What motivates atheist “super-commenters” on religious websites? Why do many religious people really doubt evolution?
Find out in this week’s buzz.
“You Can’t Educate People Into Believing in Evolution”
Emma Green wrote a great Atlantic article about evolution and religion. She looks at an illuminating new report about barriers to accepting evolution:
In his report, Hill found that religious belief was the strongest determinant of people’s views on evolution—much more so than education, socioeconomic status, age, political views, or region of the country. More importantly, being part of a community where people had stated opinions on evolution or creation, like a church, had a big impact on people’s views. “Creationists are substantially more likely to belong to networks who agree with them about human origins,” he wrote. “Likewise, creationists are more likely to belong to congregations who have settled positions that reject human evolution.”
What that means is that “debates” about evolution and creationism actually might not be that effective. “For those invested in the position that human evolution is compatible with orthodox Christian faith, the findings from [this survey] tell us that persuasion needs to move beyond a purely intellectual level,” Hill wrote. “Ideas are important, but ideas only persuade when individuals are in a social position that allows them to seriously consider what is before them.” For those who value the widespread acceptance of evolution, this is an important insight: There may be more effective ways to persuade people to consider principles of biology without trying to debunk the existence of God [emphasis added].
The “evolution vs. creationism” debate is not about science. 97% of scientists accept evolution. This debate is about God’s existence. If accepting evolution is tied to accepting atheism, then many believers will reject evolution—no matter the evidence.
What do you think?
“10 Old Testament passages that shape how I think about God”
Check out Peter Enns‘s list of 10 crucial OT passages. What do you think of his analysis?
“Online troll or therapist? Atheist evangelists see their work as a calling”
Kimberly Winston, a fantastic RNS reporter who covers atheism and religion, looked at atheist “super-commenters” on religious sites. What in the world motivates these atheists? Winston offers some thoughts:
But interviews with Max and other atheist “super-commenters” on various religion websites reveal there is more to their motives than disruption and rage. While some may see them as trolls, they see themselves as therapists. And far from seeking chaos, they have their own codes of conduct they say help them keep their online conversations from becoming a stream of insults and hate.
As always, Winston’s work is worth reading.
“Philip Kitcher: ‘New Atheism’ hasn’t supplied anything to replace religion”
Chris Stedman interviewed philosopher Philip Kitcher about the “New Atheism” and the relationship between religion and humanism. (Kitcher just released a new book, Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism.) Kitcher explained his thoughts on New Atheism to Stedman:
I think that the “New Atheist” critique has a very narrow view of religion. For people like Dawkins, religion is all about people having false beliefs—and they think that when people have false beliefs, it’s better to correct their beliefs. I think in general that’s right, though having a misguided belief isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. But you can’t just leave things with “Well, we’ve now shown you why your traditional beliefs are false, enjoy yourselves and get on with it!”
Dawkins would also rightly say that the forms of religion he attacks are the ones that cause the most violence and suffering in the contemporary world. But there are many people who practice less problematic—even socially valuable—forms of religion. It isn’t the end of the story to wipe out religious doctrine and say that’s the end of it. One must come to terms not only with religion’s history of problems, pain, and suffering, but also with its achievements.
My perspective aims to widen the critique of religion, be more sympathetic to religion at its best, and strive towards finding a positive position that could replace religion. Some suggest that people never give up a perspective, however bad it may be, until they’ve got something to replace it. My fundamental difficulty with the “New Atheism” is that I don’t think it has supplied anything to replace religion. Secular humanism tries to fill that gap. I wrote Life After Faith because I wanted to put the focus back on the positive: on secular humanism as a positive perspective on life.
What do you think of Kitcher’s take, and the rest of this week’s buzz?