Is Atheism The Most Rational Religion?


Posted: February 24, 2013 at 2:20 a.m.

Movies, TV shows, books such as Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” and countless letters to the editor promote the myth that believers in a personal God (monotheists) are irrational whereas atheists are rational. A second popular and pernicious myth holds monotheists have perpetrated history’s worst atrocities.

This story is only available from our archives.

Opinion, Pages 11 on 02/24/2013


RE "Movies, TV shows, books such as Richard Dawkins’ 'The God Delusion' and countless letters to the editor promote the myth that believers in a personal God (monotheists) are irrational whereas atheists are rational."
Monotheists themselves do a great job of perpetuating the idea.

RE "A second popular and pernicious myth holds monotheists have perpetrated history’s worst atrocities."
Monotheists have in fact perpetrated some of history's greatest atrocities, so it's not really a myth.

RE "Today I’ll focus on the first myth."
We have been alerted: there's going to be another idiotic column.

RE " Ironically, the claim believers are less rational than nonbelievers itself is an irrational prejudice. Prejudices are refuted by experience."
It is obvious that Mr. Rogers hasn't read the online comments here. The claim that belief is knowledge is not rational-- nor is it correct.

RE "The achievers’ higher motivation..."
Work and motivation are not the same thing. It is entirely possible to do rational things while being irrational in one's thinking.

RE "Since God is claimed to be a supernatural spirit, the scientist’s expertise in the material world does not confer authority."
But God /is/ a supernatural spirit-- if He is at all. That's why scientists discount his existence and effect. And in the same way, religious "expertise" does not confer authority in science or other material subjects-- as your column makes clear.

RE "Logically, God either exists or doesn’t, independent of anyone’s opinion."
Yet here you are, belaboring us with your opinions. At least you treat us to a shining moment of logic.

RE "the materialistic assumption necessary to the method is not a theory of reality, a metaphysic. To assume so is a category error: Method is not metaphysics."
And the assumption that metaphysics is method is also a category error.

RE "The God-haters like Dawkins, though, make this error..."
And the God-lovers make their error because they don't know the difference between knowledge and belief.


Posted by: AlphaCat

February 24, 2013 at 2:20 p.m. ( | suggest removal )


RE "The atheist’s category error causes problems when a scientific discovery, such as the Big Bang, implies God’s existence."
The religious person's category error is demonstrated here: however poetic the coincidental similarity between "Big Bang" and "Let there be light", the Big Bang does not imply God's existence.

RE "....God’s like that."
At least the god you believe in is. That's one problem with not knowing the difference between knowledge and belief.

RE "Also, rather than acknowledging 'why' the Big Bang occurred is something science cannot address, they call it 'a singularity,' so we don’t have to think about it."
Mr. Rogers has doltishly fleshed out his thesis by conflating atheism and science. Had he not done this, he might have spared us that impending second column.

Scientists, unlike some people, don't acknowledge the "why" of things that they do not yet know the "why" of. And whether they call the Big Bang a singularity or something else, they do so in order to give it a frame of reference so they /can/ think about it-- not to avoid thinking about it. After they've studied it more, learned more, and thought more, they'll call it something else. For avoidance of thought, turn back to religion. Oh, wait-- you already did.

RE "When they do, they realize creation by the atheists’ god, chance"
Atheists do not claim that chance is a god, and to claim that chance is the atheists' god shows a basic misunderstanding of both atheism and religion.

RE "Although the stated reason for the church is practical, to perform God-free weddings, the inadvertent honesty of admitting atheism is a religion is refreshing."
The fact that a few atheists couch atheism in terms of religion-- and what makes you think that this is inadvertent or honest? It might be convenient-- does not make atheism a religion. Is a justice of the peace a religious figure? Atheism is no more a religion than Razorback football is. In fact, it's less of one.

RE "In this country, people are free to worship what they please"
And, apparently, to insist that everybody worships something.

RE "God bless them."
Not a chance.

Posted by: AlphaCat

February 24, 2013 at 2:20 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

I don't see either the Big Bang or God the Creator as any kind of ultimate answer.
These are words for a Mystery that we are a very long way from solving.

Posted by: Coralie

February 24, 2013 at 3:15 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

"It might be, it could, it is a Home Run!"---Harry Carey

Good job Buddy, run Kitty go get Freeby. You're out of your league. Matter of fact, Freeby is too. Buddy is right, you have to admire an Atheist, to stand up to Almighty God and spit in His Holy Face, that takes "guts" or ----- stupidity.

Posted by: JailBird

February 24, 2013 at 3:48 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

>>Some make the circular argument that material is all that exists because materialis all science has discovered.

Early believers thought the wind some type of god or spirit being. Who could falsify it?

Posted by: cdawg

February 24, 2013 at 5:20 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

This Buddy Rogers piece is incoherent and illogical.

He sets out to show that believers in God are not irrational, but inadvertently disproves his postulate by presenting an irrational argument.

He sums up this tortured example of foolishness by attributing to atheism a god which he calls "chance," to which he ascribes meaningless.

Then he states "Creation by a personal God entails ultimate meaning."

That's not a conclusion which follows from the preceding disjointed fragments of thought, but he presents it as a summation, the proof of the pudding, as if he has somehow argued his point toward this end.

Does this assertion show that believers are not irrational? No, it doesn't; it simply shows that Buddy Rogers IS irrational.

The idea that believers tend to be more irrational than atheists can be made quite easily and directly by observing which group, on the whole, accepts the facts of evolutionary biology, and which doesn't. Rejection of the science in favor of a fundamentalist creation myth proves one to irrational.

That's the irrefutable argument that Rogers was attempting to refute, but he failed.

Sorry, Buddy, but you're just no good at this sort of thing. You shouldn't even bother trying to dissuade us from the obvious fact that monotheists have perpetrated history’s worst atrocities.

Posted by: FrankLloydLeft

February 24, 2013 at 8:16 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

FrankL: "This Buddy Rogers piece is incoherent and illogical.">>

Really Frank? I was thinking he was doing a little better than usual, considering the subject matter. I think he is trying to be a little more careful.

There are goats like you AlphaC and Cdawg around with pointy horns! And sheep don't like to get poked in the tummy.

I was hoping this would be a short response but once I dug in, turns out it was all pretty soft, like you say. Buddy's article is 4,900 characters, this is a little over double that. Oops...

I always love how folks like Buddy accidentally reveal how unpopular the word "religion" has become by trying to use it as a pejorative against others who do not identify with the word. It's like... "yeah, sure, I'm religious and believe things by faith and without good reasons... but but but, you're religious too!"

Ah, no, not religious. When there is a good reason to believe something, I believe in it, when there isn't, I don't.

It's been amusing to watch how the blatantly religious have lately been on a full tilt run away from the word religion. I don't know how many times I've had the latest crop tell me they aren't "religious" but rather "spiritual" and they "don't have a religion" but rather have "a personal relationship." Sure.

Public buffoons like Bill O'Reilly are even more flagrant in their attempt to abuse language. O'Reilly spent a whole show going on about how Christianity is not a religion: http://tinyurl.com/cdtu59p

Then Pat Roberson burps up that Islam isn't a religion either: http://tinyurl.com/b4busmh

Curiously, this would make Hinduism, with 13% of the world's population, the largest "religion" on the planet. Cute.

Buddy thinks there is a God but some people, having examined the question a little deeper than he has, don't believe him. I think this makes him grumpy, so he writes articles about how people hate his god. Let's unpack:

Bud: "myth that believers in a personal God... are irrational whereas atheists are rational.">>

The irrational label is not very useful because it's not useful to apply labels to people that they don't accept for themselves (maybe Buddy could learn from this method, for instance, his title). Certainly religious people engage in irrational behavior and there are no end of examples that even Buddy would probably agree with. We have people flying planes into buildings and people in his religion letting their children die because they use prayer instead of a doctor. See a couple hundred referenced examples of just that category here:



Posted by: fayfreethinker

February 24, 2013 at 8:42 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Bud: "Second myth... monotheists have perpetrated history’s worst atrocities.">>

That's only interesting to the extent they actually did it in the name of their God. Hitler certainly said he was killing Jews in the name of Buddy's God, but maybe Hitler was just religiously insane. It happens. Folks like Buddy like to go on about Stalin and a few other rogues, but that's just the guilt by association fallacy. A non believer is quite capable of being a political monster, but they don't kill and commit genocide the name of "no God." They usually do it because they can take a mob trained for a few centuries to worship a man or an organization and simply refocus that bad habit into worshiping a state. As one theocratic maniac famously put it: "

"Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith. . . we need believing people." (Adolph you know who)

Bud: "...the claim believers are less rational than nonbelievers itself is an irrational prejudice.">>

Careful readers might notice that at no time does Buddy attempt to show belief in monotheism is rational. Maybe he should have devoted his column to that.

Bud: "Believers’ work throughout history in business, literature, the arts, philosophy,... rational products of rational minds.">>

Careful readers will notice that this says nothing about monotheism being rational. That people can effectively compartmentalize their religious beliefs and still be quite good at these other categories doesn't mean certain religious claims are rational.

Bud: "The achievers’ higher motivation was often,... God.">>

Indeed. I love Bach, pipe organ music, stained glass and church architecture. There is no question people find inspiration from their mystical feelings. This is to say *nothing* about whether believing in monotheism is rational (again, not a question I find that interesting).

Bud: "40 to 50% of American scientists who believe in a personal god see no conflict between belief and science.">>

Two points:

1) Maybe they believe in Gould's non-overlapping magisteria. It's an idea that didn't really catch on, probably because we have so many examples of religion providing answers for questions about the world, and getting them consistently and famously, wrong. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-over...

2) It's interesting again to see how those who understand the world the best, tend to have much lower belief in God. Buddy refers to American scientists here, but easily half of the general population of Europe doesn't affirm a belief in God, and among scientists it would be lower. Among physicists, it's almost all of them and has been for nigh a century (reference below).


Posted by: fayfreethinker

February 24, 2013 at 8:47 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Bud: "Scientists do have deep knowledge of the material world.">>

Right, and it is at least interesting to see that this deep knowledge tends to make them find the God hypothesis unnecessary.

Bud: "God either exists or doesn’t, independent of anyone’s opinion.">>

I agree. Maybe Buddy should do a column some time with something other than mere opinion and assertion?

Bud: "The God-haters like Dawkins...">>

Of course Dawkins doesn't hate God any more than he hates Mother Goose, who he also doesn't believe exists. But if there were a bunch of people causing trouble on the planet in the name of Mother Goose, he would no doubt have good reason to have some issues with those who pretend to speak in the name of the Great Invisible Goose. And with good reason.

Bud: [Dawkins... et al] hating something they believe does not exist.">>

Buddy should really set this canard aside. No atheists hate God. That's you simply misunderstanding the topic you are going on about.

Bud: "the Big Bang, implies God’s existence.">>

If that were true, and it isn't true, we should find the physicists that established the many (at least 13) lines of evidence for the BB, believing in God more than average. Instead, we find the exact opposite. See: http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/n...

That's because the BB has nothing whatsoever to contribute to the God question.

Bud: "As physicist Steven Hawking said,...">>

Buddy is being sneaky with this quote, but he's probably just passing it along from Collins' famous misuse of it. Here's the context and nice unpack of this trick:

"Hawking says this in the framework of having a universe with a specific initial configuration. He then – right in the next paragraph, no less!! – continues to discuss alternatives to specific initial universe configurations. The alternatives boil down to various models of inflationary growth of the universe. Hawking starts with describing Alan Guth’s inflationary model and discusses Linde, Steinhardt, and Albrecht’s “new inflationary model.” (aBHoT p.67-69). Hawking then talks about how the “present state of the universe could have arisen from quite a large number of different initial configurations” (aBHoT p.70). Hawking mentions later that we’d need a better understanding of quantum laws to figure out how the universe should have started off." http://tinyurl.com/ar49wsd

And here is the Hawkings "recant" you didn't provide (not really a recant, you just removed his context):

"One can't prove that God doesn't exist," professor Stephen Hawking told ABC News. "But science makes God unnecessary.
"The laws of physics can explain the universe without the need for a creator," he added." http://tinyurl.com/25tlbjn

Bingo. Maybe Buddy should just give up on cherry picking quotes from atheists in his attempts to find support? It's probably a bad habit he picked up from the creationists.


Posted by: fayfreethinker

February 24, 2013 at 8:53 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Bud: "The Big Bang’s creation out of nothing,...">

There is no need for the Big Bang to have came from nothing. You made that up. We have no reason to think that a state of "nothing" is even possible or means anything.

Bud: "[BB] requires both a beginning to the universe...">

The universe as it is now, but that says nothing about the condition leading up to it (noting that "leading up to" doesn't really apply since time is a component of space).

Bud: "[BB] requires both a beginning... and its physical laws and something outside the universe and those laws...">

You've just completely made that up.

Bud: "God’s like that.">

You did it again!

Bud: "...in avoiding the creator question, they aren’t doing science anymore.">>

Do tell us about this science of "the creator question." Theology?

Bud: "Rather than grapple with “why” questions...">>

That we can form why questions and desire answers to them doesn't mean the questions make sense. The universe doesn't necessarily care. The black plague, why? Huge asteroid barely misses us last week, we live, change our orbit by 15 minutes, we die. Why? Perhaps on the moral "why" question, we should look to this classic: http://tinyurl.com/b6cj8zh

Bud: "some place their faith in chance,">>

In order to calculate odds, one needs to know the variables. We don't have odds for universes, so we have no idea if "chance" applies.

Bud: "[some] atheists called “brights” in contrast to less-than-bright believers.">>

a) that moniker was a complete fizzle

b) largely due to people like you completely misrepresenting it as you did (and I knew you would which is why I instantly hated the label)

Bud: "they call it “a singularity,” so we don’t have to think about it.">>

Apparently Bud doesn't understand the word singularity. Physicists do, at least a bit.

Bud: "I am not making a “God in the gaps” argument.">>

Of course you are. You're trying to stuff your God into our incomplete understanding of the universe. And those gaps keep getting smaller and smaller. Physicists already know those gaps are small enough a that God isn't needed.

Bud: "when... people do think about the why... they realize creation by... chance, entails ultimate meaninglessness.">>

Well, that might just be the correct answer. Sorry about that. Not very comforting I know. Wishing you had a better answer doesn't make it so.

Bud: "Creation by a personal God entails ultimate meaning.">>

Yes, but for some people, making up a comforting "ultimate meaning" isn't honest or satisfying. They want to follow the evidence and believe things, even uncomfortable things, because they are true. It's quite rare.

Bud: "the inadvertent honesty of admitting atheism is a religion...">>

Bud just complained about people using semantics. Atheism is to religion what baldness is to hair color. Bud sure would like to smear some "religion" on "atheism," but it isn't a good fit. It's just a semantic word game.

Posted by: fayfreethinker

February 24, 2013 at 9 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Thanks FFT. Quite thorough and should be kept by rational people as a model. Plus, you fried the opposition to well done

>>Good job Buddy, run Kitty go get Freeby. You're out of your league. Matter of fact, Freeby is too. Buddy is right, you have to admire an Atheist, to stand up to Almighty God and spit in His Holy Face, that takes "guts" or ----- stupidity.<

I prefer my jailbirds fried really crispy, after removing the feathers.


Posted by: cdawg

February 25, 2013 at 2 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

Buddy is not in jail.

Posted by: JailBird

February 25, 2013 at 4:16 a.m. ( | suggest removal )

I've participated in, and watched many debates on this issue. This engineer makes some fine points on the impossibility of the Noah's Ark story:

"How did a wooden ship that size stay afloat? The largest wooden ships ever built, built by the finest shipwrights the world has ever produced right at the end of the clipper ship era, were a mere 300' long.

The ships would snake (just what it sounds like, horizontal deviations from the axis and hog (bow and stern would dip down below the axis of the ship) so badly that that they leaked like seives. Bilge pumps had to be kept running constantly even in port to keep the things from sinking, they were never used for anything but fair weather coastal runs, being totally unseaworthy.

And the ark is supposed to have been nearly twice that size.

The toughest modern warships are the aircraft carriers of the US Navy. Even they, if they get caugt in a severe storm at sea, may need a couple of months in drydock to get repair damage from mountenous seas and hurricane force winds. And these are huge, steel, warships built to meet military specifications for combat ships, which are operated by highly trained crews with machinery with multiple levels of redundancy to ensure the ship can maintain steerage way.---Yet Noah couldn't even see out of his ark, so even if it had a rudder he could never have steered it.

You want to guess what happens to even an armor plated steel warship in a heavy storm if it loses steerageway so the waves turn it sideways? Yep, it gets pounded into scrap.

And you claim that Noah's wooden sieve, which would have sunk in a bathtub, lasted through a 40 day storm while lacking steerageway or bilge pumps.

In short, the tale of Noah's ark is so patently absurd that to believe it is to betray a level of ignorance which is, frankly, pathetic.

Which one of Noah's oh so virtuous family was the one who was the host for syphilus? It can't survive outside a human host. Same for gonorrhea. Or smallpox. Or whooping cough. Or . . . but you get the idea.

How did Hawiian blind cave spiders (unique to Hawaii) survive six months under water?

How did giant coconut palms survive the flood? No terrestrial plant can survive having its roots drowned for six months, and the giant coconuts can't survive prolonged contact with salt water, so if the flood waters were salt water, none of the palms seeds could have survived either.

Where did all the water come from? Where DID it go?" --Michael Fisher

Posted by: fayfreethinker

February 25, 2013 at 9:07 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

Oh shoot, had two pages open and put that bit about Noah in the wrong thread. Oh well, good stuff.

Oh, and thanks Cdawg. I forwarded a copy of this rebuttal to Buddy on to some friends on facebook and in email. It was quite popular. Maybe Buddy will be interested in responding to it?

“Thanks for your kind message. Of course Hawking is an atheist. He is too smart to be otherwise. :) But why not ask him, or look up one of his biographies? The problem was he threw the G-word around a lot in his best-selling book, and a lot of people bought it for that reason. But he was using it in the Einstein-Spinoza way, as a metaphor to the order of the universe. Have your friend look up Hawking's book and find the places where God is mentioned.”
-- Vic Stenger, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Hawaii

Posted by: fayfreethinker

February 25, 2013 at 9:15 p.m. ( | suggest removal )