ie, being a child of the 60s. Internet use (probably because it's prevalent among both religious and non-religious people) is a pretty weak influence.

    It would be just as easy to argue that the insular nature of internet 'communities' results in religious people effectively isolated in their own little echo chambers, reinforcing religion in exactly the same way as a prairie community.

  • by FridayBob (619244) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:29AM (#46675101) Homepage

    Atheism is not new to me. The first time I questioned religion was when I was seven years old, asking my mother, "If God created the universe, then who created God?" Her answer, "God always was", did not sound at all convincing to me. At age 15, when I was finally allowed to choose for myself whether or not to attend church services, I immediately stopped doing so, having considered it a waste of time for as long as I could remember. A few years later I realized that I did not believe in God at all. That was over 30 years ago.

    What the Internet did, however, was to introduce me to the writings of authors such as, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris. Their books describe in great detail how religion has caused so much more suffering in the world than it has ever managed to prevent, for example how wars may be started by people, but wartime atrocities almost always require religion to be involved. Ultimately, this is all caused by systems that tell us what to think, immunizing us to argument, so they should be recognized for what they really do: brainwashing.

    What to do about it? Education, education, education. Mandatory up to age 21, but available to everyone at all ages and for free. Everyone should be scientifically literate. The best thing a society can do is to invest in itself, and religion just happens to be one of the first things we lose when we learn to think for ourselves.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:35AM (#46675125)

    If education can destroy your faith it's not God you're praying to, it's ignorance.

  • I knew this when I was 10, and that was in 1950, my total lack of belief in the mumbo jumbo of ALL religion began then and became a certainty soon after that. Family was catholic with all trappings, control, coercion etc....water off a ducks back.
    Religion wants a closed ecology - you get your words from the priests, work hard and pray and, oh yes, give me money.

    There is no difference between scientology, islam, catholicism or bantu spirit jabber - they are all mechanisms to live free and prosper at the behest of others.

    I want the tax exemptions for reiligions stopped, I want them taxed, kick them in the ass.
    And on top of that they all seem to thrive on child molestation. It is no joke the way Giles portrays clerics grinning after alter boys - many lives were harmed and criminals protected.

  • Good! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:54AM (#46675223)
    Getting rid of religion is one of the most rational things a society can do, religion is the single most damaging force ever invented and at the same time one of the most irrational.

    Basically you can sum up catholic / Islam based religions in this fashion;

    1. An invisible man who was never created invents the universe and does a very piss poor job it.
    2. He then populates earth with two people based off the same DNA source ( Eve is created from Adam ).
    3. God forgets to remove a tree that is put on earth that apparently causes Sin ( of course he invented Sin as a way to not be held accountable for his actions ).
    4. He then kicks Adam and Eve out of the garden because he can't forgive what he created, Adam and Eve procreate like rabbits, even thou science tells us they couldn't of made many healthy children with one DNA set.
    5. God gets pissed and kills everyone several times, instead of forgiving what he creates ( no one can explain that ).
    6. Finally after proving he's either a really bad engineer or just a hurt and suffering junky he decide he has to suffer by being human and having himself killed. (I guess his S&M obsession was to strong and he finally had to get the big one off).

    Now what possible level headed human could support this insane ideal? What I just outlined is EXACTLY what the bible explains. You can argue or you can say I didn't read it correctly but strip off the extra BS and what I stated is exactly what the bible states. I didn't do a good job capturing the parts where God tells man to openly rape little girls and commit mass killings.

    Lets just review some of the other wondering lessons we can learn from religion:
    1. Gay people are evil and should be put to death by stoning.
    2. Little girls who are virgins are to be raped, otherwise kill them.
    3. The universal father can't be held accountable for his actions, but he demands totaly and unquestioning loyalty.
    4. When things get bad and you need to forgive sin, have yourself killed for what you create. ( hardly all powerful ).
    5. If you don't cut off parts of your body or have sex in special position you're going to hell.
    etc.. etc... etc..

    Lets not even start with Mormonism, where you take Christianity, which is crazy and add two dashes of total bat shit to it. Islam takes Christianity and adds on society segmentation and insane gender segmentation, combined with the fact most Muslims have the maturity of three year olds and they claim the Quran tells them to kill ( which is doesn't ).

    Religion is what most people consider morally superior, but if you can't explain how the extreme negatives fit in, then why should you be allowed to use the extreme or neutral positives? Religion is not a good force in the world, it's not rational, it's not moral and it's not a system of belief we should be passing on. If the internet is helping to end this insane system of sick, disturbing, mentally and emotionally twisted beliefs then so be it, and I'm glad!
  • by meglon (1001833) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @07:59AM (#46675257)

    ....in other place with a former monopoly of state mandated Atheism....

    Mandated for the state, not necessarily the people. What those states had against the organizations promoting religion was that they were a competing viewpoint, a rival political power if you will... which was something those states didn't want to allow. Both Russia and China have religious people in them, and it's fine until they do something that those countries feel is a threat to the governments power in said country.

  • by mellon (7048) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:12AM (#46675317) Homepage

    IOW, the internet is bad for fundamentalism. Actually, it's just fine for religion that tolerates skepticism. I grew up atheist, and I'm a Buddhist now. I became Buddhist by choice, because it made sense to me as a philosophy and a practice. Having skeptics online to debate with is good for my practice, because it helps me to discard junk thinking and keep what works. Actually most of the communication I have with other practitioners and with accessing lectures and reading materials happens online. Wikipedia has huge volumes of information on religion, much of which is useful, although you have to take it with a grain of salt.

    But most people just aren't that interested in religious practice, and for them it's easy to see that the same thing that is good for my practice will just knock away theirs, because there isn't much there. I would not necessarily count this as a bad thing, but there is a strain of nihilism in some of the trolling I see online that could stand to be attacked as well; for that you need some kind of ethical framework to discuss, whether it's religious or secular.

  • by oscrivellodds (1124383) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:17AM (#46675351)

    I've noticed that religion has affiliated itself more and more with the right wing political party (in the US). During that period the ideas coming from that political party have often designed to pander to deeply religious people, have become nuttier and nuttier. The Republicans recognized that there was a large group of people who were used to doing what they were told by an authority figure and targeted that group to perpetuate their existence, hence the religion/right wing party affiliation, in spite of the fact that the right wing party promotes ideas that are often in direct conflict with the religious- ideas and attitudes about caring about the poor, sick, etc.

    It seems that while the original goal might have been for the republicans to insinuate themselves into the religion (Xtianity in its various forms), the opposite has also taken place the religious leaders saw an opportunity to get more control and power and impose their beliefs on a larger population by insinuating themselves into the Republican party. Recently it appears that the Republicans have been trying to distance themselves from their more religious affiliations by making a show of standing up to the Tea party (the religious parasite that is sucking the life blood from the Republican party), but the two are now hopelessly entangled and if religion goes down, they will drag the Republican party down with them.

    The next 20 years are going to be interesting.

  • Re:Good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jez9999 (618189) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:29AM (#46675427) Homepage Journal

    Should God wait upon you hand and foot, serving your every whim and desire, preventing any pain of any kind because not to, you would consider evil?

    Yes. If got is omnipotent, he can do this for everyone and still do infinitely more. And why would you need to "grow" and "mature" in the ways you describe if there were no evil to worry about? It would be a waste of time, and good riddance. As for learning, that can still be done in a utopia.

  • Re:Good. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by wierd_w (1375923) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:33AM (#46675453)

    No, that still has problems with implied factors.

    Specifically, it implies gravity, and that god is bound to the rules of physical reality. If so, then naturally god cannot be omnipotent, as you are implying-- however, if god is not bound by the laws of physical reality, then god can make a boulder that is impossible to lift, yet still lift it.

    Your argument relies on there being something infallible that is "underneath" god. (both figuratively, and literally,.) An unliftable object would be a quantum singularity-- You need an impossible surface to support having such a thing sitting on it, waiting to be lifted-- It also presupposes that god is limited by physical reality, rather than what religion implies, which is the inverse. (Physical reality is dependent upon god.) The axioms by which logic and physics are underpinned are based on the constancy of the physical universe, and if that constancy isnt constant after all -- but instead based on the influence of an omnipotent god-- then it does not follow to use it as a means to refute the existence of that god.

    With all the implied fallacies in place, you simply become redundant in asserting that god cannot exist within the confines of the physical universe. That's fine and dandy. Physics says that too:

    Something like god would represent unlimited energy potential, and thus have unlimited mass energy. Unless god was also of an infinite volume, he would rapidly create the universe's single most extreme black hole in very short order. Since this is not observed to be the case, god clearly does not exist in our universe.

    As such, it is illogical to attempt to use logical foundations predicated on this presumption to disprove the existence of such an entity.

    The assertion that there are no alternatives to the physical universe we see and interact with does not meet up with recent findings and theory.

    So, rather than some infallible truth being presented, all I see is a poorly framed argument that reduces to redundancy, while disproving nothing of consequence.

    *Agnostic, in case you were interested.

  • Re:Good! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:40AM (#46675481)
    1) I like the universe, about what do you complain?

    I should of explained that better, when he created the universe he also created the earth and the animals and man. The problem is our human bodies are wired very poorly if done by design. You would think an all knowing and all powerful mega being could get that right, he also had several attempts and didn't change the design.

    3) is wrong, and even a non believer should know better

    No it's not, God put a tree in the Garden that grew apples, the apples if eaten could cause sin. Logic would follow that if God didn't want sin we would of simply removed the tree in the first place. An all powerful and all knowing superman would of surely known that if he left it, it would be eaten from. God intentionally created sin so he could punish humanity.

    I would really like to hear how I'm wrong about that, I have yet to hear a single person actually prove me wrong. My teachers never could, my parents never could, my priest never could, the sister ( nun ) never could so I highly doubt you can either but i welcome the attempt.

    4) no, sciense is not telling us that. If that DNA set is healthy it can have endless children, untill an unhealthy mutation shows up. That is a no brainer.

    If you have one set of 23 chromosomes and you continuously breed it together with itself ( incest ) the chance there is an increased chance of birth defects, like deformities and mental retardation. That is fact, if Adam and Eve populated the earth through procreation then you would have to figure they had children or there children had children who were malformed. Generally you can breed out one level using the same chromosomes, as in a brother and sister can sleep together and produce one child. However if they have two children and those children sleep together the chance of introducing genetic problem jumps massively. It's high unlikely that Adam and Eve could of fathered even three generations out, to do otherwise you'd have to assume the invisible man in the sky helped, but given his mean strike in the old testament, I high doubt it.

    6) I always thought it was his son, not himself at that crucifix ...

    The official story is that God became man, had himself sent to earth to be tortured, crucified and buried so he could rise again and forgive us our sins. The reason they refer to Jesus as the son of God is rather unknown, by all theological accounts Jesus is just the human form of God. to call Jesus the son of God introduces another layer of incest, or I guess deitcest, Jesus would be both his father and son, which is just wrong any way you look at it.
  • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NoMaster (142776) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:43AM (#46675507) Homepage Journal

    The fruit of knowledge. There was a reason the bible described things as it did. Knowledge isn't just the anti-christ, it's the anti-god.

    If your 'knowledge' of the Bible only extends as far as an ignorant half-remembered version of Genesis, then yes.

    Specifically, it's not "the fruit of Knowledge" - it's "the Knowledge of good and evil".

    The Bible is actually quite encouraging of knowledge, even showing something of a kickarse attitude towards deliberate ignorance:

    "An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions ... The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating ... Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor. To answer before listening - that is folly and shame ... The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out."

    -- Proverbs 18:1-2,6,12-13,15

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @08:47AM (#46675533) Homepage Journal

    But it can show you how stupid it is to believe in imaginary creatures and let you make an intelligent decision based on facts, not myth..

    The "Internet" is really no different than a library in this case, only you dont have to get your lazy ass out of the chair and drive in...

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:08AM (#46675657)

    More apt than you might think.

    Lucifer, as Satan is often called, can easily be translated as "he who brings the light" or "he who carries the light (to someone)", deducting from "lux", light and "ferre", carry, bring. His story is not too different from that of Prometheus, who served that role in the Greek mythology. And they're by far not unique.

    In other words, they were "evil" enough to bring light and enlightenment to human, rather than doing as their bosses want and keep them in the dark.

    Really makes you wonder who's the bad guy in the whole story. I mean, ponder for yourself, who'd you rather paint as the bad guy in a story? The one that gives you knowledge and information, or the dude that wants to keep you in the dark so you would continue worshiping him rather than going and finding your own way?

    When you look at it that way, the Christian God feels more and more like a Goa'uld in Stargate. He sure shares a lot of ideals with how Ra is depicted in the movie.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:14AM (#46675697)

    Apparently you know a thing or two about the bible, maybe you can solve something that has puzzled me for a while now.

    God punished Adam and Eve for eating from the tree when he forbade them. I.e. for breaking his law. So far, so good. But why did he put the trees in there in the first place? He's God. He's all mighty. He could have put the trees wherever he pleases. Especially since, being omniscient, he must have known that they will break his law. Being omniscient, he must have known that they will not heed his law. So he punished them for doing what he knew they would do, which he himself could easily have avoided.

    Essentially, that makes God a really king size asshole.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by madprof (4723) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:17AM (#46675717)

    I know too many smart highly-educated Christians to think that religion is merely some lack of applied thought.
    It's a choice they made, knowingly and subjectively, to have religious faith.
    I don't happen to agree with them, but that is their decision.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zumbs (1241138) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @09:53AM (#46675963) Homepage

    Especially since, being omniscient, he must have known that they will break his law. Being omniscient, he must have known that they will not heed his law. So he punished them for doing what he knew they would do, which he himself could easily have avoided.

    You are missing something: If God is all knowing and all powerful, it follows that God intentionally created Adam and Eve so that they would break the divine commandment. In effect, Adam and Eve may not have followed the word of the law, but they did follow the intention of God. Given how meticulously theologists have been studying and considering the Bible, I would be surprised if someone had not already followed this line of thought and come up with some conclusions.

    As I remember it, there are two creation myths in the Bible, and the myth of Adam and Eve is believed to be the older of the two. There is the possibility that the myth of Adam and Eve predates the Jewish switch from many gods to just one (who may not have started out as being almighty), so it is likely that the story was written to be taken at face value.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ArcherB (796902) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @10:08AM (#46676073) Journal

    Think of God as a libertarian. He gives us freedom to make choices. If the only option is the "right" choice, are you truly free? Success doesn't exist without the opportunity of failure. Thus, God expects us to be responsible for our actions as there is no freedom without responsibility.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wrf3 (314267) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @10:10AM (#46676085) Homepage

    Essentially, that makes God a really king size asshole.

    Notice what you did. You made a value judgement which requires knowledge of good and evil. Instead of judging God to be good, you've declared Him to be evil.
    But that is something you logically cannot do, since God is the ultimate arbiter, not you. There is no moral yardstick that is external to God and to which both God and man must conform in order to be "good." He, himself, is that yardstick. But, instead, you've made yourself the yardstick.

    God has put you in a bind in which there are only two possibilities: either man is "broken" or there is no God. Since we don't like to think of ourselves as broken (and, heaven forbid, agree with what the Bible says about us) some choose the "no God" path. But, since it's based on faulty reasoning, it's akin to whistling past the graveyard.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by INT_QRK (1043164) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @10:18AM (#46676135)
    Christian zealots. Muslim zealots. Atheists zealots. Maybe it's the "zealot" part that the major problem, since I'm quite sure that nobody has all the answers, yet zealots of all stripes presume to enforce their particular delusions of understanding.
  • by dicobalt (1536225) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @10:23AM (#46676185)
    The internet is a series of branches, and atheists want to send their beliefs down those branches, and into your child's bedroom.
  • Re:Knowledge (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lonOtter (3587393) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @10:32AM (#46676249) Homepage

    Since we don't like to think of ourselves as broken (and, heaven forbid, agree with what the Bible says about us) some choose the "no God" path.

    Incorrect. That is not why people choose to be atheists. I am an atheist because there is no reason to believe that a god exists. Ignorance is not evidence, either.

  • by cob666 (656740) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @10:49AM (#46676379) Homepage

    The internet is a series of branches, and atheists want to send their beliefs down those branches, and into your child's bedroom.

    No more so than the religious nut jobs. How many times have you browsed to a site thinking it to be a legitimate news site or scientific article only to find that it was a well disguised religious message.

    Real religious belief requires blind faith, if someone loses their religion because of the wealth of information on the internet that refutes their belief system then they were clearly lacking in the faith department.

    I went from agnostic to atheist after the death of my mother! long before the rise of the internet as we now know it.

  • But watch out (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StripedCow (776465) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @10:54AM (#46676405)

    The internet can be a dangerous place too.

    Just like religious services can put you in an "information bubble", so can the internet.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:4, Insightful)

    by garrettg84 (1826802) <garrettg84@gmail.OPENBSDcom minus bsd> on Sunday April 06, 2014 @11:12AM (#46676539) Homepage
    There would be no atheist zealots if the religious zealots didn't exist.
  • Re:Knowledge (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheTerseOne (2447418) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @12:13PM (#46676901)

    False. Every "faith" will eventually have it's zealots. Even if that "faith" is athiesm.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by firewrought (36952) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @12:17PM (#46676935)

    I know too many smart highly-educated Christians to think that religion is merely some lack of applied thought. It's a choice they made, knowingly and subjectively, to have religious faith.

    Skeptics seem to have this assumption that humans are inherently rational, and it's only those who are intellectually weak that let bad/illogical ideas into the mind. I'd argue that this is a bad model because we are forced throughout life to rely on incomplete/inaccurate information from a wide variety of sources... our senses, our emotions, our peers and society at large, etc. Our brains are a very muddy place that was never tidy and logically "clean" to begin with, but we make do (more or less). A purely skeptical species would go extinct questioning the need to plant crops, etc.,

    The way I see it, rationality (and the engineered pursuit of it, science) is a skill that must be developed and subsequently imposed on various facets of our worldview. How we select those facets (and how vigorously we investigate them) is a strategic question ("what is my biggest blindspot?") that we're not well equipped to answer (they're called "blindspots" for a reason). And we ALL have blindspots of various topic and magnitude.

    In the case of religion, it's particularly hard to investigate these blindspots because adherents have been strongly conditioned to self-identify with the cause. Their parents, friends, community, and everyone they trusted as a child told them "this is what we believe, it is the only way to live a good life, and everything outside of it is corrupt and destructive". Like Tevye says in Fiddler on the Roof, "tradition tells us who we are and what G-d expects of us".

    Analytically re-evaluating one's faith as an adult requires a tremendous amount of courage and vigour. To do so, they must overcome:

    1. Religious instructions to defer to authority.
    2. Implied instructions to not question faith.
    3. Perceptions that questioning is risky and/or evil.
    4. The nastiness of some skeptics (e.g., living examples of the "evil" of questioning)
    5. Accusations that the questioner's "real problem" is something spiritual and not intellectual.
    6. Desperate feelings that the faith "has to be true", precluding need for further analysis.
    7. Anecdotal proofs and feel-good stories ("testimonies") that offer emotional evidence for faith.
    8. Single-shot ad hoc arguments (emotional or intellectual) that preclude comprehensive analysis
    9. Apologetics literature or speakers that sound convincing initially, esp. when presented without opposing views.

    This is not the only way people leave their faith, but it's relevant to skeptics because it's the "rational" route. I suspect that those who use "emotional evidence" as their primary waypoints for evaluating complex situation have it easier... they see the history of Christanity's/Islam's treatment towards women or they consider how wholly abhorrent the concept of hell is, and then they proceed to reject the system that generated those ideas.

    Instead of offering mockery (a tempting practice), skeptics would do better to (1) humbly remember that we all have blindspots, (2) that every population has smart and dumb individuals, (3) that believers make many valuable contributions to rationality/science, (4) and that social and emotional arguments against a faith can compliment their existing intellectual arguments.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Boronx (228853) <evonreisNO@SPAMmohr-engineering.com> on Sunday April 06, 2014 @12:28PM (#46677019) Homepage Journal

    Or, you know, he could have made child birth easy.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mark-t (151149) <markt AT lynx DOT bc DOT ca> on Sunday April 06, 2014 @01:35PM (#46677359) Journal

    Knowing is not the same thing as controlling. God knew what the outcome would be, but the alternative was to create us without a free will... even if only because we would not be presented with the opportunity to choose to things that are wrong.

    Can a child who is kept in a fenced yard when they cannot reach a gate mechanisms take any credit at all for staying in the yard of their own volition? The result might be that the child will stay in the yard, which may very well be a desirable thing, but the child still wouldn't be the one making that choice. The point of free will is to give each individual personal accountability for their actions.

    This suggests to me that God places a higher value on the merits of freely made choices than we generally do... we tend to look only at the outcome of a choice, and if the ends are undesirable, then we do not take that road, while God seems to evaluate every choice that is made along the way.

    In a nutshell, with us, the ends can justify the means, but with God, the means must justify themselves... and somehow, at the end of it all, be worth more than whatever undesirable stuff happens as well, even if as a direct consequence.

  • by Smallpond (221300) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @01:47PM (#46677421) Homepage Journal

    Perhaps being an atheist requires blind faith as well. If you are an atheist you have a belief that all hell won't be applied to you for adopting your belief system.

    No. You just have to believe that none of the 20 different afterlifes posited by religions is true, instead of believing that one of them is and the other 19 are false.

    Even science itself rests upon articles of faith. For example assuming that the laws of physics are the same all over the universe is irrational and arbitrary.

    No. Its just the simplest explanation in the absence of evidence to the contrary. Support for it comes from everything we observe of distant stars and galaxies, which seem similar to our own.

    That being the case the entire cosmology presented by science becomes very fishy. Quantum mechanics hints that physical reality is not actual and quite an illusion in itself.

    No, Quantum mechanics says that at the realm of the very tiny or the very fast, our everyday model of physical reality is not accurate.

    We can postulate that all science does is falsely attempt to decode segments of the illusion. It suggests that a rabid, backwoods, Baptist, in a fever of religious excitement and an atheist are as far as logic goes equals.

    That must make the rabid, backwoods Baptists very happy.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @02:08PM (#46677553)

    Atheism isn't a faith. Though religious types like to believe it is. Just another of their false beliefs.

  • by QilessQi (2044624) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @02:50PM (#46677889)

    ...there's just God when he's drunk." -- Tom Waits

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:2, Insightful)

    by arth1 (260657) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @10:11PM (#46680291) Homepage Journal

    False. Every "faith" will eventually have it's zealots. Even if that "faith" is athiesm.

    Atheism is a faith in the same way as not collecting stamps is a hobby.

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Sunday April 06, 2014 @11:46PM (#46680609)

    Well, there's not collecting stamps, and then there's looking for any stamp collector you can find and telling them how stupid they are for collecting little pieces of glue-backed paper and how they are wasting their lives by trying to find more of those pieces of paper.

    The former merely follows a personal preference over not collecting stamps. The latter intentionally tries to enforce their view of the hobby of stamp collecting on everyone they meet. (Ironically, winding up being just as annoying as the stamp collectors who insist on showing every person they meet their entire stamp collection and pestering them to start a stamp collection of their own because it's such a fun hobby they don't see why everyone wouldn't want to participate.)

  • Re:Knowledge (Score:4, Insightful)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Monday April 07, 2014 @12:18AM (#46680777) Journal


    Atheism: I'm not playing your stupid game.

One person's error is another person's data.