Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Illusory Optimism of Secular Humanists

To the Apologists: Have you ever had the courage to contemplate your existence without "God?" Of what are you so deathly afraid without having this construct? What would be missing?

I have and my guess is that most of the skeptics on the site have also contemplated their worlds without religion. I have concluded that a world without Gods is in all reality the same as with them. Except of course the world without would be far, far, far, more peaceful.
—Fritz, a commenter on Debunking Christianity.

As an ex-atheist I have indeed considered what life would be without God—it is one bleak existence. If there is no God then we are here by chance and will lead short lives before our existence is wiped out. The second law of thermal dynamics says that our sun and the universe will die a heat death making life impossible. This means that our lives are futile as all of our memories and work will be wiped out like they never existed. That being said, where does this rosy optimism of secular humanism come from? If it could be proved that God/gods don’t exist and that all religion is false would the world turn into a peaceful utopia as people cast off religion? I resoundingly say no because secular humanists have an unrealistically optimistic view of human nature.

The idea that most conflict is caused by religious strife is false. Most wars (if not all) are waged for control of  scarce resources (such as land, water and oil) and power. The utopian vision of secular humanists where the human race renounces religion and begins hugging one another while singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” would crack as soon there was a serious shortage of fresh water, food or oil. How long would it take for humanity to go from hugging one another to tearing each other apart over needed resources? As Richard Dawkins says, “We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.” Even if resources aren’t scarce there will always be the next Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, or Qaddafi who will use extreme violence to take or maintain power. The possibility of being a godlike dictator has always captivated mankind and there is no reason to think that will change.

If someday humanity does prove that God and religion are false does it make sense to hold onto religion as an emotional crutch? No, that would be irrational. It has been said that if we are not worried about our nonexistence before our birth then we shouldn’t be concerned with our nonexistence after our death and there is truth to that. If God and the afterlife are false then after we die our nonexistence will not matter to us because we won’t be around to fret about it. It would just mean that we know that our lives are futile and meaningless since humanity will eventually be erased from the universe. Could we live with that dour view of life? Many do. However, since God’s existence is quite likely I will keep on believing in Him with reasoned faith. My faith in God gives me hope that our lives are not completely futile and meaningless. It is a source of moral guidance and happiness.

To the secular humanists and atheists I would ask, “Since God’s existence is possible why not believe in Him?” If we all embraced the teachings of Jesus then the world would be a more peaceful place as everyone would love their neighbor as their self. If you embrace rational, progressive Christianity then you don’t have to reject science because on that view science is our window into how God works in the world. If it turns out that God, religion and the afterlife are false then believers, agnostics and atheists will ultimately end up in the same position dead and long forgotten, so would it really matter what you believed during your brief, futile life?

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