again, you don’t replace something with nothing

here is the fourth installment in a sometimes series of posts.

Mollie Hemingway has an excellent column on this phenomenon. Take some time this weekend and read it over.

here is a tease:

The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won’t create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that’s not a conclusion to take on faith — it’s what the empirical data tell us.

“What Americans Really Believe,” a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

and here is the conclusion:

Anti-religionists such as Mr. Maher bring to mind the assertion of G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown character that all atheists, secularists, humanists and rationalists are susceptible to superstition: “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can’t see things as they are.”

go read all the good stuff in between.

hat tip to Mollie’s husband, Mark Hemingway.


6 Responses

  1. I can only speak for myself and other atheists I know; but for that group I can unequivocally say that none of us believe in palmistry or chakras or healing crystals or that the position of Mars relative to Earth on the day I was born affects my commute today.
    In fact, we tend to hold in especial contempt anyone who says “I don’t believe in a magic sky-daddy, but…”
    Also, with the caveat that I haven’t read this study, only the column you linked to, I have to say that I don’t know how neutral I trust Baylor to be. I’m originally from Texas and a sizable portion of my family attended Baylor – which is an excellent school – but still a private Baptist university. It’s no Abilene Christian University or Bob Jones University, but I’d still take anything they have to say concerning religion with a grain of salt.
    As for common sense, I hardly think that belief in something for which there is zero evidence is a common sense position.
    Presumably, you believe that God, the Trinity, virgin birth and resurrection are common sense. So, what makes that common sense and Xenu banishing alien souls to Earth or Enki masturbating the Tigris River into existence silly drivel?

    I see that I’ve droned on a bit. I’ll leave you with “Don’t believe everything you read.”

  2. thanks for dropping by Postman. I appreciate your comment and I understand where you are coming from. You and John Derbyshire have a lot in common in your concrete approach to life.

    there is always in every culture a small group of (hardheaded) folks like you. My point goes to the larger culture. The vacuum left by the destruction of christian institutions will not go unfilled. The religious impulse within most people will be filled by replacements such as those you mention as well as politics and others.

    Surely you agree that the bulk of people do not agree with your rational scientific approach to the world.

    Regarding the empirical facts that set christianity apart from mere superstition there is the witnessed fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from Joseph of Arimethea’s grave.

    Don’t make Derbyshire’s mistake of assuming that us religious folks have belief that precedes evidence and don’t care about the facts. Christianity is a unique combination of faith and reason. God is rational and I like to think that He wants His followers to be rational in their approach to life.

    Again, thank you for dropping by and for your comment. We love to chat around here.


  3. by the way, Postman, I like your blog. For somebody that doesn’t believe in Gawd, you sure spend a lot of time talking about Him. Funny stuff. come on by anytime.

  4. Thank you for the blog compliment… the blogpliment, if you will. I spend all this time on the subject partly because I have to write in order to keep the creative juices flowing, (I’m an actor who doesn’t audition enough and, generally speaking, bad things happen when any kind of artist keeps the creativity bottled up). But also, in my much smaller way, I like to think I’m following in the footsteps of the greatest American satirist, Mark Twain, when I gently point out – if you’ll forgive me – the absurdity of religion.

    Your point that if religion is destoyed the void will be filled by other superstitions may very well be true. I know you didn’t mean it this way, but I can’t help but notice that you and the Baylor study have equated religion with superstition. You’ve done half of my work for me. Just because you happen to believe one superstition and not another doesn’t make yours true.
    You state that the ressurection was a witnessed fact, but the entire evidence for that consists of “The Bible says so,”. Now I’m not trained in logic, but it takes only the most cursory thought to see that unless you can show evidence that the Bible is true, then it can’t be used as evidence.
    Obviously, I don’t expect to be able to change your mind, (more’s the pity), but you must see that when anyone starts from a position of “Point A is unassailable and beyond question” and then uses it to back up other points, someone who doesn’t take point A on faith isn’t going to take them too seriously.

    That was an unconscionably long sentence. I wanted to work in a nod to Sir Isaac Newton, arguably one of the greatest minds ever, who nonetheless fell into that trap. However, you’re probably getting tired of reading this, so perhaps another time.

  5. I understand your satirization of religion and I certainly don’t mind that sort of thing. It is indeed a target rich environment.

    I also don’t have a bit of a problem equating religion and superstition. They are equal ways that Satan distracts people from dealing with the truth of God. Both things are manifestations of the way that people try to worship God/the unknown force/the gods in their own power.

    I don’t follow a religion. I abhor religion. I worship God. I am a lover of God, a disciple of Christ and a student of the bible.

    Of course the witnesses to the resurrection are in the bible now, but they didn’t start that way. They began as letters from people to each other. These people weren’t founding a religion. They were just relating what happened in their presence. Why lie in a personal letter? When Paul wrote I Corinthians 15, he was making a classic appeal to eyewitness testimony of over 500 people who saw Christ alive after the crucifixion.

    More importantly for me is what I know about human nature. The disciples after the crucifixion were in a locked room for fear of the Jews. (john 20:19) then the resurrection occurred. Then Peter and John were standing in front of the same group that ordered Jesus crucified and saying that they wouldn’t shut up about what they had seen and heard. (acts 4 and acts 5).

    A transformation like that doesn’t occur for a lie. Those guys believed what they had seen.

    Another example is Saul/Paul. He is a leader of the Pharisees viciously persecuting Christ followers. Out of nowhere he becomes the greatest advocate for Christ to the Roman empire.

    A final example is me. I was on the verge of being like you. A critic of christianity with inside knowledge. I used to plan my attacks, because I knew where all the weak spots were. I was going to be the best atheist ever. Then I wrestled with God one night at Texas A&M. We went round and round for hours and at the end I surrendered my life to Him. That encounter was true and 22 years ago, my life changed course

    anyway, I say all that to say that I know that I won’t change your mind either. But I do know someone in the mind changing business, I will certainly be asking Him to intervene with you. I know that He can work on hardheads because He did with Paul and He did with me.

    Thanks again for stopping by and for the Coyote blog link. That is very good stuff.

  6. […] the comments to this post, Postman began by stating that following Christ is as much superstition as astrology is. I […]

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