Michael Shermer in a recent article in Politico entitled “Religion is Disappearing: That’s Great for Politics” echoes the sentiment of Lawrence Krauss that religion is waning and could disappear sooner than we think. I covered Krauss’s similar perspectives conveyed at the recent American Humanist Association Meeting in a previous post Imagine No Religion.
“Imagine no religion. This is no figment of your imagination” – Shermer
“We are never more than one generation away from change” – Krauss
Shermer begins his article with a quick but informative review of the complete avoidance by US political figures prior to 1980 to feature their religious beliefs. This quote from Harry Truman expresses the prevailing attitude prior to the rise of the Religious Right:
“In 1945, for example, President Harry Truman wrote: “I’m not very much impressed with men who publicly parade their religious beliefs.”
Nowadays we take for granted the ridiculous over the top sucking up to religion of the Republicans, especially the current spate of presidential primary wannabes as “normal” yet in one informative paragraph, Shermer provides a history lesson that American politics traditionally contained nothing like the dreadful toadying to Xiansanity (TM) we endure daily. In the rest of the article he points out how that may be coming to an end, citing the recent PEW survey demonstrating the rapid rise of non-religiousness, especially among the young.
I have been pushing this same perspective for a year or so here at Dispatches from the New Enlightenment and it is rather gratifying to see a prominent skeptic echoing the same historical view I’ve promoted:
“Indeed, pulling back for a big history perspective, the shedding of religious dogmas and the demolishing of ecclesiastical authoritarianism has been underway ever since the Enlightenment, and in my new book The Moral Arc I claim that this may well be the most important thing that has ever happened to our civilization.”
I’ve only read some excerpts thus far but hope to plow thru Shermer’s tome on our progress in the secular realm since the Enlightenment and Reformation set the West on a course away from religion.
Shermer ends his Politico piece on a positive note. Do give it a read:
“Herein lies the most profound meaning of this seismic shift in the tectonic plates of religious belief. We’ve seen militant Islamism and what happens when people take their faith seriously and refuse to accept the hard-won secular values of the West. As Islamic State forces destroy the remnants of thousands of years of civilization in the name of its religion it is time we renounce faith altogether as a reliable method of determining reality and morality. It’s time we stop electing politicians who put their religion before the Constitution or insist that they will pray before making political decisions (like going to war), and instead rely on the best tools ever devised for advancing humanity out of the trees and to the stars—reason and science.”
“Reason and science”, you bet! And with a bucket of tolerance thrown in.
Reason and empirical investigation which questions everything and verifies its findings. To me that is what is killing religion. The purpose of education is to correct incorrect information and dispel false beliefs about the world and especially those about our fellow man too many of which have created the vast majority of the misery in our world.
Lawrence Krauss expressed it this way in his American Humanist speech:
“The most important goal in educating our children should be to encourage them to question absolutely everything. To not be satisfied with unsubstantiated claims…”
and a bit later….
“So the purpose of education is not to destroy religious belief, but surely…its purpose is to encourage doubt.”
This might be one rare time I’d slightly disagree with my hero, Krauss (only Hitch previously got that moniker, and Lenny Bruce and Frank Zappa, so Krauss is in good company).
I do think one of education’s purposes is to destroy religious belief, it is not merely a side effect of promoting doubt. Religious claims are based on faith, and faith is belief without evidence, the exact opposite of reason and science. Religions by design are repositories of old ideas, given credence by deriving from a “revealed” scripture or from some “authorities” rehash of that scripture and nothing else. Education as Krauss said questions everything, and as Shermer describes reason and science destroy religion. It is an inevitable consequence of education, indeed its purpose to dispel wrong information and bad ideas. It is not merely a side effect. And its working.
Information Kills Religion.
Education is the Key.
end religion now.