(Original post by evantej)
I am not religious. I simply find the idea of God more intellectually stimulating than atheism.
I do not know what intellectual background you come from so I will try to keep this as simple as possible, then deal with your criticism of religion separately.
Modern science does not rely upon 'reason and evidence'. It relies upon falsifiability and verification (i.e. Bacon), which centre around a statement ('fact') being able to be proven false through evidence; in philosophy it is called the problem of induction (i.e. Popper). There is a massive difference between what you think science is based upon and what it is actually based upon. Whether a statement is actually false or not is completely irrelevant. So far as scientific method is concerned, it is more important that the statement can be shown to be false rather than actually finding out whether it is false. Verification takes this further because it suggests that if it a statement cannot be empirically proven then it is meaningless.
Because statements are empirically falsified there is an immediate bias towards knowledge based upon experience (i.e. Locke). This leads to a distinction between statements, which – although not chronologically correct in the history of philosophy and science – I will call contingent and necessary (i.e. Hume). The problem with this distinction is that it, either through British empiricism or later schools, leads to reductionism. Reductionism is problematic because it limits our understanding of complex systems for a number of reasons. Put simply, reducing issues to smaller and smaller units does not benefit knowledge. This is why I mentioned the C.S. Lewis: science seems concerned with what things are made up of rather than what things are
To address your points individually:
- your consciousness, ethics, freedom and will etc. are all – for varying reasons – metaphysical concepts that simply cannot exist in modern science, whether for behaviourist or physicalist reasons. These concepts cannot be falsified so reductionism simply eliminates them. Without God (i.e. atheism), you cannot establish a metaphysical system, for example for ethics, where you can prove a statement (e.g. murder) has a necessary property (i.e. it is bad or immoral). If you believe in God then the problem of falsifiability etc. is avoided.
- religion does not restrict you to scripture, absolutist morality and unproven ideas. This is all nonsense. You have some preconceived notion of what religion is, but I can assure you that no concept has undergone as much debate, reason and evidence as 'religion'. Religion has never been a static concept. You need to acknowledge that before this discussion can go any further.
- with respect to absolutist morality, it would appear you are simply ignorant of change in religion over time. I am unsure how religion captivates 'you in ideas such as slavery, torture etc.'. From a historical perspective, I would like to point out that it was religious pressure in Britain which banned the slave trade.
- with respect to will, it depends upon the person's belief. Some religious denominations could be considered fatalist, but there are others which are not, and some which equally empower the individual to glorify God through their action (i.e. they see themselves as potentialities, so to speak).
- with respect to consciousness, science does not tell you 'how that works' at all. The problem of consciousness has been central to the western tradition of philosophy for the last four-hundred years. If science has moved any closer to explaining it, which it has not, then it would be to prove that there is no such thing as consciousness.
- with respect to metaphysics, I never said you need to acknowledge God's existence in order 'to be able to discuss the possibility of the existence of [G]od'. We have no real disagreement here.
I have explained twice why atheism is intellectually stifling. It leads, if properly followed, to an existentialist crisis where you are unable to advance any further. It is an aporia, an impasse. This is why I used the example of Sartre. He wrote about the nature of existence (i.e. its meaninglessness). But then tried to establish a system of ethics beyond this (i.e. there is meaning in meaninglessness!). It completely contradicts what he had done. The reason why this is not a problem for most people is because, ironically, they refuse to accept reality. While openly admitting they are atheists, they refuse to acknowledge the historical relationship between religion and concepts they hold to be true. Existentialism is at least an intellectually valid position. But most atheists are in self-denial; a condition Sartre said inhibited acknowledgement of the nature of reality.
I hope I have made my position a little clearer.