You argue that science is better equipped to illuminate questions of morality than religion. Why?
Religion fails because it separates questions of right and wrong and good and evil from the actual reality of human and animal suffering. The Catholic Church is more concerned about preventing contraception than preventing child rape; it’s more concerned about preventing gay marriage than genocide. This is a real inversion of priorities that completely falsifies any discussion of morality in the church. The moment you’ve linked morality to the well-being of conscious creatures, you see that the practices of the church don’t maximize human well-being. The church is as confused in talking about morality as it would be in the physics of the transubstantiation. They could use the word “physics” over and over again, the same way they use the words “morality” and “values,” but no physicist would be obligated to take them seriously, and I’m arguing that no serious conversation about morality can include the priorities of the church.
In your book, you mention a “global civilization” several times. You also wrote, “Human beings should eventually converge in their moral judgments.” What do you mean by a global civilization?
I think we must form a global civilization. We have no choice. We have a global economy, we have a single environment, we have infectious disease that spreads with every airplane flight. The question is, How do we create a civilization in which the greatest proportion of people can thrive, and in which the causes for war become distant memories? Within a nation-state, wars can be a distant memory. The likelihood of a war between Vermont and Florida seems incredibly remote. Why is that? We understand the stability of a single state. We need to engineer a similar degree of stability at the international level. There has to be a way to enforce international law. The question is how to do that, and how helpful is it that 1.5 billion Muslims and 2 billion Christians both think they have the perfect revelation of the creator of the universe, and that the world will end, ushering in the fulfillment of their eschatology. This isn’t helpful at all, and should be terrifying to every rational person.
But what about wars that don’t seem to have been caused by religion, such as the Soviet wars under Stalin, or Hitler’s nationalist aggression in World War II?
Religion isn’t the only problem. It’s all the forms of tribalism: nationalism, racism, et cetera. But religious tribalism is the most difficult, because it’s the only one that comes with an ideology that is transcendental. It’s the only one that gets people, for the most part, to celebrate the deaths of their children, because the belief in paradise actually removes the last barrier that sane people have to doing horrendous things and making huge sacrifices for idiotic reasons.