Randi tackles religion vs. science

Amost forgot, there’s time left for two more:

Some perspective here before some people go off steamed:

This commentary is a counterpoint (not a rebuttal, not a response) to another commentary Randi had where his fellow skeptic Hal Bidlack explained his skeptical deism. I think the fact that Randi had Hal’ article on his weekly commentary goes along way in responding to those who would paint Randi is blind to religion.

As to some other replies: Dogwood you seem to be off to a good start in taking the actions you so decry. The fact that you have not used labels does not free you from your attmepts to demonize someone you disagree with.

In regards to Randi becoming Madalyn Murray O’Hair. I’m sorry, but not gonna happen. O’hair turned her atheism into another religion to the point to where she effectively acknowledged Christianity by reacting to it. Her claims to want to have a hidden grave so that no christian could bless it with holy water and such seems to be a rejection, yet at the same time acceptance of some kind of power of christianity. Its like saying you don’t beleive in voodoo, then hiding under the bed when the voodoo priest walks by your house. Randi is nowhere near this level of anti-religious (as opposed to non-religious).

I think Randi is very effective in defining religion as he chooses (no room for doubt, full of fear, etc.) and then tearing down the concept he himself has defined the parameters of. This strikes me as too easy. I can put together a pretty powerful indictment of atheism too – provided you allow me to pick and choose what aspects of it I will address, and provided I can define the term as I choose.

I can’t break a sweat over his condemnation of “religion,” because I, as a religious person, do not agree that religion (as I define it) is actually what he’s talking about. He’s talking about an intentionally narrow, intentionally negative, intentionally fundamentalist, intentionally superstitious subset of belief. And as long as that’s all he’s talking about, his position strikes me as neither original nor brave.

I’m a fairly intellectual, moderate modern American Christian. Anyone who thinks I have not thought through my beliefs doesn’t know either me or my beliefs. To state that I (or others like me) discard on Sundays the same intellect I use during the week is hugely insulting.

Oh, and the way some scientists are able to also be people of faith (religiously speaking) is that they are smart enough to realize that the entire concept of a super-natural (meaning “beyond nature”) God is not amenable to scientific “proof.” Because if it were provable, it would not be super-natural. Maybe this escapes some because they discard their intellect every time the subject of religion comes up.

Moving this to Great Debates.

I really like this thought, it expresses the beginnings of fear. Them and us, we are different.

Can you for a moment imagine yourself and others without any labels? Who would you be then?


musicat, a thesis is more strongly defended with facts than with opinions…as much as I love Bertrand Russell.

BTW, Mark Twain believed in reincarnation.

I knew it! Oh, God, I have failed you, Czarcasm, he said with czarcasm. :stuck_out_tongue:

I would say philosophy, a field which we are now hip-deep in, is founded more on opinions than facts.

I did not know that. Maybe that explains Dave Barry. :slight_smile:

from a bumpersticker

When religion ruled the world, they called it the Dark Ages.

Yeah, that’s about the kind of brilliant intellectual discourse I expect from a bumper sticker.

Do you think “Dark Ages” sounds like a term coined by rational, objective historians? Or does it sound more like smug editorializing?

It’s often said that “history is written by the winners.” Well, in academia, secular, non-religious (often anti-religious) intellectuals won out centuries ago. THAT is why the period from the fall of Rome until the so-called Renaissance is called the Dark Ages. And that’s why the period in the 18th century when anti-religious intellectuals first came to prominence is called “the Enlightenment.”

Both terms, “Dark Ages” and “Enlightenment,” are overly simplistic. An intelligent historian with an ounce of integrity or objectivity wouldn’t use them.

But that’s where intelligent historians are writing today – on bumper stickers.

As far as Dark Ages, YOU try summing up a few hundred years of history in two words. :rolleyes:

I would say “Dark Ages” is actually quite a good term for summing up what much of that period was like.

The few times I seen quotes from Twain, on “reincarnation” it was always something humorous. Is there a source I could google that you know of that shows Twain taking “reincarnation” seriously, or that he believed in it?


Don’t these guys realize that without religion and spirituality, there would be no human science? This is more and more like Christians excoriating Jews, as if Jesus Christ was not a Jew himself.

Oh and what about the Dark Ages when so-called religions ruled? Would that include Muslims in Arabia, who merely held the works left over from the Greek, Roman babylonian, Phoenician and Egyptian empires? And so-called ‘primitive’ Blacks in Africa, who developed advanced trade routes and empires almost the size of alexander?

Only if you ignore the Byzantines, the Arab world, the African kingdoms of Songhai and Mali, India, and China and if you skip over the invention of the chimney; the building of most of Europe’s cathedrals; the discovery of perspective in painting; the growth of international trade; the founding of the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Salamanca, Paris, and Bologna; Beowulf; *The Divine Comedy; and other innovations and creations that occurred during the medieval period in Europe.

While people may take exception to the tenor and content of Randi’s commentary (“bright” as a synonym for atheist? Puh-leeze!), I think the man may be forgiven in light of the volumes of relgious hate mail he has no doubt received over the years. I certainly agree that religious folks are praying to empty air, but Randi’s total condemnation of religion as fear-driven superstition is far too narrow and leaves out great exponents of Christian love like Thomas Merton and CS Lewis, two Christians who were far from fools.

The Dark ages are called so for a number of reasons.CHiefly because scientific and medical progress was outright halted and guess who were responsible for that?No, not just humans, but religious humans.It was a time of great ignorance for the most part and at no other time in history were we more religious.It is no coincidence that whenever the pendulum swings back in the direction of religious conviction(as opposed to reason or technological progress) human suffering is signifigantly increased, public education suffers and medical advances slow to a near standstill.
Following the Scopes trial, America became VERY religious adn consequently public outcry against “controversial science” led to legitimate science being removed from textbooks and children in America falling so far below other industrialized nations in science education that we BARELY recovered in time to beat the Soviets to the moon(we can thank Einstein, Madalyne Murray O’hair, and a few others from helping to pull the pendulum back in the direction of rationality).

So YOU happen to be religious but do not fit the general description as given by Randi?

What is your point?

If I critique neo-nazis and Klan members as being motivated by ignorance I am obviously not talking about that one kid who knows that his family is wrong but does not speak up or quit the Klan/skinheads because he is afraid and or confused.

Religious beliefs are irrational.Period.They are every bit as irrational as belief in alien abductions/crop circles/fairies/genies/voodoo etc…Why are we not half as conciliatory towards believers in fairies/genies/flat earthism/werewolves/vampires etc. as we are toward the religious?
Religious person #1):“Atheists are God-haters and will burn in Hell!”

Religious person #2):“I think burning witches is a good start!”

Religious person #3):“Oh don’t mind them.Those guys are not truly religious and they give the rest of us a bad name.Only those damned closed-minded friggin asshole skeptics think religious people are like those two guys over there!”
Religious person #4):“You guys!?We need to show the skeptics and atheists love and tolerance or they will NEVER come join our cult!You catch more flies with honey…”

Religious person #5):“I do not fit your little steryotype.I always use reason & rationality.I am a scientist myself and I despise creationists and the like!”
Skeptic:“So #5…what rational justification do you have for thinking God exists.Being a fellow critical thinker myself I would appreciate hearing a logical or empirical case for God.”
RP#5):“Well,…er, there is none because God is beyond reason adn logic.He cannot be measured or detected by human reasoning or science.”

Skeptic:“Then how do YOU know he exists?”

RP#5):“Well,…faith…I guess.I can’t expalain it.You will know it when God comes to you one day.”

Skeptic:“So in other words you believe in God when there is no valid reason to, though in all other matters of existence you would be just as quick as I to critique someone for faulty reasoning/fallacious logic?!You will adhere to the unfalsifiable God-claim though as a scientist you would be just as quick as I to critique others for different unfalsifiable claims which do not follow rules of inference?”
RP#5):"#3 is right!You guys are a buncha closed-minded assholes!"

The term “Bright” that is being tossed around now has little to do with intellect.The word as it is coined refers to the fact that supernaturalism/occultism/mysticism and psudoescience flourishes in areas where the light of reason does not reach.When the term was coined there was no intention for it to be a reference to the intellect of naturalists OR (conversely) the intellect of supernaturalists.
Having said that, I do not and likely will not ever use the term as a descriptive label precisely because people are likely to assume “the worst” and react as if they are being called stupid.

Mark Twain did NOT believe in reincarnation.

As Mark Twain grew older, he became more interested in spiritual things, happens to most people, his writings were softer concerning spiritual events.
Whether he actually changed a lot of his beliefs, I don’t know.

Well, let’s see now, science gave us the Atom bomb (hundreds of thousands killed). Science gave us the biological weapons, chemical weapons to murder everyone on planet earth. Science brought us pollution of water, air and earth. Oh, yes, things like the machine gun, the Abrams tank, and those things that fly through the sky and rain death and destruction on millions. Science has provided the means to murder more people than religion ever dreamed of.

The key to the stopping the destruction of human life is spiritual love, not religion, not science.

Get off the holier-than-thou soap box, and start learning about love.


How many centuries must minds have be kept open before a world view can be taken as unsupported by the evidence?