Last year, I participated in a little contest that was on prizes.org. The Prizes.org site was an experiment that did not attract enough users so its shutting down. I figured I would make a post out of one of the contests that I participated in and won on the site.
Why are there so many people who cling to Religion? Why do they refuse to believe science? Why do the majority of scientists choose to believe there is no god? What has kept Religion around for so long?
The contest had 137 entries and generated a lot of comments and discussions back and forth between users. I took a stab at explaining my viewpoint and submitted an entry. This post is a copy of what I posted on Prizes.org.
I recommend reading this post with an open mind and try to put yourself in the mindset of the opposing side. I am a practicing Muslim and that definitely influenced my viewpoint, but I tried to be as objective as possible. Here is what I wrote in reply to the questions raised by Gabe:
“I want to take a different approach. To start off, let’s agree on basic terminology and a few assumptions so that we don’t go around in infinite circles.
0- Theories are either false or true until proven to be one or the other. Proofs are measurable, repeatable, and consistent at all times. Ideally, facts do not need proofs (for example, humans need to breathe to stay alive, that is a fact that does not need to be proven – you would hope). Throughout history, humans were not able to accept many facts until they were proven beyond reasonable doubt (for example, Earth is not the center of the universe). We need to differentiate between facts and theories. Facts are proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are true. Any theory that is unproven or could hold the slightest possibility of being untrue is not a fact.
In my analysis, I will refrain from comparing science and religion, since many scientists are religious. I will compare Atheism and Religion to be more accurate.
1- Religion has not been able to prove the existence of God. Religion asserts the existence of God as a fact although since its not proven, using our terms above, the existence of God is a theory.
2- Atheism has not been able to prove the non-existence of God. Atheist scientists assert the non-existence of God as a fact because they have not been able to prove God’s existence. The non-existence of God has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt. So again using our terms above, the non-existence of God is a theory not a fact.
Religion tries to address to a fundamental trait of human nature. Monotheistic religions referred to this trait as the devil. Modern Self-Help literature, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism referred to this as mastering one’s own desires and impulses.
For example, we all know that we should exercise and eat healthy. A healthy lifestyle is proven to reduce the risk of many diseases and improve the quality of life. That is a scientific fact. Not a theory. However, many people do not eat healthy and do not exercise despite knowing 100% that they should.
Given that long intro, here are is my attempt to address your questions:
Why are there so many people who cling to Religion?
Because there are things we can’t explain. Deep down inside, many people feel that religion re-enforces the basic goodness in human nature. That goodness you feel when you see a child smiling or a family reunion. Universally accepted goodness is what I am referring to. Fairness, justice, mercy, moderation, loyalty, honesty are good values in all cultures. Religion re-enforces these values. At the same time, Religion tries to regulate human emotions and actions. Succumbing to greed, lust, or violence would cause societies to break and even self-destruct.
Why do they refuse to believe science?
Science has not proven anything concrete about the existence of God. So religious people are not really refusing anything (again using our terms above).
Why do the majority of scientists choose to believe there is no god?
There is no proof. Scientist do not like to bet so much in their lives on mere theories. Many scientists are practical and until there is a solid proof, why bother!
What has kept Religion around for so long?
Religion helps many people keep their lives balanced. The optimistic view of religion sees religion for its intentions. In that optimistic view, the intentions or objectives of religion are to balance human life and make the world a better place.
The pessimistic view sees religion by looking at the actions of people in the name of religion. No religion asks its followers to kill innocent people. Some followers on the other hand, unfortunately, killed many innocents in the name of their religion.
As I wrote earlier, the contest had 137 entries and many of them had good points. The comments on each entry were pretty interesting and sometimes very heated. You can check them out on the contest page (remember it will be removed soon as the Prizes.org site is shutting down).