Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"This threw evangelicals into a tizzy"

From Heaven for the Godless? by Charles M. Blow:

In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life.

This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. Jesus said so: “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” But the survey suggested that Americans just weren’t buying that.

The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they?

So in August, Pew asked the question again. (They released the results last week.) Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them.

And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go.

What on earth does this mean?
It means that when it comes to religious beliefs people believe whatever the hell they want to believe. I believe this is a sign that eventually religious belief will go the way of the dodo bird.

No matter how hard they try to hold on to the things that the Bible and other religious anachronisms tell them, many religious people are becoming more and more secular, whether they know it or not. The more religious people that drift away from the fundamentalist beliefs of religion the weaker religion will become.

From page 19 of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris:
Religious moderation springs from the fact that even the least educated person among us simply knows more about certain matters than anyone did two thousand years ago - and much of this knowledge is incompatible with scripture. Having heard something about the medical discoveries of the last hundred years, most of us no longer equate disease processes with sin or demonic possession. Having learned about the known distances between objects in our universe, most of us (about half of us, actually) find the idea that the whole works was created six thousand years ago (with light from distant stars already in transit toward the earth) impossible to take seriously. Such concessions to modernity do not in the least suggest that faith is compatible with reason, or that our religious traditions are in principle open to new learning: it is just that the utility of ignoring (or “reinterpreting”) certain articles of faith is now overwhelming. Anyone being flown to a distant city for heart-bypass surgery has conceded, tacitly at least, that we have learned a few things about physics, geography, engineering, and medicine since the time of Moses.
Even though it seems like it is taking forever, and even though things like intelligent design, trying to ban stem cell research, all the bitching about the "new atheists", and Barack Obama sidling up to Rick Warren may slow the process down, at some point the rubber band of religious belief has to break as more and more people become unable to reconcile their beliefs with reality.

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