Is religion the true enemy of freedom in a democratic society since it teaches us that we have to think a certain way or is science since it teaches us that nobody is truly free but a product of deterministic forces?

How about neither?

Let's start with religion, about which only a few words. Some forms of religion are dogmatic and deeply invested in doubtful beliefs, but it's a mistake to think all religion is like that, contrary to the persistent insistence of some apologists for atheism.

And "science" writ large hasn't settled whether everything is a product of deterministic forces, let alone about what that would imply if it were true. On the first point: it's open to serious doubt whether quantum processes are deterministic. And it's simply not true that the macro-world would be sealed off from all quantum indeterminism. More important, it's simply not settled that determinism has the dire implications you suppose it has. Most philosophers, I'd guess, accept some version of compatibilism, according to which physical determinism and human freedom can coexist. A bit of searching around this website will find various discussions. Here's one that might be helpful.

Of course, it might be that the compatibilists are wrong. It might also be (many have argued this) that indeterminism doesn't help either. (The fact that a bit of behavior isn't caused hardly shows that it's the sort of thing we want to count as an action for which someone could be held responsible.) The issues here are a blend of philosophical and scientific. But science isn't the enemy. It's our best way of trying to sort out the factual background to our philosophical puzzles. What we make of those facts isn't something we should blame "science" for.

Or another mode of reply: First suppose that science DOES suggest determinism. How would anything be different in our lives? Wouldn't democratic processes work precisely the same way as they have been? (After all, our behavior has been deterministic all along, so why would discovering/proving/merely believing that it is deterministic change anything?) Or since 'freedom' seems to be the larger concern for you, again, what would be different? All the cases where we've held people responsible for their behaviors, we still would hold them, wouldn't we? we'd still lock up bad people, teach our children to be good, etc.... So it isn't clear to me why scientific results would threaten anything, really. Ditto for religion: if we think religions are in the business of generating true claims about the world, then, where they succeed, we should be happy to endorse their claims (assuming we want the truth). Whichever dogmatic religions you're thinking of ARE dogmatic because they believe they have the truth which, I suppose, isn't necessarily a bad thing. Of course, greater humility about knowledge is probably more appropriate -- but then very little stops most people from believing their religious beliefs along WITH the humility of recognizing they may be wrong -- so it isn't religion itself which 'suppresses freedom (of thought)', but dogmatic bossy people (some of whom are religious, but many of whom are not) ....

hope that's useful! ...


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