There are a few fundamental reasons why I am (adamantly) not religious. At its most basic, I do not see anything about the universe which requires a supernatural explanation, force, or ever-present father figure. Beyond this, I fundamentally disagree with religious forms of knowledge like revelation and divine dictation, and disagree that religion is a prime player in the origin of morality of any kind.
To these ends, I have found two simple challenges that I have never heard answers to. The first deals with the inadequacy of religious knowledge in the face of science, and the second contests that morality can of course be achieved without being a religious person.
I then defer to two of the “Four Horsemen” (or “New Atheists”), Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens:
For example, I can imagine that religion will never come up with a better explanation for atomic interactions than the standard model for particle physics, a better explanation for the diversity of life than evolution, a better explanation for the intricacies of a waterfall than fluid dynamics, etc. To me, the offered religious explanation to a scientific question always makes less sense. For instance, while the last few popes have accepted the theory of evolution, they still claim that Adam and Eve were real (which we know is impossible) and that the human mind could never be crafted by evolution (the conclusion which all the evidence we have contradicts). These caveats only point out the continued falterings of religious knowledge in the face of testable science.
This challenge reminds me of a similar one offered by the late great Christopher Hitchens, who questioned the moral privilege of religion:
Name one moral or ethical action or behavior committed or carried out by a believer that could not have been committed or carried out by an atheist.
As one of the common rails against atheists is that we have no absolute moral foundation and are therefore an outburst away from a raping and killing spree, this challenge is all the more important. In my view, if you cannot separate out how morality is different for the religious and the non-religious, or at least how one is inaccessible to the other, I do not see where the argument for morality’s religious exclusivity lies.
Answering these simple challenges would go a long way in establishing a foothold for religious ideas in either morality or knowledge. As of yet, I have not heard any and remain unconvinced that religion deserves any province in either realm.
If you indeed have an answer to either challenge, let me know in the comments.