I’ll start with something Dostoevsky had the Grand Inquisitor say in “The Brothers Karamazov”: “So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and painfully as to find someone to worship. But man seeks to worship what is established beyond dispute, so all men will agree at once to worship it. For these pitiful creatures are concerned not only to find what one or the other can worship, but find something that all will believe in and worship; what is essential is that all may be together in it. This craving for the community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and all humanity from the beginning of time.”
What Dostoevsky wrote is important, and it’s important because it’s true, and being true it applies to everyone.
The word “religion” means “to tie together, to bind.” Everything is a religion, and that includes atheism.
Although there are many exceptions to the rule, science is general is materialistic and atheistic. I have nothing against science qua science, but it does not necessarily have to materialistic or atheistic. Any philosopher who is an objective idealist can explain why.
I used to wonder in the past why people believed in predestination. Then it occurred to me it was because it gave them comfort and security, as long as the believed they were the ones destined to go to Heaven. And, of course, there was the satisfaction in believing those who disagreed with them were going straight to Hell.
Scientists are not necessarily any different. Many are determinists, strict believers in cause-and-effect, and I’ve seen them argue with a powerful enough computer they could predict a person’s actions from birth to death.
Such a thing is impossible, so why would they believe it? Because they get comfort from being convinced they know the absolute truth of things. It gives them community and meaning and importance in their lives. They are perfect examples of what Dostoevsky wrote: they seek someone (in their case, something) to worship, and in doing so desire to give up their freedom to even consider a belief system.
I cannot remember who said it, and I cannot remember the exact quote, but it was along the times of, “A new theory does not triumph by converting its opponents. It wins because it’s opponents die off and a new generation is raised with the new one.”
Many people seek perfect security, a security in which they give up their freedom, and they don’t even know they’re doing it. Few things are as seductive as being convinced you are absolutely right – even if you are not.
Of course, those who are convinced they are absolutely right never believe Dostoevsky’s description applies to them: it always applies to other (deluded, of course) people.
Religion has killed a lot of people, but that was done by those who were (and are) fanatics: I am right, you are wrong, and being wrong, you are evil, and therefore must die.
Atheism, however, and most especially in the 20th Century, has killed more people than religion ever did. And it did so for the same reasons: fanaticism. The belief that I am absolutely right.
Science, of course, is not totalitarian. But when it is based on atheism and materialism, and that becomes part of the Zeitgeist, it can have devastating consequences. The Nazis, for example, were heavily influenced by evolutionary theory, and they got their eugenics program from the United States, which had been busy sterilizing people to “improve the race.”
Most atheists (but not all) are leftists, since leftism is a cheap, easy way for people to convince themselves they have true community. So what we have, then, are two things which cannot work in any society: atheism and leftism.
When educated people cease believing in God, we not only end up with Nietzsche’s predictions about wars beyond imagination (and he was right), we end up with the less intelligent becoming religious fanatics, such as the worst of modern-day fundamentalists.
One of the reasons they’ve become like this is because of materialistic science attacking their beliefs. So they become defensive and fanatical in return. They also attack in return, such as in the push to get creationism or Intelligent Design taught in schools.
Few on either side realize they are feeding off of each other. Who’s going to get hurt, of course, are those who belong to neither camp. In other words, the mass of people, the ones who have, historically, paid the price when they’re caught in between fanatics.