# Will religion always be with us?

I thought the case for Evolution was already pretty strong - yet the debate continues..

What debate? There is no debate about the fact of evolution amongst credible scientists and, even more so, amongst credible biologists.

...what is science but a quest for meaning - and what is theology but one as well, save that theology comes up with answers inside its' own parameters, and so is limited...

I'd argue that as theology's parameters extend far beyond those of science, it's a lot less limited than science.

Science asks questions - religion gives answers.

Oh, come on! Science gives answers, too. It just tries its best not to do so until it has verifyable, repeatable, peer-reviewed data. And whether one accepts it or not, most religions are fairly well-based in observation. Quite practical. Sure, there's tons of speculation beyond the observable, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

What debate? There is no debate about the fact of evolution amongst credible scientists and, even more so, amongst credible biologists.

Ben Stein makes a compelling case for allowing discussion of intelligent design in a 2008 documentary, I think it is called Intelligence Expelled.

Personally I don't judge credibility by the scientist/biologist but by the compellingness of the theory and the evidence. While it is possible randomness caused life, in this film, one of the most compelling points is just how unlikely life is to start on Earth from unliving matter. I don't think Randomness must be worshipped as a God anymore than reverence for God should preclude the study of randomness. I happen to have a healthy fear/respect for both!

Evo
Mentor
Ben Stein makes a compelling case for allowing discussion of intelligent design in a 2008 documentary, I think it is called Intelligence Expelled.

Personally I don't judge credibility by the scientist/biologist but by the compellingness of the theory and the evidence. While it is possible randomness caused life, in this film, one of the most compelling points is just how unlikely life is to start on Earth from unliving matter. I don't think Randomness must be worshipped as a God anymore than reverence for God should preclude the study of randomness. I happen to have a healthy fear/respect for both!
It's a crackpot film.

It's a crackpot film.

Science is "a system of acquiring knowledge based on the scientific method, and to the organized body of knowledge gained through such research." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science" [Broken]). Did you systematically examine Mr. Stein's statements and discount them by means of scientific discovery? Or is your comment a knee-jerk reaction to anything religious?

This isn't a dig. As intelligent, thinking beings, we cannot allow our reactions to be the same as those who dismiss many things scientific as "evil." Rather, we must put forth reasons why we believe the film is baseless.

For example:

Ben Stein makes a compelling case for allowing discussion of intelligent design in a 2008 documentary, I think it is called Intelligence Expelled.

Personally I don't judge credibility by the scientist/biologist but by the compellingness of the theory and the evidence. While it is possible randomness caused life, in this film, one of the most compelling points is just how unlikely life is to start on Earth from unliving matter. I don't think Randomness must be worshipped as a God anymore than reverence for God should preclude the study of randomness. I happen to have a healthy fear/respect for both!

The film was "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." One aspect that is noteworthy was it's highlight of academic freedom. However, negative reactions were generally about ten times greater than the positive ones. It was sketchy on details, loaded with fallacies, and failed to properly address either evolution or intelligent design.

With regard to the randomness arguement against evolution, life isn't random, but chaotic, in the mathmatical/scientific sense of the word, and with clear, well-known, and reproducible (on a much simpler scale) self-organizing chemistry. One only need to watch a video of eukaryotic mitosis, a purely chemical process, to witness that self-organizing chemistry is not only possible, but occurs on a constant basis. Even simple molecules can be self-assembling - witness the snowflake! Yet even this simple molecule experiences variation.

The question then becomes one of how a species improves itself over time against entropy. The answer is that it doesn't defy entropy at all, any more than I defy entropy when I go to the gym, or more appropriately, when I select a pretty, intelligent, capable woman as a life-long companion and mother of my children.

Entropy still occurs in a single organism, but not between successive generations.

Genetic variation, particularly as a component of differential reproduction, is the key that allows successive generations to be a bit different than one's parents. Some of those differences (traits) are beneficial for survival and reproduction, and are generally passed on to further offspring.

The concept is simple, but it does take time for one to unlearn falsehoods which keep them from understanding it. Even when people are brilliant in some areas of knowledge and thought, they can be found lacking in other areas. Sadly, Ben Stein's film reveals an area about which he has little real knowledge.

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I'd argue that as theology's parameters extend far beyond those of science, it's a lot less limited than science.

Oh, come on! Science gives answers, too. It just tries its best not to do so until it has verifyable, repeatable, peer-reviewed data. And whether one accepts it or not, most religions are fairly well-based in observation. Quite practical. Sure, there's tons of speculation beyond the observable, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

No doubt theology ranges far beyond science - it is not restrained by such nuisances as reality and things that are quantifiable. (How hot are burning bushes that are not consumed?).

I agree that religions are in some way reality based - but it is more of a 'temper of the times' reality, closer to politics, than one that is concerned with verities. Remember Hitler called nuclear physics 'the Jewish science' and dismissed it. This malleability of religion is useful for chauvinistic purposes - but when it comes to revealing universal truths it is rather a constraint.

Science builds upon its' past discoveries, (Christ touched on this when he commented that he came to fulfil the scriptures not deny them). Science has not tossed out Pythagoras and plane euclidean geometrics, but has gone to places where parallel line DO meet: Newton and Galileo are not made superfluous by the standard model of physics - they are just by-passed, gone beyond.

Marx looked at history and came to the conclusion that that religion(s) was of small import in the various wars and reformations - they were used as some kind of screen, but at heart materialistic factors were the determinants. "I love god and A-merica." has less to do with God than it does with A-merica.

Something called religion will always be with us, yes - but the religion of one society is far different than that of another .... Bob Dylan's "With God on Our Side" plays with this idea. Science, encapsulating more concrete truths, works for both capitalist and communist, the establishment and terrorists.

marcus
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
Would non-theist religion be stable against random mutation?

I'd like to hear more discussion of the original question "will relig. always be with us (humans)?" Which is surely a window on human nature since how you address the question depends on how you think of human nature.

I thought Astronuc quoting merriam-webster.com was a good start. I think the original question is good, not because you could answer it but because trying to answer can help clarify and stimulate ideas.

I brought along the dictionary quote. It allows for the possibility of non-theist religion. That challenges one to imagine a non-theist religion taking over some substantial portion of our species. (Thinking of religions as viral abstractions capable of spreading and being to some extent inherited.) And then a natural question arises as to the stability of a non-theist religion.

Even if we got to a point in history where people's religions did not attribute a mind to Nature (a mind either in or above governing or before creating, some mind as an important factor, playing some major role) would that be stable?

Might it not be that even after several generations or centuries of not attributing a mind to physical and biological evolution, people would suddenly get the inspired idea "the Universe has a Mind!" and revert to theistic practices and start converting each other to theistic faiths all over again. Because it is so appealing to our social animal nature to try to put a face on things and relate to things via a personality that we can sort of empathize with.

That's my two bits at the moment. The basic focus as I see it is defining so you get some clear ideas. Here are the dictionary quotes again:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theology

religion -
1 (a) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (b) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2 a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3 a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

By 1b, 2 and 3, theology (specifically a belief in a god or gods) is not necessarily part of religion. So an atheist or agnostic can be religious or have religion.

theology - 1. the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God's relation to the world

2. a theological theory or system, e.g., a belief in a god or gods.

Looking at etymology of religion: Middle English religioun, from Anglo-French religiun, Latin religion-, religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back - in other words religion can provide a moral constraint (self-restraint) on one's behavior.

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The concept is simple, but it does take time for one to unlearn falsehoods which keep them from understanding it. Even when people are brilliant in some areas of knowledge and thought, they can be found lacking in other areas. Sadly, Ben Stein's film reveals an area about which he has little real knowledge.

He has sufficient knowledge and understanding of freedom of expression and the process of scientific debate to make his major point, which is that scientists should debate the theories and the evidence. I am not up on all the research, but it appears there is no compelling evidence that chemical self-organization did indeed generate life without an intelligent spark. However, I am of the Buddhist belief that if we are intelligent, nature must be basically intelligent, and therefore the creation is a reflection of the Creator.

My old Lasers and Optics professor once gifted me with his theory that God is the universe. I liked that idea so much it has become my conviction ... and I regard the universe as equally intelligent and random, much like a reflection of how I observe it to be.

I sort of agree with a poet (named Pope, no less :surprised)

"Presume not God to scan, the proper study of mankind, is man."
Which, even if a tad less than gender neutral, encapsulates (at least) my view.

That MW definition of theology is interesting:
theology - 1. the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God's relation to the world

Many of those arguing for a God centred universe use the phrase the 'religion of atheism' - and so try to foist upon their opponents all the doctrinaire faults they, themselves, have supported.

It is difficult to discuss religion in a sociological/philosophical sense without straying off into concepts of supreme beings - Gods.

Glad to hear your point of view. I must have abstracted far too much regarding my point about Picasso because it was not understood - this was simply to highlight the elements of human consciousness that I discussed in my original post (ie truth, beauty and structure), and not to indict him on any such charge as you are proposing that I have done. You clearly have far more knowledge of Picasso than I (I only used his name as an example of a famous painter - I know precious little more than this about him).

We clearly have different interpretations of the word 'meaning' - science does construct meaning insofar as it allows us to better understand ourselves and our universe, but it also often leads to a decoupling from the egocentrism of religion - ie it casts doubt on the cosmic importance of human beings, and devalues a sense of greater meaning or purpose.

For instance, cosmology is based upon several parameters - if you are aware of Hubble's law of expansion (the FRW model of cosmology), it gives us the energy density of the universe at any point in time, and this density is time-dependant (as the scale factor in the left hand side of the equation changes). The cosmological constant (the vacuum energy) is very important in the equation as it has implication for the rate of the expansion of the universe (we are currently in a vacuum-dominatd phase - expansion approximates $${e^{Ht}}$$ in our time, where H is Hubble's constant or Hubble's parameter). If we saw a much greater rate of inflation earlier in the history of the universe, galaxies would not have been able to form as gravity would have been too weak to counteract the repulsive force. If the inflation rate was much smaller early in the history of the universe, the converse would be true, and the universe would end with a big crunch (and depending on the time-scale of this, intelligent life may never have become a reality in our universe).

The evolution of intelligent life is most certainly dependant on certain intrinsic properties of our universe (such as demonstrated above), but intelligent life (manifested as human beings) is not at the centre of everything as many religions would have us believe - the evolution of intelligent life is greatly important to us (obviously) but not in any grand sense to anything else on a larger scale - we are cosmically insignificant. The universe did not "come into existence" (for want of a better phrase) for the purpose of humanity, or for any other intelligent life according to science. Religion (while much older than the science of cosmology in this sense, obviously) attempts to create meaning from this void, and it is in this sense that I define meaning.

Davin

Well, in a sense, the evolution of intelligent life is extremely significant and central to the parameters of the universe. If you take some forms of the anthropic principle at face value, they imply the structure of the universe is totally context dependent. The necessity of intelligence to "bring light" so to speak, or self awareness, adds a "meaning" to the universe with life that is not present in conceivable universes without life, or more specifically, intelligent life.

Hi Galteeth,

Agreed. Just read Stephen Hawking's "The Universe in a Nutshell" which discussed these concepts. I was not aware of the anthropic principle prior to reading this.

Might I suggest, to Croghan, that atheism in fact be considered a religion - it is a set of beliefs (or indeed a principle belief) in the non-existence of God. If our definition of religion is this broad, then religion will be along with humanity until the very end, as it is a priori an integral element of human consciousness. No man or woman can have no beliefs, no convictions, no judgements.

Davin

DaveC426913
Gold Member
... religion will be along with humanity until the very end ... No man or woman can have no beliefs, no convictions, no judgements.
Hang on there. Religion does not have the market cornered on convictions and judgements. Beliefs, yes. But convictions and judgements can be perfectly rational.

Hi. I see you have the PF award for best humour.

Religion does not have the market cornered on convictions and judgements. Beliefs, yes. But convictions and judgements can be perfectly rational.

I'm sure many religious folk disagree about the implicit statement you have made there!!

Davin

Hi Galteeth,

Agreed. Just read Stephen Hawking's "The Universe in a Nutshell" which discussed these concepts. I was not aware of the anthropic principle prior to reading this.

Might I suggest, to Croghan, that atheism in fact be considered a religion - it is a set of beliefs (or indeed a principle belief) in the non-existence of God. If our definition of religion is this broad, then religion will be along with humanity until the very end, as it is a priori an integral element of human consciousness. No man or woman can have no beliefs, no convictions, no judgements.

Davin

Oh my - I hope I have not implied that atheists have no beliefs or convictions .... they look at religion somewhat as Francis Church did when he wrote: Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. http://beebo.org/smackerels/yes-virginia.html. an embodiment, a metaphor a (perhaps) cute tale that satisfies the immature - but not really a basis to design a life.

Would you say that Bertrand Russell had no convictions? made no judgements? (He indeed, had some legal convictions for following his steadfast, atheistic and moral beliefs in non-violence.) He certainly managed to have a very upstanding life without the superstructure of religion, God or manachian notions of ultimate evils or goods.

You have been reading too much of Dawkins or Hitchens (who I do not agree with at all). Try Terry Eagleton: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/terry-eagleton/lunging-flailing-mispunching who effectively destroys Mr. Dawkin's argument while presenting a sensible view of God.

Most atheists I know just find religion and God somewhat extraneous to their lives - something that provides explanations for things that need no explanation, reasons for things that are reasonable without priests, ministers, imams or liturgy.

Evo
Mentor
Might I suggest, to Croghan, that atheism in fact be considered a religion - it is a set of beliefs (or indeed a principle belief) in the non-existence of God.
I can't disagree with this more. Do you believe in the trout god of the Ainu? No? So you have a set of beliefs in its non-existence? I don't believe in many things that don't exist, and just because someone else does believe, and that they give it some level of importance, doesn't mean my disbelief has to hold an equal amount of importance. It's a non issue for me.

I can't disagree with this more. Do you believe in the trout god of the Ainu? No? So you have a set of beliefs in its non-existence? I don't believe in many things that don't exist, and just because someone else does believe, and that they give it some level of importance, doesn't mean my disbelief has to hold an equal amount of importance. It's a non issue for me.

Perhaps what he is referring to is the context of moral truths. Religions hold that morality is absolute and inviolable. An atheist may have absolute moral convictions, but by default, they would believe that a moral truth is not an objective truth in the same way the laws of thermodynamics are. The same would go for such things as the meaning of existence. In that sense, it is a fundamentally different world view, and that could be how one defines "religion".

Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Existence cannot be explained in total. "What came before the big bang?", for example. In fact, it is, I believe, the mainstream school of thought that the sole purpose of science is to produce useful models, not to answer the most exotic questions from philosophy and theology. So atheists cannot claim that denial of religious beliefs is a scientific position. All that we can say is that we have no scientific evidence supporting such beliefs.

So how can one simply deny a wealth of human history describing encounters with "others"? How does one reject out of hand what 90% of the world's population beleives to be true in one form or another? How does one ignore the tens of thousands of testimonials found in churches all over the country each Sunday?

All that is required is a simple leap of faith. Of course atheism is a religion.

Doc Al
Mentor
Of course atheism is a religion.
Is that meant to be an insult to atheists? :rofl:

mgb_phys
Homework Helper
Do you believe in the trout god of the Ainu? No? So you have a set of beliefs in its non-existence? I don't believe in many things that don't exist,

Isn't that a quote by somebody.
An atheist is somebody who believes in ONE less God than a religous person.

I can't argue with any reasoning written in this short essay on religion, which appears to be written by Charles Darwin after much thought on the subject:

http://www.update.uu.se/~fbendz/library/cd_relig.htm

the essay convinces me that a thoughtful scientist accounts for the nature of humanity as expressed in wide variety and that Agnosticism is probably more "scientific" than Atheism or Theism. That said, credible scientists have expressed all three sentiments in terms of belief in God, no belief in God, and not sure if there is or is not a God (Intelligent Creator).

I witnessed a Japanese Zen Master in Los Angeles give a wonderful talk called "I and not-I are one." This is good mystical science if one studies the boundaries of the imagination and the modern field of fuzzy logic!

Another religious teacher is quoted, "No one doubts his own existence, though he may doubt the existence of God. If he seeks enlightenment and discovers the truth in himself, that is all that is required."

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Evo
Mentor
Of course atheism is a religion.

How can no belief be consider a religion?

Oxford dictionary

religion

• noun 1 the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. 2 a particular system of faith and worship. 3 a pursuit or interest followed with devotion.

I'll admit there are people out there that make an issue of atheism, they have an agenda they are pursuing to criticize religion which has nothing to do with the atheist's lack of belief. Just like most religious people are normal and some are fanatics, there are fanatics that claim to be atheist. Don't get the anti-religious confused with the atheists.

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Maybe it's also interesting to try another word in askoxford

humanism

• noun 1 a rationalistic system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.

Existence cannot be explained in total. "What came before the big bang?", for example. In fact, it is, I believe, the mainstream school of thought that the sole purpose of science is to produce useful models, not to answer the most exotic questions from philosophy and theology. So atheists cannot claim that denial of religious beliefs is a scientific position. All that we can say is that we have no scientific evidence supporting such beliefs.

There is no proof that existence cannot be explained, or can for that matter.

"What came before the big bang?"

We don't know. But we understand a key fact about the evolution of the universe after the big bang. That is the formation of complex structures from simpler ones. First hydrogen was synthesized into elements in the periodic table. Then life started from build up of simpler molecules to more complex molecules. And those more complex molecules came together to form even more complex molecules. By compounding this build up of complexity for billions of years, we get multicelled organisms, fish, animals, -----> humans. And this process continues as humans create even more complex systems such as microprocessors, Dubai tower, or the LHC.

On the other hand, the hypothesis of God proposes an entity that is more complex which would be needed to create the universe. But then what created God? And what created the thing that created God? This creates an infinite regress, and hence God didn't really answer anything, but begs for even a more complex question. What we see everywhere is complexity arising from simplicity, and not the other way around. And by inductive reasoning, although that's questionable, God is really a simplest thing that is possible.

So how can one simply deny a wealth of human history describing encounters with "others"? How does one reject out of hand what 90% of the world's population beleives to be true in one form or another? How does one ignore the tens of thousands of testimonials found in churches all over the country each Sunday?

If the majority believes in something that's not a reason to make it true. I forgot the Latin name for this fallacy. The explanation is in terms of human psychology, sociology, evolution, economy, and game theory. Those behavioral patterns which synced people up were more beneficial to survival than those that don't. Milgram's experiments showed how the majority of people are obedient, and will in fact do things against their will even if they have an option to opt out. He showed how ordinary people erratically change behavior under authority, and explained how easily ordinary people can be turned into Nazis. This behavioral pattern is a innate part of our nature, and will continue to be so for a long time. As as result religion will continue to exist, as authority figures perpetuate it among many other things. And Milgram is only the tip of the iceberg.

marcus
Gold Member
Dearly Missed

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theology

religion -
1 (a) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (b) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2 a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3 a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

By 1b, 2 and 3, theology (specifically a belief in a god or gods) is not necessarily part of religion. So an atheist or agnostic can be religious or have religion.

theology - 1. the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God's relation to the world

2. a theological theory or system, e.g., a belief in a god or gods.

Looking at etymology of religion: Middle English religioun, from Anglo-French religiun, Latin religion-, religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back - in other words religion can provide a moral constraint (self-restraint) on one's behavior.

We need to think what a religion is, since if we use Webster dictionary English, a religion does not require belief in god(s).

But Evo says a religion must have belief in god(s). There is some contradiction here.
I have often heard Buddhism described as religion without god. At least some form of Buddhism. This would agree with Webster.

Let's say I want to have a personal feeling about the universe. I want to relate to it, as I do to the Sea (I love the ocean but I do not attribute a mind to it. I want to be fond of the universe and wonder at it and all. But I do not wish to hear anyone attribute a MIND to the universe. That seems dumb.

The universe is governed by laws of evolution----not biological evolution, physical systems have equations that describe the evolution of a physical system. A lot of this is very basic Freshman physics. Evolution is a very general idea.

You can like evolution and cherish it and respect it and be amazed at what it has been able to produce without attributing a mind to it.

If I want to have a religion, and to satisfy Evo (the esteemed gentlelady's) requirements then I have to say
"Evolution is a mindless God". If I am to have a religion then according to Evo I must have a god. OK for me the important thing is that it not have a mind. No mind at the start, creating. No mind outside watching/interfering. No intrinsic immanent, in-dwelling mind.

I guess I don't like this. Rather have a religion without having to bother constructing a mindless God.

Evo
Mentor

We need to think what a religion is, since if we use Webster dictionary English, a religion does not require belief in god(s).

But Evo says a religion must have belief in god(s). There is some contradiction here.
I have often heard Buddhism described as religion without god. At least some form of Buddhism. This would agree with Webster.

Let's say I want to have a personal feeling about the universe. I want to relate to it, as I do to the Sea (I love the ocean but I do not attribute a mind to it. I want to be fond of the universe and wonder at it and all. But I do not wish to hear anyone attribute a MIND to the universe. That seems dumb.

The universe is governed by laws of evolution----not biological evolution, physical systems have equations that describe the evolution of a physical system. A lot of this is very basic Freshman physics. Evolution is a very general idea.

You can like evolution and cherish it and respect it and be amazed at what it has been able to produce without attributing a mind to it.

If I want to have a religion, and to satisfy Evo (the esteemed gentlelady's) requirements then I have to say
"Evolution is a mindless God". If I am to have a religion then according to Evo I must have a god. OK for me the important thing is that it not have a mind. No mind at the start, creating. No mind outside watching/interfering. No intrinsic immanent, in-dwelling mind.

I guess I don't like this. Rather have a religion without having to bother constructing a mindless God.
I merely quoted Oxford's dictionary definition. ?