Is man God-made or is god man-made?

This post is mostly a commen­tary to a friend’s post at the Huffington Post: Beware Secular Fundamentalism, by Ed Gurowitz, Ph.D.
I wanted to comment on the post, but real­ized I had too much to say to shoe­horn it into a comment field, hence this post.

Ed has made an enor­mous contri­bu­tion to my life through previ­ous (lengthy) encoun­ters, and is some­one I highly regard. To get some­thing from read­ing this, I recom­mend read­ing his post first.


I think there are (at least) two distinc­tive dimen­sions of the science v. reli­gion débâ­cle your post addresses.

Firstly, and I think you are right about this, there are mili­tant athe­ists out there (Dr. Richard Dawkins coined the phrase Militant Atheist himself) who approach the science/​religion contra­dic­tion in less than humble ways… Your exper­tise within the field of psychol­ogy natu­rally leads to inter­pret­ing the over­re­ac­tion as fear based, and my lay man knowl­edge of the subject (you taught me most of it…) agrees with that, too.

However, while the actual HuffPost title reads ‘Beware Secular Fundamentalism’, your Facebook link says ‘Beware the Secular Taliban’. This prob­a­bly explains some of the aggres­sive­ness you point to: Getting carried away emotion­ally some­times get the better of us. ‘Secular Taliban’ does seem to hit below the belt, and be moti­vated of the same kind of fear you are address­ing on the other side of the fence, indi­cat­ing how easy it is to fall into the trap… Anyway, I will for the rest of the post reply to ‘Secular Fundamentalism.’

Secondly, and more impor­tant, I feel you make clearly ques­tion­able assump­tions. This dimen­sion of your post is what I feel the need to comment:

a) You mention Albert Einstein, Freeman Dyson, Charles Darwin and align their world views with your own on this subject. Having read a bit Einstein and Darwin, I disagree: I think the argu­ment can be made, that consid­er­ing the times they lived in, and the reli­gious pres­sure upon them that we (in Europe, at least) do not expe­ri­ence today, their own state­ments regard­ing reli­gion would be clearer/​harsher had they lived today, and that they would call them­selves agnos­tics if not outright athe­ists.

I also believe this to be true of the found­ing fathers of the USA: The first amend­ment to the consti­tu­tion of your great nation is so clear on sepa­rat­ing church and state (make no law respect­ing an estab­lish­ment of reli­gion…) that, again, when consid­er­ing their era, they would call them­selves athe­ists.

b) We also seem to agree on institutional/​organized reli­gion; corrupt to the bone, in my view. I won’t list all human pain and misery caused by these, but herein lies the seed of skep­ti­cism and/​or fear of reli­gion, that I believe moti­vates many athe­ists to mili­tant reac­tions.

I have noth­ing against reli­gion as such; every human being has the right to believe what­ever gets them through the night, but it seems to bring out (corrupt­ible) lead­ers that gath­ers follow­ers, that then tries to impose their world view on the rest of us, using more or less force.

And that is certainly some­thing worth while being afraid of.
Of course, this only explains the mili­tant reac­tions, it doesn’t excuse them.

c) Fundamentalism
If anything, athe­ism must be funda­men­tal­is­tic. It is not about fairy tales, mira­cles, dogmas, façade and fancy cloth­ing: It’s about funda­men­tals, what’s real, phys­i­cal and concrete. We don’t know if there is a God or not (agnos­ti­cism), but we can for sure claim inabil­ity to see her. So the reason­able approach would be to call it as we see it: there is no God (athe­ism).

There are no reason­able argu­ments for the exis­tence of God. So then why do we have them? Probably because we invented them. God did not create man, man created god.
(I know, there are no reason­able argu­ments against God, either, but I’m pretty sure the argu­ments for came first)

To me then, there is far too little funda­men­tal­ism within the athe­is­tic move­ment: When it comes to the wish­ful think­ing (paradise, 72 virgins, walk­ing on water) of reli­gions, funda­men­tal­ism in the very essence of the word (from ‘found’ — what’s there as opposed to not there) is the way to go.

If we know noth­ing for sure, then why invent argu­ments for ‘some­thing’ and then aim to persuade others to agree with it? Here again, I feel athe­ists have a justi­fied fear of the slip­pery slope from “wow, what a great personal, mysti­cal expe­ri­ence — how should I inter­pret this?” into “It is so, because God spoke to me! You should believe this too!”

d) I think Monsieur Pascal is copping out. And that is highly offen­sive.

e) I’m a big fan of Carl Sagan, the cosmol­o­gist, and he said some­thing like “priests, rabbis and imams would never admit their argu­ments for their ‘one and only’ reli­gion are wrong, while scien­tists in the face of new evidence will change sides in an argu­ment about scien­tific truth (ok, at least some­times…)

Overall, though, you address some­thing that science needs to hear: entice more, crit­i­cize less, the future of human­ity hangs upon it!


PS! If you read this, Ed, I hope we can continue the discus­sion in Malmö in August!

One Comment

  • Finno, thanks for your gener­ous comments. I disagree with you about Einstein et al., partic­u­larly Einstein. There was very little reli­gious pres­sure on him and in any case he was not one to respond to pres­sure. I can cite quotes, in context, that show him to have been a deeply spir­i­tual man.

    That we can’t see or measure God is no more an argu­ment against her exis­tence than that we can’t see or measure love means I don’t love my chil­dren.

    We’ll continue in Malmo.

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