Instigator / Pro

Atheism or religion --- which is better for science


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics
Better arguments
Better sources
Better legibility
Better conduct

After not so many votes...

It's a tie!
Publication date
Last updated date
Number of rounds
Time for argument
One week
Max argument characters
Voting period
One month
Point system
Multiple criterions
Voting system
Contender / Con

BoP is shared.

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.
My opponent has several misconceptions in his case, the most blatant/severe one being that he believes we are debating whether science is more atheistic or religious/theistic. If I asked you if a woman or man is better in terms of sex and a relationship for a heterosexual man, the answer would be blatant surely... Yet, it would be the one he is less like. Thus, there is no direct correlation between science being more atheistic and atheism itself being better for science, since the role of Theism and ideas within it, despite being unscientific, can actually significantly benefit science in many ways.

I discussed in Round 1's closing, the idea that even in a non-rival sense, scientists that are theistic actually benefit from believing that what they're studying is sacred and made by the supreme creator of reality. I also discussed that the rivalry that Theism has provided for science has actually been a significant motivator, whereas atheism itself has been nothing but a tagalong to science almost overtaking limelight of the movement. It's like if science is brought up in any discussion about a religion, 'atheism' becomes the headline and topic and 'science' takes a backstep, making problems for science being so aligned with atheism and benefits of science when it comes to religion.

Now, let's discuss if science cannot actually work with religion as this is an implication of Pro throughout his case.

Some scientific ideas that strongly, deeply correlate with religious thinking are simulation theory and (linked to simulation theory) the fact that many aspects of reality seem so fine-tuned. For the Earth itself (and even the entire universe) if gravity was slightly more powerful this would happen:

See how Earth moves around the Sun? Its current elliptical path gives us winter and summer, without bringing us too close to our star.
Since the Sun is 330,000 times heavier than Earth, its gravitational influence pulls the Earth towards it. Luckily, our planet moves sideways from the Sun’s pull, and fast enough, so that it doesn’t get sucked into that giant ball of hot plasma.

But up the gravity on Earth by just a little bit, and you ruin everything. If Earth’s gravity was just 5% stronger, the increase would warp our planet’s near-perfect circlular orbit into a tighter elliptical path.

Summers and winters would become a lot harsher, the intense climate change would spark widespread famine and would likely collapse the world economy. And yet, there might be some survivors.

Your heart and lungs will be strained under the increased pressure. Breathing gets harder, and your blood pressure skyrockets. Imagine, you’re basically giving yourself a piggy back 24/7. Sleeping gives you bed sores, stairs get scary, and trips and falls might even become fatal!

Speaking of falls, our infrastructure, our technology, and nature itself, aren’t equipped to handle this type of force.

Buckling under twice the weight they were built for, buildings and bridges would collapse; planes would also fall from the sky; and satellites would tumble back to Earth; since they’d no longer be traveling at the right orbital velocity.

Trees would collapse under their own weight, or they would die from not being able to pump water as high as they used to. New ones growing in their place would be much shorter and thicker in order to accomodate the new constraints of double gravity.

And like that, perpaps humans would evolve the same way: decreased height, thicker veins, increased bone density.

Barring the severe climate change that would occur, such as atmospheric compression and increased radioactivity, we might actually be able to build a nice little life for ourselves. That is, one where everything is smaller and closer to Earth, but what’s wrong with that anyway?

In fact many aspects of reality point to there being some strangely sophisticated fine-tuning and design.

The strength of gravity
When the Big Bang occurred billions of years ago, the matter in the universe was uniformly distributed. There were no stars, planets or galaxies—just particles floating about in the dark void of space. As the universe expanded outwards from the Big Bang, gravity pulled ever-so-gently on the matter, gathering it into clumps that eventually became stars and galaxies. But gravity had to have just the right force—if it was a bit stronger, it would have pulled all the atoms together into one big ball. The Big Bang—and our prospects—would have ended quickly in a Big Crunch. And if gravity was a bit weaker, the expanding universe would have distributed the atoms so widely that they would never have been gathered into stars and galaxies.

The strength of gravity has to be exactly right for stars to form. But what do we mean by “exactly”? Well, it turns out that if we change gravity by even a tiny fraction of a percent—enough so that you would be, say, one billionth of a gram heavier or lighter—the universe becomes so different that there are no stars, galaxies, or planets. And with no planets, there would be no life. Change the value slightly, and the universe moves along a very different path. And remarkably, every one of these different paths leads to a universe without life in it. Our universe is friendly to life, but only because the past 13.8 billion years have unfolded in a particular way that led to a habitable planet with liquid water and rich chemistry.

The formation of carbon
Carbon is the element upon which all known life is based. Carbon atoms form in the cores of stars by fusion reactions. In these reactions, three helium atoms collide and fuse together to make a carbon atom. However, in order for that fusion reaction to work, the energy levels must match up in just the right way, or the three helium atoms would bounce off of each other before they could fuse.

To create this unusual match-up of energies, two physical forces (the strong and electromagnetic forces) must cooperate in just the right way. The slightest change to either the strong or electromagnetic forces would alter the energy levels, resulting in greatly reduced production of carbon. The values are tuned so that carbon is produced efficiently, leading to abundant amounts of an element we need for life.

The stability of DNA
Every atom has a nucleus of protons and neutrons and a cloud of electrons swirling around it. When an atom binds with another atom to make a molecule, the charged protons and electrons interact to hold them together. The mass of a proton is nearly 2,000 times the mass of the electron (1,836.15267389 times, to be precise). But if this ratio changed by only a small amount, the stability of many common chemicals would be compromised. In the end, this would prevent the formation of many molecules, including DNA, the building blocks of life. As theologian and scientist Alister McGrath has pointed out,1
[The entire biological] evolutionary process depends upon the unusual chemistry of carbon, which allows it to bond to itself, as well as other elements, creating highly complex molecules that are stable over prevailing terrestrial temperatures, and are capable of conveying genetic information (especially DNA).

These are just a few examples.
Evidence for fine-tuning is recognized by physicists and astronomers of all religions and worldviews, and has been for decades. As agnostic Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Laureate in Physics, wrote,
…how surprising it is that the laws of nature and the initial conditions of the universe should allow for the existence of beings who could observe it. Life as we know it would be impossible if any one of several physical quantities had slightly different values.
Whether universe or multiverse, God is the Creator
When some atheists argue that the multiverse weakens the case for God’s existence, they overstep what science itself can claim. The multiverse models are fascinating and address scientific questions in this universe, but at a scientific level the predictions for other universes are virtually impossible to verify. But even if a multiverse model were well-established on a scientific level, it would not and could not replace God. No scientific theory can. From the perspective of biblical faith, science merely investigates the physical world that God created and sustains.

The physicists who are investigating the multiverse include Christians who ponder the multiverse as God’s creation. The multiverse raises theological questions that need consideration (see for example physicist Robert Mann’s discussion).  And yet, as physicist Gerald Cleaver writes, if multiverse theories are shown to be correct, it would be “the next step in understanding the beauty, splendor, complexity, and vastness of God’s creation.”

The main theme throughout Pro's case is that if science happens to not directly support Theism (directly meaning conclusively) that because something in the Bible or Qur'an is perhaps not a correct theory, that religion itself is bad for science, when compared with atheism.

Yet, in the debate's description, 'religion' is defined as:
 a system of beliefs including claims about the supernatural
Whereas atheism is solely defined as:
not being religious
which of these two things seems better for the following?
the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Just lacking the quality of being religious cannot possibly be productive or good for science. On the other hand, being theistic can fill one with a passion and curiosity as they feel they are uncovering the work of a sacred deity. Religion always has been and maybe even always will be a healthy counterpart and rival for science that can often coincide, not just be at odds with it. It is a fuel to the fire, a motivational set of beliefs to question and explore and it gives meaning to life where science cannot.
Round 3
Thank you RationalMadman. 

What is there to say. CON has no argument as to why the superior worldview to base science on is theism -- not to mention religion. He makes the claim that science supports religion by an appeal to intelligent design, with no justification as to why contemporary science has to invoke supernatural causes to explain the natural world. He makes an ubelieveable straw man of my argument. He accuses me of simply whining about religion's lack of scientific evidence. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I made a case about religion being a factual obstacle to the progress of science due to the way it operates and the way it predisposes people to think without logic and believe because of emotion and trust authority rather than the facts.

I pointed out how people who are religious get as symptoms lower IQ scores and are less likely to do science and even less likely to accept scientific conclusions if they contradict their faith. Religion has historically oppressed non-orthodox ideas and fought against scientific progress. More importantly I showed how a religious person puting his own identity on certain unverifiable beliefs and letting those biases influence his research is very poblematic. The view I presented is that religious people simply are less suited to be scientists. By holding on to unproven or sometimes disproven beliefs, they reject the skeptical integrity the scientific method demands. Most importantly, science is the study of the natural --- that is, everything that isn't supernatural. Anyone who believes in the supernatural will have a harder time thinking like the natural sciences who brought us everything we enjoy today.

What shall we think: does the asserted superior motivation of religion overcome the fact that its verry core is intelectually rotten and antiscientific? Do we really believe that the thousands of unproven contradictory supernatural belief systems who have never produced a single successfull prediction, benefit science? Or can we be certain that the progress of science can only harm religion by disproving its bullshit; and that religious faith is mostly bullshit that confuses us rrather than bring us closer to the truth about reality. I uphold my contention that religion still to this day leads to censorship of science in order to preserve faith that is factually wrong. To anyone who is religious and reads this, I am saying that AT LEAST EVERY RELIGION EXCEPT FOR YOUR OWN IS FULL OF BULLSHIT.

If you dislike my language or tone then you obviously have never heard a religious extremist. Apreciate that we have freedom of speech and don't be offended.


  • prevents the discussion of new ideas
  • distracts smart people with theology
  • harms the skills of skepticism and logical thinking
  • mixes truth with feelings and identity
  • coerces people to believe false claims in spite of evidence
  • contributes nothing to science, has no succesfull predictions at all
  • tries to censor science to protect their beloved bullshit against the facts (e.g: evolution, big bang, humans are animals, consciousness is physical, etc)
  • introduces unwaranted assumptions that violates scientific integrity
  • takes credit for scientific progress after fighting fiercely against it for centuries (e.g: christianity)
    • RM is trying to do this by asserting without evidence that belief in the concept of SACRED somehow reinforces people's innate interest in science

  • is not religious, it is free of these problems
  • is the default intelectual position for someone not indocrinated into an arbitrary religion
  • makes more and better scientists; hardly any scientist these days is 
  • is compatible with the scientific method, and does not introduce unwaranted assumptions that undermine the scientific process

Religion is not only better for science, but naturalism is by definition the only correct way to do science. There can be no rational doubt about the resolution that isn't mad.

Thank you RM for this debate.
All that Pro has done is a technique of forfeiting round 1, overloading with a fusion of rebuttal and brand new points in Round 2 and then saying I failed to properly address his stuff in Round 3 but let's notice the disadvantage Pro is at.

I said more and I don't just mean simply posted an extra Round. I actually said more and Pro has simply tried to hit home a case that merely insults the religious for some superficial IQ scores and says that a rival to science in one way can't compliment it well in other ways.

I will like to remind you on how religion is defined in this debate as per the description that both debaters agreed on:

a system of beliefs including claims about the supernatural
I will also like to remind you how science is defined:

the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Now, I will like to remind you the sole definition of science in the description (concise and bare-boned as it is):
not being religious

This basically implies to you, which I wholeheartedly supported in my Round 2 and implied at the end of my Round 1, that while a Theist can passionately use science as a means to interpret the grand creation of a deity/deities (god/gods/demigods etc), an atheist has nowhere near that level of awe and passion because what they are researching is a bland abyss in which there is just random, meaningless activity without something grander to it. This also means that atheistic thinking stops at the blatant, while a religious mind is implied strongly in the definitions to have a mindset that pierces the blatant theoretically, with a system of beliefs that can compliment science's systematic studying very well.

In Round 2, I pushed forth a fantastic article or 2 that explained just how much of our reality is unbelievably fine-tuned, implying that at the metaphysical level we are simulated or at the very least that there is some designer outside this, at least at the beginning when making the laws of physics and setting certain amounts. This is not just 'god of the gaps' fallacy (which my opponent didn't point out) but rather it's finding time after time, from gravity to carbon to DNA that there is some kind of intricate designer at play, some kind of 'wow what' mysterious magic behind it, potentially. Science does indeed rival religious thinking because it doesn't stop at the magic being 'magic' or intend to branch out into certain traditions, ways of life and beyond neurology, has little say in ethics.

Religion compliments science, it rivals it in one way but completely compliments it in other ways. What religion is to many is an emotional and societal treasured way of thinking that gives their life meaning and holds moral values sacred. Consequently, science is the rational side of solving this wonderous reality through observation, experiment and analytical study. Atheism is simply a lack of religion, it is in no shape or form an increased abundance of science.

My opponent can throw around terms like 'bullshit' and 'lower iq' but he cannot begin to scratch the surface of my case, I hope you can see he has failed to rebuke me throughout.