Why would you ask a physicist in the first place?

Would We Be Better Off Without Religion?

Krauss, like many STEM scientists who enter the religion debate, makes the same kinds of flawed assumptions in his argument as the New Atheist school of thought from which he draws his conclusions. Namely, the view that Religion is always juxtaposed against Science in terms of “truth” and that the only function of religion is to explain the ontological universe.

As is likely obvious by now, I tend to find the contributions of physicists, biologists, and astrophysicists to the popular discourse about religion to be exceptionally frustrating. This is because, as STEM scientists, they often see their views on religion as equal to their training in their own disciplines. In other words, they are people who Know Things. And because they Know Things about their scientific field, they immediately and uncritically Know Things about culture and society. But unfortunately, as too many of these debates have demonstrated, their arguments lack nuance, demonstrate only the most basic understanding of what religion and the study of religion is, and betray a particular kind of bias towards a straw man of Western Positivist Science versus Abrahamic Religion. All of which is encapsulated in the rather reductionist question, “Would we be better without religion?” (a question which already presupposes the kind of answers it might get).

Once again, the short answer is no. But that isn’t because I am advocating for the kinds of social control and exclusion that many religious institutions are and have been guilty of over the ages. It’s because I understand that “religion” is a complex human system of meaning-making, communal and familial identity, material and immaterial interaction, and method of negotiating human and non-human viewpoints. Does this system also contain violence? Yes, of course it does. All human systems, to one degree or another, do.

…but more directly to the caption, “is religion inherently violent?” No. As with any other sociocultural system, it is neither inherently good nor inherently evil. Religion does not exist independently of the people who comprise it, and who may or may not therefore choose to use it for good or evil aims.

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