Atheism and Diversity: Is It Wrong For Atheists To Convert Believers?
Continued from previous page
Seeing religion as a hypothesis is important for a lot of reasons. But the reason that's most relevant to today's topic:
If religion is a hypothesis, it is not hostile to diversity for atheists to oppose it.
It is no more hostile to diversity to oppose the religion hypothesis than it is to oppose the hypothesis that global warming is a hoax; that an unrestricted free market will cause the economy to flourish for everyone; that illness is caused by an imbalance in the four bodily humors; that the sun orbits the earth.
Arguing against hypotheses that aren't supported by the evidence is not anti-diversity. That's how we understand the world better. We understand the world by rigorously gathering and analyzing evidence... and by ruthlessly rejecting any hypothesis the evidence doesn't support. Was it hostile to diversity for Pasteur to argue against the theory of spontaneous generation? For Georges Lemaitre to argue against the steady-state universe? For Galileo to argue against geocentrism?
And if not, then why is it hostile to diversity for atheists to argue against the hypothesis of God and the supernatural world?
How is it any more anti-diversity for atheists to argue against religion, and to try to persuade other people to change their minds about it, than it is for anyone to argue their case against any other hypothesis, on any other topic?
Many believers will argue that religion doesn't fall into these categories. They'll argue that religion can't be proven true or false with 100-percent certainty, and therefore it's reasonable for people to believe in any religion that appeals to them. (And it's unreasonable for anyone to make an argument against it.)
But that's not entirely true. Many religions, from young-earth creationism to astrology, do make testable claims. And every single time those claims have been rigorously tested, they've folded like a house of cards in a hurricane. They can't be disproved with 100-percent certainty, but almost nothing can, and that isn't the standard of evidence we use for any other claim.
Much more to the point, though: When you start seeing religion as a hypothesis, the fact that it's unverifiable suddenly stops being a defense.
In fact, it's completely the opposite. The fact that religion is unverifiable becomes one of the most devastating arguments against it.
One of the most important things about a hypothesis is that it has to be falsifiable. If any possible evidence could be used to support a hypothesis -- if your hypothesis will be shown to be true whether the water in the beaker gets hotter or colder, stays the same temperature, boils away instantly or turns into a parrot and flies out the door -- it is an utterly useless hypothesis. If any event at all can be fitted into it, then it has no power whatsoever to explain past events or predict future outcomes. It is, as they say, not even wrong.
And that's just as true of religion as any other hypothesis. If any outcome of, for instance, an illness -- recovering dramatically for no apparent reason, getting gradually better with medical intervention, getting worse, staying the same indefinitely, dying -- could be explained as God's work, then the God hypothesis is useless. It has no power to explain the world, to predict the future, or to tell us how our behavior will affect the outcomes of our lives. It serves no purpose. (Except, perhaps, a psychological one.)
The fact that religion is unfalsifiable doesn't mean we have to accept it as a reasonable possibility. It means the exact opposite. It means we should reject it wholesale.