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.