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All baseless assertion, no demonstration.
, February 25, 2010
This review is from: The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (Paperback)
In this review I am only going to deal with the main thesis of the book. I am not going to deal with all the other issues he brings up concerning the rational merit of the arguments for or against Theism.
The main thesis of the book is that ALL atheists dont really disbelieve in God predicated on lack of evidence for, stronge evidence against, or both; but that atheists dont believe in God because we are immoral and willfully deny it. He charges all atheist by default with not having intellectual integrity in regards to this issue.
I used to be a very strong Christian. I have read hundreds of books dealing with worldview issues(more books on the Christian side), and all the arguments pro and con concerning religion and Christianity. I ended up becoming an atheist about two years ago by examining the arguments the best I could. Intellectual integrity means A LOT to me, and for someone to charge all atheists and myself to necessarily not have intellectual integrity concerning this issue is offensive and just plain wrong and without foundation. The mistreatment, hate, and unwarranted prejudice of ideas that this books supports are incalcuable, and this saddens me. Why just single out atheists? Are the believers in all the other religions exempt from this charge? If his thesis includes all disbelievers in Christianity then 75% of the world would be included in this unfounded charge of immorality being the cause of disbelief in his God.
So what is the evidence for his thesis, and what is the evidence against it?
There is no more positive evidence for his thesis, then there is that disbelief in astrology, Zeus, Poseidon, Scientology, mormons magic underwear, and the millions of other Gods(and different versions of his own) is a result not of reasoned disbelief but rather is caused by immorality and willful denial of an overwhelming mountain of ironclad evidence that is close to being self-evident but is not quite so, in order to save are "free will".
He quotes certain Atheists saying they dont want "God" to exist, and for some reason he thinks that this indicates that most if not all atheist are this way. First of all, if wanting something to be so or not to be so, calls the belief or disbelief into suspicion; then all peoples religious beliefs and disbeliefs are in the same boat, because all Christians do and dont want both certain other gods as well as many versions of the Christian God to exist(such as calvins god). Secondly many atheist would prefer there to be a God, either way this does not preclude Christians or Atheists from basing their belief or disbelief in God on a reasoned consideration of the evidence.
He claims that many atheists disbelief is rooted in the absence of a Good father figure. Here he commits the fallacy of special pleading by cherry picking a group of famous atheists that apparently had no fathers or had a bad relationship with their own, and then he selects different famous theists who apparently had good fathers and good relationships with them. This does not work though, because out of the millions of atheists and christians there are many with both good and bad, absent and not absent, as well as ones with good relationships and bad ones with their father. Unless he can find samples that could represent the whole demographic of believers and unbeleivers, this is just baseless conjecture. Even if he could show this, it would still only show correlation not causation. The same goes for him and others saying they know some atheists that are "bad or immoral" therefore this indicates they all are. Every Christian knows Christians they consider immoral, does this mean this is the cause of their disbelief in the Muslim God, or that Christians tend to be more immoral then everyone else?
Atheist differ on whether there is good negative evidence against God or certain types of Gods, but all agree that there is not enough adequate positive evidence and/or reasons to justify Theism, especially full blown Christian Theism. Spiegel claims that the evidence for God is so overwhelming that someone must be deluded or immoral in order not to concede that God exists. This is odd to me, because the overwhelming majority of Christian theologians, philosophers, and everyday Christians all throughout history and presently were not and are not evidentialist(that you should proportion your beliefs in accordance with the evidence) and agree with the atheists contention, in so far that basing things off reason and evidence alone will not suffice in grounding and demonstrating Christian Theism to be the most probable over any and all alternatives. They would argue that you must leap beyond the evidence(and some would say even against evidence) and have faith. So does that mean that most Christians are immoral or willfully blind since they dont think there is ironclad evidence and or reason that could prove Christianity to be certain or even the most probable?
So what if you could show that Christians as a group were more moral then atheists? This still would not show that all atheists do not base there views on reason but instead disbelieve for non-rational or irrational reasons. Correlation does not prove causation. What if it could be shown that Catholics were more moral then Protestants, would this prove that protestants had their views because of their immorality and willfull disregard for following where the evidence leaded? Obviously not!
So what evidence is there on the moral status of both Atheist individuals and societies that are more atheistic? Here is what Luke(blogger who writes the blog common sense atheism) said about the issue of morality and secular societes.
"Christians often assert that religion is necessary to keep a society healthy, happy and moral. They say that a society without God would be immoral, loveless, and miserable. This is not just the position of Pat Robertson and Bill O'Reilly, or even just of mainstream evangelicals. It is even proclaimed by professional Christian philosophers like Keith Ward1 and John Caputo.
Until recently, this assertion could not be tested because all societies were deeply religious. Moreover, the first atheistic societies had atheism forced upon them by brutal dictators (Hoxha's Albania, Stalin's Russia, Mao's China, Pol Pot's Cambodia), and thus were hardly models of a healthy society.
Only near the dawn of the 21st century did Planet Earth see a few societies of "organic" (unforced) atheism emerge: most notably, Denmark and Sweden.2 So, now that we finally have a natural experiment on the issue, does the data confirm or deny the claim that religion is necessary to maintain a healthy, happy and moral society?
Society without God (2008) is sociologist Phil Zuckerman's analysis of the societal and moral health of these two atheistic societies.
So, what do the data show about the health, happiness and morality of these non-religious societies?
The data could hardly be clearer. Denmark and Sweden rank among the most well-developed, wealthiest, most democratic, most free, most entrepreneurial, least corrupt, least violent, most peaceful, healthiest, happiest, most egalitarian, best educated, most charitable, and most environmentally compassionate societies in the entire world.
As of the 2008 United Nations' Human Development Report, which ranks nations on a measure of "human development" (long and healthy life, education, and standard of living), Denmark is 14th and Sweden is 6th. (In contrast, the 50 least-developed nations are all highly religious.) Another "summary" measure is The Economist's Quality of Life Index, which ranks Denmark and Sweden 9th and 5th in the world.
Sweden and Denmark are ranked 17th and 18th in GDP per capita, according to the International Monetary Fund. In fact, the list of the top 20 wealthiest nations in the world is dominated by non-religious nations. Denmark and Sweden rank 3rd and 10th in financial satisfaction. Also note that among the 50 poorest countries on Earth, all are extremely religious.
According to World Audit, Denmark and Sweden are the most democractic nations on earth. The Global Democracy Ranking lists them at #1 and #3. The Economist's Democracy Index ranks them 1st and 5th.
The Heritage Foundation ranks Denmark and Sweden 6th and 11th on economic freedom. They rank 8th and 4th in freedom in decision making. Reporters Without Border ranks them 14th and 7th in press freedom, with Freedom House ranking them 3rd and 5th.
The World Economic Forum ranks nations by economic competitiveness, and nearly all the top spots are dominated by non-religious nations, including Denmark and Sweden. The same story holds for specific measures of entrepreneurship, for example Denmark and Sweden rank among the top 5 nations where it is cheapest to start a new business.
Transparency International ranks Denmark and Sweden as the 1st and 4th least corrupt nations on earth.
Denmark and Sweden both rank low in murders per capita. Both Fox & Levin (2000) and Fajnzylber et. al. (2002) found that all the nations with high homicide rates were extremely religious, and that the nations with the lowest homicide rates tended to be relatively non-religious. Good statistics on other measures like rape and violent crime are difficult to compile because nations measure crime differently, and such statistics are often more a measure of the effectiveness of a nation's justice system and a culture's willingness to report crimes than they are a measure of actual incidences of violence.
Denmark and Sweden rank 2nd and 6th on the Global Peace Index, whose top ranks are dominated by non-religious nations.
Again, according to the 2008 Human Development Report, Denmark and Sweden are ranked among the top 20 nations on life expectancy, and are ranked 3rd and 4th for the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. UNICEF's 2007 State of the World's Children report ranks Denmark, Sweden, and the similarly non-religious Netherlands as the three best countries in the world concerning "child welfare" (their safety, education, and health). In terms of physicians per 100,000 people, Denmark is 14th and Sweden is 6th.
Ruut Veenhoven, a leading researcher on world happiness, maintains the World Database of Happiness, a ranking of nations by happiness level. Denmark currently ranks 2nd (behind similarly non-religious Iceland), and Sweden ranks 8th. Another ranking has Denmark and Sweden tied for the 2nd happiest nations on earth. Only 5% of Danes and 4% of Swedes report being "not very happy" or "not at all happy." Nations with high rates of "organic" atheism do tend to have higher rates of suicide than highly religious nations, and this may be partially explained by their progressive policies about assisted suicide and a lack of religious taboos against suicide. That is, organically non-religious societies let people die how they want to die, rather than prohibiting people from taking their own life into their own hands. But the picture here is confusing. Though Denmark and Sweden do rank among the happiest nations on earth according to several studies, they also rank high in depressive episodes per capita. And yet, they rank 1st and 9th in life satisfaction!
According to the CIA World Factbook, Denmark and Sweden have the greatest income equality in the world. And once again we find that most of the most equal countries in the world are non-religious. And how about gender equality? Here, it should not surprise anyone that the list of most gender-equal nations is dominated by non-religious societies, including Denmark and Sweden, which also have the 2nd and 4th highest rates of women in positions of national political power (again, see the UN's Human Development Report).
For literacy, Denmark and Sweden are, of course, at 99%. In terms of government investment in education as a percentage of GDP, Denmark and Sweden rank 8th and 12th. In terms of adults who have finished secondary education, they rank 5th and 7th. Also note that of the 50 countries with the lowest adult literacy rates, all are extremely religious.
Denmark and Sweden rank 5th and 1st in official development assistance as a percentage of Gross National Income. Ranked by percentage of population who are members of volunteer organizations, Denmark and Sweden are 16th and 8th.
According to the Climate Change Performance Index, Sweden is 1st and Denmark is 7th in terms of doing the most to improve environmental conditions. Yale's Environmental Performance Index ranks Sweden 3rd and Denmark 26th. Ranked by spending on pollution control as a percentage of GDP, these nations rank 8th and 13th. By percentage of of companies found to be environmentally sustainable, they rank 7th and 8th. Once again, a glance at such lists reveals that the top ranks are dominated by non-religious nations.
I repeat: Denmark and Sweden rank among the most well-developed, wealthiest, most democratic, most free, most entrepreneurial, least corrupt, least violent, most peaceful, healthiest, happiest, most egalitarian, best educated, most charitable, and most environmentally compassionate societies in the entire world.
Clearly, religion is not required to sustain healthy, happy, and moral societies.
For the theist, Zuckerman's book should be an eye-opener. For the atheist, Society without God is a warehouse of ammunition (facts, statistics, and sources) against claims that religion is a necessary ingredient for healthy, happy, and moral society.
By the way, none of this is meant to suggest that atheism causes healthy societies. The correlation between atheism and societal health merely debunks Christian claims that religion is a necessary ingredient in a healthy society. If there is a causal link between the two at all, I would suspect the reverse: that happiness, success, wealth, education, and security tend to open the door for an abandonment of superstitious crutches.
1.In Defense of the Soul, pages 8-10. [']
2.Here, I'll reproduce Zuckerman's sources: Greely (2003) found that 34% of Danes and 26% of Swedes are theists. As for belief in a "personal God," Botvar ("Kristen tro I Norden" in Folkkyrkor och Religios Pluralism, 2000) found the numbers to be 20% and 18%, Bondeson (2003) measured 51% and 26%, Lambert (2003) measured 24% and 16%. According to Inglehart, similarly low figures are found for belief in life after death (30% and 33%), heaven (18% and 31%), hell (10% and 10%), sin (21% and 26%). Danes and Swedes also don't believe the Bible is the word of God (7% and 3%, according to Botvar), and they don't attend religious services (only 12% of Danes and 9% of Swedes attend chuch once a month, according to Inglehart). It should be noted that Norway is also one of the most non-religious nations on earth, and usually ranks similarly to Denmark and Sweden on measures of societal health. That Zuckerman didn't write a book about Denmark, Sweden, and Norway surprises me."
Here is a quote from Beit-Hallahmi in the book "The cambridge companion to atheism" summarizing research and statistics concerning atheists.
" We can say that atheists show themselves to be less athoritarian and suggestible, less dogmatic, less prejudiced, more tolerant of others, law-abiding, compassionate, conscientious, and well educated. They are of high intelligence, and many are committed to the intellectual and scholarly life. In short, they are good to have as neighbors."
There is no good evidence showing a correlation between immorality and disbelief. There is good evidence showing a correlation to the contrary. Exactly the opposite of what you should see if his thesis was correct. Even if you could show a correlation, it would still not demonstrate that immorality and willfull denial is the cause of people not believing in God or the Christian god, anymore then if you could show that people who disbelieved in the claims of Astrology were more immoral then people who did believe in astrology would prove that the cause of the their denial of astrology was caused by their immorality and willfull denial of the evidence.
For many atheists one of the reasons for rejecting the Christian God was not because they were immoral, but BECAUSE of their moral conscience. This is how many atheists see common theistic argument of the "know bible God know humane ethics" variety "we would not even have any ethical bases NOT to commit unwarranted gratitouse acts of genocide, rape, murder and things such as ; unless we worship and believe in the almighty morally perfect being who sanctions, commits, and or condones genocide, rape, murder and things such as". There are many good reasons to pick moral act a over b, and you need not an evil God in order to have those reasons.
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