The New State Religion: Atheism
by Jerry Bergman, Ph.D.
It seems that atheism has become the official stance of America's school system. One way in which many schools and teachers are attempting to indoctrinate students is by the use of new terms to hide the actual intent of the policy maker. For example, the current euphemism for an atheist is a nontheist or naturalist. Even if a naturalistic explanation is not true, scientists must still try to explain all events from this worldview. That the atheistic belief structure is the norm in science was forcefully brought out by Nobel Laureate Weinberg as follows:
Among today's scientists, I am probably somewhat atypical in caring about such things [as God]. . . . on matters of religion, the strongest reaction expressed by most of my fellow physicists is a mild surprise and amusement that anyone still takes all that seriously. Many physicists maintain a nominal affiliation with the faith of their parents . . . but few . . . pay any attention to their nominal religion's theology.... Most physicists today are not sufficiently interested in religion to even qualify as practicing atheists.
In Carl Sagan's words, the cosmos—the physical universe—"is all that is or ever was or ever will be." No Gods, angels, devils, or other spirit creatures exist—only that which scientists can measure with their instruments—which means they believe that only the visible, physical, tangible, universe exists. Of course, these scientists have a belief structure, which Harvard's Stephen J. Gould notes includes the conclusion that humans are ". . . a wildly improbable evolutionary event . . ." and ". . . a cosmic accident . . ." and that if the evolutionary tape were played again and again, humans would not be expected—even if it were replayed a million times or more. This worldview stands in direct contrast to the creationist's belief that humans were fashioned for a purpose. The dominant view of naturalistic scientists is that we are only "a detail" of history and do not exist for a purpose.  The only purpose of life, they teach, is that which we arbitrarily give to it if we so choose. Gould feels that it liberates us to give life any purpose we want which, he believes, is not nihilistic, because it offers us "maximum freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way." The religious worldview, in contrast, believes that some morals and values are superior to others and, in the long run, living a moral God-fearing life is most conducive to happiness. This conclusion has been well documented by empirical research.
Knowing that their functional atheism could hinder them from obtaining grants or public support, scientists often skip around these conclusions in their writing and teaching. Some, though, are open and honestly reveal their atheism. One example is William B. Provine, professor of biological science at Cornell. He notes that at the beginning of his class about 75% of his students "were either creationists or believed in purposive evolution" guided by God or a divine power. Research on his incisive, direct, hard-hitting teaching on origins (how students often describe his lectures) reveals that the number of creationists and those who "believed in purposive evolution" dropped to about 50% by the end of the course. No one has hauled him into court for his openly indoctrinating students in atheism, and indeed, scientists in general have applauded him.
Scientists generally not only support Provine's one-sided teaching but are determined not to allow the other side in the classroom. Further, scientific orthodoxy teaches that human existence has no God-given purpose, but is a chance event, a blip on the radar screen in the infinity of time. No God had any part in the creation. The authors of one of the leading biology textbooks openly state:
Darwin compiled enough support for his theory of descent with modification to convince most of the scientists of his day that organisms evolve without supernatural intervention. Subsequent discoveries, including recent ones from molecular biology, further support this great principle—one that connects an otherwise bewildering chaos of facts about organisms.
This view has the backing of the scientific community and the state, and attempts by professors to discuss favorably another view, when challenged by the university or state, have in the past proved ultimately futile. 
It is obvious that an attempt to censor the teaching of "the other side of atheism" in the college classroom is nothing more than a blatant attempt to insure that only one side of the controversy is presented. Those professors whom the nontheistic naturalistic evolutionists believe will influence the students in a positive direction toward theism are often fired, censored, or "reassigned."
If naturalistic evolution is true, why do its true believers have to use political or bullying tactics to quiet creationists (as this author knows from personal experience)? Why do they censor evidence in favor of creationism in textbooks, and intimidate creationist students and teachers to accept the evolutionist party line under penalty of failure, dismissal, or worse? The reason must be that nontheists have determined (for deeply held philosophical reasons) that others must be taught to believe as they do and accept only atheism or naturalism in science.
Another more important reason may be their intolerance toward creationists. Those who criticize creationists rarely define the term. A creationist is one who believes that God created or directed the creation of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them.  The core of the opposition of universities and the state is against any theistic worldview. The writer has yet to find, in a review of dozens of college biology textbooks for class selection, a single one in the past decade or more that espouses or objectively discusseseven theistic evolution in a positive way, let alone special creation. Even the idea of progress is anathema in biology:
If evolution is held to be progressive, then it is all too easy to see it as being directed, following an arrow of improvement through time. And that is all too redolent of the notion of "divine" design of pre-Darwinian days.... "There is a profound unwillingness to abandon a view of life as predictable progress . . . because to do so would be to admit that human existence is nothing but a historical accident. That is difficult for many to accept." 
And as Gould stresses, the very idea of progress is a "noxious" idea in biology that must be avoided, because it hints that God exists, something that the science establishment cannot stomach. Conversely, he views human consciousness as a "quirky accident" that just happened.  No wonder one who believes that life has a divine purpose and that a creator God exists is so poorly tolerated and not to be trusted in the classroom. An unbiased viewpoint forces the conclusion that America has now adopted a state religion, supported by billions of tax dollars and enforced by the power of law. That state religion is atheism.
Many scientists are decidedly not neutral on the topic of God. Eminent scientist, Oxford University zoologist, and author Richard Dawkins openly says that his best selling book, The Selfish Gene,
. . . brings home to people the truth about why they exist, something they previously took for granted. No one had given them such a ruthless, starkly mechanistic, almost pointless answer. "You are for nothing. You are here to propagate your selfish genes. There is no higher purpose to life." One man said he didn't sleep for three nights after reading The Selfish Gene. He felt that the whole of his life had become empty, and the universe no longer had a point. Another way of putting it is of people losing religious faith. People now felt they understood what it was all about, where previously they had been fobbed off with religious pseudo-answers. 
And as to the effect of evolution on the development of Dawkins' ideas, he makes it clear:
It was a mind-blowing experience to discover Darwinism and realize there were alternative explanations for all the questions with traditional religious answers. I became irritated at the way the religious establishment has a stranglehold over this kind of education. Most people grow up and go through their lives without ever really understanding Darwinism. They spend enormous amounts of time learning church teachings. This annoys me, out of a love of truth. To me, religion is very largely an enemy of truth. 
Dawkins is very open about his views—all theism is to be condemned, including theistic evolution. How effective has been what now amounts to a relentless campaign to banish any support of the theistic worldview in our public schools and colleges? Eugenie Scott, the leader of the world's largest organization dedicated to advancing naturalism and counteracting the work of creationists bemoaned, ". . . maybe there is something we can do to raise our esprit de corps. . . . it's tough out here in the trenches where 49% of American adults think man was created in his present form 10,000 years ago."
While some allege that there is no conflict between theism and Darwinism, the fact is that the majority of leading evolutionists are atheists, or at best nontheists for whom God is irrelevant to their daily lives and their views about the natural world and the universe. In an extensive study of scientists, Roe found in her sample of sixty-four eminent scientists that only three were actively involved in a church and "all of the others have long since dismissed religion as any guide to them, and church plays no part in their lives...."
Probably a majority of evolutionists would agree with Julian Huxley's pronouncement that "Darwinism removed the whole idea of God as the Creator of organisms from the sphere of rational discussion." Others might go further and accept the Dawkinsian view that the idea of a Creator is refuted by our human inability to account for His origin. A minority might echo Ashley Montagu's statement that "There is no incompatibility between belief in God and the belief that evolution is the means by which all living things have come into being." But I suspect they would, in some cases at least, echo it with more than trace of tongue-in-cheek!
When one compares the pessimistic, nihilistic worldview that evolution teaches—that life has no purpose or reason—with the Judeo-Christian worldview that men and women are a special creation of a loving, caring God who provides for them and will guide them through the trials and travails of life, a God whose love for us is so great that He created the universe and all of its wonders specifically for our benefit and has given us the opportunity of everlasting life in paradise, it is obvious why most Americans prefer the latter view. In Scott's words, "I have been saying for years that the reason creationists can win the allegiance of some of the general public is that all we scientists do is present evidence, but creationists go after the heart and soul. In the words of Tom Lehrer, 'They have all of the good songs.'" 
- S. Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory; The Search for the Fundamental Laws of Nature (Pantheon Books, New York, 1992), pp. 256-257.
- [C. Sagan, Cosmos (Random House, New York, 1980) p. 4.
- [S. Gould, Wonderful Life; The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History (W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1989), p. 291.
- Ibid., p. 44.
- Ibid., p. 291.
- Ibid., p. 323.
- Harold Cox and Andre Hammonds, "Religiosity, Aging, and Life Satisfaction" in Journal of Religion and Aging 5(1/2) 1-21 (1989).
- [W. Provine, Creation/Evolution 32, 62-63 (1993).
- N. Campbell, L. Mitchell and J. Reece. Biology: Concepts and Connections (Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Co., Redwood City, CA, 1994), p. 258.
- Bishop V. Aaronov, 723 F. supp. 1562 (ND Ala 1990).
- P. Johnson, "The Creationist and the Sociobiologist: Two Stories About Illiberal Education," California Law Review 80 (4) 1071-1090 (1992).
- P. E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial (Regnery Gateway, Washington, D.C., 1991).
- R. Lewin, "A Simple Matter of Complexity" in New Scientist 141 (1994) 40.
- Ibid., p. 40.
- R. Dawkins, "Interview" in Omni 12 (4) (Jan. 1990) 60-61.
- Ibid., p. 87.
- E. Scott, "Good Songs" in Science 263 (5154) Jan. 21, 1994), 310.
- Gilson, Robert J., Evolution in a New Light: The Outworking of Cosmic Imaginism (Pelegrin Trust, Norwich, England, 1992), 68.
- Roe, Anne, The Making of a Scientist (Dodd, Mead, and Company, New York, 1953), 62.
- Ref. No. 18, p. 68.
- Ref. No. 17, p. 310.
*Dr. Bergman is on the science faculty at Northwest State College, Ohio.
Cite this article: Jerry Bergman, Ph.D. 1994. The New State Religion: Atheism. Acts & Facts. 23 (11).