RR Excerpt #2: Questioning Belief

This is excerpt #2 from The Reason Revolution: Atheism, Secular Humanism, and the Collapse of Religion, a short, FREE e-book available at Smashwords, Goodreads, and Amazon

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Do you "believe"—accept as factually correct—any proposition for which there is total absence of evidence-based proof, the kind of proof that does not rely on testimonials, anecdotal reports, eyewitness accounts, or other non-empirical and non-testable assertions? If you believe in a higher power or expect to experience consciousness after your physical death, then you hold beliefs based solely on unverified assumptions at best, and empty superstitions at worst.

Of course, it is each person's rightful choice to have faith in supernatural beings and an afterlife, a choice based commonly on tradition, teachings of religious authorities, and the "word" of a deity contained in a "holy book" written by pre-science mystics who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago. As science has produced evidence-based knowledge of the natural world over the past 400 years, at a pace that has accelerated rapidly in recent decades, belief in the supernatural is becoming increasingly tenuous.

As Carl Sagan famously said, there is "not a shred of evidence" to support the tenets of religion, namely the existence of deities or an afterlife. Even devout believers acknowledge that the existence of their god(s) cannot be proven and it therefore must be accepted on faith. Most thoughtful, open-minded believers recognize that some skepticism is warranted.

My philosophical bias is toward the view that empirical science is the only valid approach to factual knowledge. Personally meaningful subjective experiences stimulated by art, music, dreams, meditation, visions, drug-induced altered states of consciousness, certain forms of mental illness, anomalous "mystical" events, and "spiritual revelations" produce seemingly profound insights into the nature of reality. However, such insights are idiosyncratic, are not objective, and do not apply universally—"true for me" does not mean "true for all." The proven, verified, replicated results of scientific research are true for all, even for those who deny their factual validity.

This book presents science-based reasons for rejecting religious belief, proposes secular humanism as a positive alternative worldview, discusses political implications of atheism, and offers hopeful predictions concerning how the world might look once religion collapses.

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