The Necessity of Secularism, pg 148

“Can Civilization Survive Without god?” was the sensationalized title given by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life to a 2010 conversation/debate between Christopher Hitchens and his brother, Peter Hitchens. That the Pew Forum, a project of the nonpartisan and respected Pew Research Center, would hold a conversation on this topic is by itself revealing. No respectable organization would hold a symposium on the topic “Can Civilization Survive Christianity?” or “Can Civilization Survive Islam?” At least no organization could do so without engendering severe and immediate public criticism. Atheism, though, not only threatens many people, but it is still considered acceptable among some to label it as a threat. Even if it is conceded that the individual atheist may be a good person, there is an abiding concern that the spread of atheism bodes ill for civilization. The spread of atheism is regarded like the spread of the plague – or perhaps the invasion of the body snatchers. ”

–Ron Lindsay, The Necessity of Secularism, pg 148


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3 COMMENTS

  1. Can Civilization Survive Without god?

    Increasingly those who are secular (meaning: religion-neutral), if they are at all exercised by facts, must look at how religions conduct themselves and wonder if civilization can survive with god’s.

    Such thoughts may have been sensational, even controversial, in 2010 but surely that is no longer the case. Even before that Hitchens versus Hitchens debate, many secularists had read this:

    It should be blindingly obvious that beliefs of this sort will do little to help humanity create a durable future for itself – socially, economically, environmentally, or geopolitically. Imagine the consequences if any significant component of the US government actually believed that the world was about to end and that its ending would be glorious. The fact that nearly half of the American population apparently believes this, purely on the basis of religious dogma, should be considered a moral and intellectual emergency.

    Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation, 2006

    No respectable organization would hold a symposium on the topic “Can Civilization Survive Christianity?” or “Can Civilization Survive Islam?

    Why not?

    In 2010 the oh-so-tender feelings of many religions were still being pampered. My own view, which I suspect is currently held by a majority of those who would call themselves secular today, is that such questions are merely a logical consequence of the recently exposed activities of most religions and their leaders. And yes, that is, I believe, in the spotlight of the evidence, the most generous and neutral view in which religion can be put in the modern world.

    At least no organization could do so without engendering severe and immediate public criticism

    Today: Only from the religious. Everybody else would recognize this as special pleading, at best, and perhaps disingenuous or even fraudulent by any normal measure of social discourse. Most encouraging of all: It is the young who seem to have the highest standards and who are most skeptical of religious claims to special status.

    Atheism, though, not only threatens many people, but it is still considered acceptable among some to label it as a threat

    Today: Again, it seems that it is only the shrinking pool (in the West at least) of fundamentalist religions’ supporters that feel threatened by atheists simply existing. Among non-Islamic religions I have so far only seen clergy actually denounce atheists. This is both no surprise and unlikely to change; if my generous personal income for doing next to nothing was threatened by a rapidly growing number of people being turned away from my product … I’d be on the defensive too.

    The extent to which fundamentalist extremists and clergy actually influence their followers varies widely, and providing we keep up our – so far – excellent record of being sociable, personable and law abiding it’s difficult to see how clergy can counter that. Even a very long, well resourced and cunning campaign against atheists would struggle to gain a foothold against a tsunami of personal interactions with atheists who are out of the closet. This is, increasingly, leading to very poor standards of justice, human rights and personal security for ‘out’ atheists in third world religious countries. Unfortunately it’s already past my bedtime, so I can’t look more into this today.

    Even if it is conceded that the individual atheist may be a good person, there is an abiding concern that the spread of atheism bodes ill for civilization

    Ah, yes, the ‘belief in belief’ argument: The ignorant masses have to be kept where they are or I won’t be able to find a cleaner argument. The great unwashed cannot be trusted to be moral, but must be brow-beaten, or simply beaten, into it argument. The arrogant presumption of this position is breathtaking, isn’t it.

    Most of us are persuaded that it is better to live this life among fellow human beings whom we treat as we would hope to be treated by them, were our positions reversed. This situation is, though, under threat. A new aristocracy, particularly in the US, threatens to use its power to reverse this trend in thinking by using partisanship in all its many forms, racism and sectarianism to the fore.

    It is, as I say, difficult – but it is not impossible – particularly as social institutions fall increasingly into private hands (i.e. into the hands of the aristocracy) which tends to remove them not only from democratic control, but even from democratic influence.

    Atheists need to make common cause with democracy’s defenders, but they are clearly split between left and right. Recently this inability to tie up politically with traditional political structures has been seen by political commentators at both ends of the traditional political spectrum (the establishment) as a rejection of atheists – a rejection that they believe cannot be overcome.. They’re wrong, and here’s why.

    Providing we keep our cool, and continue to organize, and continue to persuade people to come out of the closet, the quickly growing numbers of people identifying as both atheist and voter simply has to tell soon. Our numbers are already the elephant in the room, just a bit bigger and there won’t be anywhere to sit – except on us.

    Hold on to your hats. The demonizing of atheists will get worse before it gets better.

    Whatever else you do, continue the struggle to promote critical thinking and fact-based policy. And take heart my friends, this extract is from a book that’s only four years old. That book had to reach back another four years to quote a suitable controversy to make its point.

    We have come so far in such a short time, and religions have only got better at being evil – in public – in the same period.

    Keep pushing, keep talking, keep your chin up, because you deserve it.

  2. @OP – No respectable organization would hold a symposium on the topic “Can Civilization Survive Christianity?” or “Can Civilization Survive Islam?”

    This is a nonsensical assertion – at least in the educated developed parts of the world! University historians regularly debate the “enlightenment” when the dead-hand of Catholic domination was lifted enough for science and reason to begin to flourish.

    “Can Civilization Survive Islam?”

    It is pretty clear that many of the norms of civilisation have been eliminated in theocracies like Saudi-Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, or areas seized by ISIS. Secular societies aim for much more than mere survival!

    At least no organization could do so without engendering severe and immediate public criticism.

    There is no doubt that those engaging in such a reasoned debate would be subjected to knee-jerk attacks by religious fundamentalists – with nodding support for the attacks from their more moderate fellow tribal delusionists.

    Atheism, though, not only threatens many people, but it is still considered acceptable among some to label it as a threat.

    Atheism does NOT “threaten people”, although the god delusions which it does threaten, con their human hosts into BELIEVING they rather than their delusions are being threatened.

    Even if it is conceded that the individual atheist may be a good person, there is an abiding concern that the spread of atheism bodes ill for civilization.

    This is simply theocratic projection, based on the indoctrinated belief, that “doctrines and dogmas are GOOD”, therefore attacks on the damaging doctrines and dogmas are “BAD and “bode ill” for civilisation!

    It is the big lie!
    Atheism bodes ill for theocratic domination of civilisations (with all their negative effects on human welfare), and it bodes ill for the giving of unmerited and undeserved respect for religious leaders irrational beliefs, and religious influence!
    It is unsurprising that religious leaders assert that a diminution of their influence “bodes ill for civilisation” – when in reality, it bodes ill for their backward repression of using science and reason for the benefit of human societies, and intolerance of their personal attacks on critics!

    There is a clear correlation between civilised altruistically social responsibility and the secular removal of religious domination and theocracy!

    The spread of atheism is regarded like the spread of the plague –

    Science education is bit like vaccination spreading “like the plague” and “boding ill” for pathogens!

    This is classic psychological projection from those whose brains are infected by the god-virus, and looking through preconception indoctrination blinkers!

    or perhaps the invasion of the body snatchers.

    . . . according to the predatory proselytising cult recruitment missionaries! 🙂

  3. @OP – No respectable organization would hold a symposium on the topic “Can Civilization Survive Christianity?” or “Can Civilization Survive Islam?”

    Which is merely a reflection of the unearned respect DEMANDED by religions in some cultures!

    At least no organization could do so without engendering severe and immediate public criticism.

    Really??? Surely this is merely the knee-jerk attack on critics which is inherent in the survival of god-delusions.
    (Think – allegations of “anti-Semitism” for criticising Zionism, or howls of “blasphemy”, against critics of many religions.)

    Atheism, though, not only threatens many people, but it is still considered acceptable among some to label it as a threat.

    Atheism threatens NOBODY, but it its very existence, does threaten their god-delusions, because it shows that humans can live without these parasitic memes and their parasitic promoters!

    The real questions should be: “Can Civilization Survive Without diverting significant proportions of its time, energy, and resources, into supernatural delusions, and supporting the delusional or charlatans promoting these?”

    I think the answer is YES! – but only if it has defence mechanisms and immunities, (especially for the young and in its education systems), against invasion or infiltration by such memes.

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