By James Haught
James Haught is editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He is 87-years-old and would like to help secular causes more. This series is a way of giving back, as he opens in No Qualms (Ed., published on 2018, July 18, i.e., when he was 86), “I’m quite aware that my turn is approaching. The realization hovers in my mind like a frequent companion. My first wife died ten years ago. Dozens, hundreds, of my longtime friends and colleagues likewise came to the end of their journeys. They number so many that I keep a “Gone” list in my computer to help me remember them all. Before long, it will be my turn to join the list.”
[Ed., Thank you, Jim, truly.]
A half-century ago, billionaire investor Sir John Templeton was the Warren Buffett of his era – and he felt strong religious urges. He made public declarations like:
“God is revealing himself more and more to human inquiry, not always through prophetic visions or scriptures, but through the astonishingly productive research of modern scientists.”
Templeton thought the Nobel Prizes ignored religion, so he created a bigger jackpot for holy people: The Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.
(I always wanted to take a photo of an abandoned church that had been turned into a bookstore, and submit it for the “progress in religion” prize.)
Later, the award name was changed to “Progress Toward Research or Discoveries About Spiritual Realities.” (Whatever “spiritual realities” are.)
At first, the Templeton Award went mostly to religious figures like Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Watergate felon Charles Colson, Campus Crusade for Christ founder Bill Bright and various theologians. Then it veered to major scientists who didn’t denounce supernaturalism. They reaped million-dollar bonanzas. The prize is high-prestige, presented by Prince Philip in Buckingham Palace.
Biologist Jerry Coyne said the Templeton Awards are designed to “give credibility to religion by blurring its well-demarcated border with science.” Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Martinus Veltman wisecracked that winning a Templeton is “bridging the gap between sense and nonsense.”
The latest winner is a brilliant Brazilian physicist, Marcelo Gleiser, who denounces atheists and calls himself an agnostic. He told Scientific American:
“An agnostic would say, ‘Look, I have no evidence for God or any kind of god. What god, first of all? The Maori gods, or the Jewish or Christian or Muslim God? Which god is that?’ But on the other hand, an agnostic would acknowledge no right to make a final statement about something he or she doesn’t know about.”
Dr. Gleiser accuses atheists of violating the scientific method by declaring flatly that God doesn’t exist, yet they can’t offer direct proof that he isn’t real.
The Templeton Foundation apparently gave him $1.5 million for taking a hard stand for agnosticism, against atheism.
Well, the Brazilian physicist is correct – you can’t find scientific evidence to disprove gods, devils, fairies, werewolves, vampires, angels, heavens, hells, and all the rest of the supernatural spectrum. No clear lines of proof lead to solid conclusions. Supernatural questions simply are unanswerable.
Aztecs once sacrificed humans to an invisible feathered serpent. Nobody today can prove scientifically that the invisible feathered serpent didn’t exist. But that’s a pretty good hunch.
Intelligent people have wisdom, and can make common-sense judgments without provable evidence. They can decide that Santa Claus is a make-believe fantasy, although they lack clear scientific proof of it. The same for leprechauns, poltergeists, etc. – all the way up the supernatural ladder to gods.
Actually, there’s clear proof that an all-loving, all-powerful Father-Creator god doesn’t exist. It’s called “the problem of evil.” Such a merciful deity wouldn’t have created hideous diseases or natural tragedies, and do nothing to save people from them. And he wouldn’t have designed nature to be a bloodbath of carnivorous slaughter. That clinches it for me. It doesn’t disprove a cruel god, but it wipes out a compassionate one.
Finally, the Templeton Foundation must be near desperation in its quest for “spiritual realities.” If it gives $1.5 million each to scientists who call themselves agnostics instead of atheists, it’s approaching the bottom of the barrel.
Link here at Daylight Atheism.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e Agnósticos/Brazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.