Friday, 24 August 2007

The Freethought Zone -Science and Reason Over Religion and Superstition

reposted from

"Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear." - Thomas Jefferson

The Freedom From Religion Foundation defines freethinkers as people who form opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include nontheists (i.e., atheists and agnostics - see definitions), rationalists, deists, and pantheists.

The Freethought Zone is a collection of essays which address misconceptions that many theists have concerning the nature of science and religion, logic, and the beliefs of nontheists.

One of the most common questions that theists ask nontheists is "Why don't you believe in my god?". The answer is that we simply do not see any valid reason for holding such a belief. In order to rationally believe any claim, one must first have credible evidence. There is, however, no credible evidence for the existence of a god. So nontheists don't believe in gods for the same reason that theists don't believe in Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, or the gods of other religions. Stephen Roberts explained the difference between theists and atheists as follows:

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

A misconception held by many theists is that nonbelievers reject religion because they do not understand it. Typically, nonbelievers understand the dominate religion of their culture quite well, often better than many of the believers. For example, here in the USA, where most religionists are Christians, many nontheists are former Christians who have examined the Christian religion carefully and rejected it as mythical. It is precisely because the former Christian was open-minded enough to question and honestly seek answers that he or she ended up rejecting Christianity.

Another common question for nontheists is "Why would anyone choose disbelief?". A rational person does not choose belief or disbelief; he or she chooses to apply reason to the question of the existence of gods, and if disbelief is the result, then so be it. There are, however, many benefits to the rational thinking that leads one to disbelief. For example, many nontheists are also secular humanists and have a much more highly developed moral system than theism usually provides, since secular humanists apply reason and empathy to decide what is moral, while theists usually attempt to apply the inconsistent and often irrational standards which come from their "holy" book. As another example of the benefits of reason over religion, consider the following quote from Robert Ingersoll:

"When I became convinced that the Universe is natural - that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, of the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust."

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