Notes on Atheism, Science and Religion: Dr, Frankenstein and his defenders

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

Below are my comments, subsequently lightly edited, to  a string on Mark Luzetti’s infinitely entertaining Facebook discussion page. The ideas are expanded somewhat in the comments below.

Notes on Atheism, Science and Religion

Atheism is a kind of faith. The existence of god can neither be proven nor disproved. A wing of liberalism elevates science to faith. There is no absolute knowledge. Science is a methodology, the best way that we have of understanding the physical world and, to a limited extent, grasping the social world. Professional scientists are highly specialized and even they, to the extent that they “know” anything, only know much about a definite and isolated piece of reality.

No one knows how old for sure the Earth or Universe is. Scientific opinion about such matters changes as new data, methods of analysis and calculation are discovered. It is not possible to prove definitively that a god did not create the whole thing yesterday, dinosaur bones and all, as a simulation for us to explore. It is not uncommon that the most profound and deep scientific thinkers, Newton, Einstein, Darwin and others have an appreciation for the divine. This is because they confront the extraordinary and ultimately unknowable complexity and unity of the real and are humbled by it.

Psychoanalysis psychology and their sub-variants have proven fraught with lurching errors of understanding. Each school is hotly disputed. It is debatable that these modern methods of understanding the self have as yet evolved much beyond the deep truths that can be found in Humanity’s ancient texts and cultural practices.

Religion is used by power as a weapon of class oppression, as an ideological justification for all forms of horror. So too are progressive enlightenment concepts such as liberty and democracy. So too have been the words of Marx and certainly positivist scientific ideas. Scientific knowledge and technological prowess have been used to unleash horrors on humanity. Arguably Mary Shelly’s FRANKENSTEIN stands with CAPITAL, and the ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES as among the essential western texts of the 19th century.

Atheistic chauvinists who elevate science as the only form of knowledge, in most cases, have themselves only limited scientific development. They treat school learned “facts” as dogma and truth in a way that a more sophisticated scientific mind would reject. This often couples with elitist attitudes toward working people who are assumed to be superstitious and ignorant, and a sense of unearned superiority towards pre-modern cultural forms. Such attitudes, masquerading as progressive, are in fact reactionary.

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2 Responses to Notes on Atheism, Science and Religion: Dr, Frankenstein and his defenders

  1. (Sorry for the delay, sleep and other obligations)

    I find nothing to object to here. I agree: What is urgently needed theoretically, is a sense of humility, that all stand in risk of error and cruelty, while politically what is required is not a rigid consensus on whether there is or is not a heaven, let alone what the right path towards it is, but co-operation here below for the purpose of ending want, ensuring peace, and protecting the dignity of each within the dignity of all. This will involve allowing for both belief and unbelief, in all their diversity, giving them each the freedom to work out their own ways through our finite and uncertain condition.

    Ideally, the nullity or the judgment following death should be the only non-self imposed punishment for faith or lack of faith, respectively. Leave vengeance to God,or the last laugh to the Void. Human beings, in the meanwhile, can certainly live in peace and profit from each other’s company through their differences, not despite them.

  2. rawlinsview says:

    Virginia Mariposa Dale My mom told me there was no Santa Claus and I agreed that it seemed preposterous when I was six. I’m a bit older now and I agree that there’s no hoary haired, bearded man/woman up in the sky, universe; hey, I require evidence, pleez. Sorry.

    Rawlins View Virginia Mariposa Dale your comment seems to both miss and support my stance by trivializing theological belief as “hoary haired… the sky” on the one hand, and demanding “evidence” on the other. The fact is that most of what you believe, whether you like it or not, is acculturated rather than proven to you. Perhaps you have spent your life on archeological digs, calculating the half life of carbon molecules and pouring over the data gleaned from the Hubble telescope, and if so you have my utmost respect, but most of those who espouse a haughty and superior attitude toward the religious beliefs of others have absorbed their information from the Tuesday Science section of the New York Times, a few classes in high school and college and the very bastardized “scientific” concepts and cocktail party facts that are absorbed into the liberal consensus.
    If you limited your assumptions to what has been “proven” to you, it would be impossible for you to function in society. You hop in your car, turn the key, and off you go at deadly speed in a vehicle fueled by an explosive liquid. For most of us it is as much magic as anything else.
    Religion has interwoven social roots. In part it is the persistence of the ideology of power from prior forms of social organization, as such it presents itself as a reactionary force. On the other hand it may be an expression of national or cultural identity of oppressed groups, such as the Shia in Bahrain or Pakistan today. In this case it presents itself as progressive. In many cases the cultural and ritual forms of religion are more powerful than the theological elements. In advanced industrial societies forms of new religion, mega-churches, and cults of spirituality are interwoven with political ideology but are more than anything a response to social alienation.

    Atheism elevated to an ideology is more or less the same as this, a response to alienation based upon a comforting premise mediated through a common set of social values, in this case the middle class liberal consensus.

    That which we know of reality is much less than what we do not know. The individual knows in the truest sense almost nothing at all, as truth is inevitably socially mediated. Atheism then becomes an assertion akin to religion when it tries to establish that there can be a totality of knowledge through science–as if, given enough time and study, humanity will what?–master the universe??–through the disciplined application of the scientific method?

    Real science, great art and profound theological understanding share an important component which is humility. The true scientist approaches the vastness as a bowed and empty vessel stripped of pride and submits to the revelation of the experiment or the accumulation of data. She or he is faithful to the rigorous and ritual application of the method.

    The idea that religion is responsible for the atrocities of class rule is anti-materialist and places the manifestation before the cause. Ideological atheism then is an idealist concept, “if we could just convince these people to stop believing in God” then somehow the world would become a better place.”

    The social force which will be brought in the transformation of human society (my article of faith) will be the mass engagement of the broad toiling masses of society in rebellion against the dominion of capital. This will be the victory of a class rather than that of an idea, or ideology. Ideological atheism, in so much as it is belittling or dismissive of the beliefs of large sections of working people, is an obstacle rather than an aid in the movement toward that victory.
    3 minutes ago · Like

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