We spend a lot of time here on the Atheosphere debating the fine nuances between the religious worldview and the atheist worldview. From our Point of View, the religious just don’t have a clue, and they think the same of us. We think that a rational, skeptical, humanistic, evidence-based way of grasping reality is the way to go, or as my grandmother used to say, the cat’s pajamas. Theists think that having faith, blind or otherwise, in an unseen and unknowable supernatural entity is also the equivalent of wearing sleepwear manufactured for members of the feline persuasion. In effect, we are debating opposing views of reality.
What they don’t realize is that the battle over which view of reality is correct was over hundreds of years ago, and they are simply clinging onto their religious view out of pure fear. They delude themselves cannot accept the indisputable fact that they will die, and their religious beliefs give them comfort and hope that they will linger on after they’ve completed their enlistment in the human race.
I say that the battle was over hundreds, maybe thousands, of years ago. Not just the battle, but the war was won when we discovered science and the scientific method. Theists simply didn’t realize it at the time, and refuse to accept it now.
Mankind evolved from a state of ignorance. We were not self-cognizant at first, we had small brains, and we didn’t have sufficient knowledge to understand reality until we developed more fully. The accumulation of knowledge is an evolutionary process by itself. It starts simple and becomes complex as we learn new things, increasing exponentially, adding to the database of human knowledge, and building from that knowledge to a greater and greater understanding.
In our primitive years, we couldn’t understand natural phenomena, such as lightning, droughts, reproduction, death, and many other natural events that we understand fully now, but didn’t have the basic knowledge to understand back then. Lightning was real. The birth of children was real. Death was real, but we didn’t understand any of it. Where did lightning come from? Was it a response to something we did? How did my wife get pregnant? Why did my son die in childbirth? In an attempt to understand these perplexing facts, though, some of our ancestors devised the concept of the supernatural to explain them. If it was real, right there in front of us, but the explanation was not obvious, then the explanation must be “somewhere else”, not here, not within the purview of our senses. Somewhere outside the natural world.
And gods were born.
When we came upon a natural phenomena that could not be explained, we now had the answer. A god did it! At that time, there were so many gaps in the database of human knowledge, that gods were used to fill in the explanations for almost everything. This is why we had multiple gods. Gods of the hearth. Gods of the field. Gods of the sky and the ocean. Gods of the bed chamber, etc.
As we slowly found an explanation for the many and various perplexities of human life, our need for all of these gods diminished. Slowly, we learned that we could figure out many of these problems by using our brains, not by offering sacrifices. We discovered hypotheses and experiments, and created new tools to test our hypotheses, such as telescopes, microscopes, and many others.
It was not until the Scientific Revolution that we changed our human way of thinking about the natural world. There were scientists before that, of course, but even the term Scientist wasn’t coined until the 19th century. Prior to that, they were called natural philosophers. Religious thinking had a very strong and historically entrenched grip on the minds of Man, and it was painful to shake. Once the scientific mindset became predominant, however, appeals to the supernatural for explanations of reality, and a belief among scientists in the supernatural virtually disappeared to the point where today, only 7% of all scientists in the National Academy of Science believe in a personal god.
Science has not been able to explain everything we want to know, mainly because the limits of knowledge are probably infinite, so the more we discover, the more we want to know. In other words, each scientific explanation opens up another avenue of research. The beauty of this is that it assumes that with patience and faithful application of the scientific method of inquiry, we can answer all of life’s questions, even though it will take a long time. The history of scientific discovery, and the reliability of science to explain the unexplainable, gives us confidence that this as true. In the meantime, we simply say “I don’t know” and keep looking.
We have a relatively foolproof method for exploring and ultimately explaining the natural world around us. Scientific experiments can be repeated, and tested, and confirmed over and over again, by people with axes to grind, and by people with none. We do not have to rely on secret incantations or the intercession of priests to gain a secure knowledge of reality. The battle, indeed the war, between atheism and theism was won when science arrived on the scene.
Since then, it’s just been a matter of mopping up.