Jan 5, 2009

An Atheist Challenge to Theists

Long ago, Dionysius of Halicarnassus said “history is philosophy teaching by examples.” So what are some important lessons for us to learn?

In the 21st century we can look back on man’s history and how he thought and lived; how he has used his mind and to what ends. We can study the history of man’s mind to find out what ways of thinking and what systems of ideas cause what kinds of effects for man’s life on this earth.

Historically, we can identify essential societal and political essentials for man’s flourishing, like individual political freedom, material and economic prosperity, growing scientific and general knowledge, peace, freedom, and progress. They are necessarily good for man. Can they be caused by any type of mentality with any type of world-view? - and not just some of those components, but all? For human life to be at its best those are its requirements.

Religion has had more than enough time and chances to prove how wonderful and good it claims itself to be for our lives. It has, instead, time and again proved how false and destructive it is - and we, today, have not learned that.

How come all the countless predominantly religious societies, cultures, civilizations lack individual political freedom, material and economic prosperity, growing scientific and general knowledge, peace, freedom, and progress? Predominantly religious civilizations are characterized by backwardness, poverty, ignorance, superstition, collectivism, dictatorship, war - the exact opposite of what the nature of man’s life on earth requires; or, exactly what destroys man's life. Religion is competent at perpetuating - for millennia - those destroyers of man’s life.

If theists have been, for millennia and the world over, living according to what God wants them to do and be, why were all their civilizations disasters unsuitable to man's existence?

The major historical periods that have brought those necessary essentials for man’s life and progress held in common one common characteristic: they were based on independent, reality-oriented, rational minds. These historical periods were of classical Greece, the Renaissance, and the Enlightenment. Each period was brief in the overall course of history, lasting a few centuries at most, and yet these brief time frames brought about rapid growth in knowledge of the world and of man himself. Indeed, the concept "progress" as we understand it did not even exist until the height of the 18th century Enlightenment. Before then under all the centuries of rule by Christianity there was no way for man to form the concept of "progress."

Sudden, dramatic leaps forward in knowledge, of opening new areas of knowledge, and of making progress by applying that knowledge are the historical exception to man’s stagnating under religion (and its usual corollaries: tribalism or collectivism). To the extent he frees himself from religion and thinks for himself, these exceptional periods show how much potential man has.

Theists have a vision of their religious utopia on earth that, at least, does not much tolerate ideas and ways of infidels, secularists, and atheists to have any influence. Yet, with so much history behind us, based on what historical examples do theists think they can have their religious utopia on earth and simultaneously have the necessary essentials of a proper human civilization: individual political freedom, material and economic prosperity, growing scientific and general knowledge, peace, freedom, progress? Where and when has faith, theocracy, dogma, created a society that was not a disaster, but a wonderful place for humans to live in, a religious paradise?

Show us.

I say you cannot because the religious mentality and philosophy are destructive because they are contrary to what man’s life on earth requires. (Disaster likewise results even when your religious ideas are secularized as 20th century socialism and communism demonstrated. For elaboration see this post.) Historical examples are settled and done, detached from current controversies so I challenge theists to answer these questions:

1.When has religion proved science to be wrong?

2.When has science’s conformity to religious dogmas regarding nature and man caused science to be fruitful and forward-moving?

3.When has faith caused a growing body of knowledge?

4.When has a country’s consistent and total adherence to and enforcement of religious dogma caused peace domestically? Internationally?

5.When has obedience to religious commands, rules, and practices caused material and economic prosperity?

6.When has a totally religious society been moral?

7.When has theocracy been compatible with liberty?

8.When have - assuming they could be answered positively - nos.1-7 existed together at one time in one society/country/civilization?

If theism is true then the proof must be in its results - likewise if it is false. Considering theism’s millennia-long domination of societies and civilizations, assessing it for its truth or falsity is sensible because so much - indeed, everything - is at stake. If theism can make for a proper and successful life on earth for man, then so be it. Then theist arguments have at least that much merit and are to be seriously considered.

This atheist thinks it is time for theists to prove - a reasonable, minimal expectation in the 21st century - that their vision of a society dominated by God and religion is an objectively good option for us. If not, then it is time for them to quietly go away once and for all, letting the rest of us pursue learning how to make the best of living on earth and achieving it.

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