Weinberg: “for good people to do evil — that takes religion”


Steven Weinberg is an American professor at the University of Texas at Austin and winner of the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics. Weinberg gave a talk in April 1999 at the Conference on Cosmic Design of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

Towards the end of his speech, Weinberg makes a great case for the dangers of religion:

Frederick Douglass told in his Narrative how his condition as a slave became worse when his master underwent a religious conversion that allowed him to justify slavery as the punishment of the children of Ham. Mark Twain described his mother as a genuinely good person, whose soft heart pitied even Satan, but who had no doubt about the legitimacy of slavery, because in years of living in antebellum Missouri she had never heard any sermon opposing slavery, but only countless sermons preaching that slavery was God’s will. With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil — that takes religion. 

Here’s a timely case and point which I would like to ensure stays in memory:

On September 22, 2018, CNN’s Randi Kaye spoke to several Republican women in Florida about Christine Blasey Ford’s sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

Tell me when Dr. Weinberg’s comment rings true.

Woman #1 – (Notice the beautiful Christian crucifix around her neck.)

But in the grand scheme of things, my goodness, there was no intercourse. There was maybe a touch. Can we… really? Thirty-six years later? She’s still stuck on that?

Translation: Why is this woman “still stuck” on this attempted rape thing? “My goodness”, let it go!

Woman #2:

Where’s talking about about a 17-year-old boy in high school with testosterone running high, tell me what boy hasn’t done this in high school. Please, I would like to know.

Translation: All high-schoolers try to rape. It’s in their nature.

Or to put it more bluntly: “A little rape never hurt nobody. It’s part of growing up.”

This woman implies that attempted rape is so common that it barely merits acknowledging later, and that if a man attempted to rape someone as a teenager it says nothing about his character. And it certainly shouldn’t be held against him later in life.

There are only 2 types of persons that can carelessly dismiss something so impactful as attempted rape: Psychopaths and religious persons. It bears repeating: for good people to do evil — that takes religion. 

Weinberg concluded his speech with:

I am all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment.

Thanks for reading,




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