“The Big Religion Problems . . . Solved!” w/Gregory S. Paul
Equal Time For Freethought, Show 291, Jan. 18, 2009
The point of departure is paleontologist Gregory S. Paul's article "Religion, the Big Questions Finally Solved" in Free Inquiry, Dec. 2008/Jan. 2009 (vol. 29, no. 1), pp. 24-36.
Paul finds that Rodney Stark's hypothesis that religion thrives in the USA as opposed to Western Europe because of the free market and the absence of an established church is disconfirmed by accurate data. Serious religiosity decreases with rise of income and education. The USA is an anomaly with respect to other nations of comparable technological, industrial and political status.
Scientific analysis can refute the existence of a good God as well as other supernatural entities. Why then creationism and high religiosity in USA? Income disparity correlates with religiosity. We need universal health care and a social safety net. Corporate consumer culture tends to dampen religiosity. Polls show that Americans are becoming more progressive and secular. But is organized political power equivalent to raw numbers? Nevertheless, a look at the popular culture war shows that the right has effectively lost the culture wars.
But what about rise of progressive evangelicals? Paul responds that even they are helping to undermine religiosity. It is likely not accidental that the religious right opposes universal health care. But they will prove to be ineffective in the end. William F. Buckley was a fool to ally the religious right with corporate America, which undermines its culture. Opposite to Darwinism (creationism) and social Darwinism cannot coexist. Note that William Jennings Bryan did not ally the two. (Another example of capitalist culture: the decline of "blue laws".)
Religion is easily cast off. Make life secure and comfortable; religion will decline. Religion is a superficial way of dealing with hardship. Religion is not an intrinsic need.
The "new atheists"? The intellectual battle between religion is not essentially an ideological war, but a socioeconomic one. The corporate consumer culture enables the new atheists.
Paul's work will become one chapter in a forthcoming book, Atheism and Secularity.
COMMENT: While I agree with this correlation in general, the analysis of it doesn't seem to go deep enough; a more elaborate theoretical analysis is needed. A dialectical relationship has been revealed without being recognized as such. Progress does not merely eclipse regress; rather, exacerbated social tension tends to lead toward a social explosion or social breakdown. Perhaps Barack Obama has made Paul more hopeful? I remain skeptical of Paul's prognosis. I welcome Paul's thesis regardless, as it shows that social welfare and social equality are key to our problem, and therefore libertarian atheists deserve a good ass-kicking.