Science works from the bottom up, while religion works from the top down. That is, science looks at the natural world and works its way up to a theory to explain the data that is observed. Religion on the other hand starts with the conclusion and looks around to try and find things that will fit with the already decided conclusion. This isn’t that difficult to do, since humans are pattern-seeking animals. We often find patterns that don’t necessarily exist. A great example of this is the book The Tao of Physics. In the book, the author goes through eastern religions and philosophies and finds parallels to modern physics, to suggest that the ancient eastern mystics had some special knowledge of the universe. This is done all the time nowadays with Christianity-- the most popular of which is the big-bang theory. “Ah ha!” say’s the Christian, the big bang was the start of the universe, so that must have been the start of the creation act by God. They think that this parallel proves that the Bible is the word of God since it got it somewhat right about the start of the universe. But there are many more unscientific things in the Bible, which never seem to be brought up. Heck, just go a few more verses into Genesis and we see all sorts of wild, unscientific stuff.
The problem with God is that there isn’t any evidence for his existence. Most apologists just point to gaps in our knowledge. This is called the “god of the gaps”. “I don’t know how this could have happened, therefore it must be the result of God”. But as scientists, we need actual evidence... positive evidence for this God, before we can conclude he exists. Now of course, it would be very difficult to find evidence for a non-existent being. But lets assume for the sake of argument that God does exist. There must be some way to test and see if he is there or not. We don’t necessarily need to test God, but just his effects or indirect effects on the natural world.
So that’s what I am going to look at. I am going to look to see if God has any effect on the universe.
Christians believe that God answers many prayers. So if God does exist, we would expect sick people that are prayed for to have a quicker recovery time than people that are not prayed for.
And just recently, the results from the largest and most comprehensive prayer study to date was published. There were two parts to the study. The first part was completely double blinded. As usual, no one being prayed for recovered any quicker than people not being prayed for. Again, this shows that intercessory prayer DOES NOT work. The second part of the study was only single blinded (the doctors didn’t know who was being prayed for, but the patients did). Incredibly, 59 percent of the patients that knew they were being prayed for suffered complications, while as only 52 percent of people not being prayed for suffered complications. Weird. So apparently, prayer, in some respects, does more harm than good. But why?
The theory on why people that knew they were being prayed for suffered more complications is that they felt more pressure to get better, which leads to stress, which leads to problems. So the best thing to do if someone is sick, and you want to pray for them, is not tell them! Actually, if you pray for them or not, it has been shown over and over again to do nothing.
These results are surprising, assuming that God does exist. If God does exist, we would expect to see that the prayed for groups would have significantly less complications. But if God does not exist, we would expect no difference between the two groups. And in fact, the prayed for group had more problems.
Many Christians believe that God must be the base of a romantic relationship in order for it to work. If this is true, the stronger of Christians the couple is, the better foundation they would have, and thus their relationship would be more likely to succeed. But when we look at the stats, we see that in fact, the more religious a couple is, the more likely they are to have a divorce. According to Barna Research, 27 percent of Born Again Christians have divorces, as opposed to only 24 of Mainline Protestants. Pulling up the back though, with the lowest divorce rate of anyone, are the atheist and agnostic couples, with a 21 percent divorce rate. Geographically and denominationally speaking, your risk of divorce is highest if you are a white, Southern Baptist living in the southern Bible belt.
Now why would this happen if a relationship is supposedly stronger when God is in the middle of it? But if God does not exist, this is exactly what we would expect. The reason this is expected is because an ultra religious couple will put much more emphasis on something that doesn’t actually matter (God), and they ignore other issues that may later become a problem in the relationship. The couple thinks “I love God and want a partner that does as well”. When they meet each other, they only focus on the God aspect, and forget the rest, since they believe that if God is there, he will make it work. But alas, they are wrong again.
God is also supposedly the source of morality, so if we follow God, we should be better off. If God exists, we would expect a society that is religious to have less social problems than a society that is not too religious. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The results from a 2005 study by the Journal of Religion and Society found that:
In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies. The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so.
According to the study:
This is consistent with the hypothesis that higher rates of atheism correspond strongly to a nation being healthier and wealthier.
Countries containing high percentages of non-believers are among the most healthy and wealthy nations on earth (Paul, 2004). Of course, we must always distinguish between those nations where non-belief has been forced upon the society by dictators (coercive atheism) from those societies wherein non-belief has emerged on its own without governmental coercion (organic atheism). Nations marked by coercive atheism -- such as China, North Korea, Vietnam, and former Soviet states -- are societies marked by all that comes with totalitarianism: poor economic development, intellectual censorship, widespread corruption, ubiquitous depression, etc.. However, nations marked by high levels of organic atheism such as Sweden, the Netherlands, and France -- are among the healthiest, wealthiest, most educated, and most free societies on earth.
So you can see, a belief in God does nothing to a society but increase problems. This is what we would expect to see if God does not exist. The reason being that secular societies go about to find a solution to a problem, rather than just praying about it. As Carl Sagan said, “If you want to save your child from polio, you can pray or you can inoculate.”
So if God does exist, and is all-loving, the most moral thing for him to do would be to go away. He is doing more harm than good, and sometimes, you just have to know when to throw in the towel.
We can also look at prison rates. Assuming morality comes from God, Christians should be somewhat more in-tuned to this morality, or at the least commit fewer crimes. When one looks at prison incarceration, one sees Christians most represented, and atheists underrepresented per capita. Out of 74,731 prisoners, 156 are atheists (0.2 percent) and 62,594 are Christian (75 percent). Given 10 percent of USA population being atheists, one would expect 7,473 atheists in prison-- assuming that Christians and atheists are on the same moral ground. The data suggests that atheists commit fewer crimes than theists.
This is not what we would expect if God actually exists.
But we aren’t finished yet. If God does exist, and is the source of all reality and truth, then the more we study the universe, the more we should come to understand and realize the existence of God. Just as someone who listens to and studies a certain band’s music becomes increasingly knowledgeable about the band, scientists should become more and more knowledgeable and sure about God as they study nature. But in fact, as usual, the opposite is true. As scientific education increases, belief in God decreases. The more people learn about how the universe actually works, the more people realize that the God hypothesis is useless. The main reason for this is because most people base their beliefs on a lack of understanding of nature (most commonly they wonder how such complexity could arise by itself. But when Darwin’s theory of Evolution by means of Natural Selection is understood, the mystery disappears, as does the belief that God was needed for life to develop).
Among the top scientists in America (members of the National Academy of Sciences) only, 7 percent have a belief in some sort of god. Among the general population of working scientists, 40 percent have a belief in a god. You have probably heard a friend or minister exclaim that more and more physicists and biologists are starting to believe in God because of what they are discovering. Actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Among the hard sciences (not political or social sciences), biologists and physicists have the lowest belief in god when compared to the other fields. Biologists show around a 35 percent belief in God, and physicists show about 25 percent. And just because they believe in God does not mean that they believe in a personal god, let alone the Christian God.
This is not what we would expect if God actually existed. If he did, the top scientists should be saying that their discoveries point to the existence of a God, not away from.
So now that we have gone through several ways in which to see the effects of God. So assuming that God DOES actually exist, I have to ask the believers: given that prayer studies never work, religiosity increases the chance of divorce, the more religious a society it is, the worse off it is, there are statistically fewer atheists in jail than Christians and the top scientists don’t have much of a belief in God… what should we expect to see if God DIDNT exist? That is, (and this is the point of the entire argument) what results would you have expected to see if God did NOT exist?
If we work from the bottom up, as scientists, we come to the overwhelming conclusion, based on our observations of nature that no personal God exists. However, if we start with the assumption that God exists, we can ignore/throw out this evidence since it does not coincide with our conclusion. But that is a skewed way of looking at the world, especially if you want to find objective truth.
Therefore, by looking at nature and the potential effects a personal God would have on it, we can safely conclude that no such being exists. And if he does exist, he created the universe to look precisely the way we would expect if he did not exist.