A photo and an aphorism

April 17, 2022 • 2:53 pm

Nearly every day I pass this church walking home; I know it’s woke because of the signs it puts up occasionally. However, this sign particularly irritated me because of the section I’ve highlighted:

The instant I saw this I thought (not in these exact words),

“Okay, let’s make religion as intelligent as science. Take atheism versus religion. Adherents to the former don’t believe in an afterlife, but many believers do. Can you empirically falsify either position? If you’re an atheist who dies, if you were wrong you’ll know, for you’ll presumably be conscious that you’re living on in some form. But if you’re religious and you’re wrong, you’ll have no way of knowing, because you’ll be dead meat and won’t know anything.”

To take a Popperian stance, believers’ acceptance of an afterlife cannot be falsified, but the atheist stand can be.  Ergo, acceptance of the afterlife is not “scientific” to the religious.

Now there’s much more to say about this, and I’m sure some will disagree. For example, you can take a Bayesian approach and look for evidence that strengthens or weakens your belief. But crikey, it was just a thought, so don’t beat me up.  And you can hedge the “afterlife” in some ways that make my argument senseless.

Still, the claim that you can make religion as intelligent as science is poppycock. The former is based on faith, dogma, and authority; the latter on empirical evidence. Note, though, that in the last post I maintained that religion is largely based on empirical claims that in principle might be tested, and in some cases have been—and refuted (no creation, no Exodus, no Flood, etc.)

If you ask me what observations would make me reject evolution, I’ll give you a big list. (No such observations, however, have been made.) If you ask an Evangelical Christian, an Orthodox Jew, or a pious Muslim what would make them reject their faith, they will more likely than not say, “Nothing, for I know it’s true!” This is the stand of Tish Harrison Warren in the last post.

Happy Easter/Ramadan/Passover! (Today they coincide, which explains all the antitheism on the site).

26 thoughts on “A photo and an aphorism

  1. Even more annoying are the religious who claim that the Church invented science and art, and want to take credit for it all.

  2. If it has no creed, is it a church or social club for the vaguely spiritual? Or is the statement on the notice board itself a creed?

    1. Yes I was struck by the ‘has no creed’ part of the statement. A church for non-believers perhaps?

  3. I’ve wasted too much of my day trying to find out if souls go to heaven upon earthly death to be joined by the physical glorified body upon the 2nd coming, or do souls sleep, waiting for the 2nd coming and the rapture?

    Did Old Testament believers have to wait until the 1st coming of JC, or are they still hanging tight until JC 2.0? According to one interpretation, they were hanging around in Abraham’s bosom, JC preached to them for 3 days in the 36 hour window between moving the cave rock back and forth.

    I was stunned to find the source text to be vague and contradictory.

  4. I am not arguing against your position here but merely want to point out that the church only “seeks” to make religion as intelligent as science, whatever that means. I suppose anything can be made more intelligent. For religion, they would just have to remove a few of the more ridiculous components. They could do one every weekend and the church might still have a long life.

    1. A friend of mine went to a church that claimed to welcome skeptical inquiry. But in reality, if your questions got too touchy, you were politely asked to shut it or go elsewhere. He got out. I don’t blame the church; but perhaps, they should not have claimed that they were open to advanced questioning. There’s got to be some limit, although badly defined.

      1. That church should have handed out a list of acceptable questions. On the other hand, any serious discussion of religion should not take place in a church but on neutral grounds. Good name for a coffee shop: Neutral Grounds.

        1. Yes, they do: the catechism, a book with questions and, haha, the answers, which we as six-year old’s had to memorize. Of course I didn’t.

      2. When people who follow dogmas “invite skeptical inquiry” they usually imagine a hypothetical “skeptic” based on their own hypothetical self expressing doubts they had or doubts they think they’d have had if they were to have doubts. It’s pretty much a doomed scenario. They’re expecting a series of teaching moments and instead they end up with a debate. Which horrifies them.

        I really hate it when someone says they love to engage with honest skepticism but don’t want a “debate.” It’s tedious. The only way to keep it going is to constantly blow smoke up their backsides with a series of “my, that’s a good point, really got me thinking… but maybe there’s just one little thing that still bothers me…”

        1. I’ve asked religious people if it is possible that they are mistaken about their religious beliefs. Some admitted the possibility that they could be wrong, some did not. But how would they find out? They were not sure about how they would check. In the end, they fell back on faith, their source of comfort and security. So they were in a difficult position: they want to be right but have no way of checking; they want their truth demarcated; but yet they want to make an argument because they don’t like admitting to blind faith. After all, their arguments would have to only admit their beliefs while rejecting many others. Religion plays an important part in their cultural self esteem. That is tough to defend in today’s world. One just has to insist that it is true.

      1. ” “Try” ”

        Indeed – I immediately think of Charles Bukowski’s epitaph : “Don’t try”.

        It is perhaps up to us to figure what he means. Perhaps it is irrelevant here. I still think it is worth pointing out.

        An interview snippet is suggestive :


  5. Oh that’s a precious gem that, isn’t it. _Seeks_ to _make_ religion as intelligent as science. So the pastor E. S. Ames wrote that sometime between 1900-1943. That is interesting. I suppose since god didn’t destroy Chicago he must be down with the plan. Which is, of course, his.

    Hear hear, the spontaneous inner monologue. Writing is how I try coping with that.

    Happy E/R/P Day!

  6. I agree, the sign is absurd. Any object of faith would, by definition, be non-falsifiable. But I doubt faith will ever be expunged, it’s too hardwired in and most people will never find their way clear of it. Best to figure out how to co-exist. As religious statements of principles go, that sign ain’t horrible

  7. “There is no harmony between religion and science. When science was a child, religion sought to strangle it in the cradle. Now that science has attained its youth, and superstition is in its dotage, the trembling, palsied wreck says to the athlete: “Let us be friends.” It reminds me of the bargain the cock wished to make with the horse: “Let us agree not to step on each other’s feet.”
    Robert Green Ingersoll

  8. I don’t know. The definition of intelligence is “ the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.” It doesn’t say it has to be accurate knowledge or useful skills.

  9. It seems like you are asking to be a science, but that is not the claim. They say they are as intelligent as science, though most of us, who believe that intelligence required an adherence to empirical evidence, probably cannot figure out how that could be true.

  10. The sign – in particular the science thing – is another example of how a lot of the schtick of religious writings – and spoken words – is the music of it – the object of focus to stir the congregation into an enlightened state of experience. To spur the congregation to find ways in which the stated objectives can be made to be true, just because it sounds good in the moment of the performance.

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