Thank you for your response.
First of all, I appreciate you pointing out the fact that Trump didn’t actually ask for Russia to hack Clinton’s emails. I revisited the article I had linked to, and it turns out they had included some very deceptive (i.e. inaccurate) statements. It would be nice if I had an editor, but I also should have known better than to trust a mainstream news source. In short, you have inspired me to remove the sentence in question from my piece. As far as the other Fusion GPS stuff, I would need to do more research in order to respond.
Now, onward to the next topic: Religion!
First, the Camus quote you included is very similar to Pascal’s Wager, which I have responded to in a previous correspondence:
Christian apologists try to frame this issue as a dichotomy when it really isn’t. The choice isn’t between fundamentalist Christianity and atheism; it’s a choice between Yahweh, Zeus, Mithras, Buddha, Thor, Zoroaster, Osiris (and the hundreds of other deities that have been advocated throughout history), or thinking they’re all probably fictional. There’s some vague notion that someone has figured out that Yahweh is legitimate and the other deities were just mythology. The truth is that there was never any evidence that any of them were real.
Essentially the question is, “Which god?” To roughly quote a memorable moment from The Simpsons, “What if we choose the wrong religion? Every day we’d just be making God madder and madder.” Of course you could just advocate deism, but how would one derive ethical principles from that?
I’ll also respond to the following quote from your response, just to clarify something.
“Consider how even Dawkins admitted religion has been a moderating factor in society and look around to day and see how society has transformed now that so many people have stopped being religious.”
I am not a fan of Richard Dawkins, so the fact that he “admitted” something is unlikely to persuade me of anything (although, as I mentioned in the article, I think religion has pros and cons). While on this topic, I also find Sam Harris quite annoying, especially since he’s a cheerleader for U.S. imperialism. And, although I included a few Hitchens quotes, I disagreed with him on certain issues, especially his support of the occupation of Iraq. My point is that the so-called “New Atheists” are overrated, and I can formulate my views without them.
Now, regarding the second part of your sentence above (“…how society has transformed…”), I have (luckily) recently engaged in an email correspondence which included this topic, so I’ll just copy and paste some of the references from that:
From the extensive study “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies,” which was published in the Journal of Religion & Society through Creighton University:
“In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies (Figures 1–9). The most theistic prosperous democracy, the U.S., is exceptional, but not in the manner Franklin predicted. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developed democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly. The view of the U.S. as a ‘shining city on the hill’ to the rest of the world is falsified when it comes to basic measures of societal health.”
“No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health. Higher rates of non-theism and acceptance of human evolution usually correlate with lower rates of dysfunction, and the least theistic nations are usually the least dysfunctional.”
Regarding the US specifically, sociology professor Phil Zuckerman observes:
“According to the latest study from the Pew Research Center, the 10 states that report the highest levels of belief in God are Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma (tied with Utah). The 10 states with the lowest levels of belief in God are Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Alaska, Oregon and California. And as is the case in the rest of the world, when it comes to nearly all standard measures of societal health, including homicide rates, the least theistic states generally fare much better than the most theistic. Consider child-abuse fatality rates: Highly religious Mississippi’s is twice that of highly secular New Hampshire’s, and highly religious Kentucky’s is four times higher than highly secular Oregon’s.”
I know this doesn’t fit perfectly into our discussion, but I believe it’s still relevant. I also want to clarify that these issues are extremely complex and there are myriad factors one must take into account when analyzing societal health (not just the prevalence of religion). My point is simply to call into question the notion that religious belief automatically translates to positive societal outcomes, and that lack of religious belief automatically translates to negative societal outcomes.
Lastly, I’ll very briefly respond to this:
“Consider all the soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages and food banks that would all never exist without the religious people who all operate them.”
It is my view that, since empathy is a universal human trait, these efforts would exist regardless of supernatural beliefs. Also, I think it’s quite likely that early religious doctrines actually borrowed morality from the innate human tendencies that were observable, such as empathy, compassion, kindness, generosity, cooperation, etc. I think the assertion that these organizations wouldn’t exist without religious individuals is problematic, mainly because there’s no way to test that hypothesis. Religion is the norm in our world, which why most charities (and any other prominent institutions, for that matter) are dominated by religious folks.
Nevertheless, here is a guide to secular charities.
Okay, this is getting way too long. I’ll have to wrap it up. Cheers.