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Religion is not the disease - lack of education is - Comments

Bobwundaye's Avatar Comment 1 by Bobwundaye

Well written and argued. I would agree with you on this.

Of course, be prepared for a couple of people who will call poor education a result of a conspiracy by the religious to keep people uninformed.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 15:59:16 UTC | #933906

Tyrosine's Avatar Comment 2 by Tyrosine

Lack of education is always an issue. For some people, education is all that is required because they don't have any alternative explanations for the Universe. But, there are an awful lot of otherwise perfectly rational and well-educated people who still believe in a god. That's because of faith. Faith is the problem. People with faith don't care about what your facts say, because it's all a test put before them by their god. No amount of education can really change that once they've sufficiently convinced themselves that their god exists. It's then up to them to have some earth-shattering atheistic epiphany to convince them otherwise.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 16:14:20 UTC | #933910

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 3 by Schrodinger's Cat

I think one really has to distinguish and seperate two entirely different things here. Certainly a lot of people believe things for no good reason other than that they are uneducated. But that's a totally different thing altogether to arguing that being uneducated is a requirement of such belief. A lot of stupid people believe in god......but that does not automatically mean that a belief in god is itself something stupid.

I disagree that 'faith' necessarily has anything to do with it. Most smart people know that 'faith' is just another term for 'blind belief'. So much of the argument between religious and non-religious exists on a really quite simplistic level.....and personally I love to go into the full depths of the whole thing to the level that great thinkers and writers such as Dostoevsky, Camus, and others have done.

Dostoevsky, in particular, makes the point that whilst belief in an all loving, all powerful, benevolent god does not make a great deal of sense.......there does still remain a 'human condition' that defies a simple materialistic explanation. Or at the very least.....the human mind likes to see things that way, and it certainly is not all down to stupidity.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 16:42:05 UTC | #933921

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 4 by Peter Grant

The first time I encountered an atheist, the term and a person, he laughed at me. That encounter motivated me to educate myself. I read philosophy after that and much more science. Gaining access to the internet helped a lot as well. Eventually I was able to shrug off my delusions, but only after receiving that initial shock of being ridiculed. Growing up, I read and understood Hawking without managing to realise that theism was bunk. Sad, but true.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 17:28:12 UTC | #933931

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 5 by rrh1306

I don't mean to sound flippant but what kind of condition would you expect a human to have in a materialistic universe? What is the mysterious emotion? Love, fellowship, admiration of beauty?

Comment 3 by Schrodinger's Cat :

Dostoevsky, in particular, makes the point that whilst belief in an all loving, all powerful, benevolent god does not make a great deal of sense.......there does still remain a 'human condition' that defies a simple materialistic explanation. Or at the very least.....the human mind likes to see things that way, and it certainly is not all down to stupidity.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 17:30:42 UTC | #933932

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 6 by Red Dog

Comment 5 by rrh1306 :

I don't mean to sound flippant but what kind of condition would you expect a human to have in a materialistic universe? What is the mysterious emotion? Love, fellowship, admiration of beauty?

So you are saying that atheists/materialists can't believe in emotions such as love? I think that's only true if you define materialism in a very narrow way. If by materialism you mean that the ultimate stuff of the universe are material things (particles, sub-atomic particles, etc) then I'm a materialist. If you mean that the only things worthy of study are material then I'm not a materialist and in fact I would argue that very few scientists these days are.

I was having an argument with someone on another thread who thought that sociology (and I imagine he would say most of the "soft" sciences) weren't legitimate areas for scientific exploration. His view of materialism makes your question relevant but I think his view is very narrow.

I don't know much about sociology but take human language. The extreme materialistic view advocated by people like B.F. Skinner said that trying to study language in the abstract wasn't scientific. According to Skinner the only thing we can study are things such as human behavior so language has to be viewed as a sophisticated form of behavior. Chomsky showed quite convincingly why this point of view does not work.

As a computer scientist interested in software almost none of the stuff that I work with is "material". My domain consists of things such as software components, system architectures, processes, rules, etc. Now of course when these things get implemented they ultimately turn into ones and zeros (switches set to on or off) on computer chips. But to try and have a coherent theory of software that was defined purely in terms of the physical ones and zeroes would be impossible.

Also, on a personal level I've been an atheist most of my life. That has never interfered with my falling in love, appreciating nature, beautiful music, beautiful women, etc.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 17:55:53 UTC | #933938

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 7 by rrh1306

No. I guess I didn't make my self clear enough. Sorry. I was responding to Schrodinger's Cat's assertion that there "remains a 'human condition' that defies a simple materialistic explanation." I wanted to know why he thought that and if the human condition does indeed need something extra( I'd say supernatural but I know he hates that word) for it to exist can he tell me how humans would be different without the existence of this extra thing.

Comment 6 by Red Dog :

Comment 5 by rrh1306 :

I don't mean to sound flippant but what kind of condition would you expect a human to have in a materialistic universe? What is the mysterious emotion? Love, fellowship, admiration of beauty?

So you are saying that atheists/materialists can't believe in emotions such as love?

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 18:27:30 UTC | #933950

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 8 by rrh1306

Red Dog comment 6

"So you are saying that atheists/materialists can't believe in emotions such as love?"

If I had been saying that your comment would have been a fine refutation of that idea.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 18:46:10 UTC | #933960

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 9 by Neodarwinian

No dichotomy there, but which way is the direction of fit. Religion leading to a lack of education, or lack of education leading to religion?

" Dawkins makes it clear in his readings, especially in The Greatest Show on Earth, that the only people who deny evolution and other scientific principles are those who have no educated understanding of such matters "

I don't think so. Kenneth Miller tells us that it is not always the evidence that sways people, but the ideology that blinds them and some are willfully ignorant. This piece of evidence or that piece of evidence added to the persuasion does not move all to acceptance. Some could not be blasted out of their religious position with dynamite yet they understand evolutionary theory very well.

( and Kenneth Miller provides an example of a person holding on to delusion in the face of massive education )

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 19:00:50 UTC | #933966

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 10 by Peter Grant

Comment 3 by Schrodinger's Cat :

there does still remain a 'human condition' that defies a simple materialistic explanation.

This may be true, but all attempts at "explanation" in non-materialist terms have been useless so far. If there is an explanation, the scientific method is still our best chance of finding it.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 19:02:02 UTC | #933967

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 11 by Ignorant Amos

Compartmentalisation plays a massive part in the debate on the intelligence of the believer. Some highly intelligent people who hold some very wayward ideas about the world and the religious beliefs they hold.

Why are so many seemingly intelligent, rational people caught in the grip of the irrational beliefs of religion? Law, engineering, chemistry, mathematics... fields that require a great deal of thinking, seem to be no guarantee of rational thinking.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 19:06:03 UTC | #933969

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 12 by rrh1306

MATTMC86

I agree with you that better science education would help a lot. I'm not sure if your American or not but here in the U.S. there's no real national science curriculum that teachers are required to follow. And unfortunately a great number of people here feel that it's either impolite or tyrannical to force teachers to teach science that contradicts their preconceived religious notions about the world.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 19:08:24 UTC | #933970

Ignorant Amos's Avatar Comment 13 by Ignorant Amos

Comment 1 by Spiritual Atheist

Well written and argued. I would agree with you on this.

Of course, be prepared for a couple of people who will call poor education a result of a conspiracy by the religious to keep people uninformed.

And you get ready with your scythe.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 19:15:49 UTC | #933971

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 14 by Alan4discussion

Comment 6 by Red Dog

As a computer scientist interested in software almost none of the stuff that I work with is "material". My domain consists of things such as software components, system architectures, processes, rules, etc. Now of course when these things get implemented they ultimately turn into ones and zeros (switches set to on or off) on computer chips. But to try and have a coherent theory of software that was defined purely in terms of the physical ones and zeroes would be impossible.

It would be arguable that without the hardware and material electrons in the circuits, your software would not exist. Complexity would probably make verbal or mathematical definitions difficult.

A lot of arguments about emotions and spiritual feelings, also fail to look at the biochemistry and neural circuits.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 19:32:58 UTC | #933974

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 15 by Alan4discussion

Comment 1 by Spiritual Atheist

Of course, be prepared for a couple of people who will call poor education a result of a conspiracy by the religious to keep people uninformed.

Who would have thought it! YEC parents and teachers wouldn't conspire to deprive children of an educated understanding of astronomy, geology and biology! ....... Would they???

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 19:37:36 UTC | #933975

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 16 by VrijVlinder

It is not about the education but what people get out of it. The comprehension of what they are being taught or told.

I know very well educated people who speak several languages and have certainly studied science but do not have a scientific mind because It is clouded with blind faith. This is how religion keeps people from informing themselves.

By making religion and gods more important than life itself, science education and understanding of science is secondary.

They just don't really care to believe or learn anything else. The belief that god is everything and everything else is nothing, that person relieves themselves from the need for further education. Even fear looking at any other possibilities to avoid confusion.

The crutch is preferable to people,instead of learning the truth. It is a coping mechanism not easily shed even by those who call themselves atheist.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 19:53:18 UTC | #933980

The Jersey Devil's Avatar Comment 17 by The Jersey Devil

Comment 4 Peter Grant

Growing up, I read and understood Hawking without managing to realise that theism was bunk. Sad, but true.

Don't feel bad, reading up on physics didn't help me either. Biology/evolution did. And advanced baseball statistics, of all things.

Anyway...

When I was a theist, the problem I had was I always started with the premise that god existed. From there my logic was fine and I was able to reconcile to certain 'spiritual' practices. When the real world offered some bit of evidence that challenged my worldview I would tweek the logic or look for alternate explanations.

It really never occured to me to question the original premise.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 19:53:21 UTC | #933981

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 18 by Red Dog

Comment 7 by rrh1306 :

No. I guess I didn't make my self clear enough. Sorry. I was responding to Schrodinger's Cat's assertion that there "remains a 'human condition' that defies a simple materialistic explanation." I wanted to know why he thought that and if the human condition does indeed need something extra( I'd say supernatural but I know he hates that word) for it to exist can he tell me how humans would be different without the existence of this extra thing.

My mistake, I should have looked at the whole context of your comment.

But I should be clear nothing that I'm talking about is what I would call supernatural. What I'm arguing against is an overly simplistic view of materialism that prohibits considering things like emotions, ideas, process, etc. as things worthy of study in and of themselves. If that is what you means as well then we agree. However, I would never call any of that supernatural. I'm not claiming for example that the study of emotions is immune from the scientific method.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 20:14:28 UTC | #933985

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 19 by Alan4discussion

Comment 16 by VrijVlinder

The crutch is preferable to people,instead of learning the truth. It is a coping mechanism not easily shed even by those who call themselves atheist.

Which leads to the other blind-spot in theist thought patterns.

"Atheists must be denying god and have no morals, feelings, or artistic appreciation, etc. because my philosophy is supported by god!"

"If they have no god (crutch) they must fall over! - It stands to 'reason' !"

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 20:20:55 UTC | #933987

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 20 by xmaseveeve

Comment 1, Spiritual atheist,

Of course, be prepared for a couple of people who will call poor education a result of a conspiracy by the religious to keep people uninformed.

Got it in one!

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 20:22:49 UTC | #933989

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 21 by Peter Grant

Comment 17 by The Jersey Devil

Don't feel bad, reading up on physics didn't help me either. Biology/evolution did. And advanced baseball statistics, of all things.

Yeah, that might have helped. I thought I understood evolution until I read Dawkins. I had trusted the science, but it was only after reading The Selfish Gene that I realised my original "understanding" was naive and group-selectionist

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 20:32:14 UTC | #933992

rrh1306's Avatar Comment 22 by rrh1306

We agree. I think emotions and feelings are products of the brain and I don't need anything else to exist to validate them as beautiful and worthwhile.

Comment 18 by Red Dog :

Comment 7 by rrh1306 :

But I should be clear nothing that I'm talking about is what I would call supernatural. What I'm arguing against is an overly simplistic view of materialism that prohibits considering things like emotions, ideas, process, etc. as things worthy of study in and of themselves. If that is what you means as well then we agree.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 21:07:02 UTC | #933998

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 23 by irate_atheist

"Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones." - Bertrand Russell

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 21:31:02 UTC | #934002

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 24 by Red Dog

Comment 14 by Alan4discussion :

Comment 6 by Red Dog

As a computer scientist interested in software almost none of the stuff that I work with is "material". My domain consists of things such as software components, system architectures, processes, rules, etc. Now of course when these things get implemented they ultimately turn into ones and zeros (switches set to on or off) on computer chips. But to try and have a coherent theory of software that was defined purely in terms of the physical ones and zeroes would be impossible.

It would be arguable that without the hardware and material electrons in the circuits, your software would not exist. Complexity would probably make verbal or mathematical definitions difficult.

In some cases that might be true but in others, and in fact the majority I think its just the opposite. Look at any modern programming language such as Java. You do things like declare objects (methods, properties) and then you set the value of an object's properties. If at some point an object has a value different than what you expected you debug the program. The last thing you would want to do is to actually look at the individual bits set in the machine. Instead you use other programs (debuggers) that help you trace the execution of your program at the conceptual (Objects, methods, properties) level not at the machine level.

In fact with a language like Java that has a Virtual Machine it might be next to impossible to determine how the specific bit settings on the chips correlate to what you expect your program to do. You are working at a level of abstraction away from the actual physical implementation and you almost never get down to looking at that actual materialistic level of the bits on the chips.

A lot of arguments about emotions and spiritual feelings, also fail to look at the biochemistry and neural circuits.

True. My point was that trying to restrict research to ONLY the biochemistry (at least at this point in our understanding) is doomed to be incomplete and lead to dead ends such as Skinner's failed approach to natural language.

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 21:48:31 UTC | #934006

xmaseveeve's Avatar Comment 25 by xmaseveeve

The OP,

in the United States, I feel it would be sped up exponentially if our nation cared about education. In areas all over the world this is evident, as the higher amount of people who accept the fact of evolution, the lower the rate of religiosity.

Which is precisely why they are terrified of evolution being taught ('unchallenged') in science classes.

Why would religion be the result and not the cause?

It's both. Religion interferes with education and stunts growth, intellectual and emotional. The churches don't care about that, because they can usher them towards Christian (or Muslim or Jewish) colleges and universities, in a type of spreading intellectual apartheid.

Comment 3, Tyro,

Faith is the problem. People with faith don't care about what your facts say, because it's all a test put before them by their god. No amount of education can really change that once they've sufficiently convinced themselves that their god exists.

Yes. I wish there could be an age of consent for religion. Obviously, that's never gonna happen, so we must protect children's right to education in schools.

Matt, The OP,

You raise an important issue. It's easy to argue with an educated believer, but when an atheist speaks to an uneducated believer, it's hard to tell the person he or she is not educated. We don't really have a choice, but we have to avoid 'talking down'. Richard Dawkins is often hated as a privileged intellectual, an authority figure to be resisted. It's all a question of playing it by ear.

The less intelligent the person is, the angrier they tend to become when someone questions their religion. I agree that we must keep our heads, and remember that anger is all they have, because religious teachers have ensured that their religion is all they have. We can make a point of saying (fingers crossed, if necessary!) 'You're obviously an intelligent person', and then explain that lack of education does not mean stupid. We must have empathy.

Of course, the more intelligent they are, the more capable of producing arguments for their daft beliefs, arguments which most atheists have heard before, many times. It becomes open season. The only difference between the intelligent-uneducated and the intelligent-educated is that the latter have heard most of our arguments before, as well. It's very frustrating, but I agree with you that we must, as a default position, be nice, and show them the goodwill they should be showing us.

Above all, remember that we need only light a candle. They may remember one thing that we said, go home, and google it. They will seldom admit you are right, at the time, but if you make an impression, they will think about it later. Good luck in keeping to your resolution!

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 21:52:26 UTC | #934008

Red Dog's Avatar Comment 26 by Red Dog

Comment 22 by rrh1306 :

We agree. I think emotions and feelings are products of the brain and I don't need anything else to exist to validate them as beautiful and worthwhile.

Thanks. I was starting to wonder if I could ever agree with anyone on this site about anything. Nice to see it can happen : )

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 21:53:26 UTC | #934009

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 27 by QuestioningKat

Lack of education is only part of it. Certain religions fully embrace evolution and have explanations about spirituality that is completely different than the "naive Fundamentalist." I have known people with doctorate degrees that believe in some crazy stuff. I also have known people with doctorates that believe in some fairly liberal, "sensible" religious views. It all depends what you are educated in.

I think community and family dynamics keep people locked into their views. Many people suffer and die half lives denying their own sexuality. Why? To not disappoint the ones they love...in fear of losing their relationship...being battered down by hateful comments said by those they love...questioning their sense of self-worth because loved ones/society view them disrespectfully... Now look at religion. Why do people stay with their views? To not disappoint the ones they love...in fear of losing their relationship...being battered down by hateful comments said about atheists by those they love...questioning their sense of self-worth because loved ones/society view them disrespectfully. (and for those of you wondering about the last line, listen to the podcast Living after Faith to hear how someone can feel self-hatred for losing their religion.)

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 01:43:28 UTC | #934050

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 28 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 5 by rrh1306

I don't mean to sound flippant but what kind of condition would you expect a human to have in a materialistic universe? What is the mysterious emotion? Love, fellowship, admiration of beauty?

What is a 'materialistic universe' ? Why add the word 'materialistic' to universe when by definition there's no such thing as a non-material universe ?

I think that taking physical reductionist thinking too far is one of the biggest faults of modern day science. I'm glad that a small but growing number of scientists are grasping that the substance of the universe is not just little bits that one can simply say 'everything is made of this.....that's all folks', but is actually information...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfQ2r0zvyoA.

A fascinating interview with Physicist Vlatko Vedral. The change of emphasis to information, rather than simply inert particles, does not alter a single law of physics......but in my view fundamentally alters the level-dependency that reductionism works off. If there is only information...then what exists is more like an entangled web than a level dependent pyramidal structure. And that is philosophically very different.

This raises quite a divisive issue within scientific education. Of course people should be taught the scientific method and the basics of science. But there is also a deeper issue.....it seems to me also often fought out on this forum...of just what 'interpretation', for want of a better word, one should place on the science. Or to put it a little better, what philosophical attitude should people have towards the world as a result of knowing all that science.

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 02:16:55 UTC | #934055

Logically Assert's Avatar Comment 29 by Logically Assert

I'm sitting at a coffee shop, having just endured one hour of two women talk about god and Jesus at the table next to me. One apparently a lawyer, the other a teacher. I was struck by the sheer personal experience with their god - a personal god that responds to their needs and prayers. Such people are not for turning. Education is no doubt needed, but it will not counter one that will still say "god speaks to me". Religion is a psychological phenomena that cannot be defeated with logic and reason, for the belief in a religion is by its very nature an irrational process that defies the natural world. I am routinely frustrated at the sheer absurdity of my family and friends following a religious belief, and I see no advancement of reason and logic.

Richard, I watched Q and A on Monday, and it prompted me to join this site. I was frustrated to the point of throwing things at the television when Cardinal Pell spoke. I have one criticism to make, although this would be beyond your control mostly. Any such "debates" normally will throw up a Christian opponent. What of the Muslim, Jewish religious figures? I think we tread too lightly around these religious people - they need to be treated in the same manner as Christian leaders.

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 02:45:27 UTC | #934058

Steven Mading's Avatar Comment 30 by Steven Mading

Comment 1 by Spiritual Atheist :

Well written and argued. I would agree with you on this.

Of course, be prepared for a couple of people who will call poor education a result of a conspiracy by the religious to keep people uninformed.

The sorts of aspects of poor education that are being talked about here that are relevant to this topic are deliberate attempts to keep people uninformed. But there is a gigantic difference between being educated and being correct. If an entire educational system does not treat bunk like bunk when it's religious bunk, then being educated is NOT the same thing as being correct. Many highly religious people are quite educated and yet still spew the same bullshit arguments that have been thoroughly debunked for centuries. This is because they were educated BY OTHER religious people who had no incentive to be honest about the past debunking of these arguments.

Being educated simply means you had a lot of school and were good at absorbing what you were told. Period. That's all it means. It does NOT mean that the facts you absorbed were true facts.

Education alone does not fix the problem. The education has to be in line with the facts to fix the problem. Not all education is. For some degree programs, being a bullshit-spewing post-modernist talker will get you farther than being an empiricist.

Now, education IN SCIENCE would certainly help, but the scientific method is completely incompatible with faith and the only reason there have been religious scientists is because one of the human animal's faults is that it is depressingly likely to engage in cognitive dissonance. This is what allows humans to hold incompatible views at the same time, such as the view that only through strict empiricism can you reliably learn about reality (which is the cornerstone of scientific method) versus the view that you can learn about it through faith (the religious method).

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 06:30:06 UTC | #934077