Although most people are religious, there are hundreds of millions of religious disbelievers in the world. What is religious disbelief and how does it arise? Recent developments in the scientific study of religious beliefs and behaviors point to the conclusion that religious disbelief arises from multiple interacting pathways, traceable to cognitive, motivational, and cultural learning mechanisms. We identify four such pathways, leading to four distinct forms of atheism, which we term mindblind
atheism, apatheism, inCREDulous atheism, and analytic atheism. Religious belief and disbelief share the same underlying pathways and can be explained within a single evolutionary framework that is grounded in both genetic and cultural evolution.
The above article is written by Ara Norenzayan, University of British Columbia, and Will M. Gervais, University of Kentucky.
Should we think of what I will refer to generically as “the law of religious liberty” as grounded in the moral attitude of respect for religion or in the moral attitude of tolerance of religion? I begin by explicating the relevant moral attitudes of “respect” and “toleration.” With regard to the former, I start with a well-known treatment of the idea of “respect” in the Anglophone literature by the moral philosopher Stephen Darwall. With respect to the latter concept, toleration, I shall draw on my own earlier discussion, though now emphasizing the features of toleration that set it apart from one kind of respect. In deciding whether “respect” or “toleration” can plausibly serve as the moral foundation for the law of religious liberty we will need to say something about the nature of religion. I shall propose a fairly precise analysis of what makes a belief and a concomitant set of practices “religious” (again drawing on earlier work). That will then bring us to the central question: should our laws reflect “respect” for religion” or only “toleration”? Martha Nussbaum has recently argued for “respect” as the moral foundation of religious liberty, though, as I will suggest, her account is ambiguous between the two senses of respect that emerge from Darwall’s work. In particular, I shall claim that in one “thin” sense of respect, it is compatible with nothing more than toleration of religion; and that in a “thicker” sense (which Nussbaum appears to want to invoke), it could not form the moral basis of a legal regime since religion is not the kind of belief system that could warrant that attitude. To make the latter case, I examine critically a recent attack on the idea of "respect" for religious belief by Simon Blackburn.
The above essay is written by Brian Leiter, University of Chicago.
The term ‘‘new atheism’’ has been given to the recent barrage of antireligion and anti-God books written by Richard Dawkins (2006), Sam Harris (2004, 2008), Christopher Hitchens (2007), Daniel Dennett (2006), and others. This paper contends
that one of the fundamental arguments put forth by the new atheists – that religion poisons everything or that religion is responsible formuch of the evil in the world – falls victimto one of the best established theories of interpersonal and intergroup relations in social psychology: the fundamental attribution error. Insights gleaned from social psychology are especially useful for critiquing the new atheism. Instead of simply arguing that the new atheists ‘‘over-generalize,’’ social psychological studies on the nature of individual and group attribution provide the tools needed to launch a more substantive critique.
The above paper is written by Amarnath Amarasingam, Wilfrid Laurier University.
Better understanding the nature, origin and popularity of varying levels of popular religion versus secularism, and their impact upon socioeconomic conditions and vice versa, requires a cross national comparison of the competing factors in populations where opinions are freely chosen. Utilizing 25 indicators, the uniquely extensive Successful Societies Scale reveals that population diversity and immigration correlate weakly with 1st world socioeconomic conditions, and high levels of income disparity, popular religiosity as measured by differing levels of belief and activity, and rejection of evolutionary science correlate strongly negatively with improving conditions. The historically unprecedented socioeconomic security that results from low levels of progressive government policies appear to suppress popular religiosity and creationist opinion, conservative religious ideology apparently contributes to societal dysfunction, and religious prosociality and charity are less effective at improving societal conditions than are secular government programs. The antagonistic relationship between better socioeconomic conditions and intense popular faith may prevent the existence of nations that combine the two factors. The nonuniversality of strong religious devotion, and the ease with which large populations abandon serious theism when conditions are sufficiently benign, refute hypotheses that religious belief and practice are the normal, deeply set human mental state, whether they are superficial or natural in nature. Instead popular religion is usually a superficial and flexible psychological mechanism for coping with the high levels of stress and anxiety produced by sufficiently dysfunctional social and especially economic environments. Popular nontheism is a similarly casual response to superior conditions.
One of the central elements of the secularist tradition is atheism. Atheism has a long history and is nowadays again heavily debated. This article tries to present a reflection on the nature of atheism. The central thesis is that atheism is often misunderstood. The most fruitful definition of atheism is a negative one: an atheist does not believe in the god that theism favors. The concept of atheism should be carefully distinguished from the motives that some people have not to believe in the theistic god. The confusion of these two things is responsible for much needless controversy about atheism.
The above article is written by Paul Cliteur, University of Leiden.
The quest for the meaning, value, and purpose of life has been a long and arduous investigative program from ancient to contemporary philosophers. Few have codified precisely how Christianity can philosophically promote a robust answer to that quest. In this article, I address how atheistic existentialism fails to proffer a good solution to the meaning of life and how atheists themselves acknowledge the inadequacy of finding such meaning apart from the existence of God. I then argue how Christian theism offers a robust answer to the meaning of life by taking into account the inadequacy of mere happiness, pleasure, and relationships and by contrasting these to the significance of finding ultimate happiness that is only consonant with the significance of life grounded in God. That Christian theism explains a wide variety of facts about our universe makes such a hypothesis a tidier explanation than its atheistic detractions. As such, this explanation (apart from its warrant) should be the preferred one.
The above article is written by Shandon L. Guthrie, UNLV.
One of the most widely noted findings from the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS 2008), which was released in March 2009, was the substantial increase in the No Religion segment of the U.S. population, whom we designate as “Nones.” The Nones increased from 8.1% of the U.S. adult population in 1990 to 15% in 2008 and from 14 to 34 million adults. Their numbers far exceed the combined total of all the non-Christian religious groups in the U.S.
Who exactly are the Nones? “None” is not a movement, but a label for a diverse group of people who do not identify with any of the myriad of religious options in the American religious marketplace – the irreligious, the unreligious, the anti-religious, and the anti-clerical. Some believe in God; some do not. Some may participate occasionally in religious rituals; others never will.
Nones are easily misunderstood. On the one hand, only a small minority are atheists. On the other hand, it is also not correct to describe them as “unchurched” or “unaffiliated” on the assumption that they are mainly theists and religious searchers who are temporarily between congregations. Yet another incorrect assumption is that large proportions of Nones are anti-rationalist proponents of New Age and supernatural ideas. As we will show, they are more likely to be rational skeptics.
The aim of this report is to provide detailed evidence and reliable statistics on just who the Nones are, their sentiments, the process by which they have grown, and their place in contemporary American society. Data from 1990 is presented to highlight selected characteristics where change over time is particularly notable. We also try to predict the future trajectory of the Nones and so their likely impact on where society is headed.
The above report is by Barry A. Kosmin & Ariela Keysar, with Ryan Cragun and Juhem Navarro-Rivera.
The resurgence of religious violence at the start of the twenty-first century has reinforced the myth of secular tolerance – the notion that whereas religious believers are instinctively intolerant, tolerance comes naturally to the secular mind. This paper challenges the myth. It suggests that secular people are not immune from the temptation to persecute and vilify others, and argues that the Christian Gospel fostered the rise of religious toleration.
The eminent Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor recently agreed to sit down with Ronald Kuipers on behalf of The Other Journal to have an extended conversation about the many issues he raises in his latest book, A Secular Age. The two philosophers discussed such topics as the relationship between religion and politics, faith and philosophy, and the matter of carrying forward a religious tradition in what Taylor has described as an “age of authenticity.”
The above three-part conservation is with Charles Taylor.
Can a competent atheist that takes considerations of evil to be decisive against theism and that has deeply reflected on the evidence rationally believe that atheism is true? I argue for a negative answer to that question. The paper begins by describing a sympathetic form of atheism that attempts to express an epistemically humble form of atheism. I argue that sympathetic atheism is incoherent. Some of the epistemic issues that arise in this context are deeply interesting, involving questions about false propositions that one is rationally committed to in virtue of egocentric reasoning. After arguing that sympathetic atheism is incoherent, I consider the prospects for unsympathetic atheism. I argue that unsympathetic atheism is unreasonable based on considerations about epistemic peers. Moreover, I consider a response to the epistemic peer argument that appeals to the Freud-Marx objection to religious belief. I argue that this objection is unsuccessful. The resulting dialectical position for the unsympathetic atheist is interesting as well. There?s a coherent set of propositions that characterize the view. Nonetheless, the view is unreasonable.
The above paper is written by Ted Poston, University of South Alabama.
The new atheists (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens) level arguments against Old Testament morality as primitive and barbaric, presumably undercutting belief in the biblical God (Yahweh). Yet the Old Testament presents creational moral ideals in Genesis 1 –2 . Because of Israel’s embeddedness in the ancient Near East’s harsh, morally-problematic social milieu, Old Testament legislation is in places still morally inferior, though offering dramatic, incremental improvements upon such conditions. Mosaic Law attempts to regulate and limit tolerated
structures (warfare, polygamy, patriarchalism, slavery), permitting various social structures because of human hardheartedness. Though falling short of the divine ideal, Mosaic laws often point to it.
The above paper is written by Paul Copan, Palm Beach Atlantic University.
The above article is written by Edward T. Oakes, S.J.
A new site, Big Think, describes itself thus:
bigthink.com is a new and growing website, currently in its private beta version, with a simple mission:
This is a digital age, one in which a wealth of accessible information empowers you, the citizen-consumer. But where is the information coming from? How accurate and unprocessed is it, really? Ask yourself this: how empowered do you feel debating a television screen or a newspaper?
Our task is to move the discussion away from talking heads and talking points, and give it back to you. That is Big Think's mission. In practice, this means that our information is truly interactive. When you log onto our site, you can access hundreds of hours of direct, unfiltered interviews with today's leading thinkers, movers and shakers. You can search them by question or by topic, and, best of all, respond in kind. Upload a video in which you take on Senator Ted Kennedy's views on immigration; post a slideshow of your trip to China that supports David Dollar's assertion that pollution in China is a major threat; or answer with plain old fashioned text. You can respond to the interviewee, respond to a responder or heck, throw your own question or idea into the ring.
Big Think is yours. We are what you think.
From the site here's an interview, The God of Reason, with Harvard professor Steven Pinker.
And from The New York Times, here's a story about the site.
Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion has been a runaway bestseller and garnered much attention for his passionate plea for atheists to stand up and be heard. But there is so much more in that book about religion that has drawn considerably less attention, most notably his theory on the evolutionary origins and development of religion, which is a technical field of study among a small band of scientists, one of whom, evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson, has penned the following analysis of Dawkins’ theory of religion, which he feels is wide of the mark based on the evidence. Wilson is the author of Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior, Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, and his latest book, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives.
The above article is written by David Sloan Wilson, Binghamton University.
Here are three chapters of Philosophers Without Gods.
Meta-atheism: Religious Avowal as Self-Deceptionhere. (pdf)
Reasonable Religious Disagreementshere. (pdf)
From Yeshiva Bochur to Secular Humanisthere. (pdf)
I discuss the relations between God and spatial entities, such as the universe. An example of a relation between God and a spatial entity is the relation, causes. Such relations are, in D.M. Armstrong’s words, ‘realm crossing’ relations: relations between or among spatial entities and entities in the realm of the spatially unlocated. I discuss an apparent problem with such realm crossing relations. If this problem is serious enough, as I will argue it is, it implies that God cannot be the creator of the universe. I also discuss that if God cannot be the creator of the universe, then God does not exist.
The above article is written by Jeffrey Grupp, Purdue University.
Americans answered the atrocities of September 11, overwhelmingly, with faith. Attacked in the name of God, they turned to God for comfort; in the week after the attacks, nearly 70 percent said they were praying more than usual. Confronted by a hatred that seemed inexplicable, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson proclaimed that God was mad at America because it harbored feminists, gays and civil libertarians. Sam Harris, then a 34-year-old graduate student in neuroscience, had a different reaction. On Sept. 12, he began a book. If, he reasoned, young men were slaughtering people in the name of religion—something that had been going on since long before 2001, of course—then perhaps the problem was religion itself. The book would be called "The End of Faith," which to most Americans probably sounds like a lament. To Harris it is something to be encouraged.
The above article appeared in the September 11, 2006 issue of Newsweek.
In April 2003, Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell of Sacramento California presented a strategy for atheists to accrue more political recognition, influence, and power. Their solution involved introducing a new meme, a term that atheists and agnostics could apply that would disassociate themselves from the negative connotations linked with the existing idiom. Many politically outspoken atheists perceived a 1999 Gallup Poll that found less than half of all Americans willing to vote for an otherwise qualified candidate for president who was an atheist as evidence of persecution. According to Michael Shermer, this Poll illustrated that "(atheists) must unite against the prejudice that as nonbelievers we are not qualified to be full participatory citizens." Geisert and Futrell's answer to this image problem was to redefine non-theists, agnostics, atheists, secular humanists and the like as Brights. The term Bright, in this context, is "a person whose worldview is naturalistic - free of supernatural and mystical elements." Geisert and Futrell are optimistic that the application of a pleasant new moniker to religious skeptics will de-stigmatize the community and propel them into a significant social and political force. They write, "Given our severe linguistic disadvantages, the Bright movement asks those with a naturalistic worldview to join minds and begin to view themselves and speak in civic situations as Brights."
American Atheists, an organization founded in the 1960s by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, finds much to protest these days: classroom and workplace harassment of the godless, the Boy Scouts’ exclusion of atheists, government funding of faith-based organizations, President Bush’s incessant God talk, and an administration that responds to religious fanaticism by whipping up different religious fanaticism. American Atheists president Ellen Johnson borrows a phrase from the Christian right, which had borrowed it from other groups seeking rights and respect: “We want what Ralph Reed, the former director of the Christian Coalition, said that he wanted for the religious right: a ‘place at the table in the great discussion we call Democracy.’”
The above paper is written by Stephen Bates, literary editor of the Wilson Quarterly.
Eadem est scientia oppositorum, says Aristotle in the Latin translation of the Peri Hermeneias with which Thomas Aquinas was familiar: “one and the same is the knowledge of opposites”, or, “to know an affirmative proposition is to know what would count as its negation”. You would think, on that account, that a theologian as much preoccupied with the logic of “God exists” as is Thomas would accordingly have something to say about the logic of atheism, about the logic of the proposition “There is no God”. For, just as (in the spirit of Aristotle’s remark) the analytic philosophers used to ask concerning some proposed assertion or other, “that as opposed to what?”, so Thomas in that connection seemed often to share the analytic disposition. Alas for the author commissioned to write on my subject, it is hard to find material in Thomas which relates in any very direct way to those issues of explicit theoretical atheism which arise for us today. We all know that professed atheism was not a theological issue in Thomas’ time, nor was it for several centuries thereafter, largely because there were no intellectuals professing it. Thomas evidently did not feel intellectually challenged by what we today know of as atheism and, for all that I will argue for a view which differs from them in many another respect, I do share the opinion of the theologians of the “nouvelle théologie” persuasion that even the famous “five ways” are not intended at least primarily as a response to an atheist challenge, but have rather different purposes.
The above paper is written by Denys Turner, The Divinity School, University of Cambridge.
This article looks at Earl Doherty's comments on second century Christian writings and the Jesus Myth in his book "The Jesus Puzzle". Doherty puts forward the thesis that some second apologists subscribed to a Christianity that was devoid of a historical Jesus. I conclude that Doherty's analysis is flawed, and that there is no reason to conclude that those apologists didn't believe in a historical Jesus.
Under communism, the Russian religious landscape consisted mainly of two competitors—a severely repressed Russian Orthodox Church and a heavily promoted atheist alternative to religion called “scientific atheism.” Under these circumstances, one might expect the rapid spread of religious disbelief, but the intensity of the atheist campaign originated from official mandate and not popular appeal. In turn, scientific atheism never inspired the Russian population and grew increasingly uninspired as Soviet officials created a monopoly “church” of scientific atheism in hopes of replacing persistent religious beliefs and practices. This article is dedicated to explaining why Communists could not successfully convert the masses to atheism. The findings provide evidence that systems of belief require more than simply the power of promotion and coercion to become accepted.
The above paper is written by Paul Froese, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Baylor University.
Recent Christian reflection on the relation of religion and ethics has focused a great deal on establishing a conception of ethics in which God plays a central role. The numerous attempts to respond to Plato's "Euthyphro Dilemma" and the various defenses of the divine command theory provide two examples of this phenomenon. But much of this ethical reflection has gone on in a way that is largely “defensive.” That is, those engaged in such discussions typically describe an ethical theory which provides God with a central role, and then seek to deflect potentially fatal objections. While there is surely a place for this sort of defensive reflection, these discussions fail to address a deeper and perhaps more pressing question, namely: what positive reasons are there for preferring a religiously grounded ethical theory to the non-religious competitors. Are there argument or considerations, we might wonder, that can explain just why grounding an ethical theory in theism is superior to grounding it non-theistically? And if there are, what would such arguments or considerations look like?
The above paper is written by Michael J. Murray, Franklin and Marshall College.
A Nietzschean theodicy would claim that God has created the world exactly the way it is in order to produce morally autonomous agents in Nietzsche’s sense: self-conscious moral subjectivists. Both atheism and a ‘Nietzschean theodicy’ make the same prediction: the world will appear to contain gratuitous evil. Thus, observation of apparently gratuitous evil is not evidence for or against either hypothesis. In the absence of any other evidence for or against theism, the most reasonable position is agnosticism.
The above paper is written by Carol A. Kates, Ithaca College.
Here is a new version of the Evidential Problem of Evil. Theists claim that it is reasonable for atheists to believe that if God did exist, suffering
would look just as it does now. I endorse this claim, however it cannot be deployed against my argument without the following epistemic principle: what we see makes p likely only if it is reasonable to believe it would be discernibly different if p were false. I demonstrate that this principle is mistaken. The paper also responds to objections from Alvin Plantinga and Peter Van Inwagen that God’s existence is compatible with pointless natural evil. In particular, I argue that appeals to vagueness do not support the compatibility claim.
The above paper is written by Jim Stone, University of New Orleans.
The social "scientific" study of religion originated in atheism and the basic thesis pursued today, especially by psychologists and anthropologists, are little changed since they were first proposed by militant opponents of religion in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century. In this essay I trace these links from major scholar to major scholar across the centuries. I then examine the remarkable irony that the recent emergence of a truly scientific approach to religion was accomplished mainly by an influx of "believers." I sketch why and how this happened before turning to an assessment of the persistence of atheistic biases. I conclude with suggestions about how a truly scientific study of religion can be pursued by both believers and unbelievers, if not fanatics of either stripe.
The above essay is written by Rodney Stark, Professor of Religion and of Comparitive Religion, University of Washington.
This study seeks to describe the precariousness of living in two worlds: two worlds that often have trouble accepting the other without qualification. Two primary questions present themselves. First, what are the working conditions on the secular campus today for a Christian professor? If Boston University scholar and self-proclaimed secularist Alan Wolfe (1996) is correct when he describes the current academic climate as "so secular" that it leaves "little room for religious expression" (p. B4), what types of external barriers and conflicts, if any, do Christian faculty face?
Second, if Marsden (1997) is right when he writes that "the norm for people to be fully accepted in academic culture is to act as though their religious beliefs had nothing to do with education" (p. 24), how do Christian scholars earn acceptance as intellectuals without compromising their religious convictions? How do they cope internally with the tensions, uncertainties, and ambivalences that result from a choice between what Henry Gates (1997) calls (in another context) "alternative inauthenticities"?
The above paper is written by Dr. Scott Dixon, Biblical Education, Cedarville University.
Atheist philosopher Graham Oppy critiques the Christian apologetics book the Reason for the Hope Withinhere.
Chris Lehmann, features editor for New York magazine and author of Revolt of the Masscult, offers a review of The End of Faith for Reason Online.
While The Secular Web scrambles to explain the conversion of Antony Flew from Atheism to Theism, Craig J. Hazen, Ph.D. Professor of Comparative Religion at Biola University and Editor of Philosophia Christi, introduces an interview between Flew and Gary Habermas in the Winter issue of Philosophia Christi.
The following is an exclusive interview that will be published in the Winter 2004 issue of Philosophia Christi the journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Philosophia Christi is one of the top circulating philosophy of religion journals in the world and we are pleased to offer up the definitive interview on this breaking story of global interest.
Prof. Antony Flew, 81 years old, is a legendary British philosopher and atheist and has been an icon and champion for unbelievers for decades. His change of mind is significant news, not only about his personal journey, but also about the persuasive power of the arguments modern theists have been using to challenge atheistic naturalism.
The interviewer is Dr. Gary Habermas, a prolific philosopher and historian from Liberty University who has debated Flew several times. They have maintained a friendship despite their years of disagreement on the existence of God.
A few years ago I co-taught a course on “Rationality, Relativism, and Religion” to undergraduates majoring in either philosophy or religion. Many of the students, especially the religion majors, displayed a pleasantly tolerant attitude. Although a wide variety of different religious views were represented in the class and the students disagreed with one another about many religious issues, almost all the students had a great deal of respect for the views of the others. They “agreed to disagree” and concluded that 'reasonable people can disagree' about the issues under discussion In large part, the point of this essay is to explore exactly what this respectful and tolerant attitude can sensibly amount to. The issue to be discussed is a general one, applying to disagreements in many areas other than religion. However, I will focus here on religious disagreement.
The above paper is written by Richard Feldman, Department of Philosophy, University of Rochester. Professor Feldman is a self-described "complacent atheist."
Atheists love to bring up the Crusades and blame the "evils" of Christianity for what happened. Here is a short article by Thomas F. Madden, author of A Concise History of the Crusades and coauthor of The Fourth Crusade, and associate professor and chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri.
The crusades are quite possibly the most misunderstood event in European history. Ask a random American about them and you are likely to see a face wrinkle in disgust, or just the blank stare that is usually evoked by events older than six weeks. After all, weren't the crusaders just a bunch of religious nuts carrying fire and sword to the land of the Prince of Peace? Weren't they cynical imperialists seeking to carve out colonies for themselves in faraway lands with the blessings of the Catholic Church? A couch potato watching the BBC/A&E documentary on the crusades (hosted by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame no less) would learn in roughly four hours of frivolous tsk-tsk-ing that the peaceful Muslim world actually learned to be warlike from the barbaric western crusaders. No wonder, then, that Pope John Paul II was excoriated for his refusal to apologize for the crusades in 1999. No wonder that a year ago Wheaton College in Illinois dropped their Crusader mascot of 70 years. No wonder that hundreds of Americans and Europeans recently marched across Europe and the Middle East begging forgiveness for the crusades from any Muslim or Jew who would listen. No wonder.
Now put this down in your notebook, because it will be on the test: The crusades were in every way a defensive war. They were the West's belated response to the Muslim conquest of fully two-thirds of the Christian world. While the Arabs were busy in the seventh through the tenth centuries winning an opulent and sophisticated empire, Europe was defending itself against outside invaders and then digging out from the mess they left behind. Only in the eleventh century were Europeans able to take much notice of the East. The event that led to the crusades was the Turkish conquest of most of Christian Asia Minor (modern Turkey). The Christian emperor in Constantinople, faced with the loss of half of his empire, appealed for help to the rude but energetic Europeans. He got it. More than he wanted, in fact.
Atheists are people who assert that there is no God. They may say that atoms or their component parts in space makeup the sum total of all reality. Whatever the analysis, these people assert that finite physical reality is all there is—that there is nothing else. There are several divisions in this group. One historically prominent group is the Logical Positivists. By an analysis of language, they conclude that theology is not so much false as it is plain nonsense. To them, speaking of God is like saying that the typewriter is the bluish-green sound of the square root of minus one. Theology is not good enough even to be false; it is simple nonsense. Other devotees of scientism are not Logical Positivists. Their theories are called naturalism or humanism, and they would call theology bigoted falsehood. Various political liberals are atheists, and often their socialistic creed attacks theology as a reactionary hindrance to social advancement
The above essasy is by Dr. Gordon H. Clark, former chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Butler University. He died in April 1985.
This is a review (free reg. required) of the new book, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950. Although the author, Charles Murray, is an agnostic libertarian, he claims that the driving force of Western Culture was Christianity.
According to his statistics, a whopping 72 percent of the significant figures in the arts and sciences between 1400 and 1950 came from just four European countries: Britain, France, Germany and Italy. But after weighing a number of possible explanations, including the effects of war, civil unrest, economic growth, cities and political freedom on achievement rates, Mr. Murray still was not satisfied.
Why, he wondered, when he factored in population growth, did the achievement rate in Europe appear to plummet beginning in the mid-19th century, a period when peace, prosperity, cities and political freedom were steadily increasing? In the sciences, he decided, the decline was largely benign, reflecting the fact that in many fields the most important breakthroughs have already been made. But for the arts his diagnosis was grim: a collapse of social values and the advent of nihilism.
In a word, what modern Europe lost was Christianity. While other major religions, like Buddhism and Daoism preached humility, acceptance and passivity, Mr. Murray writes, Christianity fostered intellectual independence and drive. In his account it was Thomas Aquinas who "grafted a humanistic strain onto Christianity," by arguing that "human intelligence is a gift from God, and that to apply human intelligence to understanding the world is not an affront to God but is pleasing to him." And where post-Aquinas Christianity thrived — in Europe between 1400 and the Enlightenment — so, too, according to Mr. Murray, did human excellence.
An excellent article on Religious Faith and Charitable Giving. This article contrasts the charity differences between secularists and religionists.
The differences in charity between secular and religious people are dramatic. Religious people are 25 percentage points more likely than secularists to donate money (91 percent to 66 percent) and 23 points more likely to volunteer time (67 percent to 44 percent). And, consistent with the findings of other writers, these data show that practicing a religion is more important than the actual religion itself in predicting charitable behavior. For example, among those who attend worship services regularly, 92 percent of Protestants give charitably, compared with 91 percent of Catholics, 91 percent of Jews, and 89 percent from other religions.
Many atheists and Pagans place the blame for "the Burning Times" at the door of Christianity. We now know that not only are popular figures of the death toll enormously exaggerated, but also the role that Christians played are exaggerated as well. In the articleRecent Developments in the Study of The Great European Witch Hunt, Jenny Gibbons states:
For years, the responsibility for the Great Hunt has been dumped on the Catholic Church's door-step. 19th century historians ascribed the persecution to religious hysteria. And when Margaret Murray proposed that witches were members of a Pagan sect, popular writers trumpeted that the Great Hunt was not a mere panic, but rather a deliberate attempt to exterminate Christianity's rival religion.
Today, we know that there is absolutely no evidence to support this theory. When the Church was at the height of its power (11th-14th centuries) very few witches died. Persecutions did not reach epidemic levels until after the Reformation, when the Catholic Church had lost its position as Europe's indisputable moral authority. Moreover most of the killing was done by secular courts. Church courts tried many witches but they usually imposed non-lethal penalties. A witch might be excommunicated, given penance, or imprisoned, but she was rarely killed. The Inquisition almost invariably pardoned any witch who confessed and repented.
Let's be clear about one thing; even though the number of witches that died were far far fewer than has generally been reported, the killing of thousands of innocent women (and men) is a tragedy of colossal proportions.
Atheism and the Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam: Why Atheists Cannot Avert the Burden of Proof is an article by UNLV professor Shandon L. Guthrie.
Larry Arnhart, professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, writes a review of Edward O. Wilson’s book Consilience. Another review of Wilson's book by Steve Pope of Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
A Secular Web Feature, Was Hitler an Atheist or a Theist?
Mark I. Vuletic's excellent article above makes the salient point, "We need to transcend the divisive rhetoric set forth by radical theists and atheists, those who would condemn the entirety of religion or secularism on the basis of the actions of a few in the past, present, or future." Unfortunately many people, such as LSU's Associate Professor of Mathematics Dirk Vertigan, continue to make asinine comments such as the following; "It's time for people to be honest about the true nature of religions. People should not go into denial and refuse to accept that their religion truly causes evil...The holocaust was a direct consequence of Hitler's Christian faith and a long-standing Christian tradition of anti-Semitism."
Because views such as Dirk Vertigan's are so prominent on the Internet (see the following Website), The Divine Conspiracy has asked and answered the question, Was Hitler A Christian?.
In addition, the Rutgers Journal of Law & Religion now offers irrefutable proof as to the falsity of such statements by the likes of professor Vertigan.
Historically significant documents have been selected by the Rutgers Journal of Law & Religion from the Donovan collection, which is kept at the Cornell University School of Law Library.
The documents come from the personal archive of General William J. Donovan, who served as special assistant to the U.S. chief of counsel during the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. The International Military Tribunal was convened following the conclusion of World War II to hold accountable the principal perpetrators of the Holocaust.
These papers point out that "Rosenberg's way is the way of German youth. So far as this sector of the National Socialist party is concerned, the destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the National Socialist movemnt."