Richard Dawkins at the 34th American Atheists Conference in Minneapolis in March 2008. Photo courtesy of Mike Cornwell via Wikimedia Commons.
Richard Dawkins at the 34th American Atheists Conference in Minneapolis in March 2008. Photo courtesy of Mike Cornwell via Wikimedia Commons.

Are Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher responsible for the rise of the 'nones'?

Richard Dawkins at the 34th American Atheists Conference in Minneapolis in March 2008. Photo courtesy of Mike Cornwell via Wikimedia Commons.

Richard Dawkins at the 34th American Atheists Conference in Minneapolis in March 2008. Photo courtesy of Mike Cornwell via Wikimedia Commons.

The number of American “nones”—people who don't claim a religious affiliation—has grown significantly in recent years. Why?

Salon recently published an excerpt of sociologist Phil Zuckerman's new book about the lives of the religiously unaffiliated, and the headline they gave it—“We’re putting an end to religion: Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher and the exploding new American secularism”—suggests that the loudest voices in atheism may be responsible for this growth.

But reading the excerpt, Zuckerman seems to suggest other factors like the politicized religious right, high profile Catholic Church scandals, increasing numbers of women in the workforce, growing acceptance of queer people, and widespread Internet access.

In fact, this is the only time Zuckerman’s excerpt actually mentions Dawkins or Maher:

[The work of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Bill Maher, and others] have had some impact on American culture… But the larger reality is that for the many millions of Americans who have joined the ranks of the nonreligious, the causes are most likely to be political and sociological in nature.

Still, the idea that the so-called “New Atheist” bestsellers are primarily or largely responsible for the rise of the “nones” is a common refrain among some atheists. So I reached out to Zuckerman, author of several books on secularism (including "Living the Secular Life") and founder of Pitzer College’s first-of-it-kind Secular Studies program. Below, he tells me about the rise of the “nones” and how it will impact religion, atheism, and American culture.

CS: Why do you think some people seem to be think a more aggressive approach to atheist activism is primarily responsible for the growing number of nonreligious Americans?

Phil Zuckerman: That is hard to say. In fact, I’d go a step further: [tweetable]It is almost impossible to know if aggressive mocking of religion actually does any good, or has much of a societal impact.[/tweetable] There are simply too many variables as play to really know.

Personally, I agree that absurdities deserve to be mocked—and I am all for deriding and aggressively challenging the more heinous, obnoxious, dangerous, or inane forms of religion out there in the world. I have noticed that the more aggressive atheistic books get more attention than the more open-hearted or kinder books. And I have noticed that my more snarky or angry blogs get more views and comments than my more gentle or non-combative ones. Being polemical, strong-toned, or harsh seems to get people more interested. But whether or not this directly helps the growth of secularism is an open question.

CS: Can you say more about the causes you identify in your excerpt? What can we gain by developing a greater understanding of the different reasons more and more Americans say they aren't religious?

PZ: The backlash against the Religious Right, for example, is undeniable. And it is warranted. Shame on all the conservative Christians out there who claim to love Jesus and yet push a political agenda that is so counter to what Jesus presumably taught and preached. Jesus was about peace and helping the poor. The Religious Right in this country is all about war and helping the rich. So it is good to see a lot of Americans rejecting that.

Ultimately, we can never say 100 percent for sure what is causing secularization; multiple factors, no doubt.[tweetable]Just as there are many reasons that people are religious, so too are there many reasons that people are secular.[/tweetable] The more we understand about the different reasons that cause people to live their lives without religion, the more clear and insightful will our grasp of the human condition be.

CS: How will the growing number of “nones” impact the American religious landscape?

What I expect to see happening is more and more Americans accepting atheism and agnosticism as legitimate orientations. [tweetable]More "nones" will mean greater political power—but also an easier time around the Thanksgiving dinner table.[/tweetable]

CS: What are some of the most important things nontheists can do right now to support the growing number of nonreligious Americans? What should we prioritize?

PZ: [tweetable]In my opinion, the best thing atheists can do right now is to make the world a better place.[/tweetable] That means fighting inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, and global warming. When life is hard—when people face suffering—religion tends to be strong; it offers comfort in the face of life’s troubles. But when life is more manageable and secure, people can find meaning and purpose in the here and now.

Phil Zuckerman, photo by Flora Elliott Zuckerman.

Phil Zuckerman, photo by Flora Elliott Zuckerman.

We also need to bring in more voices into the secular tent: more people of color, more people from differing political viewpoints, more families with children. But we have been making progress: Twenty years ago, if you wanted to find a community of secular humanists, it wasn’t always so easy, especially if you weren’t in a big city. Or didn’t just want to hang out in a room with ten whites guys in Members Only jackets and glasses with ugly frames. Today, the diversity of a plethora of options for finding secular community is truly amazing.

Finally, we need to help our secular brothers and sisters in regions of the world where being secular isn’t so easy. They desperately need our support.

CS: It’s great that communities for nontheists are on the rise. But what about the religiously unaffiliated individuals who are still, in some meaningful sense, believers?

PZ: If someone is a religious believer, but lacks a religious affiliation, then that is clearly by choice and not by circumstance. There are so many options out there if one wants to be religiously affiliated: congregations of every shade, type, hue, persuasion, orientation, style. But not everyone wants to be affiliated. That’s okay. [tweetable]For some people, a solitary walk on the beach is far more of a meaningful religious experience than any religious gathering.[/tweetable]

CS: What can people of faith learn from your book?

PZ: That to be godless is not to be immoral, that to be secular is not to be un-American, that the least religious societies on earth today have not descended into chaotic anarchy, and that secularism is a noble and highly principled orientation to life that should not be feared or fought, but rather, understood and accepted.[tweetable]If your sibling, spouse, child, neighbor, or co-worker is nonreligious, don’t pity them or feel threatened by them.[/tweetable] Rather, get to know them. You’ll be surprised by how principled and sound their lifestance is.


  1. Many people are finally realizing that they were brainwashed into their religion. The media for decades treated
    religion with the utmost respect, since they thought it was good.
    Religion is trickery, superstition, and shame. It’s also divisive and delusional. Whatever good that’s in it,
    can be had without it.
    The Internet: Where religion comes to die.

  2. I agree with Phil; there is definitely a time to ridicule asinine beliefs, especially when those asinine beliefs lead to destructive political and social action. But I also think that atheists should not just dismantle religious dogma, but also misogyny, heteronormativity, racism, and ableism, and other forms of systematic oppression. I guess that makes me Atheist Plus?

  3. “We’re putting an end to religion”, the Salon headline says in its puff piece on Dawkins and Maher.

    “The Internet is where religion comes to die” Stephen says.

    “Dismantle religious dogma,” Trav recommends.


    Well, don’t let me stop ya. Go for it. Best o’ luck on such proclamations.

    As for me, I don’t know what is behind the rise of the “Nones”, but I DO know that **atheism** is the weakest, deadest, pitiful-est, rationally un-supportable, AND spiritually un-satisfying religion on the planet (and should scientists ever find intelligent life on Mars, in the Solar System as well!!)

    But I digress. “Make the world a better place”, Zuckerman says, and I think pretty much everybody can agree (in general) with that one. So look for Christians to work on that one in 2015.

    We will work alongside you and (as the late Mr. Rogers advised), we will truly be your good neighbors, as we quietly corrode, erode, (and toss into the commode), the no-good rot-gut mess of atheism!!!

  4. Doc, I can think of no better advertisement for atheism than your posts.

  5. Just trying to spice up the situation, that’s all !

  6. The Internet is the enemy of religion
    Because it allows people to search Holy Books instantly, stripping them of any supposed ‘sacred’ power.

    Not only is it easier to ridicule religion, It is clear that Religion mostly ridicules itself:

    None of these Bible lessons are true:

    The Earth is flat
    The Earth is 6000 years old
    Donkeys can talk

    Bats are a kind of bird

    Snakes can talk

    Shaving will get you killed
    Rainbows did not happen before the days of Noah.
    Eating Lobster is worthy of death
    Wearing some fabrics is worthy of death

    The mustard seed is the smallest seed. 

    People can live inside of fish without air for days

    Women should feel ashamed if they are raped

    Men should cut off their wive’s hands

    Non-jews are dogs

    People should execute God’s enemies

    People should judge others harshly

    People should hate themselves
People should hate their parents

    People should kill their neighbor

    People should kill unruly children

    The laws of Moses should be followed and
The laws of Moses should not be followed

    You should pray in public and
You should not pray in public

    Just because Jesus believed this garbage
    Doesn’t mean your children should!

  7. Funny, but for the better part of 3 millennia, the Jewish people, the human authors of the Bible that you so hate, constructed a culture and way of life that is inseparable from it…..and while no group is anything close to being perfect, they probably have behaved with more ethics and more decency over time than any other people on earth.

    So if the Bible — the book of the Jews — and the God of the Bible — the God of the Jews — are so terrible, then by your logic, the Jews should be utterly despicable…..but in fact, they are the opposite — a people that has been a light to the nations (as the Bible predicted) in countless ways.

    Max, you have some ‘splain’ to do, lad.

  8. Stephen is like a person who thinks he can erase the sun from the sky by closing his eyes.

    Sorry, but it’s still there.

  9. For the most asinine belief of the ages, I nominate the belief that the universe sprung into being all by itself.

    Alas, I cannot claim originality here; billions have been making the same nomination since time immemorial.

  10. In terms of objective reality, it doesn’t matter how many people believe or don’t believe in God, because God either exists or doesn’t exist independently of what people think. The idea that we can either make God go away if He exists or make Him real if He doesn’t exist is magical thinking.

    So if I were the only person in the world who believed God existed, that wouldn’t change my conviction that He exists. For one thing, the belief that the universe magically sprung into being all by itself would require the sacrifice of one’s intellect on the altar of one’s ego. That would be a supremely foolish thing to do.

  11. Oh, right, they are just so good! Look at Israel: They steal land instead of buying it, use their death-grip on the US banking system to make sure the US vetoes any UN resolutions that highlight Israeli war crimes, human rights violations, and anything that might give the Palestinians some of the same rights as other nations. They basically keep the Palestinians living in poverty in giant concentration camps, denying them basic necessities like drilling wells for water, while deliberately stalling the peace process while they continue their ‘lebensraum’ policy.
    All motivated by their mind-virus, aka religion.
    Get your head out of the sand and read a real book.

  12. An order of magnitude less asinine than believing that the universe was made by a being who “sprung into being all by itself.”

  13. “So look for Christians to work on that one in 2015.”

    About time you guys got started!

  14. Pesky little flaw in your thinking (or lack thereof)… E=mc2

  15. This is not surprising at all. 30-years ago when I went to church with my parents the five times we went, I was not a believer in anything. And neither were any of my friends. And as it turns out neither were many of the people going to church. Secularism and especially its religion atheism, are the default mode of the egotist and elite minded as well as the base and debased. Mankind is a selfish, self-centered breed. Atheism feeds that reality perfectly. It takes far more searching the mind to discover that God is a reality that cannot be pushed out of existence just because we don’t want to feel guilty about anything we do. There is no morality to the mindlessness of Dawkins and Maher. Just puffed out egotism. Or, egomanical. Of course. That is why the rise in celebrated depravity and immorality (both of which do not exist in Godlessness) as a civil rights and “social justice” issue accompanies the rise of atheism in the mobs proclamation. In metaphor, Lot’s neighbors were secularists.

  16. Not many people commit suicide while involving themselves in Christian life. But they jump from the top floor (so to speak) in abundance after rejecting it. You read CS Lewis and you get good feelings. You read Dawkins and the rest and you get depression. Sorry if reality is insulting to the godless.

  17. Religion is not dying, but it is declining, at least in some parts of the world. Certainly in Australia this has been the case. In 1970, about 12 per cent of marriages were conducted by civil celebrants; in 2013, 72.5% were married by civil celebrants.

    The problem with religion today is that it is associated with bigotry, cruelty and abuse. Think the sexual exploitation of children, planes driven into buildings, bigotry against unmarried mothers, divorcees and gays. This drives many people away from religion.

    Religious doctrines, when looked at from the outside can be repugnant or ridiculous, like the notion that sinners will be tortured for ever – by a loving, caring and compassionate deity. Then there’s the belief that those who cease believing in the One True Faith must be killed, or the belief that people don’t have the right to control their fertility by means deemed “artificial”

    Then there’s the increasing distance between modern ideas and the beliefs of the various faith communities. It’s not just that slavery has been deemed a human rights violation, that usury has been redefined as interest, that divorce and remarriage has been accepted, that homosexuality is now treated as a normal sexual variation and that demon possession has been replaced by an increasingly detailed knowledge of mental illness, it’s that religious views of the world are becoming increasingly out of touch with the way that people think and feel today.

    Even the notion of freedom of religion is corrosive of religious belief. People find it hard to take it seriously when some believe the Bible or the Koran is literally true, and others reject one or both of these books as bogus or seriously in error, at least in part. If one religion takes Friday as its day of prayer, another takes Saturday and another takes Sunday, the average person is more likely to reject the idea of a day of prayer.

    All this does not mean that religion will die out. We can be sure that long after all of us are dead, other people will still have faith of some sort or another. However, the tendency at the moment (and for the last 500 years or so) is for the slow decline of faith.

  18. Well, you’re right, it IS “about time we Christians got started.” Correct.

    Meanwhile, the ONLY Homeless Shelter in my hometown (which now serves about three or four other counties as well) was built from the ground-up by Christians with NO taxpayer money and NO help from local atheists / secular humanists.

    Because of its success (it’s able to house several hundred and daily feed yet more hundreds who just stop by), you can NOW find contributors and volunteers from all religions and atheists and Nones, and that’s A-okay. No complaints. Each contributor has a good streak no matter who they are or how they contribute.

    But I do occasionally remind some local atheists, (whenever they try to lecture Christians on lack of making the world a better place) that they were initially NOT jumping on the roster when the Christians got down and built that Homeless Shelter from the dirt, with nothing but their own sweat, money, food and beddings. Just a thought.

  19. Atheism is Now a Cultist Anti-Religion Religion:
    Atheist have created their own new age religion. They have their own dogma, leaders, group organizations, congregations and agendas. They take the straw-man arguments and make them provocative to word for word by the book theist. They should try to sway a true Deist. They would find their own points of view and beliefs turned against them and find their arguments failing. Claiming there is no god is a belief absent of full knowledge and thus a faith based argument of that belief system.

    Deist have a rejection of religious knowledge as a source of authority with the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator of the universe. Deist accept religion as faith and meditative differences as useful but open to reasonable interpretation.

    We ponder the first mover and the actual something from literately nothing. Not gravity wells or unstable energy of “emptiness” claimed as nothing but the actual void of all.
    The question of what about God and who created God often is placed in front of the conversation. The faithful would simply say God has said ” I am and will always be.” “The Alpha and Omega.”

    If reduced and admit that energy, gravity and whatever else was needed to make a big bang. Who then was the banger that started the clock? Could not evolution be the tool of interest to a creator vs atom by atom design or accident?

    It is very easy for most of us, who have even a glimpse of current technological advances, to think that we could one day make robots that can replicate and even modify themselves autonomously based on its/their current needs. Programming that can evolve and sustain power and reproduce would be a very powerful program indeed and not one I would like to see. Yet I think most of us can conceive and concede in the human potential to do so eventually. Why not then a creator?

  20. Its exactly this kind of ridiculous condescending arrogance which drives many people to think, “why am I hanging out with these people?”. Leading many to question whether it is worth it to share the same church/beliefs as such people.

    Thank you Jack, you are a great endorsement for “None”age.

  21. Not having political control of their existence for 2000 years kinda helps. Its tough to be anti-social and theocratic when you lived at the mercy of hostile populations. Their “spiritual successors” however are another story. Once their religions combined with the power of state, all sorts of bad things happened.

  22. Larry, it’s mere banter. Read Stephen’s post and then mine. You’re making a mountain out of a mole hill.

  23. Leo = another case of anti-Semitism masquerading as criticism of Israel. One smoking gun here is Leo’s inability to resist casting Jews in the hoary old stereotype of greedy bankers.

    Not content with ethnic anti-Semitism, Leo tosses in religious anti-Semitism for good measure — trashing the religion of the Jews as well.

    And finally, there is Leo’s sly implication that the Israelis are Nazis through his deployment of the highly-charged word, “lebensraum” (living room or space) which Hitler used to justify conquering nations and pillaging and enslaving their peoples. This choice word is meant to inflict pain on Jews by equating them with those who killed six million of their brothers and sisters during the Holocaust.

  24. Not a mountain. Just an observation. You can stop telling me that’s warm rain. 🙂

    Mere banter. Think nothing of it.

  25. Leo the anti-Semite speaks….he hates Israel and the Jews, ridicules their religion, and evidently thinks their God is the greatest evil the Jews ever foisted on the world.

  26. Ken, lying for the Lord is still lying.

    Plenty of devout Christianfolk kill themselves.

    CS Lewis is pretty depressing if you are a woman. The guy’s work had some serious issues with female sexuality. Dawkins makes you feel good about not joining in voluntary brain death of blind faith.

  27. Banter is banter, Larry. It isn’t the end of the world. Relax.

  28. CS Lewis had plenty of female fans, including feminists, Larry. And he married a woman, Joy Davidman, who was in every way his equal. Part of the joy of Joy was precisely the fact that she could more than keep up with him intellectually and creatively.

  29. Objective reality and the existence of God are two things completely unrelated to each other. You believe God exists because you have faith of such. Faith is the belief in the absence of reason and evidence.

    There is nothing more lazy and dishonest than people claiming their religious belief has some rational basis or objective evidence. It shows a lack of understanding of their own faith and how faith is supposed to work. Such actions promote poor logical thinking and acceptance of evidence and arguments which would be considered nonsensical for any other subject.

    “For one thing, the belief that the universe magically sprung into being all by itself would require the sacrifice of one’s intellect on the altar of one’s ego. ”

    Right, the Genesis account requires a major sacrifice of intellect for one’s ego. That is why its acceptance requires faith.

  30. @Jack,

    Allow me to enlighten you.

    “Slay them all wherever you find them” – Surah 9:3

    Do you think 2 Billion Muslims follow this literally?
    NO! They don’t.

    That doesn’t mean that the Surah is good!!! It means MOST people are grown up enough to know that Religion cannot be taken entirely seriously.

    That is why most Jews are good people.
    The same reason most Christians are good people.

    They don’t follow the DEMANDS OF GOD! They ignore them!
    Just as you do!

    Only when people actually follow these sick, disgusting, despicable commands to people act badly – that is what religion exists for!

    Religion exists so tribalism can exterminate other tribes!
    That is all it is good for.


  31. Plenty of misogynistic writers do. Thematically the guy had trouble accepting a teenage girl burgeoning into a woman in his parable narrative series.

    JK Rowling found such themes so distressing that her fantasy series deliberately had elements which criticized Lewis’s writings.

    Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series was a direct broadsides at Narnia (especially the bits he considered misogynist and racist)

  32. Jack,

    Leo is not an anti-semite.
    He is pointing out that your Bible is a work of fiction.

    But believing in it has consequences:

    YAHWEH COMMANDS YOU: Kill the women. Rape the little girls:
    “Moses was furious with all the military commanders who had returned from the battle. ‘Why have you let all the women live?’ he demanded. …They are the ones who caused the plague to strike the LORD’s people. Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for your pleasure.” (Num:31:18)

    Moses decrees rape of girls.
    What morality is preached here?

  33. Jack,

    Funny how water always knows how to go down the drain all by itself!
    Or do you think god ‘steers’ it that way?

    Science explains how nature works. The universe functions without mysteries. We can explain more of it every day.
    Suns explode and create elements which later increase in complexity which lead to organic matter.

    Science 101. Consider getting an education.

    Please don’t reply with more science questions. Google it yourself. I’m not going to give you any science classes.

  34. @Ken,

    I find believing in smurfs and gnomes helps me get through anything.

    Of course, sometimes they command things like “slay the infidel” and that tends to be problematic.
    Um. I know you believe deep down so you are okay by me.

  35. Jack thinks his imaginary omnipotent being is real. So cute.

  36. You’re joking right? Your certainty about millions of people’s ethics over 3000 years is beyond any person’s abilities. There are literally thousands of known counterpoint to you ridiculous assertion.

  37. Even more assinine…the assumption of an omnipotent being that sprang into being all by itself.

  38. @Rational Deist,

    “Why not then a creator?”

    Why not a Smurf?

    I’m not against people having religion. Go ahead. Go to your church. No problem – you already have that right! Make up any fantasy you like!

    But I’m against religious people forcing it on the rest of us!

    That is what the New Atheism is about.
    It is an angry reaction against the NEW EVANGELISM!

    ATHEISM is not a ‘new religion’ (good grief!) it is the lack of belief in religious claims and the fresh re-asserting of the right to live without religion in our laws.

    You are welcome to your own religion.

    Just Don’t shove your religion on me and into our laws
    and you won’t hear from me.
    Simple as that.

    For Peace, Love and the Separation of Church and State

  39. And that is why religion can’t win anymore.

    Thanks to the internet,
    Everyone now knows that everyone else knows
    that god is silly, outdated nonsense.

  40. Chris believes in matter and energy magically appearing by their lonesome. Things like that happen all the time, of course. At any given moment, things can appear out of nowhere in ChrisWorld.

  41. Chris, the following Mark Twain quote is a good start on the Jews:

    “If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in the world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

  42. Leo is an anti-Semite, Max.

    Read his earlier post and my response highlighting, point by point, the hate he displayed.

    To sum up, his first response to my pointing to the high ethical demands of Jewish civilization across the millennia was to attack the state of Israel as evil.

    Next, as part of that attack, he dredged up the old anti-Semitic canard about Jews being evil bankers with a stranglehold on nations.

    He then proceeded to do what you do daily — trashing the religion and by implication the holy books of the Jews.

    And then he concluded by using the word “lebensraum” (living room or space) to attack Israel, a German word made infamous by the Nazis who used it to justify conquering and enslaving nations, essentially equating the Jewish state with a regime that slaughtered 6 million of their brothers and sisters in the Holocaust.

    If this is not anti-Semitic, you tell me what is, Max.

  43. What a silly response, Max. The whole point is that the order and patterns of such a magnificent and intricate nature points to an Intelligence or mind that spun it into being. Showing how it operates doesn’t detract from that notion. It only reinforces it.

  44. Anyone can slap a pejorative label on anybody else, Larry. You probably do it in your sleep.

    By itself, it means nothing. I can analyze a book and say anything I like about it. I can engage in amateur psychoanalysis and say the author was repressing memories of his great uncle decapitating a chipmunk. It’s all worthless if there’s nothing behind it.

    What we do know about Lewis — again, that he chose as his wife a woman of equal intellect and status and that what followed were some of the happiest years of his life — is reality. Eccentric writers playing amateur psychoanalysts is no substitute for facts and reality about a person’s actual life.

  45. What you apparently do believe, Max, is that you can change the reality of things by denial and distortion. If a Bible verse doesn’t say what you want it to say, you just alter or tweak the words until it does. That’s your little game you play…..

  46. Your attempt to separate faith from reason is pretty lame, Larry. A precocious Sunday school kid could refute that in his or her sleep.

    If a particular faith or religion is grounded in a specific allegation about something that happened at a particular place, time, and moment in history, then obviously that opens up the possibility that we can deploy fields like archeology, history, law, and textual analysis to try to figure out what happened or didn’t happen.

    Granted, we can’t do a “Larry” and zig-zag in every direction, because that leads nowhere, but through focus and discipline and honest use of the rules of evidence, both historical and legal, scholars and practitioners can point us toward an answer, a menu of probabilities or at least an elimination of improbable or impossible explanations.

  47. Max, you are against people embracing a religion. You’ve said so again and again. You have stated repeatedly that people have a moral and ethical duty to reject religion.

    Can’t you ever tell the whole truth…..ever?

  48. I thought you had nothing against religion, Max….

    Again, make up your confused mind.

  49. Jack,

    Mark Twain, my favorite Atheist.

    Twain would never agree to an argument for Yahweh, nor would he agree that the valiant accomplishments of any group be tied to a supernatural being.

    He would likely assert that the Jewish people, isolated and hated as they were by a Christian majority, constructed excellent survival skills.

    Forbidden by racist religious right wing Christian laws to buy land or own farms, Jews were forced into narrow fields of study and service which included finance, medicine, mercantilism and academics to become teachers. The Torah, unlike the vacuous New Testament, is rich with allegory and imagination – it is not a book of narrow proselytizing and simplistic answers such as the ignorant Nazarene.

    Tragically, the Jewish success led to resentment in Europe and we know how that ended.

    Mark Twain had no interest in Yahweh. That is for sure.

  50. @Jack,

    “The whole point is that the order and patterns of such a magnificent and intricate nature points to an Intelligence or mind that spun it into being”

    And your special pleading is embarrassing.

    For what designed the designer? Another, even more brilliant designer?
    “Infinite regression” = a two word rebuttal to design.

    And the coming crash of the Andromeda Galaxy into the Milky Way to explode it all is proof the ‘designer’ is an idiot.
    Ha! And God said, “Never mind.”

  51. @Jack,

    “You have stated repeatedly that people have a moral and ethical duty to reject religion.”

    Yes. They do.
    So what is the problem?

    I defend your right to have religion.
    I defend your right to get drunk.

    You have a moral obligation to abandon religion on your own. But I have no right to force it – which is why I am using argument instead of weapons to stop religion.

    You have a moral obligation to abandon drunkenness on your own. But I have no right to force it – which is why I would use argument instead of weapons to stop drunkenness.

    You seem to have a very difficult time understanding people’s rights.
    You have a right to religion – and I defend that right.
    But you do not have a right to force your religion onto anyone else.

    Why don’t you go to church and pray about it? Maybe that will clear it up.
    For Peace, Civility and the Separation of Church and State

  52. Jack,

    It appears to me that Leo was trying to highlight the hypocritical position Israel faces today.
    It is practicing some of the policies which were practiced by Nazis – that is NOT to say that Israelis are Nazis – it is to say that Israel is in a moral dilemma caused by policies it has not known how to resolve. Americans face a slightly similar dilemma with Native Americans and it is not adequately resolved even to this day. Native peoples never got treated fairly and still get shorted constantly.

  53. Hi Jack,
    You apparently are asserting that the science of physics is inferior to common crude logic based on mere appearances (common sense). Belief has virtually nothing to do with science or scientific theories.
    Please explain how the following do not violate your logic.
    1. radio waves
    2. magnetic fields
    3. gravity
    4. quantum physics
    5. the theory of germs (not animals or plants can’t see um, weren’t mentioned at creation by the Bible)
    6. nuclear fusion

  54. “Chris believes in matter and energy magically appearing by their lonesome.”

    No that is pretty much your idea. Or at least those who believe in divine “Prime movers”. Especially those who believe the supernatural is something real.

    Scientific views of the origins of the universe say otherwise. I can elaborate but I shouldn’t have to. We have a thing called the internet which allows us to reference things like “the big bang” theory from expert sources.

    Are you really that uneducated or just feel like flinging out silly canned argument for the fun of it?

  55. Yes Jack, but not in this case.

    As I said before Lewis’s thematic faults as a writer were so glaring that it inspired several authors to write works to specifically counterpoint them. At least one author you probably heard of. Its well documented enough you can take your ignorant apologetic response and stuff it.

  56. No, separating faith from reason is honest. Faith is belief in the absence of evidence. It is also the basis of all religious belief.

    “If a particular faith or religion is grounded in a specific allegation about something that happened at a particular place, time, and moment in history”

    But it isn’t.

    You want to think so because you have so little trust in faith, but it has never been the case. You believe because you have faith in the teachings of your religion and accept them without question or reason.

    Your faith is based on stories about a specific allegation about something that happened. Something you believe despite no credible or objective evidence. What passes for “evidence” among most Bible scholars for the most part is confirmation bias and assumptions. You want to believe it is true and lacks any kind of doubt, so you scrape up anything you can find to confirm such feelings.

  57. “Claiming there is no god is a belief absent of full knowledge and thus a faith based argument of that belief system.”

    Only if you have evidence of God’s existence which is both credible and objective. But you don’t.

    “If reduced and admit that energy, gravity and whatever else was needed to make a big bang. Who then was the banger that started the clock? ”

    The problem with the question is that it makes far too many presumptions.

    There is the presumption that one has the necessary evidence to give an answer. There is no necessity to doing so without the requisite knowledge.

    Rather than resorting to supernatural/mythical answers, one can simply say, “I don’t know” or “we don’t know yet”. After all a supernatural answer is completely useless from a rational/research point of view. It leads to no further inquiry nor can ever be proven to any degree of credibility.

    “The question of what about God and who created God often is placed in front of the conversation. The faithful would simply say God has said ” I am and will always be.” ”

    Which is why such an answer is never going to be satisfactory to anyone engaging in rational inquiry. It is simply a non-answer and leads to no other questions or lines of study. It never increases our knowledge.

    The main problem with any notion of intelligent design is that unlike a watch or a computer program, we know from experience such things are created. We create such things. The dishonest part of invoking a god creator is that one does so because life and the world around us is so complex that one cannot conceive it being created by people. That flies in the face of how we perceive something is created.

    If something is so complex that you can’t conceive people created it, then you can’t conceive it was created. You have no point of reference. You simply made an assumption beyond what would have been sensible based on your experiences and knowledge.

  58. Michael (if I may), you’ve made many good points, and Chris (if I may), I’m pleased to find such a thoughtful blogger on these vexing matters. Religious dogmatists of all stripes claim to have access to absolutely authoritative truths that were once upon a time exclusively revealed to a credentialed few. Unfortunately, as John Dewey observed 80 years ago in his Terry Lectures at Chris’s home university, when we claim that our values are not-of-this-world, we quarantine them – like ebola patients – from public scrutiny. So we end up with a provincial faith that cannot be shared across boundaries of sects and creeds. Thankfully that isn’t the only sort of faith available to channel people’s energies. A dogmatic faith of that dominant sort doesn’t have a future that should be embraced, but the rites and symbols of faith communities can still open up new possibilities for public dialogue and humane solidarity. Religious attitudes will continue to be lived out through stories, symbols, and practices of historic religions – it’s moot to declare that they “should” or “shouldn’t” do so. But here’s the rub: the fact that a community cherishes a set of values—say, the Ten Commandments or sharia law—doesn’t on its own justify which values we or they ought to celebrate. There is need for the arbitration of a wider outlook to separate the recyclables from the refuse. A liberal cultural education that richly engages the sciences and arts is our best hope if we are to establish conditions for personal flourishing, imaginative inquiry, and democratic participation. Perhaps the greatest challenge is to make such an education available to all.

    Steven Fesmire
    Green Mountain College, Vermont

  59. No credit to Penn & Teller’s Showtime series? & for the UK, Charlie Brooker.

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