I've long come to the conclusion that theistic belief is merely one symptom to a wider problem with humans. Chris Zerhusen at The Pile System blog
has deduced the very same and has managed to articulate the point quite well, so I will let his words carry this post.
"As an atheist and skeptic, I am constantly fighting the battle (on a very small scale, but fighting nevertheless) against belief in all manner of silly things, gods included. It is important to remember, though, that belief in God, quack medicine and the Loch Ness Monster are all symptoms of a greater societal problem. Bad reasoning.
Bad reasoning is a very broad term and there are a very large number of factors contributing to the generally atrocious reasoning ability our society has. Some of these I think are worth faulting individuals for, some are probably more appropriately blamed on our education system. What is important about this is that the big picture here is not religion. It’s people being too intellectually lazy to care whether their ideas make sense or are supported by evidence. It’s people not knowing how to form a logical argument, or how to recognize an illogical one. It’s people not understanding the fallibility of our own minds, our own memory, and our own senses. It’s people not understanding the idea of falsifiability and testing a hypothesis. It’s people not knowing the very basics of what scientists have discovered about our universe. It’s people seeing a fraction and thinking “oh well I don’t need to understand that.”
These are the big problems. They affect people’s beliefs far more broadly than just their belief in religion. They are the cause of the success of countless quack medicines and perpetual energy machines. They are the reason we have people who believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya, or that we never went to the Moon. They are the reason that our political discussions are so often focused on vague, general and untested claims. I hate all of these things, and fixing them isn’t a question of arguing each point, it’s teaching people how to figure out for themselves that these ideas are stupid.
Before I get yelled at, I dont’ think it’s a bad thing to fight religion directly. Religion is a symptom, sometimes a terrible symptom, of the problems listed above, and I have no problem with people trying to relieve such symptoms. I think good will probably come from the raised profile of atheism and from convincing some people that their beliefs are unfounded and likely wrong. I even think that religion can be a good medium in which to discuss at least some of the problems listed above. But it’s not enough. A world full of Bill Maher’s is not that much better than a world full of Pope Benedict XVI’s. It’s a little better, but there’s still some work to do.
The natural question is, of course, how do we do this? I think a lot can be done by simply asking questions. The idea of falsifiability, logical fallacies and intellectual laziness can be directly fought simply by questioning people who make claims (even claims that are true). That’s what we can do every day on an individual basis, but I don’t think that is enough. Most people have no understanding of the scientific method when they graduate high school. I didn’t have a good understanding of the scientific method until after that. That needs to have a much larger emphasis in school than it does, rather than focusing on fitting in as many facts as possible. Facts are important to know, but they are disproportionately weighted in our current system thanks to our testing and teacher evaluation systems. All high schoolers should also be required to take statistics, calculus can wait.
The problem with making education reform suggestions is that it’s one thing to say “we need to teach the scientific method better,” and another thing to actually get that to happen. Teaching concepts and ways of thinking take a lot more work than teaching facts. It takes a lot more work from the teacher, and it takes an evaluation system that it different than our current one. These are broad scale reforms that will take a lot of time and a lot of work to implement, but it’s what needs to be done. I don’t think we can fight the rampant problems in thinking in our society without education reform. Just remember that it’s not what is taught that is important, it’s how it’s taught. That’s incredibly hard to change because it involves changes at the individual teacher level. Some of it could be achieved through changes in evaluation methods (a portfolio method like the IB does is one such option), but some of it involves better teacher training, and better incentives for teachers to care. There are still more difficulties, one being that we need LOTS of teachers, and it’s very hard to find that many people good at anything. Education is a terribly complicated field, but it’s important and worth trying to improve.
Remember that this is a complicated issue, and doesn’t have one, two or twenty-nine easy solutions. The real point is to see what the big picture is and decide what you want to do about it."