Why the Future of Religion Is Bleak

Apr 29, 2015

Illustration: Brian Stauffer for the Wall Street Journal

By Daniel C. Dennett

Religion has been waning in influence for several centuries, especially in Europe and North America. There have been a few brief and local revivals, but in recent years the pace of decline has accelerated.

Today one of the largest categories of religious affiliation in the world—with more than a billion people—is no religion at all, the “Nones.” One out of six Americans is already a None; by 2050, the figure will be one out of four, according to a new Pew Research Center study. Churches are being closed by the hundreds, deconsecrated and rehabilitated as housing, offices, restaurants and the like, or just abandoned.

If this trend continues, religion largely will evaporate, at least in the West. Pockets of intense religious activity may continue, made up of people who will be more sharply differentiated from most of society in attitudes and customs, a likely source of growing tension and conflict.

Could anything turn this decline around? Yes, unfortunately. A global plague, a world war fought over water or oil, the collapse of the Internet (and thereby almost all electronic communication) or some as-yet unimagined catastrophe could throw the remaining population into misery and fear, the soil in which religion flourishes best.

Behind the decline

With hardly any significant exceptions, religion recedes whenever human security and well-being rises, a fact that has recently been shown in numerous studies, but was suspected by John Calvin in the 16th century. He noted that the more prosperous and comfortable his Genevans became, the less dependent they were on church. Presumably, those who deplore the decline of religion in the world today would not welcome the sort of devastation and despair that could give religion its second wind.


Read the full article by clicking the name of the source located below.

65 comments on “Why the Future of Religion Is Bleak

  • Presumably, those who deplore the decline of religion in the world
    today would not welcome the sort of devastation and despair that could
    give religion its second wind.

    That explains a very great deal about the motivation for the actions of the various, and progressively worse Islamic fundametalists. Interesting psychological question: I wonder how aware they are, of the reasons for their bizarre behaviour?



    Report abuse

  • He noted that the more prosperous and comfortable his Genevans became, the less dependent they were on church.

    No doubt rival fundamentalist armies at logger-heads, can “remedy” this well-being and prosperity!

    Presumably, those who deplore the decline of religion in the world today would not welcome the sort of devastation and despair that could give religion its second wind.

    That is presuming they are rational, or have the capability to objectively predict outcomes, rather than blindly pursuing wish-thinking ideologies.

    Some of the West’s religious politicians, have (at great cost), made silly interventions to undermine and overthrow various “repressive” governments they did not like, (who were holding down the militant religinuts within their countries), under the wishful notion, that some happy democracy would be the outcome, rather that the vicious lawless civil wars which have erupted!



    Report abuse

  • Atheism has some natural advantages.

    Religion, because it is made up, naturally fights with every other variant. Atheism does not have this problem. Basically there is only one thing to agree one “most probably there are not any gods”.

    Religion, because it is made up, does not make much sense. Atheism, because it is usually tied to science, usually makes sense even on the finest level. Further there is general agreement, backed with evidence.

    Selling religion needs theatre, emotion, loud music, a sense of urgency, threats, no calm thought, reptile brain. Selling atheism requires prolonged calm reflection, looking for holes it what various people have told you, rational brain. Books, eBooks and the Internet are thus better designed for selling atheism.



    Report abuse

  • That explains a very great deal about the motivation for the actions of the various, and progressively worse Islamic fundametalists.

    That comment is typical of the unscientific and biased beliefs of the new atheists when it comes to Islam. You take a purely speculative comment by someone about the future of religion and then use it to justify your prejudices about Islam.

    For those of us who actually believe in the scientific method and trying to be objective there is actually a lot of good solid research on the motivations for Islamic extremists and it has very little to do with some generic trend in religious decline or (contrary to what Dawkins and Harris assert with no evidence) something inherently violent about Islam compared with other religions.

    What it has to do with is politics and the fact that the US and the west have been manipulating governments in the Islamic world to prop up dictators and to stifle secularism and democracy. And the fact that US bombing and wars in the region make 911 seem like amateur hour when it comes to civilian deaths. If you read analysis by Robert Pape from the University of Chicago he shows a very strong correlation between terrorism and occupation and violence done to people by external governments. Or if you look at the work of Scott Atran who actually went and talked to Islamic terrorists and the people who support them their justifications for what they do had little to do with schtuping virgins in heaven and a lot to do with seeing friends and loved ones killed and tortured.



    Report abuse

  • I am more concerned about religion in India and Asia. It is well established. There is poor education. There is poverty. OTOH Ireland was able to change once they got out of poverty.

    One thing I find odd, why would people worship a god of poverty. Clearly this god cannot deliver.



    Report abuse

  • 6
    Miserablegit says:

    I have no doubt misery and despair are religions main recruiting sergeants and if they are not apparent then people find they do not need it, which is why religion will do all it can to ferment discontent and fear.



    Report abuse

  • The attacks against the US etc. of course had a strong political ingredient, though I still criticise Atran for using self serving questionaires that delivered this political-first response preferentially.

    This is mostly history and the problems of ISIS fighting moderate Muslims and the likes of Boko Haram and the Pakistani Taliban are entirely different and are about fighting for religiously derived politics (caliphates and the suppresion of the education of women). These are the world’s problems now.



    Report abuse

  • Yet the tendency toward a theocracy and the subjugation of women is not at all endemic to Islam: it’s a trait shared by the vast majority, if not all, institutionalized religions -and perhaps even the less institutionalized ones.



    Report abuse

  • Daniel Dennett ignores the great demographic shift in population growth from West to East between 1950 and 2050 and beyond in making his cheery ethnocentric forecast. He mentions possible causes for the reversal of the “decline” of religions by conjuring up dystopian scenarios while remaining blind to the catastrophe which is already upon us: OVERPOPULATION.

    Below is a re-posting of a comment I made on another thread:

    From the Christian Science Monitor reporting on Pew Research: In 50 years time, the world’s religious makeup is going to see some pretty massive changes. According to a new report by the Pew Research Center, Christianity is likely to be practised by pretty much exactly the same share of the world population, while Islam is on an upward path — and by 2050, the two religions will be pretty much equal in size.
    Christianity and Hinduism are expected to keep up with the pace of global population growth (so keeping roughly the same portion of the world’s total), but Islam is expected to outstrip that considerably — Pew is forecasting a 73% increase in the number of Muslims around the world, against a 35% increase in the global population.

    High birthrates spiking populations in Africa and Muslim countries may put billions of “extra” believers on the planet by 2050 and beyond. It’s mathematical. While populations in the EU and Euro-Ancestry populations in the U.S. are stagnating on a path to decline, Africa, Arab countries, Indonesia, Pakistan and India will pour hundreds of millions of young Christian and Muslim and Hindu faithful onto the planet. Suffering in misery from bitter poverty, unemployment, and deficits in education, efforts to secularize masses of young men radicalized in religious sectarian cultures in conflict with heretical counterparts may prove futile. While we prod the NONE next door to celebrate Openly Secular Day, or decorate the recreation hall for “Blasphemy Day” or applaud an atheist taking a seat on the local Community Interfaith Council at home, mushrooming billions in the hinterlands may be eying us with pious hatred.



    Report abuse

  • the new atheist

    I’m a rather old atheist

    prejudices about Islam

    I’ve been prejudiced about Islam since I visited Constantinople in my early twenties, and had to protect my blond girlfriend (long-sleeved blouse, full skirt) from the furtive, but violent gropes of the Turks. As well we had to put up with low-lives trying to buy her, or sell us drugs. We were walking over the floating bridge when a young bloke grabbed her breast. She was from inner-city Dublin, caught his hand, twisted his wrist and smashed it on the steel hand rail. She felt it crack. As we went East it got worse.

    motivations for Islamic extremistshas very little to do with some generic trend in religious decline or something inherently violent about Islam

    I know Marxist theory, and I don’t think that it’s incorrect. Imperiaism has a long historical tail, but as with our own lives, at some point we have to take responsibility for our own situation.
    I think that US policy has a huge amount to answer for, but they didn’t invent tribalism, sectarianism or violence in the Middle East. The extreme violence of ISIS has a dimension that is puzzling. The Nazis generally hid their violence from the population, Israeli and Allied violence are ariel, clinical and thus sanitised. The violence of the new Jihadists is their marketing strategy, their best recruiting sergeant, which moreover impacts mostly on their own people, the people of the Middle East. I don’t know what this means, or why it is so appealing to so many people.

    manipulating governments in the Islamic world

    …if you’re a harp and you let people play you, it’s your fault.

    their justifications for what they do had little to do with schtuping
    virgins in heaven and a lot to do with seeing friends and loved ones
    killed and tortured

    I never said that it had anything to do with virgins. The people who were conned into self slaughter weren’t interviewed, for obvious reasons. No-one can ever know what were their motivations, but many of them have been reported as well educated and economically comfortable; others not so. I can’t imagine what their motives could have been, much less why they mostly kill their own people, not us.

    he shows a very strong correlation between terrorism and occupation
    and violence

    Yes, in the Islamic world, today. But there are very many instances of military occupation which have not resulted in violence. Examples could be, the Roman Empire, the Islamic conquests of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, post 1066 England, the consolidation of European states in the C19….you only have to look at recent occupations, Germany and Japan after the war, to realise tht the result of most invasions is accommodation, acceptance, assimilation and ultimately, if grudging, mutual respect. If they’re destroyed, it’s usually as a result of exterior invasion. It might not be honorable, but it’s life.



    Report abuse

  • Hi Melvin,

    Share some of these concerns. Do you think however that if they are keeping themselves in poverty and lacking in education they will be a treat to anyone but themselves? I suspect (although happy to be proved wrong on this) that once we finally free ourselves of oil dependency much of the middle east too will self destruct, at this point I fear the west will simply ignore them. From a population point of view I’m much more worried about impact per capita rather than total population.



    Report abuse

  • I am with you on this one. The more I have read and assimilated the wisdom (or lack of) in books, the more I have become appalled by the sheer bloody-minded crass stupidity of a good proportion of mankind. Still, as my wife always tells me – Religion is one subject you should avoid as a persons beliefs are sacrosanct. I always tell her that the paradigm suddenly changes – when some Islamic nutter blows themselves to fook – and takes your son and daughter with them….



    Report abuse

  • What I wrote was not intended as a general account but a specific with regard to Red’s assertion. It would have been better to say these are the Islamic problems the world has now. Most religious fundamentalism of all stripes is wildly sexist and is a major vector for such pernicious thinking. I have numerous times praised the Kurds (mostly Sunni) for their advanced position on sexism (male and female co-equal mayors to make sure all concerns were addressed fairly, etc. etc.) Ahmad Shah Massoud fighting for democracy, female emancipation and education in Afghanistan, before his nemesis (Bin Laden) had him assassinated 9th September 2001. 60% female university student population in Iran. Malala Yousafzai. As stated it is the attacks on moderate muslims that are our problem now.

    As an aside let me be the first here to celebrate Sandi Toksvig’s move into politics.

    The Women’s Equality Party will be based on reason and evidence, not on political ideologies. It could be as brilliant as she is…..



    Report abuse

  • phil rimmer
    Apr 30, 2015 at 7:41 am

    Malala Yousafzai. As stated it is the attacks on moderate muslims that are our problem now.

    I see ten of her attackers have been jailed for life!

    http://www.demanjo.com/news/world/1477876/ten-jailed-in-pakistan-for-involvement-in-attack-on-malala.html
    .Pakistani court hands life sentences to 10 men involved in Malala attack.

    “Judge Mohammad Amin Kundi in his verdict gave 25 years jail to all of these people,” said a court official in Swat, where the 10 were convicted in an anti-terrorism court.

    The young girl’s response to the attack and her continued campaigning for girls’ right to education saw her receive accolades from all over the world, and last year she received the Nobel Peace Prize in conjunction with the Indian rights activist Kailash Satyarthi.



    Report abuse

  • 15
    Michael says:

    It goes a long way to explain Islams hold over its followers, the vast majority of whom live in what we in the West would perceive as dire poverty , after all if there is something better awaiting you when you Die especially if you Die in Jihad, that’s a very seductive argument and I think is the mainstay behind the Death Cult that is ISIS.



    Report abuse

  • I believe it’s going to take a long time before humans give up the tribal mentality. Unfortunately, we are very good at finding ways to divide ourselves. If religion was to disappear, we would find other ways to create the “Us vs Them”. And speaking of South Park, there was an episode where Mr. Garrison destroys all religion (the world become atheists) and Cartman is transported to the future to find people warring and killing over the “Correct Science”.



    Report abuse

  • I believe it’s going to take a long time before humans give up the tribal mentality

    Maybe, but it is getting better as Pinker’s Angels suggests. Oxytocin may wire us for loved in-groups, but by default despised out-groups are seen threatening from over the hill.

    The only other real driver for this (apart from our unavoidable mammalian genetic heritage) is the struggle for resources. The solution as ever lies in the continued effort to lift the poor out of their poverty. This most particularly removes folk from of the manipulations of the parasites.

    Trey Parker is still the most effective and moral satirist we have but he has a tired technique to head off controversy by always trashing “the other side” however briefly. (He talked of this trick told him by an old hand TV writer (?) director(?))

    Science won’t fight this way unless it is for scarce research funding. (Maybe Dragon’s Den crossed with The Hunger Games..in lab coats.)



    Report abuse

  • I’ve been prejudiced about Islam since I visited Constantinople in my
    early twenties, and had to protect my blond girlfriend (long-sleeved
    blouse, full skirt) from the furtive, but violent gropes of the Turks.
    As well we had to put up with low-lives trying to buy her, or sell us
    drugs. We were walking over the floating bridge when a young bloke
    grabbed her breast. She was from inner-city Dublin, caught his hand,
    twisted his wrist and smashed it on the steel hand rail. She felt it
    crack. As we went East it got worse.

    Congratulations. I would clap and cheer If I see something like that. What I don’t like is your view of people.

    You have to understand. There is no such a thing as a pure Turkish race. Turkish people is a mixture of different races and cultures. I am for example “a Thessaloniki immigrant” Turk. Many westerners would not believe I am Turk. I have pale skin, green eyes and light brown hair. And we are not all Muslims. I am an atheist. Many of my friends are atheists and some of them are Christians and Muslims. I live in Istanbul, born and raised or Constantinople to you. Turkey is also home to many Christian people. The dude who groped your girlfriend may not even a Muslim. Don’t get me wrong. I will never defend a Muslim nor any other religion if they are verbally attacked. We are currently having enough of fundamentalists in this country. Let me get back to my point… There is a huge diversity in this country. So please go easy on the generalization.



    Report abuse

  • Wait so for the Islamic masses its about politics? Not about the second coming which according to Islam requires a HUGE holy war? No your wrong, to those fighting, maybe not completely the leadership, this is about bringing on the end times. And although the vast majority of adherents are not fighting, or wanting to fight, for this cause, the majority of them are somewhat sympathetic and not helping to liberalize the beliefs of those who do believe this will make the world right with god. That’s why it is so hard to stop. You are citing scientific reason as why that comment is wrong and then you cite western studies that cannot have the facts as you say they do. Not scientific but neither is this “holy war”. It will peter out as liberalization is going to wreak absolute havoc, and I agree the best policy should be to leave them alone to work it out.



    Report abuse

  • In retrospect we can see that world population growth took off around 1850 with advances in nutrition from mechanized agriculture and animal husbandry; hygiene and medicine gaining progressive traction first in Europe and the United States and then spreading more slowly to the third world. The transition from high birth rate – high death-rate populations to high birth rate -low death rate populations ignited the Population Bomb. Demographers anticipate another transition from falling birth rates coinciding with falling death rates in the second half of this century resulting in population stability at zero-growth. The question is when (and if) this will happen and how many of us will be crawling on the planet when it happens.

    Surveying the slow halting growth of our numbers over the last 100,000 years, it is mind-boggling to think that reproductive excess has taken place at an accelerating pace only over the last 200 years (1850 to [extrapolating] 2050). In my view the process has been random, contingent and without conscious purpose. Overpopulation is literally an accident, an unintended consequence of scientific and technological progress. Global warming, pollution, resource depletion along with many other problems are related unintended consequences that put our species at peril today.

    If contingently world population had stabilized within a time frame as recently as 1960 to 1970 at 3.5 billion, the world would have a head start in coping with other environmental threats to survival. Reckless Monkey is right to warn of upwardly adjusted per capita consumption. Measures must be taken, as always, to decrease over consumption by the rich and increase consumption by the poor. In any event some index of per capita consumption will always be with us. If we could magically bring population down to 3.5 billion we would mathematically reduce carbon emissions immediately by 50%. If, more realistically, we could do the same thing over time, we would bring carbon emissions down by close to 70% against the index of a stable population of 10 billion by 2100.



    Report abuse

  • 24
    maria melo says:

    There is no moral justification for the use children as shields placing them in armed schools, neither does for a mother to wrap her children in explosives. or ISIS actions to spread terrorism.

    Deliquent young people for instance (even girls that look like angels) exist evrywhere (the worst demons of our nature).

    Not to help those in need, the real victims of such terrorism (all of us) is unthinkable when it comes to REAL moral (which can be scientifically mesured), I guess no sentient child would like to explode, they would better like to count on their parents´s protection.

    Extremists are no heroes, what was not made clear in this comment, I mean Red Dog´s comment



    Report abuse

  • Hardly anybody today believes in—or would want to believe in—the wrathful, Old Testament Jehovah, for instance.

    I suppose it must be hard to get a general feel for a diverse worldwide religion but I don’t recognise this description at all. I suspect it’s a local observation.



    Report abuse

  • Dawkins points to a couple of instances in nature where too much evolutionary (for whatever reason, external, genetic, sexual…) for favoring in-group vs out group will doom the in-group. I don’t remember in which of his books/writings I saw this.
    Anyway, beyond that, in any system which has a negative entropy, like the earth due to the solar energy source, ‘things’, life, entities will increase in complexity. Tribes resist that and will not continue. Altruism is more about that negative entropic pressure than oxytocin or other chemicals. It is about the general trend of a local energy receiving system to become more systematized, organized, and information containing.



    Report abuse

  • It is no coincidence that the most religious exist in the shittiest places.

    Yes, and that would be outside our aging Euro-Caucasian gated communities.
    ( I saw Dan Dennett, the other day at the clubhouse. I believe he’s put on a few pounds).

    It is no coincidence that most of the world’s people exist in the shittiest places.
    They’re under thirty, poor people of color radicalized by religious fanaticism, and worst of all
    “they’re as mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore!”



    Report abuse

  • I recommend clicking on phil rimmer’s link above (“This is not uncommon in the deep south.“) and
    endure the whole 27-minute “sermon” by Pastor Charles Lawson. Seldom if ever will
    you witness such fathomless hate.

    The upcoming orator, Adolph Hitler, was said to stand
    in front of a mirror and practice gestures to accompany his shrieking poison.
    Ladies and gentleman, phil gives you Pastor Charles Lawson.



    Report abuse

  • Hi Stan,

    The selfish gene goes into this in some detail as does a tv show he was in shortly after the books publication called “nice guys finish first” you’ll find it on you tube.

    Anyway, beyond that, in any system which has a negative entropy, like the earth due to the solar energy source, ‘things’, life, entities will increase in complexity. Tribes resist that and will not continue. Altruism is more about that negative entropic pressure than oxytocin or other chemicals. It is about the general trend of a local energy receiving system to become more systematized, organized, and information containing.

    You need to be careful you are not straying into group selection. Evolution works on the individual genes not the group, so any change in genes needs to have direct advantage to the individual. So for example an individual that has genes that make it prepared to share a meal when another is hungry but also punish another who will not reciprocate will likely have an advantage in a group from one who doesn’t share those genes, but this works because in the small tribal groups we evolved in by doing so we were usually sharing with our close relatives and therefore helping a proportion of copies of genes by sharing.



    Report abuse

  • If we could magically bring population down to 3.5 billion we would mathematically reduce carbon emissions immediately by 50%.

    I like Billy Connelly’s suggestion (in-spite of the mathematical mistake) “If we could convince everyone in the world to eat just one other person, we’d halve the population problem overnight”



    Report abuse

  • Hardly anybody today believes in—or would want to believe in—the wrathful, Old Testament Jehovah, for instance.

    Hi Ewan,

    My question would be why don’t you? As a religious person by what rubric do you ignore the commandments of the old testament? How do you justify his actions at that time?



    Report abuse

  • Group selection and genetics don’t mix because genes only propagate downwards operating on individuals. Epigenetics and local expression pressures and bacterial or viral evolutions causing host grouping for enhanced host cross infection could be invoked with a little hard work.

    However cultural evolution may work also(I shan’t mention the M word). It is clearly complex messy and lateral, at least as much as it is generational. It is a mix of tiny but powerful fragments with higher fidelity copying (reinforcing ritual say) and larger, looser entities riding on their coat-tails. So the questions are how could a thermodynamic drive to increasing complexity operate in such a world? Do tribes etc., of themselves, exhibit the Schroedinger signature of life, a localised drop in entropy, below the territory average, and surrounded by an over compensating bulge lifting the net territory average before life to achieve its heat death speeding duty? I’d say don’t know and yes.



    Report abuse

  • What I don’t like is your view of people.

    There is a huge diversity in this country. So please go easy on the
    generalization

    A very fair comment Arda, and I stand corrected and penitent.

    Actually I am fairly well informed about the tragic history of Turkey and the Levant and the effects on the region’s peoples of imperialism, religion and war.

    Later in our perambulations around your country and Iran, Pakistan and India (hippy trail), we met with kindness from all sorts of people, and fellow students who thought just like us. In Ankara we stayed for a few days with some Iranian students who were in university there. We discussed revolution and Marxism all night. I have often wondered what happened to them in the turmoil in their country which followed shortly after. I hope they were alright, I wonder if they’re still alive.

    However, the misogynistic assaults and attitudes were so prevalent, and Islam was such a fundamental element in the country’s make-up then, that I could perhaps be somewhat excused for my unfortunate solecism.



    Report abuse

  • Group selection and genetics don’t mix because genes only propagate downwards operating on individuals.

    Hi Phill,

    Yeah that was the point I was trying to make, however I may have explained myself poorly so I’d be happy to be corrected if my explanation (or example) is wrong. My understanding was that evolution works at the level of the individual gene. Therefore genes for altruism worked on the basis of benefiting the genes of the individual. Dawkins I believe did some work explaining how saving a child would be worth some risk to the individual as you would be saving half of your genes a quarter for a nephew and so on. I remember struggling with this when I read the selfish gene so I may have this wrong. But yes my understanding was all evolution was happening at the level of the individual gene and we were the carriers of those individual genes. Have I got this right? I’d genuinely appreciate anyone checking my working on this.



    Report abuse

  • Hi Reckless. I completely agreed with your post I was merely cheekily trying a few extensions on it.

    I haven’t got the bacterium virus thing quite right yet, but I was impressed recently by an account of how some of our behaviours may be driven by our gut flora. This made me remember RD’s account of bugs hijacking ants and/or rats brains to change their behaviours and encourage them to be eaten to serve their (the bugs) own lifestyle requirements. (A bit like religion in fact). It just struck me that encouraging grouping could serve the purpose of an infective agent rather well. A sex hormone stimulating STD would work a treat…

    Also I wanted to revive ideas of Memes and note how, crucially, they are lateral in capacity.

    We must restart work on a more realistic modelling of cultural transmission. We have all the monitoring capabilities and maths modelling capabilities nailed now for the undoubted complexities involved.



    Report abuse

  • I see that, not for the first time, my exquisite prose hasn’t quite expressed the clarity I had intended.

    It wasn’t the description of “the wrathful, Old Testament Jehovah” that I was picking up on. That seems fair enough to me.

    My puzzlement was with the suggestion that hardly anyone believed in him any more. There may be Christian groups, movements or denominations that have separated themselves from the Old Testament, but I haven’t come across them myself. And I can’t believe that they are typical of today’s Christianity as Professor Dennett suggests. My experience of Christianity in various denominations is a New Testament faith built very firmly on the foundations of the Old.



    Report abuse

  • Thanks Phil,

    Hope I didn’t come across as defensive, I genuinely enjoy being corrected. I’m the guy in the Python sketch looking for an argument. Please feel free to shoot me down if you find I’m getting something wrong, if I come back for clarification it’s genuinely for clarification. The thing I enjoy most about this site is smart people improving my knowledge base and making me think. So please don’t every hold back if I am wrong.

    Cheers



    Report abuse

  • Hi Ewan,

    Thanks for that. Apologies if I got off on the wrong foot. I find it very interesting that, that is your perception. Mine is quite different. I’ve found particularly after re-reading the bible that most Christians have thrown out the vast majority of the Old Testament and quite a significant chunk of the new. I don’t think they have the right (although I’m glad they no longer consider it okay to keep slaves for example), but I don’t understand how they justify doing so when the old testament clearly states it is fine and goes in legal detail about exactly how and who.

    I just watched the exodus movie made by Ridely Scott and he tries to play the whole line of it being a noble thing to argue/struggle with god even though he is doing hideous things to people throughout. Ironic that Ridley had god played by a petulant child.

    Regards



    Report abuse

  • I haven’t got the bacterium virus thing quite right yet,

    Phil

    There have been a couple of recent articles in New Scientist on ancient retrovirus’ imbedded in our DNA, that turn out to be vital for our survival and evolution.

    Virus hiding in our genome protects early human embryos

    We may owe our survival and complexity to a stowaway virus that springs to life in the very first cells of human embryos. Not only does the virus seem to protect embryos from other viruses, but it also assists genes when the groundwork is under way for the body plan of a new human.

    AND this one on a virus that facilitates the movement of material across the placental barrier by highjacking the virus’ ability to get through cell walls. This is my long bow, but many millions of years ago, a random virus mutation allow for the creation of placental mammals. Just think, we’re the byproduct of a running nose.

    GENES from ancient viruses may be an essential component of mammalian reproduction, helping the placenta to establish itself in the womb, suggest biologists in California. Their research supports the idea that viruses’ talents for ferrying DNA and genes into cells has played a key role in the evolution of humans cells as well as those of other higher organisms.

    Full article here.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27384-virus-hiding-in-our-genome-protects-early-human-embryos.html#.VURzffD3OYl



    Report abuse

  • I’ve found particularly after re-reading the bible that most Christians have thrown out the vast majority of the Old Testament and quite a significant chunk of the new. I don’t think they have the right…

    But the name New Testament suggests that it replaces the Old Testament, doesn’t it? It’s like writing a new will; the old will might be historically interesting but the new will is the valid one.

    The thing to remember is that the Old Testament laws were given to the children of Israel, not to the whole of humanity. Jesus fulfilled those laws by dying on the Cross and he gave us a new law (to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves) to replace them. It is the New Testament law that Christians are bound by.



    Report abuse

  • 44
    Lorenzo says:

    Technical note: the world is full of dinosaurs, they fly all over the place. This is because birds are descendent from dinosaurs. The dinosaur that went extinct are the non-avian, very big ones.

    If I were to pick such a metaphor (and sound very nerdy doing so), I’d use placoderms, which are an extinct class of bony fishes. I mean: really extinct.



    Report abuse

  • Hi Ewan,

    Thanks for the reply,

    But the name New Testament suggests that it replaces the Old Testament, doesn’t it?

    I’ve heard that argued but the passage below seems to me to imply that was not the case he did not say until I am crucified.

    5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
    5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
    5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
    5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    I think you could make that argument from 5:17 but the following passage stating until heaven and earth pass makes it clear he is not talking about his own death and resurrection. He is pressed on these points in the temple by rabbi’s who suspect he has come to take over, he tells them again there he has not come to undo the old laws. But perhaps he was not being completely honest with them.

    The thing to remember is that the Old Testament laws were given to the children of Israel, not to the whole of humanity.

    I don’t think this is biblically clear. Even if so why then oppose gay marriage? Why hold up the ten commandments as at all relevant or the foundation of morality? Clearly by that reasoning they are as outdated as don’t eat shell fish. What is more how were these laws at all suitable for anyone even back then, slavery, child sacrifice, murder, rape all condoned and endorsed (in some cases commanded). What sort of god are you worshipping?



    Report abuse

  • Why hold up the ten commandments as at all relevant or the foundation of morality? Clearly by that reasoning they are as outdated as don’t eat shell fish.

    Although I don’t consider myself bound by the Ten Commandments, as such, they are pretty much encapsulated by the new commandments to love God and to love your neighbour (summarised) and so, in effect, still apply.

    They are helpful, I find, in developing my understanding of our proper relationship with God and with our neighbours. Like many Catholics, I use them as a basis for an examination of conscience when I am preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession).



    Report abuse

  • Aren’t you afraid of Hell, Ewan?

    One of the most commonly expressed instructions in the Bible is that we shouldn’t be afraid. It’s one that I’m happy to go along with.



    Report abuse

  • Hi Ewan,

    In the old testament slavery is legislated by god,

    However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

    Now I consider this evidence against the character of god, if I believed he existed I would fear him and this is why – he does not have good standards of morality. You may say for example that this was the old testament but this is from the new…

    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. (Ephesians 6:5 NLT)

    So here slavery at least condoned in both Testaments. Yet I assume you do not support slavery and would consider those who practice it evil. How does that work with Love your neighbour? It appears to me as love your neighbour if they are part of your tribe otherwise you may keep them as a slave, and pass them on to your children and if you are a NT slave don’t bother appealing for help from god. All this after such a big deal is made by Moses for the Jewish people being kept as slaves and god helping them out of servitude, where was their empathy for those whose land they took? Where was gods?

    As for new vs old can you address the passage I sited where Jesus says he has not come to undo the old law. It is quite possible I’ve got this wrong but I can’t see how.

    Cheers.



    Report abuse

  • 1) what would it take to convince you of God’s existence?

    Evidence that there is a god…. Any evidence. A scintilla. Since there is no evidence, I will not believe. The religious books are all written by men. So many mistakes and contradictions. If the evidence changes, I will change my mind and follow the evidence, which is something an evidence based rational mind can do, but you can’t John.

    2) have you ever felt the need for religion?

    No. It adds nothing to the world. It adds unnecessary complications, which breeches Ockham’s Razor. Religion just perpetuates ancient superstition in a world where evidence based decision making is available and required.

    3) why have the majority of humanity at all times and in all places always believed in some form of the supernatural, even if it not be as elevated as our own Christian religion. why?

    This has been explained ad infinitum. There are long and detailed scientific explains for how evolution shaped our brains to be brilliant at survival, a by product of which was to see explanations for phenomena in the supernatural. Tree spirits. Fairies. Ghosts. Gods. Common to all humanity. God’s just another fairy. Now we understand. We can override our primitive brain through an act of intellectual will. Most, like John, can’t do this. Trapped in a 30,000 year old brain.

    4) would you prefer a society dominated by Islam, Communism or Christianity?

    This is a free kick in front of goal. None. Each decision you make should be based on evidence. All of the above can easily be dismissed by an even cursory peek in the rational evidence. The one you forgot to mention was Capitalism, which fails because you can’t grow forever in a closed system.

    John. Don’t be a hit and run poster. Stick around and see how you go. Would you like to have a go at ‘You can only be moral through Jesus”?



    Report abuse

  • I am a Christian, and I am educated and have been a missionary and evangelist.

    I was recently in the Amazon. I was able to visit a native village. Coincidentally, at the same time a group of American “missionary and evangelist” were visiting. Pockets full of money and useless gifts. They visit every two years. They’ve build an evangelical church and have destroyed these natives. The half they’ve converted have lost their culture and their attachment to their environment. Lost. Alcohol. Abuse. Violence. The other half, trying to hold on to the anchor that preserves their lives, are being abused and cursed as sinners. Being beaten. Brother on brother. The missionaries are trying to impose a middle eastern religion on natives in the middle of the Amazon with no relationship to these people. They are doing harm. They are doing unto to others as they would have them do unto themselves, and they are killing people. Doing gods work. Being missionaries and evangelists.



    Report abuse

  • 1) God

    2) Never

    3) We started knowing nothing. We guessed at stuff. Then we learned how to find things out. Then, very recently, we learned a lot.

    4) Evidence and reason and its effects on our common humanity leave all ideologies expiring in the dust and leaves us parasite free.



    Report abuse

  • i am curious if you are aware that your own human reason is so corrupted by sin that it cannot, but its own lights, get to truth…

    I was hoping for better than this. I was hoping you might engage with me and share some thoughtful insights. If you are just a “Sin, Truth and Light” christian then you don’t have much to say. Can you answer a few questions.

    What evidence do you have that god exists. (Remember, your holy books are not evidence because they can be shown to have been written by men. )
    What evidence do you have that god intervenes in day today affairs. That’s is breaches the laws of physics.
    Why does your god play favourites. Why does he have with narcissistic tendencies, demanding praise, demanding blind faith, demanding that he will send you to an eternity if you don’t do exactly what he says.
    Why did god choose an illiterate shepherd in the middle east to reveal himself, before they were even literate. Why not reveal himself to the Chinese at the same time, because they had writing. They could have taken the dictation and got it right, instead of all the errors and contradictions found in the Koran and the bible.
    How do you know god loves you.
    What happens when you sing with a group of people. Why does you brain release oxytocin.
    Why have you got wisdom teeth.

    8 Have you every watched Life of Brian.

    This is just a few… I did you the courtesy of answering your questions. Please respond to these. And give me what you think, not what you’ve been told to think. Don’t just repeat what your pastor has told you since you were born. Think for yourself.



    Report abuse

  • The reason religion is most effective in the “shittiest” of nations is because of the degree of lack of education. The greater the illiteracy the more religious the people are. In addition the more that people are religious, the faster is their population growth. As overpopulation increases, the greater their ignorance and the more babies the women are forced to have. It is a downward spiral with overpopulation and religion feeding each other like self devouring parasites. Just look at the Gaza Strip for example.



    Report abuse

  • “That is presuming they are rational, or have the capability to objectively predict outcomes, rather than blindly pursuing wish-thinking ideologies.”

    But, of course, we know they are not rational. Their minds were indoctrinated when they were young and childhood indoctrination is so powerful, it follows otherwise highly intelligent men into adulthood.

    The best way to evaluate religion is to turn to the dictionary, which has no dog in the fight.

    Delusion: “A persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence, especially as a symptom of a psychiatric condition.”



    Report abuse

  • I must be living in one of those “pockets” then, because I see anything but religious decline where I live in Spokane, WA, USA. In fact, every time a local grocery store goes out of business thanks to the Waltons, a new Megachurch pops up in its place. And they always have a similar, unimaginative name like “New Hope,” or “New Life.” This town makes me sick on a daily basis.



    Report abuse

  • Ewan
    May 17, 2015 at 1:30 pm
    .
    Though that definition would limit virginity to women. Would there be no male equivalent?

    There would be males who had never fathered children, but that would be difficult to track, and could involve trying to prove a negative.



    Report abuse

  • although I agree that the Internet and an increase in prosperity has lead to a recent downfall in religion, I think Dennett is overlooking some crucial information. First a rise in nones does not mean a complete turning away from religion or illogical views. I work with nearly all nones and they still believe in some sort of deistic God, some of which can be identified as new agey. – a few still hold onto the “bad atheist who takes away kiddie’ s Christmas art projects at school” view even though they do not believe in the God of the Bible. Most still celebrate holidays as a way to connect with family and friends.

    I see the rise in nones as better reporting. The same can be said of the rise in atheism especially with our youth. the Internet can educate them and then keep track of statistics much better. Dennett seems to be enthusiastic a little too soon.

    Here’s may list of why religion is failing:
    – Church is boring and cannot compete with dynamic presentations of the day.
    – Stories from the Bible do not reflect concerns of the day.
    – People have better plans than church. Their time is frequently limited.
    – The younger generation disagrees with gay discrimination.
    – People find several views of “sin” to be psychologically unsound, antiquated, ridiculous, wrong…
    – People do not respect authority as much as they did during previous generations.
    – People do not want to give money in the form of a tithe and dislike feeling pressured/guilted to give.
    – Many people really don’t believe religious stories and quit church- they may or may not further question the view but feel they are no longer wasting their time.
    – People are doing well and are less motivated by fear.
    – People are turning to motivational speakers instead.
    – Post modernist views give some the acknowledgement that their own personal view is valid.



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.