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Atheism or religion --- which is better for science


Waiting for the contender's second argument.

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ATHEISM: not being religious

RELIGION: a system of beliefs including claims about the supernatural

SCIENTIST: a person working with science

SCIENCE: the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.

BETTER: being correlated with more scientific success

Round 1
Religious thinking is at first disharmonious with scientific thinking, yet despite us gaining more scientific knowledge over time, one question remains... What's 'behind it all'? Even anti-religion scientists in one way, often were very curious about what lied beyond (take Einstein for instance). If it wasn't for religion, society probably would have had the bullying of nerdy people during childhood and adolescence remain severe, since while relgion is not 'angel antidote' it provides a unique framework in which being kinder becomes selfish (for afterlife rewards as well as perhaps during-life blessings but less so that).

Unfortunately, I can't directly prove that religion does this, after all it coincidentally is true to say that as we became more open about bullying, we also became more secular (if not atheistic) as a society, at least in more developed nations. However, I genuinely attribute this to coincidence. If you notice it, the religious who are selfish and use it for corruption are most often atheistic in denial. You do get lunatic fundamentalists but, in general, it's the fake-believers who are bullies and/or abusers amongst a religion's pool of self-proclaimed believers.

What religion has been for science and still is today, is a constant provider of healthy rivalry. While science 'attacks' religion either resists in futility or adapts. The reason it is able to adapt is that religion has existed to provide two things that science (if combined with atheism) never will:

  • Comfort about how futile one's entire life is in an atheistic reality, as well as that futility for close ones to them who have passed.
  • A sense of unity and harmony in society, in other words a sense of 'community'.
Even if it 'tricks' in order to do this, even if the thinking is logically faulty, without these things we can very quickly become nihilistic and even suicidal. It is very good to combine religious values with scientific thinking in a fused manner, you will find a good combination in that happy medium. Atheism doesn't balance science out at all, neither as a rival nor as a complimentary thing.

This leads me onto a separate point...

Religion actually compliments science well when the scientist is religious.
If a scientist believes that what they are studying and marvelling at is the work of a supernatural creator of all reality, it adds a level of sacredness and enthusiasm to the work that genuinely can't be replicated in an atheistic scientist's psyche. This is especially true when we approach science of the 'reality-defining kind' where it's so complex and frustrating that sometimes the only thing holding one's motive to keep studying and persevering is their belief that they may 'solve god' or at least marvel at the work of this deity.
Round 2
Thank you, RM. I must apologize for forfeiting my first round. I had a great argument written but forgot to post it, leading to it getting deleted. A costly mistake I wish I could undo.

Note that atheism is defined as lack of religion for the purposes of our debate. Religion is defined as belief systems which include claims about the supernatural.

My opponent admits three things:
  1. Religious and scientific thinking are different and disharmonious 
  2. Religion is illogical and has to use trickery and indoctrination to convince people
  3. The so called value of religion is comfort and meaning, not ultimate truth
I am glad we can get this on the table right of the bat, it makes our discussion far more interesting and potent. I too admit that religion can have a positive social effect on the masses, provided its power and influence is restrained by a secular society. I am not here to diss on the worldwide establishment of religion, but only disprove the so called harmony between science and religion. My case will be based on the factual problem religion poses not only for science but for any intelectual endevour. Here are undeniable observations: Science is the best way to find truth. Religion does not provide truth, it blinds people making sweet promises. These are facts we have got to deal with.

Allow me to lay out my case. Here are my arguments:
  1. Science is inherently atheistic, and vice versa
  2. Science is correlated with Atheism, Religions is inversely correlated with science
  3. Religion helps enforce the acceptance of false assumptions and incorrect theories
  4. Atheism gets rid of unnecesary bullshit, making science more efficient
  5. Religion serves as a distraction for nations and individuals
  6. Atheists are extremely overrepresented in science
  7. The ability to think logically is literally lowered by religious belief
  8. Facts don't care about your feelings
  9. Religion has no monopoly on motivation
  10. No religious hypothesis has ever succeded
This list is huge so I will have to prioritise which one to focus on.


1. Scientific integrity and atheism are one and the same
Truth is correct information about reality, while facts are direct observations of reality. Scientists are trying to create models that can describe reality correctly and make usefull predictions of future data. Science is logical and mathematical and it requires the abandonment of nearly all assumptions. Scientists are taught to never simply trust the source of information they have to verify it multiple times and only when all data supports a coherent model do they call it a working theory and use it as an assumption in other fields. Faith is strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof. Religious faith is incompatible with science. The scientific method directly demands all presuppositions to be discarded. Scientists have to be or pretend to be atheists when working.

2. Religion has a history of surpressing science
The danger of religion is that by declaring a monopoly on truth you immunise accepted beliefs and authorities against criticism. During the dark ages, or todays radical islamic world, one cannot spread any ideas short of accepted ones. This leads to intelectual and societal stagnation that only softens up after serious decline in religious radicalism and power. Even today, scientific textbooks are being censored because strongle held beliefs clashes with scientific conclusions.
The antagonism we thus witness between Heligionand Science is the continuation of a struggle that commenced when Christianity began to attain political power. A divine revelation must necessarily be intolerantof contradiction ; it must repudiate all improvement initself, and view with disdain that arising from the progressive intellectual development of man. But ouropinions on every subject are continually liable to modification, from the irresistible advance of human knowledge. [William, J. 1881]
Specific religious eras throughout time correlate with the progress of science. The catholic church surpressed ideas and philosophy for centuries, and islamic fanaticism crushed the islamic golden age of mathematical and intelectual prosperity. In greece, egypt, india and china religion was less powerfull and homogenous, society more tolerant and ideas were openly discussed. In short, religions often surpress science when it faces little competition. Atheism doesn't.

3. Religion teaches people bullshit
Only one religion can be true at the same time. No matter your worldview you will agree that religious doctrine as a whole is false. Religion teaches people false claims and expects people to live and think as if they were true. This is horrific, especially when the facts contradict religious dogma. Aspiring scientists are left to chose between cognitive dissonance or atheism. 4. Atheism gets rid of this bullshit. Rejecting religious claims untill presented with hard evidence is obligatory for skeptics.

5. Religion distracts
Asking questions is the natural curiosity of man. Whenever a society grows an upper class with free time, individuals will spend their time and energy finding answers. Religion distracts such upper classes from doing productive work.  Many educated people througout history were writing religious books and performing rituals infront of the masses. Even Newton wrote more about theology than science. Religious scientists waste their time and intelectual resources being religious.

6. Facts don't care about your feelings
Religion is special in that it merges truth, feeligs, identity and meaning. Religious beliefs are nearly impossible to correct because they are an intimate part of a religious person's identity. An atheist can be wrong about his beliefs and change them accordingly, but a religious person cannot reject his religion's doctrine. Cognitive dissonance arises as a result.

7. Religion reduces one's ability to use logical reasoning
Religious people have lower IQ scores even though they have the same general intelligence; this proves that religion makes people less able to use their intelligence when it comes to applying logic and pattern recognition [frontiers in psycology]. The data can be explained, the study says, by religious belief causing one to favor intuition over logic when they are in conflict. Furthermore, religious fanaticism is correlated with memory problems and low cognitive flexibility. The study suggests cognitive excerizes may help religious people overcome the religiosity effect. Regardless, religion's effect on your ability to do science is much more severe.

8. Atheists are extremely overrepresented in science
In America, atheism is more widespread among supporters of science and even more among professional scientists. " The poll of scientists finds that four-in-ten scientists (41%) say they do not believe in God or a higher power, while the poll of the public finds that only 4% of Americans share this view." [pew research center]. The data shows that religious scientsits are a minority, especially among older and more experienced scientists. What this means is that the majority of scientsts are a part of a tiny minority of the population --- atheists. This is to be expected when considering the hindrance religious belief is to science.

Research on this topic began with the eminent US psychologist James H. Leuba and his landmark survey of 1914. He found that 58% of 1,000 randomly selected US scientists expressed disbelief or doubt in the existence of God, and that this figure rose to near 70% among the 400 “greater” scientists within his sample [1].  Leuba repeated his survey in somewhat different form 20 years later, and found that these percentages had increased to 67 and 85, respectively [2]. Leuba attributed the higher level of disbelief and doubt among “greater” scientists to their “superior knowledge, understanding, and experience”2[nature]
There is a catch that it is foolish not to mention. This is a correlation, the causation aspect is not entirely known. Atheists don't necesarily become scientists in droves as much as scientsist and educated people alike are becoming atheists in droves. It is quite telling that even in a religious nation like America, the intelectual and academic elite is atheistic.

9. Religion has no monopoly on motivation
This is a rebuttal. Individuals are motivated by personal values and there is no reason to belief religion is necesary for or even enhances motivation for scientists. The religious scientists of the past were smart people indoctrinated into religions that frequently burned heretics went to war against heathens. No intelligent person capable of achieving what they did would abandon their faith or question it. Contemporary scientific geniouses are often atheists and still feel motivated.

10. No religious hypothesis has ever succeded
There has never been a religious scientists able to make better predictions of future data because of their religious beliefs. No scientific discovery has been made because the scientists studying the subject were religious. Religion always lags behind science and drags the religious scientists down. The only exceptions are where religious scientists ditch most of their religious faith in return for clairvoyance and skepticism --- that is to say, religious scientists are only succesfull when they pretend to be atheists. 

The fact of the matter is that religious faith is the opposite of the scientific method. Religious movements can and do fight scientific progress. Religious people are on average made less logical and more superstitious by religious bullshit they are indoctrinated to believe. Meaning and purpose are fine in and of themselves but religion muddles them with truth and thus makes the job of scientists so much harder. For this reason atheism and science are always correlated in a free society.

  • prevents the discussion of new ideas
  • distracts smart people
  • harms the skills of skepticism and logical thinking
  • mixes truth with feelings
  • coerces people to believe false claims
  • contributes nothing to science
  • tries to censor science
  • introduces assumptions that violates scientific integrity
  • takes credit for scientific progress after fighting fiercely against it for centuries (e.g: christianity)

  • is not religious
  • is the default intelectual position
  • makes more and better scientists

Atheism is better for science than religion.

I rest my case.
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Round 3
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