Ultimately pointless: the secularist and atheist ‘debate’ versus the religious

Many “atheists” fail to appreciate the size of the beast they are up against when debating with the religious. It is not that the religious are smarter. Far from it. It is their numbers — the rate at which they physically multiply, the sheer number of warm bodies that they can rally behind the drivel they espouse, and the gigabytes of non-sequiturs they can shovel into “debates” — that will see them prevail. Noted scientist Richard Dawkins likened them to “baying dogs.” The noise they produce simply overwhelms.

The average self-described “atheist” may not know the profound nature of what it means to uphold a thought framework that cannot defer to a higher sentient power. And that shortfall is what makes many of them ill-equipped to see where the other side of the “debate” is coming from — that is, see it by applying the very rigourously logical scientific approach that they ironically assert is what underpins their position in said “debate.”

Many self-described “atheists” focus their energies on arguing around the question of the existence of supernatural beings and the supernatural universes they rule. Ultimately, for the religious, this is where conversations generally come to a grinding halt. The belief of the religious in such beings and such places is non-negotiable. Perhaps this is owing to the possibility that the concept of a deity and a notional realm for the “souls” of the dead to persist that said deity presumably would preside over is an immensely powerful source of motivation for people to overcome the hardships of life and soldier on.

“Soldier on” is the key word here. Soldier on to what? If you believe in an afterlife, why then would you soldier on in an earthly life that, according to most religious teachings, is nothing when taken in the context of the “eternal life” these teachings promise beyond death?

The above question presents a conundrum to the religious as it highlights a fundamental contradiction in religious belief:

Why regard Earthly life with sanctity if said life is ultimately pointless when placed beside the unfathomable immensity of the eternal life that awaits beyond it?

Kill a zygote or embryo before it grows an Earthly mind and you actually do it a favour — because it presumably preserves its innocence and makes it indisputably eligible to enter the gates of Paradise. Or blow yourself up inside a restaurant full of dining infidels and earn a pass to a Heaven where you could spend eternity surrounded by what’s-that-number virgins.

Earthly lives ultimately don’t matter.

Given y = (1000/x), the limit of y as x approaches inifinity is ZERO.

Eternity mathematically zeroes out even a thousand years of finite life.

This will probably come across as quite confronting to most of the other poor sods who spend entire lives in a monumental battle against the “temptations of the flesh.”

So why do human beings “soldier on” then?

Richard Dawkins proposes an alternative view of what the ultimate meaning of life may be in his book The Selfish Gene. It is an alternative that lacks the fundamental contradiction that tips over the dogmatic house of cards of religion.

When the physical structure that houses our genetic code was finally discovered by James D. Watson and Francis Crick and when the nature of how this structure encodes the instructions of how life organises itself was revealed, scientists reckoned that they had figured out the mechanism we use to propagate our species. Dawkins reversed that notion when he put the gene at the centre of the whole point of “life.” Genetic material by its nature replicates itself. Viruses are essentially disembodied self-replicating molecules that seek a biological host to catalyse their replication.

A virus uses its biological host to replicate itself.

The same can be said of any molecule that carries genetic information that persists in structure through time. That includes the human DNA molecule. Those DNA molecules — including ours — that managed to remain structurally persistent over hundreds and hundreds of millions of years are those that succeeded in “finding” a way to do so. Some of them, like viruses, did so by not fixing what ain’t broke — essentially doing the same thing that they do today for all of those eons. Others tried new things — like encasing themselves in organic material to become cellular units. And still, others, within their cellular vehicles, went on to form colonies of cellular units — organisms.

Whatever worked.

Random mutation modified the DNA code and each modification resulted in a change in the way said DNA guided the natural processes that built its vehicles. And natural selection determined which modification persisted.

Those modifications that resulted in an advantage in the ability of a particular code to persist generally survived selection pressures.

Many of these successful modifications involved incremental increases in an organism’s structural complexity. As such, complexity steadily accumulated in the emeging biosphere.

Thus “life” forms as we know them today are mere vehicles used by genetic code sequences — information, ultimately — to propagate themselves as faithfully as possible over time. The increase in the complexity of these vehicles over the ages was an accident — a by-product — of the environment that hosted this propagation.

If a gene could speak, it would say It’s all about me.

As such, human beings — and all living organisms — soldier on, because we are programmed at the deepest levels of our essence as vehicles of genetic information to pass on copies of our genetic code. It is this fundamental urge to propagate copies of this information that constitutes our “life force.”

Indeed, living past an age that we are useful as carers and protectors of our offspring is a relatively recent development. For the most part of the history of our species, men and women generally died — or physically degenerated rapidly — after the general age when one’s offspring become sexually mature or are able to fend for themselves. And we are at our strongest and most vibrant at our most fertile ages.

What does that tell us?

Simple. It’s all about sowing our oats. Passing on a genetic legacy to subsequent generations.

What does that say about all artifacts of the human mind that we presume to regard as “absolutes” — freedom, sanctity, rights, and even meaning? In the overall scheme of Nature, there is nothing such. Indeed, for all our huffing and puffing about the “rightness” of atheism over belief in religious notions, we may actually face a future where secular — and atheist — civilisations barrel irreversibly towards extinction and religious and superstitious societies increasingly dominate.

The Selfish Gene say: the vehicle that guarantees it the bigger population wins at the end of the day (or, shall we say, eon). Whether it is the body of a cockroach or the form of the human zealot that fits that criteria, the Selfish Gene will be happy either way.

Nature ultimately does not care what we, using our scientific “minds”, think.

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24 Comments on “Ultimately pointless: the secularist and atheist ‘debate’ versus the religious”

  1. Benigno, this is too pessimistic. Sure, the “point” of life is reproducing ourselves but we have evolved these two huge cerebral hemispheres which give us plenty of scope to find meaning. Why do you think religious societies will oust secular ones? It is not looking like that at the moment. Successful and prosperous societies gradually lose their religious affiliations. “Soldiering on” is how we safeguard our DNA (children).

    1. Yes, of course John, we are equipped with minds that we use to ponder the great mysteries of the universe — an endeavour which, I believe, humanity’s made a lot of progress in.

      I’m just saying that in the overall scheme of evolution and propagation of genetic information, our oversized brains are just another property of our species just like having legs or fins or a belly for slithering is a property of one or the other specie.

      In fact, evolutionary psychologists have been developing a strong theory around how the human brain and all its uniquely human skills evolved mainly more as a result of sexual and social selection pressures and less as a result of survival selection pressures. Note that most animals with highly-developed brains tend to be predators. But to be successful as a predator only requires so much intelligence (say, the intelligence of a tiger or a bear). So, as the theory goes, higher intelligence beyond that evolved more as a means of dominating social situations and securing preferred sexual mates within a community or colony than as a means to increase success as a hunter. Higher intelligence entails costs and the return on investment on higher intelligence (beyond basic hunting skills, for example) don’t stack up if we limit the measure of those returns to survival.

      Re religious societies “ousting” secular ones: I’m not really saying they will be ousted. But if you take the entirety of the gene pool (or, say, the meme pool) of humanity, by sheer numbers alone, the average will likely skew towards the religious/superstitious end. The trend seems to be headed that way. Perhaps I exaggerated a bit by using the “extinction” word (as secular/non-religious societies will certainly never be completely wiped out from the face of the Earth). I just used hyperbole to illustrate a point.

  2. Our religious beliefs are just sets of opinions. Different religions have different sets of beliefs. Atheism, agnosticism, Animism, etc…are also sets of beliefs. We are stupid species; because, we: kill, torture, force other people, commit suicide, etc…just to prove to others,our opinions are the right opinions…
    I believe that Religion and Science do not contradict each other. I believe also in Religion; used for Spiritual Development; that is: used to make you a better person.
    However, if Atheism, Agnosticsm,Animism, etc…works for you. Then, go for it…Does this belief, makes you a better person? Does it makes you kinder and more honest to people? Does it makes you grow more to become wiser? Does it gives you joy?
    If a Religion makes me conjoin with my Divine Source. Gives me more understanding on my being, and my universe…then, I’m all for it.
    If a Religion will tie me to a set of dogmas, that excludes others. Or, make me support a certain politically motivated opinion; or vote for a certain political candidate. Or give part of my earnings to make the religious leader, richer than anybody else…Then, I don’t believe,I will be a part of it…

  3. Only people who have a childish mind, can believe in the fiction of God, can believe in heaven and hell, can pray to the empty sky.

    The ordinary masses whose average intelligence quotient is not more than seven years. (their bodies go on growing to seventy, eighty, but the mind stays somewhere between seven and fourteen; very rarely a man passes beyond fourteen)

    God is an insult to existence, to intelligence, to man, to consciousness, to everything!

    God-oriented religions are a disease of the soul, a sickness of the mind, because God is only your fear, your dread, your anxiety, your insecurity.

    All that is needed is to drop all sick fantasies.

    Nothing has been contributed by monotheist religions to the world except war.

    But believers don’t understand logic, don’t understand argument.

    A believer will not see the truth; he will try to continue his belief in a lie, he will make all kinds of excuses.

    It is all psychological sickness.

    What is faith? It is always blind.

    A man who knows does not need faith.

    Faith is always in the other – in Jesus, in God, in heaven, in hell.

    It is always outside you, and truth is within you.

    Faith is needed for exploitation.

    It is faith which has kept humanity ignorant.

    Religions teach faith because they cannot help you to find the truth.

    They themselves don’t know where truth is.

    To think of God as a person is just imagination.

    There is no person as God; all personality is human projection.

    And God being a fiction, your prayer is false, and your religiousness is imposed.

    Anything imposed from outside destroys you, your freedom, your individuality.

    Your inner space is completely closed.

    Belief in God is keeping billions of people locked outside their own consciousness.

    True religiousness is your own interiority, your own inner space.

    It is your innermost core.

    It is an inward journey. It opens up only in deep meditation.

    It is Intuitive (No Mind)

    Intuition will give you a tremendous clarity, understanding, a new kind of intelligence of which you are absolutely unaware.

    Intuition cannot be translated into intellect.

    Intuition is given by your own nature, from inside.

    You have your guide within you.

    Does the Christian church know the truth?

    It has, in fact, no way to reach to the truth. Prayer is not the way, because prayer is based on belief in a God.

    So it is not a question of faith or belief, it is a question of deepest inquiry into your own being, into your own consciousness.

    The reality is that the truth should be revealed, that the people should come to understand what is false and what is not false.

    The only true religion there is, is the art of changing the unconscious mind into consciousness.

    Osho – The God Conspiracy

    1. Interesting commentary. Requires some digesting to comprehend. I’m still looking for something to argue about.

      The feeling I feel when entering a Cathedral is what, self love? Have you ever felt it, that sense of otherness, of giving oneself to a gentle but powerful essence?

      Can you see the little aura of yellow above the trees?

    2. @There is no god, has never been, all definitions are inventions

      (My comments in parenthesis).

      Only people who have a childish mind, can believe in the fiction of God, can believe in heaven and hell, can pray to the empty sky.

      (I don’t have a childish mind and I don’t consider God is a fiction. Popular personalities who believe in God – Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and those who don’t believe – Bill Maher, Rosie O’ Donnel. Read what they are spewing.)

      God is an insult to existence, to intelligence, to man, to consciousness, to everything!

      (I would categorically say that God is an insult to you. Why make a generalization that you can’t support with facts.)

      God-oriented religions are a disease of the soul, a sickness of the mind, because God is only your fear, your dread, your anxiety, your insecurity.

      (That is according to you.)

      Nothing has been contributed by monotheist religions to the world except war.

      (Come on, are you reading histories? Or are you that dumb?)

      A believer will not see the truth; he will try to continue his belief in a lie, he will make all kinds of excuses.

      (The way I read your comment, it is you who is making all the excuses.)

      What is faith? It is always blind.
      (Faith is a belief.)

      A man who knows does not need faith.

      (Faith is applicable for both who knows and those who do not know.)

      Faith is always in the other – in Jesus, in God, in heaven, in hell. It is always outside you, and truth is within you.

      (You are contradicting yourself.)

      Faith is needed for exploitation.
      (You are contradicting yourself. Do you really know what you’re blabbing?)

      To think of God as a person is just imagination.

      (God is God. Where the hell did you get the idea that God is a person? )

      Maybe you must try something different to make it appear that you have something new?

    3. In such a case (belief in God a sign of insanity), why don’t you commit ALL the religious you know to a mental hospital? Or maybe you want something more permanent… something along the lines of Aktion T4, perhaps, Anwarter?

  4. “It is not that the religious are smarter. Far from it. It is their numbers — the rate at which they physically multiply, the sheer number of warm bodies that they can rally behind the drivel they espouse, and the gigabytes of non-sequiturs they can shovel into “debates” — that will see them prevail.

    Substitute the word “religious” with “Aquino supporters” and the analogy still applies.

    1. “It is not that the religious are smarter. Far from it. It is their numbers — the rate at which they physically multiply, the sheer number of warm bodies that they can rally behind the drivel they espouse, and the gigabytes of non-sequiturs they can shovel into “debates” — that will see them prevail.”

      How about substituting “numbers” with “conviction” and “drivel” with “faith” and “non-sequiturs” with “logic”?

  5. as a dyed-in-the-wool agnostic-apatheist, I really make it a point to run for the hills whenever an atheist-theist debate pops out. it’s all TL:DR to me 🙂

    but plus points for mentioning Dawkins’ social memes. I may hate his guts but that concept he invented really got my imagination spinning. Ideas that replicate like viruses… something only a evolutionary biologist with a big chip on his shoulder for all the pray-pray-woo-woo can come up with.

    1. Actually you can argue that each specie is a meme itself. That’s because our essence comes down to *information* – information that is stored in the DNA that resides within every cell in our body which is used to guide various biological processes that shape every living individual.

      Seeing it that way — that everything comes down to information — is where we begin to blur the line between “genetics” and “memetics”. Genetics, it can be argued, is just a special case of the broader field of memetics; and DNA just happens to be just one form of the many forms of media for storing and transmitting information.

  6. In the teaching of Modern Psychology…there is a Conscious Mind- your realities perceived by your five senses. Subconscios Mind – realities above your five senses; like: your intuition or “kutob”. And your Superconscious Mind – this consciousness is tied to your Divine Source, or some call it God; the Buddhists call it: the Universe. A Multisensory person is a person who knows how to tap all these mental attributes.

  7. Is conduct right because God commands it or does God commands because it is right? -Plato

    Here, Plato pointed out that goodness is not independent from God, it is the other way around

    More specifically, he wonders that if God himself had any reasons for calling certain actions as good or bad, right and wrong. Plato points out that God cannot have any reasons. God’s will alone why some actions are good or bad.

    And if that is the case, those actions are called good or bad because God says so, that would make God irrational. But being irrational does not simply fit with God himself.

    So God must have reasons for calling those actions good or bad, because it is the reason that truly determines what makes an act good or bad, right and wrong, not simply God decides so.

  8. “Here, Plato pointed out that goodness is not independent from God, it is the other way around”

    It’s always to my amazement why the teachings of Bible is totally different from Koran. The Catholics or Christians from Muslims or Islamists.

  9. Almost all Religions have the same teachings…Goodness is taught in every religion…also, oneness with the Divine Creator; call him: God, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, the Universe, etc…it is in the interpretation of the religious leaders of their Scriptures, that is causing us trouble…plus there are fundamentalists and radicals, in every religion.
    Some religious leaders, interpret their Scriptures, to control their followers; and to gain more followers, also…

  10. @Hyden

    But Koran teaches to “kill” the non-believers. Is that goodness?

    Koran also inspires “honor killing”. Check it at Wiki. Is that goodness?

    1. So is the Christian Bible, Old Testament, it states: “Kill the: Canaanite, Midianites, Jebusites, etc…” “They are non believers.” Where do we go from here on religion?
      In the Christian Bible . God is featured as a vengeful god, and at the same time a merciful God…

  11. I’m an Atheist and while I don’t want to say that I’m apathetic about it even if it seems so, I am a firm believer in religious tolerance. I will tolerate your religion as long as you don’t try to shove it down my throat.

    I am not eager to enter into a religious debate due to the mentioned comparison above with baying dogs. Furthermore, a solid point with logic and proof behind it means nothing to blind faith so in an argument it will simply be ignored and seen as irrelevant simply because the fundamentals of the religious argument have no solid ground or logic behind them. It is one thing to believe and another to listen to reason or think for yourself, apparently.

    I could get into the reasons why people kill each other over religion but the point that the article makes is that none of this will matter in the grand scheme of things so why waste energy?

    My post here is long enough and probably doesn’t match up with the rest of the intellectual talk that is going on here so I’ll just say my piece and be off.

    For me, this is all about survival. Having been an atheist since I was 8 years old and studying in a Catholic school, I know what that is all about. I simply went through the motions and tried my best to stay under the radar lest I be singled out for thinking differently and I think that this is the best response we as atheists can have towards our more religious fellows.

    In the end, we really don’t have to prove anything.

  12. Although I agree with what you’ve said, I still find it such a…sad outlook. It is a sobering and humbling thought.
    I myself am a non-believer and sometimes when I feel like an island in an ocean of Christians that I find myself contributing a comment on two in discussions about religion. But I don’t stay too long and enjoy simply reading than debating.

    I don’t look down on believers for believing in a deity. Heck, one of my best friends is a devout Evangelical but no matter how much she believes in the Rapture, she is an extremely smart (a summa cum laude Iska), hard-working girl who is also one of the kindest persons I’ve ever met. When I encounter devout colleagues talking about their church life, I simply keep quiet and listen to them. They know that I don’t believe in their god, and they respect that as well. They know not to force their beliefs on me. It’s a two-way street. That’s why I just find it frustrating when I come across non-believers who laugh and mock theists for their beliefs under the cloak of anonymity.

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