Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Josiah Wilson

Vol. 38 No. 07 September 2021
Josiah Wilson                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

The religious method

By Josiah Wilson

While an individual can hold both scientific and religious beliefs, religious beliefs can and often do obstruct the formation of scientific views. Since science begins with observations, it is far more reliable than faith, which begins with its conclusions already set in stone. This is why I trust science over faith.

The scientific method attempts to discern truth from all available evidence, including and excluding data based on its reliability. For example, crime scene investigators value forensic evidence far more than eyewitness accounts. Furthermore, the scientific method accepts valid data even if it disproves a previous conclusion. The scientific method accepts valid evidence, even if it is inconvenient. Only then does science propose hypotheses, which must be rigorously tested before they are accepted as anything more than educated guesses.

Religion, on the other hand, begins with conclusions already formed. And since faith-based religions claim that their conclusions are divinely inspired, they cannot afford to change their minds. They will do everything in their power to avoid admitting that their conclusions have been disproven, no matter the evidence against them. If a single “divinely inspired” belief turned out to be wrong, it would invalidate all the others. Therefore, religion only seeks out evidence that justifies its conclusions.

This is why science is more reliable than religion. When a scientifically reached conclusion is wrong, it has a good chance of being disproven, so that all of the people who previously accepted it can stop being wrong. But when a religious conclusion is wrong, the people who believe it will most likely continue believing it indefinitely. And if the belief is disproved by someone else, religion will do its best to ignore and discredit that proof.

I have experienced firsthand the intellectual restrictions of religion. The youth group Sunday school from the church I attended often encouraged close-minded thinking. I was discouraged from evaluating ideas based on their merit, believing that the only real truth came from my religion. This prevented me from thinking differently about the world and made it difficult to see and rationalize my life scientifically and objectively.

Religion does not merely propagate incorrect beliefs; it restricts the ability of its members to explore the world for themselves.

Science’s and religion’s respective methods for determining truth are diametrically opposed. Science continuously attempts to disprove the status quo, while religion does its best to cling to old ideas, even if they conflict with tangible reality. Religion restricts thinking, while science encourages and facilitates it. This is why I reject religion and instead trust in science.  Beliefs are only as reliable as the method by which they were formed.

Josiah, 17, is from Greenwood, Ind., and attends Indiana State University. “I have spent time as part of a troop in Trail Life USA scouting program, musical theater, and have volunteered for an assortment of causes,” Josiah writes. “My goal is to graduate debt free with a degree in information technology.”