“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Voltaire
Phil Zuckerman, a sociology professor at Pitzer College in Claremont California wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times two days before Christians celebrated Resurrection Sunday (Easter). Seems as though the timing wasn’t a coincidence. The article, Why America’s Record Godlessness in the US is Good News was another atheist’s point of view regarding their way being the best way, but of course, when they do that, it isn’t arrogant and exclusive, it’s the ‘facts!’ Well as a fierce supporter of the first amendment, I support both the LA Times right and Professor Zuckerman’s right to state their opinions, which is sort of an anomaly these days. A friend of mine was recently permanently exiled from Facebook for posting a meme that made fun of Covid vaccine shots. Whereas I may disagree with his opinion, I believe he should have the right to state it. Apparently, Facebook doesn’t and silencing opposing views seem to be in vogue recently.
Professor Zuckerman’s thesis is, “Democratic societies that have experienced the greatest degrees of secularization are among the healthiest, wealthiest and safest in the world, enjoying relatively low rates of violent crime and high degrees of well-being and happiness. Clearly, a rapid loss of religion does not result in societal ruin.” He then goes on to state that the church is shrinking in America, and gives some notable reasons, such as “Organic secularization can occur for many reasons. It happens when members of a society become better educated, more prosperous, and live safer, more secure and more peaceful lives; when societies experience increases in social isolation; when people have better healthcare; when more women hold paying jobs; when more people wait longer to get married and have kids. All of these, especially in combination, can decrease religiosity. Another major factor is the ubiquity of the internet, which provides open windows to alternative worldviews and different cultures that can corrode religious conviction — and allows budding skeptics and nascent freethinkers to find, support and encourage one another. In the United States, these factors are further compounded by strong backlashes against the religious right, the evangelical-Republican alliance, conservative religion’s anti-gay agenda and the Catholic Church’s sexual-abuse scandals.” The quote was long but I wanted you to get the context, and not put words into the professor’s mouth.
In the professor’s desire to seem tolerant, he does note that atheistic, totalitarian regimes, such as the Soviet Union who legislated anti-god and anti-religion policies, , were wrong, and do not work. He writes, “the former Soviet Union was a communist country deeply rooted in atheism and was one of the most corrupt, bloody regimes of the 20th century,’ yet he sees no connection between their worldview and the atrocities they heaped on humanity in the 20th century. No one likes to admit that their own worldview might be the problem, but we like writing op-eds and creating narratives that make other worldviews the boogeyman. No, Dr. Zuckerman poses a nicer, more tolerant narrative, except of course for the ubiquitous patronizing sentiment that when people get educated, they become nicer, more tolerant, and less religious, because we all know, only uneducated morons believe in god(s). I guess the severely educated scientists that developed the science around the negation of Africans as real people during slavery and fueled the 3rd Reich’s atrocities missed the memo? It’s easy to copy the enlightenment credo that once religion is gone and people are educated, we will live in harmony with one another, but that narrative has rung all too empty these past 300 years. As the prof reminds us, religion is waning in the west, but utopia doesn’t appear to be around the corner anytime soon.
While I believe that there is some truth to professor Zuckerman’s quote regarding the church being a horrible witness to the Jesus narrative with its marriage of conservative, evangelical politics, and its many pathetic transgressions, his narrative is based on his own research and ignores studies and information that may prove his narrative false. But that’s ok, since once the narrative is introduced, it’s truth in the minds of those that already believe it to be true. The problem Dr. Zuckerman fails to acknowledge is that when Christianity fails in these areas, it is failing their own foundational beliefs, but when Stalin murdered 20 million of his own people, it was consistent with the ‘red tooth and claw’ ethical foundation of atheism. Honest proponents of macro-evolution such as Thomas Huxley realized this conundrum when he wrote,
“The propounders of what are called the ‘ethics of evolution’, when the ‘evolution of ethics’ would usually better express the object of their speculations, adduce a number of more or less interesting facts and more or less sound arguments in favor of the origin of the moral sentiments… by a process of evolution… But as the immoral sentiments have no less been evolved, there is so far, as much natural sanction for the one as the other. The thief and the murderer follow nature just as much as the philanthropist. Cosmic evolution may teach us how the good and the evil tendencies of man may have come about; but, in itself, it is incompetent to furnish any better reason why what we call good is preferable to what we call evil than we had before” (Evolution and Ethics, 47).
The notion that once society is educated, they will cease to believe in the mythology of the existence of God, is not only nonsense, but exposes the professor’s ignorance of the role Christianity has played in the development of modern education and the scientific pursuit.
Among many non-religious scientists disagreeing with Dr. Zuckerman, decorated Physicist Paul Davies is quoted in Time Magazine as saying, “the very notion of physical law is a theological one in the first place, a fact that makes many scientists squirm. Isaac Newton first got the idea of absolute, universal, perfect, immutable laws from the Christian doctrine that God created the world and ordered it in a rational way. Christians envisage God as upholding the natural order from beyond the universe, while physicists think of their laws as inhabiting an abstract transcendent realm of perfect mathematical relationships” (Paul Davies, “Taking Science on Faith,“ New York Times, November 24th 2007). Davies Himself wrote as an agnostic in his 1984 tome God and the New Physics, but has since come to some sort of a theistic position based on his own scientific exploration.
I am not writing this to prove or disprove God, evolution or science. I am not writing this to show that my documentation is final, because it most certainly is not, but it should give articles such as this some pause. I am writing this, because a noted professor can write an op-ed piece right before the most celebrated date on the Christian calendar and get away with a shoddy narrative based on opinion rather than the facts, while ignoring any ‘facts’ that might contradict his opinion. While none of these studies are conclusive (And that would go for any studies contradicting them), they are very possible. He simply ignores the studies that ostensibly demonstrate that religious people are happier, healthier, have more successful family life, give more to charity, and commit less suicide than their non-believing counterparts. Now the irony, there may be some who are quite upset that I would create such an outrageous narrative without ‘proving’ it, but it’s those same people that have no problem with the good professor doing the same thing. And there lies the problem, Christians have to ‘prove’ themselves, while much of what goes forth as accurate narrative contradicting Christianity never has to. And no, I don’t buy the skeptics “extraordinary claims take extraordinary proof.” That’s their terms, and I would argue they would have the ‘extraordinary’ claim that abiogenesis (Life coming from non-life) happened at all, since it is in direct contradiction to biogenesis (The principle that life living matter ‘only’ arises from living matter). I have linked articles that back my claims, and I’m sure the skeptic will say they’re lame, and they probably are, but once again, they aren’t there to ‘prove’ a thesis, they are there to show the absurdity of Dr. Zuckerman’s ‘matter of fact‘ conclusions.
He also ignores scholarly, peer reviewed papers such as University of Baylor’s Robert Woodberry’s article in the American Political Science Review that connects sincere Christian missionary action to democracy, better education and health services around the world. Atheists like Matthew Parris seem to echo this sentiment, but of course, this will be written off by skeptics that note Woodberry’s obviously biased position, but what they will fail to do, is note the bias from men like Dr. Zuckerman. But again, that’s ok, since we are all aware that only religious people come with bias, while the world of atheism is an objective, non-biased pursuit.
I certainly don’t expect this would be conclusive for anyone reading this, nor should it be, but what I do know is that baseless narratives like Dr. Zuckerman poses here are not only nonsense, but they, like vehement Christian hater Voltaire, writes to Christian ministers fits well here. “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Once you can vilify a group of people as being uneducated, backwards and hateful, it is easy to then look the other way when statements that offend that community are made, which is what we see on the regular in regard to faith in Jesus. And oh yes, John Stewart’s humorous quip that, “Yes, the long war on Christianity. I pray that one day we may live in an America where Christians can worship freely! In broad daylight! Openly wearing the symbols of their religion… perhaps around their necks? And maybe — dare I dream it? — maybe one day there can be an openly Christian President. Or, perhaps, 43 of them. Consecutively” notwithstanding, it is far easier to get away publicly taking shots at Christians, like comedian Sarah Silverman’s comment that “Christians are batshit crazy” without any backlash for its offense.
And, skeptic, please, I’m not whining, so get off it! Religion and particularly Christianity in America deserve a fair amount of the criticism it receives from the culture, but false narratives are always dangerous no matter who they target. Maybe we should become people that are better than this? I believe that professor Zuckerman wrote with a gracious stroke, and was often complimentary and even credited religion for being benevolent, right before he wrongly posed the notion that governments are better at it. But this also doesn’t seem to be the case. According to the “Philanthropy Roundtable“of the $358 billion that Americans gave to charity in 2014, only 14 percent came from foundation grants, and just 5 percent from corporations. The rest—81 percent—came from individuals.” The report also said that Americans give moire to charity than anyone, and that those that are religious give much more than those reported as ‘nones.’By the way these numbers are dated and waning, because according to one report, millennials are not following their religious parents in giving, but they are leading in becoming ‘nones’ according to Dr. Zuckerman, which is apparently a good thing.
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