Victor Stenger wrote:
“Science flies us to the moon. Religion flies us into buildings.”
After I quoted this epigram in “Victor Stenger, religion and violence“, a reader named Just sayin… provided a tongue-in-cheek (as I interpret it) counter-epigram:
“Science provides the means to destroy civilization in an afternoon.”
Another reader, “The Thinker,” replied by quipping:
“And religion provides the motivation.”
If The Thinker is aiming to provide a reductio for the absurdity of the entire epigrammatic discussion then he (she?) certainly succeeded. I’m not sure if that is the intent. But what if it isn’t? No doubt, there are folks out there who think it is meaningful, and even correct to say that “religion” provides the motivation for sweeping acts of destruction and violence. And they move easily from the alleged observation that religion uniquely causes and/or justifies violence to the conclusion that religion ought to be eliminated.
This claim that religion provides the motivation for the destruction of civilization betrays a surprising ignorance of modern history. After all, the world was held in a precarious balance throughout the Cold War not because of “religion” but rather geopolitical jockeying between two great world powers. So the claim that religion provides the motivation for worldwide destruction is false. It may provide a justification, but then so does geopolitics. And so if we are to advocate for atheism on this ground, we must equally advocate for anarchy.
And given that one of those Cold War governments was an avowedly secular state, we should add that secularism also provides the motivation. In which case we should also eliminate secularism. (Eliminate religion and secularism along with all government? This is getting complicated.)
Currently our energy consumption appears to be leading to degrees of climate change that are threatening life on earth as we know it. Thus, it looks like our desire for more energy also provides the motivation to destroy the civilization (in decades if not quite an afternoon). And so, maybe we ought to get rid of energy usage as well. That means no more computers, electric lights, or fossil fuels.
Consequently, the individual who seriously wants to denounce religion for its alleged penchant to provide the catalyst for harming the human race must with the same breath denounce government, secularism, and the free market.