E. O. Wilson: I’m not an atheist but religion should be eliminated

By Hannah Osborne | 28 January 2015

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

Renowned biologist E. O. Wilson has said we should eliminate religions for the sake of human progress, as they are “dragging us down”.

In an interview with New Scientist, Wilson was speaking about his latest book The Meaning of Human Existence, in which he questions religion, how humanity looks for common cause, our behaviour and our impact on the environment.

He said his next book, in which he plans to deal with where we are going as a species, looks at how we have been destroying Earth in a way that people have not fully realised “like the death of a thousand cuts”.

Wilson said we ignore cues from science about the damage we are doing because of our “tribal structure”.

“All the ideologies and religions have their own answers for the big questions, but these are usually bound as a dogma to some kind of tribe. Religions in particular feature supernatural elements that other tribes – other faiths – cannot accept … And every tribe, no matter how generous, benign, loving and charitable, nonetheless looks down on all other tribes. What’s dragging us down is religious faith.”

He said that he is not an atheist or agnostic, instead explains “I’m a scientist”.

“Humans everywhere have a strong tendency to wonder about whether they’re being looked over by a god or not. Practically every person ponders whether they’re going to have another life. These are the things that unite humanity.

“This transcendent searching has been hijacked by the tribal religions. So I would say that for the sake of human progress, the best thing we could possibly do would be to diminish, to the point of eliminating, religious faiths. But certainly not eliminating the natural yearnings of our species or the asking of these great questions.”

Speaking about the future of mankind, Wilson said the living world is going to reach a tipping point where it is no longer in equilibrium.

“And when that happens, the whole thing collapses – and we collapse with it.”

E.O. Wilson explains the meaning of human existence, in 6 minutes.

E.O. Wilson: Science, Not Philosophy, Will Explain the Meaning of Existence

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  1. If a person believes that a religion is true, that person surely would not want the religion eliminated. That would be inconsistent and self-defeating. If a person believes that a particular theistic religion is true, then that person is a theist (there are many kinds of religions that are not theisms, so a person believing that one of those religions is true would require a different label). If a person, like Dr. Wilson, advocates that all religions should be eradicated, then surely that person does not believe that any of those religions are true. A person who does not believe in any theistic religion is an atheist, whether or not he avows that label for himself. Therefore, if Dr. Wilson endorses the end of all religions, including theistic ones, then he must be an atheist, or else his thinking is very muddled.

    • One does not need to take part in any religion to validate his or her belief in the existence of spirituality or any definition of a god. You missed the whole point of the article, David.

    • The error in your argument, David, is that a person may be a theist without believing in a particular theistic religion. Or more plainly, he may believe in a supernatural being or "god", but not subscribe to any religion, thereby being a theist without religion.

  2. I agree with Tina Fine… you missed the point of the article, David. I am non-theist and anti-religion. Still, I don't agree with everything an atheist affirms nor am I sitting on the agnostic fence. I'm not a scientist, either. E.O. is and this self-described label denies any belief or lack thereof. He believes what science proves. Personally, I haven't a clue about the origin of the universe or any of the known and unknown life forms that might inhabit the universe. I think that science and our own intellectual development has not reached a point where we CAN know everything about the universe. Maybe we'll reach that point, maybe we'll destroy ourselves before then. So, I also haven't a clue what happens at the moment of physical death. Is there a spirit that 'moves on' or is it as the atheists claim, 'lights on, the party's over?' We'll only discover that answer when the time comes… or not.

  3. Each and all religions claim to have the only and true god and their own story of 'creation' different from each other and all of them competing with and attacking each other. In addition, each and all of them claim to have all the answers about the universe, the origin of life and the meaning of human existence. None of them accept or consider any questioning about anything and they are all faith-based which means: blindly believe what their leaders say, no questions can be asked, no evidence shown. How possibly this system could be something to be trusted as the best source for understanding anything,or finding answers to the origin of life, the universe and the meaning of the human existence. Than is essentially what Dr. Wilson is saying, it is not hard to understand if you are paying attention and if you are really interested in finding real answers to reality.

  4. Vse vere so en blef. Ena veja oblasti,da pomagajo zatirati narod sami pa na velikih nogah živijo. Narodu pa obljubljajo plačilo v onostranstvu.vsaka vera ima svojega edinega boga in samo njihov je pravi. Za svoje trditve so pripravljeni pobiti vs in vsakogar. To zame ni vera. Te institucije samo dobro živijo se bogatijo na račun siromakov in prestrašenih ljudi. Res sramotno za te elite in kot pravijo "izobražene " ljudi.so zločinci,kateri podpihujejo vojne za svoje interese.

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