We know that no matter what facts and evidence that science provides regarding the world we live in and despite the complete lack of evidence backing beliefs of faith that many people will still choose to adopt various religious beliefs. It is not anyone’s place to tell them they can’t, just as it is no one’s place to tell a person they can’t believe in science.
There is a current cultural rift between matters of science and matters of faith. Since matters of faith, by definition, are not based on factual evidence, they must be considered personal beliefs rather than be considered as a basis for any policy or legislation. Nor should teachings of faith be presented as a basis for educational material, save for the study of religion itself.
Here’s a compromise: religious people may teach their children whatever they like at home and in churches. They may share their religious beliefs freely and adopt whatever religion they like. However, they will not seek to impose these beliefs in public education, in law, or in politics. The secular and scientific community will not seek to impose its beliefs on people in their homes or churches without their consent.
Since there are so many different belief systems out there, and since we have a freedom of religion which allows people to believe in ANY religion, it would be unconscionable to take the teachings of any one religion and base laws, policy or educational material upon the teachings of that religion. We must base, at the very least, our education upon evidence and fact.
Scientific protocol exists for a very good reason: when we can verify something and prove it to be factually evident, then we have a very good reason to believe in it. There is evidence to support it. Even if we do not know every detail and mechanism, we should at the very least have evidence of what we accept as social common knowledge and education. We teach gravity because it’s always there. It always works. There is no faith involved in believing in gravity. If you drop a rock, it will fall every time, no matter what. We don’t know the exact mechanism of how or why this happens, yet we know for an indisputable, self-evident fact that it does happen each and every time, without exception.
Contrast this with a belief that god will send you hell for not believing certain things. First, we have zero evidence for the existence of god or hell. We have only speculation, no fact. There is nothing verifiable and repeatable to serve as evidence of even the mere existence of either god or hell. All we have is a book that anyone could have written. There is nothing solid and factual to base this belief upon.
Why would any rational society choose to teach all its children something as fact which has zero evidence? It is flatly unconscionable to do so. If we teach every child about god and hell in school, then we may as well teach about the existence of unicorns and flying spaghetti monsters. They all have the exact same amount of facts to back them up: none.
A church is a place of worship, not education. It is only reasonable and rational and sane to teach children facts based on evidence as their main education. Taking science out of context and teaching unverifiable speculation in place of it is, at best, irresponsible, and at worst, dangerous; perhaps even lethal in effect.
When people living in an AIDS epidemic are taught not to use condoms based on religious misgivings without any factual merit, it ends up killing many people. When people are taught about responsibility and how condoms have a factual and observable and provable impact on reducing the spread of HIV, we save many lives. In such a situation, religion becomes murder, and science the savior.
How can one claim to be doing good by putting so many people in danger in that way? How can one claim any moral ground whatsoever? One wonders if someone willing to have such disregard for life might seek to endanger all of humanity, because then if everyone is dead, how can they “sin”? The implication of what people are capable of when they are convinced that god is on their side is truly frightening.
Some may argue that people that extreme are not in the majority. To them I say that it doesn’t take a majority to endanger many people. Remember Jim Jones? Remember Hitler? Remember Osama? Remember the Inquisition? Remember Heaven’s Gate? There are countless times in history where the few have endangered the many on every kind of scale. Whether it’s a handful of people being convinced to drink poison or suffocate themselves, or thousands of soldiers convinced to massacre millions, it only takes one charismatic person to sway many people to commit unthinkable atrocities based on beliefs totally without factual basis. Whether they are religious in nature or not, they are still dogmatic, which is what is at the core of the major religions.
Yet, we can’t very well ban or stop religion. That has never worked, nor is it truly even right to do so. All we are left with is to have the religious portion of society and the secular portion come to an agreement where we agree to disagree about certain things and find an agreement that allows the religious and the secular to coexist.
If religion stays out of schools, courtrooms, politics and law, then secular beliefs will stay out of churches and outside the integrity of one’s own home. No one has the right to impose their beliefs on another. However, we must have some form of education, a basis for law, and a basis for policy. All we have to fall back on which can serve as a common denominator is that which is backed by evidence. The religious can still teach their children whatever they like at home and at church, but at school they will learn the facts as humanity has been able to determine them thus far. After all, if those who believe in religions have absolute certainty that they are right, how are they endangered by learning what scientists have been able to discover? Especially since science has no dogma and excludes no one. There are no messages of hate, morality, or ideology in science. Science relies on evidence alone.
© 2015 William Suphan
- A Common Morality
- Ascending To Atheism