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Finding Our Way Through The Great God Debate

Rick Searle

Utopia or Dystopia

February 24, 2013

Over the last decade a heated debate broke onto the American scene. The intellectual conflict between the religious and those who came to be called “the New Atheists” did indeed, I think, bring something new into American society that had not existed before- the open conflict between what, at least at the top tier of researchers, is a largely secular scientific establishment, or better those who presumed to speak for them, and the traditionally religious.


Complete entry


Posted by siddallr  on  02/24  at  07:42 PM

I am an Atheist.  That said, religion does play an important part in our society.  It provides for people an social organization around which them can gather.  As set of rules for behaviour beyond all of the magical stuff they talk about.  Religions are concerned about how people lead their personal lives.  Moral attitudes etc. 

I also follow personal social mores.  But do not need an organized religion to remind me weakly of my shortcomings.

Posted by Rick Searle  on  02/24  at  10:44 PM



I think religion also allows people to create systems of embedded philosophy that go well beyond just rules of good social behavior. Something I think persons of a secular bent such as myself can learn a lot from. That will be the focus of my second part to this essay.

Posted by Intomorrow  on  02/25  at  01:04 AM

it’s walking a tightrope , as everything:
all that is written above is valid—the article and the comments—nevertheless we don’t want to damn religion with faint praise by in effect saying,

‘religion is gobbledygook but the majority of the public are so dumb they need religion as social club, etc.’

because that is part of what we are alluding to when we talk down to the religious- there is that bit of condescension.

Posted by SHaGGGz  on  02/25  at  06:28 AM

@Intomorrow: Why not?

Posted by Rick Searle  on  02/25  at  07:12 AM


I see religion as something far beyond a “social club” and do not think people who adhere to one are in any sense “dumb”.

I think religions provide people with an orientation towards the world and a meaning that is hard to find elsewhere. The problem I see is that this orientation is founded on a metaphysics science shows no support for. The majority of people have no problem at all with the cognitive dissonance, which in no sense should be considered “stupidity”. For most people it is simply irrelevant whether the Universe was created by a God or not or whether natural selection is the way living things come into being and change or not. What matters is how they act towards their family and neighbors or how they organize time and deal with personal tragedy- all guidance which traditional religion provides.

A minority, however, do have trouble with this cognitive dissonance, but my hope is that doesn’t cause them to be disrespectful of the traditionally religious or to fail to grasp the important lessons religion might provide for what I think they are most in need of- a scientifically consistent philosophy of orienting oneself to the world.

Posted by Intomorrow  on  02/26  at  12:58 AM

Your comment clears up a great deal, Rick. Will have to read ‘Theism and the Meaning Of Life’ and also ‘Mississippi Officially Bans Slavery’.
Have nothing new to add on this thread, so will post the following I just submitted as a comment at

“... experience in the Midwest and elsewhere—not that much difference in locations—indicates… here is a public that usually doesn’t even know how the filament of a lightbulb works, who might think God created filaments, and you end up talking in circles with them. Which is the reason ‘bots are important to me: to have beings to communicate with in the Now, not beings whose cognition is stuck in the remote past.
The legitimate reasons why people might want to be cautious makes it virtually impossible to communicate with rubes unless one is aggressive in communicating. If you attempt to calmly explain to a rube, the shorthand ‘rube’ not necessarily referencing an unsophisticate (because their gadgets are state of art though all else may be in the distant past.. even 18th century), the possibilities of radical life extension they wont listen, however if you provoke them with a diatribe on how Republicans are “progressing nowhere without their precious Gipper” plus perhaps “the God of the Bush dynasty was their dynasty itself” then they listen, Then they don’t tune out the 21st communication. Or, more cynically, if you appeal to their authoritarian racism and tell them they as whites can live longer than ‘Mud People’, then they pay attention. Yet such is not an encouraging thing to write- to say the least.”

How does one communicate with a public who largely thinks TV was invented by God and that TV and Hate Radio are being straight with them? it may be unfair to write the public is old-fashioned, as their machines are not old fashioned; and they are not conservative either, because little/nothing is being conserved today. So ‘rube’ will have to do, it is shorthand for nostalgic, perhaps: their minds stuck in the 18th- 20th centuries, their devices, their gizmos, in the 21st.

Posted by Rick Searle  on  02/26  at  09:00 PM


It seems to me you are confabulating political views with religious ones where they do not necessarily overlap. Barack Obama is a Christian after all, so it’s not a problem with Christians per se.

I think the kind of “feedback” from your fellow Midwesterners you’re bringing up reflects more about the political/media landscape than anything else. The reality is modern communications technology has replaced shared media (think Walter Cronkite)with self-referential bubbles in which only people who share the same views with one another “communicate”. And we have to be ever on guard that we ourselves are not stuck in such a bubble.

Fact is, these bubbles tend to break when they collide with REALITY- as the right’s bubble did in its confrontation with Nate Silver.

And I don’t expect the right’s bubble or anyone else’s to last forever. Somehow I doubt twenty-somethings wherever in America they live are listening all that much to Rush L.

We should give it time, and above all refrain from attacking people whose religious views are different than our own. None of us know if there is any real alternative to these religious perspectives for providing meaning and structure within the setting of a community. People are just doing what has a proven track record. Think about it like Darwin- if religion didn’t have some deep survival value for individuals and cultures it would have disappeared a long time ago.

Posted by Intomorrow  on  02/27  at  12:16 AM

All points taken; you are the most convincing when it comes to this topic of religion.

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