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22 "But so many cultures have developed religions. Surely that must say something?" (An Introduction to Atheism)




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This article is from the Atheism FAQ, by mathew meta@pobox.com with numerous contributions by others.

22 "But so many cultures have developed religions. Surely that must say something?" (An Introduction to Atheism)

Not really. Most religions are only superficially similar; for
example, it's worth remembering that religions such as Buddhism and
Taoism lack any sort of concept of God in the Christian sense. In
short, there is no concensus amongst religions as to what God actually
is. Hence one of the problems you must face if you wish to discuss God
with an atheist, is that of defining exactly what you mean by the
word.

Also, most religions are quick to denounce competing religions, so
it's rather odd to use one religion to try and justify another.

"What about all the famous scientists and philosophers who have
concluded that God exists?"

For every scientist or philosopher who believes in a god, there is one
who does not. Besides, as has already been pointed out, the truth of a
belief is not determined by how many people believe it. Also, it is
important to realize that atheists do not view famous scientists or
philosophers in the same way that theists view their religious
leaders.

A famous scientist is only human; she may be an expert in some fields,
but when she talks about other matters her words carry no special
weight. Many respected scientists have made themselves look foolish by
speaking on subjects which lie outside their fields of expertise.

Also, note that even famous scientists' views are treated with
scepticism by the scientific community. Acknowledged experts in a
particular field must still provide evidence for their theories;
science relies on reproducable, independently confirmed results. New
theories which are incompatible with a large body of existing
scientific knowledge will be subject to especially close scrutiny; but
if the work is sound and the experimental data reproducible, the new
theories will displace the old.

For instance, both special relativity and quantum mechanics were
highly controversial, and required that a lot of existing scientific
theory be thrown out. Yet both were relatively quickly accepted after
extensive experiments proved their correctness. Pseudo-scientific
theories such as creationism are rejected not because they are
controversial, but because they simply do not stand up to basic
scientific scrutiny. (See the FAQs for talk.origins for further
information.)

The Constructing a Logical Argument document has more to say about
scientific verification and proof by authority.

 

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