I Believe in Science & Humanity
by Michael Shermer
I believe in the power of science and humanity. Specifically, I believe that biodiversity is a good thing and that we have been rapacious in our treatment of the environment, although I think the environmental movement has greatly exaggerated our condition and that the environment is a lot more resilient than most environmentalists give it credit for. I donâ€™t mind eating cows and fish, but dolphins and whales have big brains and theyâ€™re cool, so I donâ€™t think we should kill them. I drive an SUV because I haul around bicycles, books, and dogs, but as soon as there is a bigger hybrid, Iâ€™ll buy it. And although I am a libertarian heterosexual who is about as unpink (in both meanings) as you can get, I believe people should have an equal opportunity to be unequal. As for evolution, it happened. Deal with it.
I donâ€™t know why the God question is so interdigitated with political and economic issues, but it is. It shouldnâ€™t be. Itâ€™s okay to be a liberal Christian or a conservative atheist. I am a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. I donâ€™t think there is a God, or any sort of anthropomorphic being who needs to be worshipped, who listens to prayers, who keeps a moral scoreboard that will be settled in the end, or who cares one iota about who wins the Super Bowl.
This is why what we do in this life matters so much â€” and why how we treat others in the here and now is more important than how they might be treated in some hereafter that may or may not exist. If we knew for certain that there is an afterlife, we wouldnâ€™t have great debates about it, and philosophers wouldnâ€™t have spilled all that ink over the millennia wrangling over it. Since we donâ€™t know, it makes more sense to assume there is no God and no afterlife, and act accordingly. That is, act as if what we do matters now. That way, weâ€™ll think about the consequences of what we are doing.
I am sick and tired of politicians, and just about everyone else, kowtowing to the religious rightâ€™s hypersensitivities and politically correct â€śtoleranceâ€ť for diversities of belief â€” as long as one believes in God â€” any God will do, except the God who promises virgins in the next life to pilots who fly planes into buildings. Those of us who do not believe in god have had enough of this rhetoric. This is America. We are supposed to be good and do the right thing, not because it will make us rich, get us saved, or reward us in the next life, but because people have value in and of themselves, and because it will make us all better off, individually and collectively. It says so, right there in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights â€” products of a secular eighteenth-century Enlightenment movement.
Religion and politics should be treated as separate entities. Religion is private and politics is public. If you want more religion, go to church. If you want more politics, go to the capitol. Donâ€™t go to church to politic, and donâ€™t go to the capitol to preach. Thatâ€™s a non-overlapping magisterium I can live with.