Knowledge Is Dangerous

Warning: Atheist ideas ahead. If you’re not comfortable with that, click elsewhere quickly!

I’m not an authority on the history of science, but I’ve read that modern science began, 400-odd years ago, with the idea that because God had created the Universe, we could learn about God by studying His handiwork.

As an operational theory, this hasn’t panned out so well. Based on the best available evidence, we can now confidently assert the following:

  1. There is not the faintest shred of convincing evidence for personal immortality or the existence of the soul. When you’re dead, you’re dead.
  2. Most of the world’s so-called holy books are a mishmash of good advice, bad advice, weird myths disguised as history, outright mistakes, and self-serving interpolations by ignorant scribes. Also, the translations are unreliable.
  3. At least 99.9999% of the Universe is utterly hostile to any form of life.
  4. There is no detectable moral force at work by means of which good is rewarded and evil punished. It’s all pretty much a crap shoot.

What sort of God would create a Universe like this? That’s an uncomfortable question.

Rationalists who retain a sentimental attachment to religion sometimes proclaim that there is no real conflict between religion and science. They’re wrong. When the pope tried to shut Galileo up, he knew exactly what he was doing. Scientific knowledge does indeed render religion untenable. At least, it renders all existing religions untenable (with the possible exception of Buddhism, about which I don’t know very much). Possibly a better crafted religion will arise in the future.

You can live a life of faith, or a life of reason. The life of faith is probably more comfortable; I wouldn’t actually know. The life of reason is certainly terrifying, but it does have certain faint consolations.

You don’t have to let your daily activities be ruled by ancient taboos, for instance. That’s a plus.

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