Newsweek explores recent books denying existence of God.

September 3, 2006 | By | 9 Replies More

It’s in the September 11, 2006 issue of Newsweek.   The article explores the issues presented by the following three books:

  • The End of Faith, by Sam Harris
  • Breaking the Spell, by Daniel Dennett and
  • The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins.

It is a good sign that Newsweek is acknowledging some of the basic points raised by these books.  For example, Newsweek has this to say about the position of Harris on skepicism:

“Tell a devout Christian … that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible,” Harris writes, “and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and he seems to require no evidence whatsoever.”

The Newsweek article presents the view of Dawkins regarding the basis for morality, as presented by many Christians:

“If there is no God, why be good?” he asks rhetorically, and responds: “Do you really mean the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward? That’s not morality, that’s just sucking up.”

Harris sharply questions the moral “lessons” of the Bible: 

As for the Bible, Harris, like the fundamentalists, prefers a literal reading. He quotes at length the passages in the Old and New Testaments dealing with how to treat slaves. Why, he asks, would anyone take moral instruction from a book that calls for stoning your children to death for disrespect, or for heresy, or for violating the Sabbath?

I was relieved to see that Newsweek did not yield to the temptation to paint non-believer scientists are philosophers as people devoid of wonder or empathy: 

On the science Web site Edge.org, the astronomer Carolyn Porco offers the subversive suggestion that science itself should attempt to supplant God in Western culture, by providing the benefits and comforts people find in religion: community, ceremony and a sense of awe. “Imagine congregations raising their voices in tribute to gravity, the force that binds us all to the Earth, and the Earth to the Sun, and the Sun to the Milky Way,” she writes.

It is way past time to start this frank discussion of these important points in the mainstream media.  Let’s hope that this Newsweek article is just the beginning.

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Category: American Culture, Evolution, Meaning of Life, Media, Religion, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Skblllzzzz says:

    >> ….science itself should attempt to supplant God in Western culture….

    The problem will probably be that Science does not supply a world view completely devoid of change, which is what so many religious people are craving.

    I think any attempt to substitute God with Science will utterly fail.

  2. Erika Price says:

    You can't "replace" God with Science flat out, because those two things require such fundamentally different modes of thought. A person has to willingly abandon the certainty and the stability of God and religion, has to acknowledge that they don't know everything, and don't have they keys to immortality and perfect happiness, and face the terrifyingly uncertain, imperfect, finite real world.

    I suppose that accounts in part for why a religious person fights kicking and screaming on the way to becoming more of a freethinker. It does seem scary, to venture from knowing the way the world works and how to behave, and then suddenly having to think. Fortunately, these books call for just that.

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    To understand the "conflict" between science and religion, it's helpful to recognize that the "conflict" always seems to come from religious believers; i.e., people who have painted themselves into a theological corner with their religious dogma and therefore see science as a threat to their beliefs (if they are parishioners) or their authority (if they are clergy). It's unfortunate, because science will inevitably continue to hack away at what is unknown, so to the extent that believers claim sovereignty over that realm, they face a future of conflict and frustration. A far smarter approach would be to claim sovereignty over what is *unknowable,* and thus insulate religion from the constant march of science. The unknowable would include issues such as *why* the Universe was created (rather than the mechanics of how) and what happens to human consciousness after we die. Conflict seems to arise in areas where Believers over-reached, yet were unopposed for thousands of years and, thus, were free to convince themselves that their beliefs were unassailable. They are gradually realizing this mistake, but, like many people (e.g., Bush), they prefer to cling to their mistaken beliefs rather than to admit erring. The world's religions will eventually come around to accept science, of course, barring a global Cultural Revolution, but it will undoubtedly take a long time.

  4. Jason Rayl says:

    Conflict arises in areas of disaster, wherein the scientist is interested in finding cause and effect that can be useful in dealing with the disaster in question, while the religious–not all, but the folks we keep talking about–immediately assign moral blame as the "reason" it happened, i.e. America's tolerance of homosexuality as the "reason" god permitted 9/11 to happen, or the decadence of the country in general for why Katrina destroyed New Orleans. They turn such things into social referenda, and the rest of us first have to debunk their crap before they can be made to understand their responsibilities as citizens in dealing with the real causes.

    Look at the inimical effects of such "moral" suasion in delaying, hampering, and ultimately sabotaging early efforts in dealing with AIDS–it was a religio-moral outlook that fed into the policy decisions of the Reagan Administration that did as much harm as the disease itself. This is where the conflict is fought in the trenches of human interaction. When one side says a solution to a problem is better prophylaxis and the other says the solution is to go to church, there's a big problem.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Hey, I've been wanting to find some new books to read, so thanks!

  6. Hani says:

    I cannot understand that British historian and Holocaust denier David Irving is sentenced 3 years in prison and someone who denies the existence of GOD is free to go under his sky?!!

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    If I understand Hani's comment, the Church-Police might be knocking on my door any day now.

  8. grumpypilgrim says:

    Further to Hani's comment, I cannot understand why someone who denies the exisence of Zeus is not also imprisoned…or the Flying Spaghetti Monster…or the Great Spirit…or the Great Pumpkin…or Santa Claus…or the Tooth Fairy….

    If we are going to imprison people for denying the existence of one particular god, then what about imprisoning people who believe in that god but deny that Jesus is the messiah? What about those who deny the Holy Trinity, or deny that the pope is the infallible representative of Hani's god? And what about disbelievers who outwardly proclaim the existence of Hani's god, but secretly deny its existence? Are we going to employ secret police to spy on people in their homes, and urge friends and relatives to inform on each other, so we can catch violators? Exactly where do we draw the line between superstitious beliefs that are mandated by law and those that are not? More to the point: what good can possibly come from a criminal system that parallels the one employed by Stalin, Mao, the Taliban, the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusaders…?

  9. Ben says:

    God: The Failed Hypothesis

    "How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist"

    http://religion.propeller.com/story/2008/04/15/gohttp://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Godle

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