Professor Daniel Dennett believes that religion is ‘like the common cold’ and that humans need to be cured of it. If Professor Dennett is right, the universe is without meaning and without morality.
Without religion, the universe and life are without any meaning other than what people make up for themselves. Even things like human rights become difficult to define if there is no religious belief. There are no such things as ‘natural rights’, no rights that can be proven using scientific methods. You cannot put someone on the operating table and locate their human rights; even things we take for granted, like respect for a person’s life and for their property, can only exist if we accept that there is more to life than what science can explain.
Without religion, how do we explain the values in our society? Why are we a society where it is expected that the weak and the vulnerable receive care? Scientifically, it would make more sense for the strong to be allowed to thrive and for the weak to be culled—isn’t that the way we keep livestock?
Without religion, why have a society where human dignity is important and where human rights are upheld? In terms of plain physical science, it is not logical to do things in this way, so why do we do it?
Meaning in the universe and rights for human beings point to something beyond, something that is the origin of these thoughts, something that prompts us to become the people we are.
How, if we don’t believe in a world deeper than that of physical science, do we explain a whole range of individual feelings? Why do we enjoy music? Why do we enjoy art? Why can watching a film move us to tears? Physical science cannot explain feelings that do not have rational sources. Even our enthusiasm for sports teams: what difference does it make whether a team win or lose? None, yet it matters a great deal to many, many people. How do we explain feelings that serve no scientific purpose if we are merely the outcome of scientific processes?
It is not even a matter of nurture. Why do people from similar backgrounds, with similar upbringings and living in similar circumstances so often differ greatly on their opinions and tastes? Shouldn’t people experiencing similar nurture have similar views? Bring together any group of teenagers who have grown up together in a neighbourhood, and see how different they are in their views.
The most illogical feeling of all is love—love is without a scientific explanation, particularly our care for those who can offer us nothing in return.
Cure people of religion and you cure them of that which makes society human.