Throughout history there have been many scientific discoveries that have cast a long shadow on religious belief. From discovering the water cycle to heliocentricity. Of course, some people do still pray for rain. Undoubtedly these people would sneer at a tribal rain dance but think their own version is a serious and worthwhile undertaking. Some people just refuse to learn!
The one theory in modern science that really seems to make the religious uncomfortable is evolution. Evolution is an almost universally accepted theory amongst people who know anything about it. There are of course some dissenting voices in the scientific community but almost every theory has a few detractors. It is a reasonable statement to make that evolution is a proven theory is so far as any theory can be proven. There are libraries of evidence to support the idea. Infact, there is so much evidence that a lot of religious groups and organisations have been forced to accept it. They usually do so with some made up new idea that God started it off or something to that effect. In the modern world, educated people laugh at creationists. We laugh because they continue to believe something that has been shown to be false. They are sticking to their guns (and/or bibles as the case may be). The more reasonable theists out there are not quite so stubborn as to simply deny evolution. They know it happened so they instead try to go around it and pretend it doesn’t really matter to their faith. They decide that their reading of the bible as metaphor is more sophisticated that those silly creationists. This strikes me as one of the most intellectually dishonest things any large movement has ever done. They are claiming that the countless generations of people who came before them who were almost all creationist were wrong to read the bible literally. Silly creationists. The reasonable and honest conclusion would be that the bible is wrong and has been clearly shown to be. They can’t do that though. To acknowledge such massive errors in the bible would reduce its value to roughly what most atheists take it be already; for all but historical/mythological purposes: worthless. It would become much the same as a statue of Zeus. It may have some value as a cultural artefact but it has nothing to say about our reality. The standard tactic employed is to simply overlook the old testament. That is the part of the bible with all the really nasty bits where God acts like a complete asshole. If we can just overlook that half of the bible we can still hold on to the good stuff. Well, we will still pretend that the old testament stuff is still valuable but that it is written in a metaphorical way and you have to be really clever to understand it properly Lets pretend that instead of some ignorant babble written by a couple of ancient goat herders, it is actually really amazing and important insights into human behaviour! Cool.
So what about the New testament? That is surely immune to evolutionary attack. After all, it was only about 2000 years ago and evolution doesn’t have much to say about a time span that short. Right?…..well no, not quite.
We are apparently made in God’s image. People once thought that meant he looked human but the more modern evolution-friendly interpretation is that we are made in his image spiritually. Ah, right. We have souls you see, they are what make us like god and what elevate us above animals in the grand scheme of things. Uh-oh. Doesn’t evolution posit that we were once animals. Even worse, it suggests that we are still because evolution is a continuous process. We are still evolving. Maybe we are animal-like now in comparison to what we will become? If were animals in the past, did we still have souls back then? Could we commit crimes like murder? When a lion kills another males cubs in order to mate with the female, is he committing infanticide. Will God be angry with them? Was there some point in our evolution when God popped in and decided it was time for us to start having souls? That would have been an uncomfortable generation.
“Hey God, will I see my mommy in heaven when I die?”
“Nope sorry, your mother is an animal”
Evolutionary theory should and to the critical and unclogged mind does remove the notion of a soul and with it washes away most if not all religious belief.
Clinging to a concept long after it has been rendered obsolete is not the act of a rational mind. Neither for that matter is the belief in invisible people. We once believed in all manner fantastical creatures and happenings and powers, but all of these, every last one that has met the scrutiny of scientific investigation has fallen away. Most of the core doctrines of modern religions have also been shown to be false; the religious just refuse to notice. One day, Jesus Christ as the son of God will take his place along with Yahweh amongst the dead Gods who all lament those two powers they could not overcome. Reason and Science.
It is sad but I think almost inevitable that new religions will rise to replace those who that have fallen, making grand claims about the universe and all powerful entities who created and command it until the next wave of scientific progress washes away those fantasies with a torrent of fact and evidence. What form will these gods take? What will their miracles be in a technological society? Would you doubt for a second that the adherents of those religions will look back on the followers and Yahweh and Allah and shake their heads, wondering why people believed they were communicating with God? They might even ask their God about it.