Lawrence Krauss on the xenophobia inherent in religion

Here’s a new seven-minute Big Think video in which physicist and anti-theist Lawrence Krauss discusses religion. While he notes that faith has some good aspects, his overall take is negative, largely because religion is divisive and promotes xenophobia.

I find it heartening that this strong criticism of faith appears on places like The Big Think, but a little bird told me that Dr. Krauss has another fusillade that will appear soon. In my view, now is no time to retreat from the atheist critique of religion. As Lawrence notes, each time a decent person comes out as a rationalist or atheist, it shows others that we are not monsters, and gives a little nudge towards unbelief to those on the fence. And, as Jeff Tayler noted in a Salon piece about the Republican penchant for outdoing each other in crazy protestations of faith:

Discussing religion freely and critically will desacralize it, with the result that the public professions of faith of which our politicians are so enamored will eventually occasion only pity, disgust and cries of shame! or, at best, serve as fodder for comedians. Faith should, in fact, become a “character issue.”

67 Comments

  1. Randy Schenck
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Very good discussion. Need more of the well know scientist like Lawrence Krauss to do these things.

    Just give them the facts and repeat.

  2. keith cook ±
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m with him, religion has long sucked a big kumera, a defunked mode of living and while the Professor and his colleagues can tell them why this is, in the nicest possible way, I will live an atheist life without the constraits and bonds of an ancient fantasy text. It is time to grow up as a cognitive species, devote to a real life not an non existant afterlife.

  3. Scientifik
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of religious xenophobia…

    Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told ‘the non-Jews’ are ‘evil’ in worksheet produced by London school

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/threeyearold-ultraorthodox-jewish-children-told-the-nonjews-are-evil-in-worksheet-produced-by-school-10481682.html

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted September 5, 2015 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      When you have to resort to child abuse to maintain your religion, you (should) know something’s wrong.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted September 6, 2015 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. Of course, this is no different that priests, ministers, or sunday-school teachers telling children that they (or their non-christian friends) will go to hell, or imams teaching children that they (or their non-muslim friends) will go to hell.

        Scaring children with unsubstantiated beliefs (I’m not talking about telling them not to stick a knife into the electrical outlet) should be classed as psychological torture, and outlawed.

  4. nightgaunt49
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Best we can do is to move them away from their bigoted and violent ways. Get them to reject them and we might have something to work with. There are those who do not like and tend to ignore those aspects of their religion. Others want to use them.

    We are cursed by our ability to conceive of abstractions. A double edged sword. We know our mortality and want to perpetuate it. I know I do. I see a more advanced species ending death by old age. But they also control their reproduction rate etc.

    This need, and it is a need for the majority to want to follow a superior force, invisible, but all knowing, all snooping of them. Seems to have worked for Humanity so far. But things are very different from 10,000 years ago. We have dirtied our planet, over 7 billion people three forth of them barely living.

    I see us as at a crossroads of survival as a species as every intelligent species much hurdle or die out. Neanderthals were at that crossroads 30,000 years ago and failed. Will we the inflexible ones this time? Looks like yes.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted September 5, 2015 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      “over 7 billion people three forth of them barely living.”

      I say as my fellow swede Rosling, you don’t know what you are talking about!

      This week Rosling (an internationally experienced doctor now specializing in making nations publish statistics) made a wet spot on the floor of a danish reporter that _twice_ tried to promote the idea that most of the world is in poverty.

      Rosling took 6 apples from the fruit basket, aligned them and pointed out that the 4 in the middle lives as a dane did at the start of the 19th century, ahving a bike, a job et cetera. The first apple was the part of the world that lives like danes did in the end of the 19th century. And, pointed Rosling out, the first apple was quickly catching up with the other apples.

      To quote Rosling,

      “You are wrong and I am correct. You are straight up and down wrong.”
      [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcpjl0mxRvs ]

      The first one must do when one helps, is to open one’s eyes and look at the world as it is. To learn about the real world, I recommend Rosling’s Gapminder site. [ http://www.gapminder.org/ ]

      • Posted September 5, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        Rosling misses — or, at least, doesn’t fully appreciate — that all of the advances out of poverty he describes have been entirely fueled by the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels…and that those fossil fuels are nearly gone. And, of course, at the same time we’ve used up most of those fossil fuels, we’ve depleted all sorts of other non-renewable or long-term renewable resources, especially topsoil and groundwater.

        The problem isn’t lifting a few billion in poverty to modern Western standards, or even to Victorian-era standards. The problem is the imminent deflation of the petroleum-fuelled bubble.

        Sure, if we had unlimited fossil fuel reserves, we could perhaps contemplate a stable global population of his dozen billion. But we don’t have enough energy left even to maintain the status quo, let alone pile more on top of it all.

        There is a very, very, very faint ray of hope. We may, possibly perhaps, be at the beginning of what could potentially be a rapid transition of the passenger fleet to battery-powered electric vehicles. And, if we’re especially fortunate and current trends hold, those batteries will mostly be charged from solar panels. That might free up petroleum reserves at the same pace as production declines; if so, it would pave the way to continuing to transition to a solar-based economy.

        If all those stars line up, we should be mostly okay — indeed, more than okay, because a potential solar-based future would offer unimaginably more energy resources at our disposal than what we can even dream of today.

        But, honestly? There’s no reason to be optimistic that it’ll actually all play out like that. Instead, global depression and economic collapse and war and famine and epidemic are, as they always have been, much more likely to bring the population back in check. Only, this time, we won’t have the benefit of vast fossil fuel reserves to re-bootstrap ourselves….

        b&

        • rickflick
          Posted September 5, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

          That’s a realistic, if dismal, assessment. But one other hope is that enough time can be bought using current alternative technologies so that nuclear fusion can be harnessed as a source of energy. This would probably allow for a more stable ecological development of a sustainable population. If we can hold out for another 50 years…

          • Posted September 6, 2015 at 11:11 am | Permalink

            We already have easy-to-harness fusion. The power plant is safely located an hundred million miles away, has a limitless supply of power, and wirelessly transmits that power to anybody and everybody for free.

            To put things in perspective…just the household rooftops in the United States alone receive enough solar energy that, even at today’s off-the-shelf efficiency rates, would be enough to provide for all energy needs for the entire global civilization. All of it, from electricity to transportation to manufacturing and all the rest.

            Now think of how much of a surplus the planet would have if we expanded that to include American commercial rooftops or parking lots…or even areas outside the US….

            The short answer is that solar is embarrassingly abundant and unbelievably cheap compared to anything else that can meet our long-term needs. And if we ever get to the point that we’re running out of rooftops to put panels on…well, we’d have so much more energy available then than we do today that it’d be trivial to start putting panels in orbit. And so on.

            b&

            • rickflick
              Posted September 6, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

              You make a very good point. It’s interesting to think distributed instead of centralized. Fusion, if successful, would provide unlimited energy at central locations in imitation of the current grid. The price of solar cells has dropped dramatically over the last couple of years. It’s becoming commonplace. I noticed some of the high end housing in our area have solar on 6 or 7 out of 10 rooftops. Middle and lower income areas have much less coverage.

              • Posted September 6, 2015 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

                So long as you have net metering as an option, rooftop solar is hands down the cheapest way for the typical consumer to get electricity today. If you have the capital to invest in the system yourself, that capital will be more productive in solar panels on your own rooftop than in any whole-market fund. If you don’t have the capital, you’ll still save money over utility-generated electricity if you finance it and pay interest to the bank — which is Solar City’s business model.

                If net metering isn’t an option, you can still make a very modest profit with rooftop solar plus a large bank of batteries if you sever the grid connection entirely. Maybe the equivalent of 2% – 4% annual return. That’s enough to be worthwhile for new construction, especially since that rate of return goes up dramatically if you don’t have to pay for the initial grid connection and laying all that high voltage wiring and what-not. It also sets an upper limit on grid-supplied electricity…if rates go significantly higher than where they are today, everybody will flip the utilities the bird and drop off the grid entirely.

                But it’s also ringing the death knell of the grid in general. Battery prices especially are in freefall, and solar prices are still plunging. It won’t be long before Solar City can offer grid-free setups at the same price advantage they currently offer grid-tie setups. At that time, grid-tie setups will be dirt cheap…and the utilities are going to be bleeding customers and have to jack rates to spread the costs amongst the remaining customers, which will only make leaving the grid that much more attractive.

                b&

              • rickflick
                Posted September 7, 2015 at 7:31 am | Permalink

                Sounds promising. It looks like as soon as a critical threshold is reached in price/performance, the conversion will take place very rapidly.
                I suspect some sorts of central power will still be needed for commercial and industrial applications for some time to come. I’m thinking of medium to heavy industries. Take steel mills for example. Even these might be able to use wind and solar eventually.

              • Posted September 7, 2015 at 10:41 am | Permalink

                The grid could and should be an incredibly useful resource, even if a world of distributed generation…but the utilities are doing everything in their power to ensure their irrelevance in a world of distributed generation. By all rights, the utilities should be the ones hiring the most contractors to do the installations, and they should be the ones leasing in-home batteries for load leveling and outage protection.

                Instead, they’re doing their damnedest to delay or outright kill distributed generation…and, in so doing, signing their own death warrants. And will likely take the grid with them in the process.

                I wouldn’t worry much about the steel mills. They’ve all gone to China already. We really don’t have all that much left in the States in the way of energy-intensive industrial production — at least, not compared to a generation or two ago. And what we do have tends to be fossil fuel extraction, which can provide for its own power needs — and which, of course, also becomes increasingly obsolete in a solar-powered industry.

                b&

      • peepuk
        Posted September 6, 2015 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        Agree.

        From a human, dog or cat perspective the world has improved in most aspects.

        There are a lot of challenges but to be overly pessimistic can be as bad as to be overly optimistic. One of the biggest challenges is to move away from fossil fuels, but there are enough alternative sources of energy like sun, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear.

        It won’t all be pretty but maybe the past was even worse. We’ll see.

  5. GBJames
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  6. Posted September 5, 2015 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting. I’m very happy to be an atheist (and I think too many people confuse that with agnostic). I believe in life after death, I believe in good and evil. I also believe in virgins. Doesn’t mean I have to blow myself up or string someone up on a cross just because they don’t share the same point of view. I also believe a great many people are idiots. So shoot me. 😉

    • nightgaunt49
      Posted September 5, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Just let them know that an Agnostic gives the benefit of the doubt of a deity(ies) by ignorance whereas Atheists gives the onus to the Believer to prove it.

    • lwgreen1
      Posted September 5, 2015 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      I don’t want to shoot you and I’m happy you’re happy, but you believe in life after death? Well, as Hitchens said, “I like surprises.” But don’t count on it. Also, I don’t think many people confuse atheism with agnosticism. Sometimes agnosticism is just a stepping stone to the point in life when one “goes all the way.” And who doesn’t believe in virgins? We all start out that way, but it’s not the state in which most humans want to remain their whole lives.

      • Posted September 5, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for not wanting to shoot me. I probably should have clarified my point better. Rather than ‘life’ I should have used ‘existence’. I lean more towards the concept of Od, an all-pervading life ‘force’ which transfers between vessels rather than just ceasing to exist when ‘death’ occurs.

        • GBJames
          Posted September 5, 2015 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

          Neat! I have fairies in my garden. They make the flower’s bloom!

          • Posted September 5, 2015 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

            I always wondered where they lived. Thanks for clearing that one up! 🙂

        • Posted September 5, 2015 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          an all-pervading life ‘force’ which transfers between vessels rather than just ceasing to exist when ‘death’ occurs

          That would require that all of physics as we understand it must be complete and utter bollocks — and that’s no exaggeration. You might as well claim that apples don’t fall from trees and that the Sun wanders around in the sky.

          Short version: the laws underlying the physics of everyday life are completely understood. There’re many mysteries remaining to be solved in physics, of course — but only at energies and sizes and other conditions radically beyond what applies to humans. And there’s lots still to be understood about how that physics works in the aggregate at human scales; chemistry is applied physics, biology applied chemistry, psychology applied biology, and so on, and we’ve lots to learn from all of it.

          But, just as you would rightly laugh at the notion that somebody could, with aught but the sheer force of will, cause a cargo ship to levitate out of the water and fly circles around the moon…well, with as much certainty, we know that extra-corporeal cognition is every bit as fantastical.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted September 5, 2015 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

            Who mentioned cognition? I just said that the force transitions. I never said it would be sentient.

            • Posted September 5, 2015 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

              May I suggest? You seem to be very, very confused.

              “Force” is a very well-defined term — and the only forces relevant to humans are electromagnetism and gravity, with a slight nod to the binding forces that hold atoms together and are therefore responsible for radioactivity and the like. Various other forces are of course very important at their respective domains, but those domains are so far removed from humans that the only way they ever influence our lives is by giving physicists neat stuff to study.

              And if there’s no cognition, no thinking? No memories, no contemplation, no planning, no communication? Then what is it of you that survives death?

              b&

              • Posted September 5, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

                Good question. Possibly trumpet playing? 😉

            • Sastra
              Posted September 5, 2015 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

              Vitalism isn’t necessitated by any current gaps in physics or biology — though if there were some sort of life energy force there’s no reason there couldn’t be plenty of evidence within both those fields. After all, it was once considered a respectable scientific theory, back in the infancy of modern science. So what, other than a possible personal preference, makes you “lean towards the concept?”

              I’m not sure of the details here. The resemblance between God and what you’re calling “Od” lies I think not so much in that both are sentient and aware, but that both are skyhooks, both grant human life a primary position in the universe, and both are pure, irreducible forms of what’s associated with sentience and being alive. I also suspect that both are matters of faith.

              • Posted September 5, 2015 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

                I just have a ‘thing’ for German scientists and hypothetical suppositions.

          • Marella
            Posted September 5, 2015 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

            “Short version: the laws underlying the physics of everyday life are completely understood.”

            It’s amazing how hard it is to get people to understand this. There is just no room for vague undefined “forces” in the universe.

    • Sastra
      Posted September 5, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Maybe … but I think it’s hard to come up with any “life after death” scenario which doesn’t involve the supernatural and assertions regarding a grand cosmic system of Mind as fundamental to reality. Given that sort of set up, the choice to call it “God” — as well as the refusal to call it “God” — seems more like a matter of taste than not.

      In short, whether or not you’re an atheist (or agnostic) who believes in an afterlife is debatable. You might simply be using a definition of God which is narrower than the broader and more useful one.

      We might then characterize you as a “theist” not out of pique or rejection of an afterlife ourselves, but to be more accurate in an area full of gray.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 5, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      I believe in life-after-death — just not for the he, she, or it that’s died. When that show closes, there’re no encores, no comebacks, no reprising the roll in a different venue.

      But I’m glad to know that life will go on for others. For their sake, I’ve stashed a little scratch so the friends and family can throw a big (non-religious) Irish wake upon my leave-taking. Enjoy the corned beef & cabbage, lads; hoist a Jameson and a stout and laugh at all the old stories.

      • GBJames
        Posted September 5, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        Ken… add some nice Scotch to that stash and I’ll see if I can make it in the event.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 5, 2015 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

          Will do GBJ, but I have no plans to vacate the premises anytime soon. (I’ll spring for a brand new single-malt now, and with any luck it’ll have a couple decades of age on it by the time you get to enjoy it.)

          • GBJames
            Posted September 5, 2015 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

            😉

          • rickflick
            Posted September 5, 2015 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

            Live long and prosper.

            • nightgaunt49
              Posted September 9, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

              Maybe if they say “existence” instead of “life” after biological death might help—-some. Not by much though. maybe if they could prove souls exist then we would need a paradigm in which they function. But they don’t. Just say it is then move on. Like saying pixies exist as a given then hypothesize from there. Doesn’t really work unless you can clearly identify the soul and show it is involved in this function. Say versus Dark Matter. Dark Energy is harder to pin down.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted September 5, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

        Make that “not for the him, her, or it” that’s died. (And I’m that guy who sometimes sniggers into the back of his hand when supposedly smart people stick nominative case pronouns in their prepositional phrases. Sheesh! Where’s a nun to rap a ruler across your knuckles when you need one?)

    • Kevin
      Posted September 5, 2015 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

      I expect you mean your atoms are returned to the universe for good. Otherwise, life after death has no meaning.

      Incidentally, I have seen each of my meals I eat no later than 12 hours later and I drink about a gallon+ of water every day. I am pretty sure about 80% of me is not the same as last week.

      • Posted September 6, 2015 at 3:51 am | Permalink

        Exactly! Same with skin cells. Glad someone got it. That’ll be the the last time I make a throwaway comment meant humorously on a site full of scientists … 😉

  7. Sastra
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    The raucous calls coming from the religious right for “more expressions of faith in public life” is going to be their eventual undoing, given that the nature of modern democracy is not going to allow these expressions to be either one- sided panegyrics for a particular shared religion or some innocuous ecumenical game of show-and-tell. We atheists are finally going to get our chance to make our case not just against the dominant religion, but against religion in general and faith in particular.

    They better hold on to their hats. Liberal believers have long recognized that a secularism which keeps religious belief out of government is a gateway to keeping it off the debate table itself. It’s “private ” and “personal” — like a lifestyle choice or a preference for tropical fish.

    But shoving discussion and criticism underground doesn’t really submerge the effects of religion, whether they’re out of lefty spiritually or righty fundamentalism. It only protects belief and permits atheism to remain the default negative. Why should we welcome or accept those terms? If religion is supposed to matter so much, then it matters enough to examine its claim to be true.

    The religious right should be more careful what they wish for. Products of the Enlightenment themselves, they’ve deluded themselves into thinking they have a “rational faith” and a good case which stands up to scrutiny. Their protective xenophobia will I think ultimately be demolished by their assumption that the “public square” is a safe space for celebration and proselytizing.

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I like that he made the point that many people call themselves “Christian” because they want to be thought good people. That myth still persists despite all the evidence that religiosity has no relation to whether a person is good or not.

    In fact, if you study Phil Zuckerman’s work, there’s plenty of evidence that when it comes to things like racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, dogmatism, and several other things, atheists and secularists, on average, do better than the rest of the population.

    The reason gay people have gained an acceptance they didn’t generally have 50 years ago is that they’ve become more visible, and it’s thus recognized by more and more that “they” are just like everyone else. Atheists need to do the same when they can.

    Someone choosing Faith over Fact should be seen as having a character flaw, not a quality.

    • Sastra
      Posted September 5, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

      The often well-meaning ‘compliment ‘ that “you may be an atheist, but you behave more like a Christian than many Christians I know ” can be subtly but pointedly answered with the phrase “Gee — that’s sure white of you.”

      Especially if they’re not white.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted September 5, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

        I’ll remember that response! It’s a “compliment” I get fairly regularly. 🙂

        • Ken Elliott
          Posted September 5, 2015 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

          I was accosted similarly in my youth (on my 30th birthday). At the time I knew I wasn’t religious, but I was a long way and “The God Delusion” away from understanding I was an atheist. One of my best friends, a man who helped me understand how to be skeptical, asked me why I wasn’t a Christian since I behaved like one (or like one is supposed to act, perhaps). My weak response was something along the lines of it just wasn’t for me, never going into any specifics as I did not yet know them. This same friend remains a devout Christian despite his skepticism for any claim made outside of his beliefs. I’ve yet to discuss this with him as we no longer see each other regularly. Plus, I am a bit daunted by him as he is keenly intelligent. Talking with him is almost like I imagine talking to Jerry or Ben Goren or Matthew Cobb or many of the WEIT Commentariat would be like . . . daunting. But, I’m better prepared than I’ve ever been, and I owe much of that to this site.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted September 5, 2015 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

            You’d probably be fine. It’s mostly about confidence and knowing your position. One of the things about sites like this is you can hone your argument in a friendly atmosphere. If there’s a hole in it, someone here will find it, or have dealt with the same thing before, and have a good answer for you to use.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 5, 2015 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          Wow, something about your comment made me flash to the first time I fell head-over-heels for the actress (Rena Owen) who played the mother of the Maori family in the great NZ movie Once Were Warriors — and I’ve had that same head-over-heels feeling every time I’ve watched it since.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted September 5, 2015 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

            She’s a very cool person.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted September 6, 2015 at 12:57 am | Permalink

              Very cool person, very cool role, very cool movie.

              I loved it from the opening shot of what appears to be a beautiful New Zealand naturescape — only to have the camera pull back to reveal that it’s a trompe-l’œil billboard in a blighted urban neighborhood. What a way to set up the internal tensions and dichotomies threatening to tear this family apart. Great performances all around. Cool music, too.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted September 6, 2015 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

      I like that he made the point that many people call themselves “Christian” because they want to be thought good people. That myth still persists despite all the evidence that religiosity has no relation to whether a person is good or not.

      I ran into this again just yesterday. I sent a link to one of Amnesty International’s petitions to my acquaintances, including my sister, a rabid fundamentalist. She e-mailed back to say that she signed it, and that what was described was what you’d expect of people “without God” (they were Hindus, and so have many more gods than she ever will 😉 ).

      I responded that christians do worse things every day, along with a copy of Ben’s recent post on why doesn’t Jesus ever call 9-1-1. She responded as she always does–ignoring what I said, and giving a three-sentence précis of what she considers the christian message of salvation to be (as if I didn’t already know that far better than she does).

      In fact, if you study Phil Zuckerman’s work, there’s plenty of evidence that when it comes to things like racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, dogmatism, and several other things, atheists and secularists, on average, do better than the rest of the population.

      Is there a handy internet link to some of his stuff? If she writes me back, I’d like to present it to her (yes, like beating my head on a brick wall, but still…). I have read Susan Jacoby’s marvelous book Freethinkers, showing the leading role that atheists, agnostics and other freethinkers took in the abolition, women’s suffrage, and civil rights movements, but I seriously doubt that my sister would ever read a non-christian book.

    • Posted September 9, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      It was also not really *that* long ago people still spoke of “Christian name” (instead of given name.) (For example, in the early 20th century Bertrand Russell mentions it.)

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted September 9, 2015 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

        I still hear people using “Christian name” a lot. Many, I think, don’t even think about the word – they just think of it as a synonym for “first.” It’s another thing that needs to change.

  9. rickflick
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Lawrence Krauss is always a pleasure to listen to. His statement here is one more message to fence sitters out there in the inter-webs that it’s OK. There are lots of intelligent people who think just like you do, and they are not afraid to say it publicly.

  10. Posted September 5, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mass Delusions a.k.a. Magical & Religious Woo-Bullshit Thinking and commented:
    Earlier this week I drawed my own blog followers’ attention to the relationship between religion and conflicts/wars, by referring, in general, to data available at the Correlates of War project, and, in more specific details, to an interesting paper, entitled “Statistical look at reasons of involvement in wars”, written by Igor Mackarov; see: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1508.06228v2.pdf .

    After having read this new blog post here at Why Evolution Is True, and listened to the attached video clip, I find that our topics and takes on religion are much the same.

    There is definitely a more or less strong relation between true believers, especially religious ones, and atrocities of different kinds, ranging from (sexual) abuse within the family to proper wars between clans or countries.

    Maybe worst of all, sometimes those atrocities, in the name of one god or another, seem to be caused without malicious intentions. That’s why religion is a dangerous thing, “largely because religion is divisive and promotes xenophobia”.

    For even more details, see: http://archiv.ub.uni-marburg.de/mjr/pdf/2002/rev_schoen_2002.pdf

  11. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Elaine Pagels book “The Origins of Satan” is a superb study of the growth of xenophobia in Christianity and how it got progressively worse.

    The first religion with a concept of hell seems to be Zoroastrianism, but Western Christianity introduced the idea that it was for all non-believers.

    Jesus mentions hell far more in the Gospel of Matthew than elsewhere, and seems to largely be targeting religious hypocrites, but then he has those pesky apocalyptic discourses, the condemnation of thought crimes, and his getting really P.Oed at the folks in Capernaum for rejecting his disciples.

    Interesting note by Krauss that Islam is 500 years younger than Christianity and about where Christianity was 500 years ago. Arguably, the Catholic church’s horridness peaked in the last 4 centuries of the Middle Ages. This statement by Krauss echoes something I think I read in Karen Armstrong who I guess gets a FEW things right as she bluffs her way through history of religion.

    A minority of Christians continue to believe in universal salvation, which seems to be due to their having more common decency than most religious folk. The higher prevalence of that view in some Eastern Orthodox circles would please me more if they didn’t also have a tradition of anti-Semitism, anti-gay sentiment, and they seem very divided on Darwinian evolution.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 5, 2015 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the comment. It helps to understand that the New Testament made this hell thing clear.

    • Posted September 5, 2015 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      While it is a much happier outlook to believe in universal salvation, I’ve never grasped what the point of being religious at all us with this view. Why bother with anything if we’re all going to be in eternal bliss that will make this blip of time on Earth literally nothing in comparison? In fact, why not swiftly send all of humanity to its death so we can get on with the good stuff? It seems any answer to that question would have to reflect some major cognitive dissonance as well as at least some doubt that the proposition is true.

  12. Posted September 5, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Lawrence is spot on. As always.

    b&

  13. Ken Elliott
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    This video by Professor Krauss is heartwarming for me. It explains my wife’s position in which she claims to be a Christian when, in fact, she is not. I don’t know that she’s ever read one passage from the Bible, perhaps in a class on religion while getting her MBA. She certainly hasn’t read any in our 30 years together of which I’ve witnessed. There are no bibles in our house. She follows none of the tenets of Christianity outside of praying to God, something she does religiously. (heh). She is, though, a very good person, better than most in a few significant ways. She has been the main force behind the type of person each of our two sons have become, both of whom are atheist, as it happens, but more importantly are respectful and respected young men.

    Professor Krauss also hit on the point of which parts of the Bible Christians tend to quote, which is almost always the moral sections and passages, ignoring those parts that make it such an abominable tome. To me that is another indication that most, or many, Christians simply want to be good people, and without realizing it they apply the morals of the Enlightenment, or of default humanity, or whatever the case may be, to the bible, using only those moral passages that agree with their moral makeup. I am a layman, so I can’t know the truth behind this. It just seems to me to be a likely thing.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 5, 2015 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      I agree it’s a likely thing. Likelihood is, after all, exactly what we can hope for. Certainty tends to be the province of the ill informed. I don’t think being a “layman”, whatever that means, disqualifies you from having a significant opinion on any of this.

      • Posted September 5, 2015 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

        Absolute certainty is often more than warranted, at least for all practical purposes. I don’t see any reason for agnosticism as to whether or not the Sun will rise in the East tomorrow, for example, or how many pennies I’d be holding after starting with an empty hand, picking up one penny, and then picking up a second penny.

        Nor is there any need to consider the hypothetical existence of married bachelors…or of powerful moral agents with the best interests of humanity at heart. The latter’s nonexistence we can be certain of, the same way we can be certain that the Empire State Building is not made of antimatter. The consequences would be unmistakable and spectacular, and yet the consequences are unobserved.

        …and, of course, for details, ponder why Jesus never calls 9-1-1….

        b&

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted September 6, 2015 at 2:25 am | Permalink

          If I could find God on 411, then I might have a better idea why Jesus never calls 911. I can find directions to church on 511, but the results are not especially salutary.

      • Ken Elliott
        Posted September 6, 2015 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        Thanks rickflick. I certainly have my opinions. I’m working on making them better informed opinions.

  14. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted September 5, 2015 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Faith should, in fact, become a “character issue.”

    Like alcoholism.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 5, 2015 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      Wait, you are treading on sacred ground. Catholic priests are, as a lot, prone to such difficulties, but it’s part of the liturgy, after all.

  15. Mark Joseph
    Posted September 6, 2015 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Excellent discussion by Dr. Krauss. I only wish he had added “subjugated” to his list of how believers relate to unbelievers (he mentioned killing, ostracizing, and consigning to hell). His main point, that religion is inherently xenophobic, could not be summarized better than by Jesus himself: “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Matthew 12.30)

    I do have one minor quibble (not the right word, but I can’t think of the right word). It’s an “issue” that arises frequently here on WEIT, also. And, it’s a problem with me, not with the ideas presented here. It’s just that very often criticisms are made of, say, Catholicism. Or Islam. Excellent, incisive points. But they don’t speak to my own concern, that of theocratic, fundamentalist protestants (like my sister, mentioned above). I can’t bring a criticism of catholicism, no matter how trenchant, to these people; they will simply dismiss it irrelevant as “those people are not christians anyway.” Yes, I know it’s a No True Scotsman fallacy, but still.

    Anyhow, Dr Krauss mentioned that christians aren’t quite as violent as muslims nowadays (though he did make the marvelous point that 500 years ago they were), and added a commonplace that they did not now generally advocate killing non-christians just for being non-christians. Well, maybe.

    But, two responses. One, *some* of them are. One of my own brothers (another rabid fundamentalist; sorry to keep bringing up my siblings) is on record as stating that *all* muslims (including women and children) should be exterminated, because the bible says to do so.

    Two, and although I’m sure Dr. Krauss knows this, he did not mention it. It is a brilliant analysis by Steven Weinberg:

    “Religious readers may object that the harm in all these cases is done by perversions of religion, not by religion itself. But religious wars and persecutions have been at the center of religious life throughout history. What has changed, that these now seem to some people in some parts of the world to be only perversions of true religious belief? Has there been a new supernatural revelation, or a discovery of lost sacred writings that put religious teachings in a new light? No—since the Enlightenment there has been instead a spread of rationality and humanitarianism that has in turn affected religious belief, leading to a wider spread of religious toleration. It is not that religion has improved our moral sense but that a purely secular improvement in our moral values has improved the way religion is practiced here and there.”

    And, of course, as Ben Goren has pointed out many times, christians are just waiting for Jesus to come back and do the exterminating of the non-believers for them, as is made explicit in Luke 19.27.

    Bravo, Dr. Krauss. I’m looking forward to the “another fusillade” which is on its way.

    • Posted September 6, 2015 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

      One tack I’d think you could take is that fundamental Islam also mandates they kill infidels. On what basis do you decide which message is real? They’ll balk and give some silly answer of course but then ask why they don’t take up arms and fight ISIS. If they manage to convert them, they’ve brought more people to God. If ISIS kills them, they’ve martyred themselves nobly and if they must defend themselves and end up taking ISIS out, they’ve done as their beliefs dictate as well. You see, they don’t really believe they should be doing this, they want someone else to. Because somewhere deep down, they’re not sure any of this is actually true. It’s doubtful they’ll admit it but some seeds of doubt may be sewn.

    • Posted September 6, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      You might suggest to your sister that Jesus is doing an absolute miserable job of protecting his brand identity and preventing counterfeiting. Just look at how much better Nike does at keeping people from falsely claiming Nike support than Jesus does at keeping the Catholics from claiming to speak for Jesus.

      In her case, maybe not, “Why doesn’t Jesus call 9-1-1?” but, rather, “Why doesn’t Jesus hold a press conference to denounce all the heretics?” Or maybe just a few Tweets would do the trick? Is that too much to ask of the Word of God?

      b&


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