December 01, 2005

The Neverending Well of Lies

I've always wonder where theists get the (completely wrong) idea that Evolution is a religion. Here's something that may explain it.

You MUST see this load of garbage. (thanks to the Atheist Coalition forum)

Giving privilege to atheism in today's America

Viewpoint: Giving privilege to atheism in today's America
By Lloyd Eby
World Peace Herald Contributor
Published November 23, 2005

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Article VI of the Constitution of the United States says that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." The First Amendment states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Article VI and the First Amendment, although originally applying only to the federal government, have now been expanded to cover all governments and all governmental entities within the US, whether at the federal, state, or local level.

Some of the Founding Fathers may have been secularists and even atheists. But most of them were not; they were, instead, more or less devout, and those who were religious were Christians. They knew about Judaism, but no Jews were among their group. I doubt that they even knew about Islam, much less Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Jainism, and the rest of the world's religions. They did, however, know about the religious wars that had raged in Europe as a result of the various Reformations within Christendom, and they wanted none of those wars within the new nation they were constructing. Their solution - the best solution that has ever been found - to the problem of the havoc that occurs when differing religions fight over public power, benefit, and influence, was to forbid any religion from being privileged in any governmental way. A privilege is "a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor; [a] special enjoyment of a good or exemption from an evil or burden; a peculiar or personal advantage or right," and "privileged" means "not subject to the usual rules or penalties because of some special circumstance." (Webster's Third New International Dictionary)

The fact that the Founding Fathers put the second clause in the First Amendment, the one known as the "free exercise" clause, shows that they did not expect religions not to have any public role or expression; instead, they saw the first clause, known as the "establishment" clause, as making possible the free exercise of religion. They understood, quite correctly, that there cannot be free exercise of religion and freedom of religion if there is a governmentally privileged establishment of any religion.

[Visit a blog post related to this article: http://blog.wpherald.com/wphblog/?p=120 ]

The phrase "wall of separation" is frequently used as a shorthand description of the relationship that they had set up between government and religion. This phrase does not occur in the Constitution, but was used by Thomas Jefferson, one of those Founding Fathers, in a letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut on January 1, 1802. They were a religious minority and had written to him in 1801, complaining that, in their state, "the religious liberties they enjoyed were not seen as immutable rights, but as privileges granted by the legislature -- as 'favors granted.'" Jefferson did not directly address their concerns, but he did say, "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

In 1962 in the case known as Murray v. Curlett, the US Supreme Court, acting on a suit originally brought by Madalyn Murray (later Madalyn Murray O'Hair) and others, voted 8-1 to ban organized prayer and Bible reading in American public schools. O'Hair went on to found the American Atheist Association and to work, until her murder in September 1995, to promote atheism and to expunge any form of or reference to religion from American public life. Since that time there has been a concerted effort by secularists and atheists to carry out that goal, including such things as attempting to have the Ten Commandments removed from public buildings and removing creches and other symbols of religious holidays and celebrations from public buildings and grounds. Such present-day organizations as Americans United for Separation of Church and State and People For the American Way continue to agitate and litigate for the removal of all symbols and expressions of religion from American public life. A recent effort has been to remove the words "In God We Trust" from US currency.

What is actually happening when these efforts by atheists and secularists succeed is that a particular religion -- atheism -- is in fact being privileged and set up as an establishment by government. But that is something explicitly forbidden by the Constitution.

It may seem strange to call atheism a religion, and nearly all atheists adamantly resist that claim. But, for purposes of this debate, atheism is properly understood to be a religion and to be called a religion.

The usual or more common definitions of religion are "(1) the service and worship of God or the supernatural, (2) commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance, (3) a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices." But there is a fourth definition, "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith." "Faith" is defined as "(1) allegiance to a duty or a person; loyalty; fidelity to one's promises; sincerity of intentions, (2) belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion, (3) firm belief in something for which there is no proof, (4) something that is believed , especially with strong conviction." (Adapted from Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary) On the basis of that fourth definition of religion, and given that adherence to atheism is indeed a form of faith since it is a firm belief with a strong conviction in something for which there is no proof, it follows that atheism does count as a religion.

The US courts have, in fact, held that atheism is a religion. In August, 2005, a federal court of appeals ruled that Wisconsin prison officials violated an inmate's rights because they did not treat his atheism as a religion. "Atheism is [the inmate's] religion, and the group that he wanted to start was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being," the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said, deciding that the inmate's First Amendment rights were violated because the prison refused to allow him to create a study group for atheists. Moreover, in the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, the US Supreme Court has said a religion need not be based on a belief in the existence of a supreme being, describing "secular humanism" as a religion.

Besides these church-state litigation conflicts and efforts to expunge religion from American public life, there is another very important domain in which secularism and atheism are being privileged today: the evolution vs. intelligent design controversy. Proponents of secular and naturalistic Darwinian evolution invariably claim that proponents of intelligent design have wrongly left the realm of science and have entered the domain of religion because intelligent design implies the existence of a designer, and that designer is understood to be God.

Proponents of intelligent design do argue, tacitly if not explicitly, that the complexity of the structures in living organisms -- "irreducible complexity," in the terminology of some intelligent design advocates -- means that the most plausible or reasonable explanation for those structures is that they come about through the agency of an intelligent designer, and some of them do believe that this designer is God. But not all proponents of intelligent design are theists. Moreover, the intelligent design position is indeed a scientific one in that it offers evidence that the received Darwinist account of evolution is incomplete, implausible, and insufficient to explain or account for all the perceived complexity of observed biological organisms.

What few proponents of Darwinian evolution acknowledge is that their position, given a fair definition of religion, is also a religious one in that it holds that a genuinely scientific account of the origin of biological complexity must be secular and naturalistic, but this secular naturalism is itself a form of religion.

Richard Dawkins, one of the most vocal and adamant proponents of neo-Darwinism and also a vocal and adamant atheist, has been honest enough to admit that this debate is, for him, the equivalent of a religious struggle because the truth of secular and naturalistic Darwinism is necessary in order that atheism can be fulfilling. In his book The Blind Watchmaker he wrote, "An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: 'I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one.' I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."

Dawkins and similar proponents of secular Darwinist evolution are attempting to have things both ways. Their secularist naturalism and atheism are really religious claims, and their heated defense of Darwinist evolution is really a defense of their religion. If religious claims are ipso facto out of bounds in a scientific endeavor or investigation, then their own stance is out of bounds. Thus they cannot be allowed to get away with holding that their secularist naturalism and atheism are to be privileged as scientific, while claiming that intelligent design is religious and non-scientific.

So a particular religion -- atheism -- is being privileged today, and this privileging of atheism both violates the US Constitution and attempts to have things both ways in today's debate about what counts as science in the evolution vs. intelligent design controversy.

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Lloyd Eby holds a doctorate in philosophy and teaches business and professional ethics at the George Washington University in Washington, DC
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Notice what field of study Mr. Eby's credentials do not include - SCIENCE. Given that, what exactly makes this guy think he's qualified to make his false assertions about both atheism and Evolution?