“Atheism?”: A Sermon From Pastor Bob

“On the other hand, as I did experiments on radioactive decay, and measured the magnetic resonance points of protons in water molecules, as well as worked with lasers and photo-optical switches, I wondered if I totally fit into the Christian world. Would I have to give up or put into question fundamental theories of science for my beliefs?”

ATHEISM?

A sermon by Pastor Bob

October 16, 2011

Text: Luke 21:5-19

Some of his disciples were remarking about how the temple was adorned with beautiful stones and with gifts dedicated to God. But Jesus said, “As for what you see here, the time will come when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down.”

“Teacher,” they asked, “when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?”

He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.

“But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.

–It starts off innocently enough.

–Jesus is with his disciples and they are standing in the shadows of one of the most amazing sights in the land, certainly all of Israel—the Jewish Temple.

–Just imagine what those disciples are thinking.

–They are all from small towns, the backwaters of Israel, and as they come into the city that is the jewel of Israel, and they are overwhelmed.

–For this is the seat of power not only politically, but the world—the universe itself, for it is here that exists the center of all Jewish worship and sacrifice, the Temple.

–It is here that the largest stones, carved and carried from quarries far away have been dragged and placed one on top of each other, some as long as 40 feet and as high as 10 feet, weighing hundreds of tons.

–With smaller stones and pillars and walls leading into the most sacred place in all of Israel, the Holy of Holies.

–It is here that God is said to dwell and it is so holy that only the high priest can enter but once a year to give offering.

–Then, as the disciples are standing there, looking up, mouths agape with awe, Jesus says something that startles them.

–He says that in the future, not one of those stones will be left on top of each other.

–That in a moment, this grandeur that had been the major building project of Herod the Great for 30 years would be tossed aside.

–That literally this house of God would be no more.

–Wars, earthquakes, plagues, and persecution would follow.

–But perhaps most ominously, in words that will be echoed in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, he warns them against people who will say that they come in Jesus’ name, that will say, “I am He,” who will say they are the Messiah, but they are not.

–Not only are these the building blocks of developing good Armageddon-type movies for how the world will come to an end, they also strike at the heart of Christian fears in general.

–People, as you can imagine, have glommed on to these words over the centuries, and have attached them to whoever seemed most threatening at the time.

–Jews, gypsies, the pope, politicians, and particularly in the past ten years, Muslims.

–They have and continue to bare the brunt of Christian fears and imagination.

–But there is another group that has also been a popular target of Christians: Atheists.

 –Do you ever have one of those weeks when you seem to run into someone again and again, or an idea or theme that has been there all along in small ways, but now jumps out to grab your attention?

–For me, it was the topic of Atheism—always a good topic for a pastor.

–But not just the idea of Atheism, the belief that there is no God.

–Rather I noticed how people react to this idea in politics, in the media, and in the sciences.

–And most of all, how it separates people.

 –It started last weekend when I was at a conference in Berkeley.

–There were several presenters who were arguing about the effects of atheism in the 20th century.

–And one person conjectured that there would not be a clash of civilizations between the religions.

–But that the real conflict would be between what he called religious and non-religious civilizations.

–He of course argued that the religious civilizations would win.

–Now, I have to admit that I am a little biased towards religion, but I thought it was a little hard to totally separate out a religious civilization from a non-religious civilization.

–Even communist countries who have officially sworn off religion are still influenced by religion.

–Religion is terribly messy.

–Later in the week, I was up later than I should have been, channel surfing past a million infomercials, and found myself captivated by a 700 Club-like show declaring that there were God-fearing politicians, and then there were those other people.

–And those “other people” were going to get their just dues.

–It was at this point that I started preaching to the people on the show, well actually to my TV, that they needed to read the Bible a little more carefully and should err on the side of humility—that would be my kindest paraphrase.

 –So, indignant about the abuse of religion, I then tuned to a special on science.

–It was about the history of science, and it told the usual story of how science escaped the chains of religious persecution to evolve into today’s progressive and explanatory modern sciences.

–Science was the realm of rationality and objectivity, gradually explaining everything.

–While religion was irrational, subjective and would eventually be explained away or left as whimsical fantasy for the young and the old.

–Well, needless to say, I also had a few choice words for that show as well.

–So, I ask you.

–Is it really so simple?

–Are we to pick sides?

–Are there really the religious and non-religious?

–The chosen and the damned?

–The naive and the realist?

–The out-of-touch and the down-to-earth?

–The mystic and the mathematician?

–Let me ask you:

–Do you ever feel embarrassed to be a Christian?

–Do you ever wonder if you quite fit in?

–Sometimes either in the workplace, or even at church?

 –I remember when I was studying Physics at the University of Colorado that I started to feel like there were two poles of people.

–I had become a Christian my junior year of college and now as I looked around at all my colleagues, I wondered if there were anyone else who believed as well.

–Or if they did, did they ever talk about it? Were they ashamed?

–Or were they just prudent.

–On the other hand, as I did experiments on radioactive decay, and measured the magnetic resonance points of protons in water molecules, as well as worked with lasers and photo-optical switches,

–I wondered if I totally fit into the Christian world.

–Would I have to give up or put into question fundamental theories of science for my beliefs?

 –I have spent a lot of time thinking about these questions, and my graduate studies have included the field of science and religion

–In fact, in January I will have a class on science and religion and will be joined by some scientists in our midst.

–We will work on some of these questions and realities.

–And I hope you will come.

–…Okay, that is my shameless infomercial for you this morning.

 –Finally, it sometimes seems to me that forces in society act like a divorcing couple fighting over custody of the kids.

–Those kids being science, politics, rationality, the heart, the spirit, the mind.

–Yet is this really necessary, let alone true?

 –As I think about those young disciples with Jesus as they were approaching the immenseness of the Jewish Temple and its foundations, I can’t help but think that they were onto something.

–Or perhaps more accurately, they were caught up in something.

 –Step after step, they had literally followed in Jesus’ footsteps.

–Not just past ornate structures, but into the lives of infinitely beautiful people.

–For Jesus taught them to see the splendor of a leper healed, a hungry child fed, a dead man raised, a tax collector called.

–He didn’t ask them to suspend their minds, but rather to open up their whole selves.

–He warned them about dangers and persecution, and, at the same time, he assured them that they need not be afraid.

–That they were loved for who they were.

–For their questions and their doubts.

–That they were chosen just because.

 –And dear friends, I say to you today, that this is also true for you.

–That you are claimed by God’s Holy Spirit.

–That you need not be afraid.

–That this world is to be explored, enjoyed and challenged.

–That people are not as different as we would want them to be.

–And in humility, we are not all that we could be.

–Yet, it is enough.

–Christ’s death and resurrection are enough to change everything.

–To tear down any wall that separates us from God and from each other.

 –This is a message worth sharing, a hope worth living.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Donald Rappe

    Like Bob I’ve studied the sciences, particularly physics. I decided to reject superstitious interpretations of the faith that was once delivered to the saints. I believe this reinforces my belief in the Creator of the heavens and the earth and not some other idol.

    • http://mikeponders.wordpress.com Mike Bruno

      You’re a deist then?

  • http://www.lauramariemusic.com Laura Marie

    I’ve always thought it odd to speak ill of atheists. They question what we should be questioning. If we have faith like we say we do, then God can stand up to questioning. And, if we believe in an all powerful and loving God, then we must believe that God loves atheists too. He loved us before we knew what that love looked like.

    • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdgalloway

      I so agree laura. We should be willing to have our faith challenged, to be willing to give an answer, and to want our answers to be formed in a way that helps the asker understand where we are coming from and why.

      I think that many Christians get bogged down in the why of their faith. They say they believe something cause “its in the bible” but have no idea why its there, or it is actually to be found in scripture.

      I agree with you that to God there is no criteria for the reception of His love. He done did that loving all of us thing. I believe God loves people of all cultures and faiths. I believe that God has more in store for all of us then we assume, that his plans for us is somewhat larger then what is contained in the pages of a revered book. (And yeah, I get flak for that one all the time) And that we should be more concerned with loving others today, tomorrow and all the days afterwards, with less concern on where they will be in the afterlife, and more concerned with their hopes, dreams and needs today.

  • Jim Farris via Facebook

    I’ve never understood why some people think there is a divide between belief and science. Belief seeks the “why” – science seeks the “how”. We as humans are simply still too dumb to understand how they intersect. One day.

  • James Casey

    Your message resonates. I don’t have a problem with atheists and, to be honest, I’m not put off by their (lack of) belief. I do, however, have a serious problem with the campaign that the “new atheists” are waging against religion in general. It’s arrogant to insist that science and religion are incompatible…as I see it, science only reveals what God has no longer wished to conceal.

    • LSS

      i saw a new book about Science and Reality (and Myths) that Hitchens recently put out, for kids and other people. i don’t remember the title, but i watched the “trailer” for the book on a website, and the message i came away with was this: he doesn’t hate God, actually. he hates religion. the God that is beyond religions, the actual transcendent God that made the nature and the reality, is actually honored in that book. i promptly forgot to go order the actual book, so i could be wrong. also i could very well be viewing this through the lens of christian wishful thinking. but this was my impression. (and, while i don’t think it’s really practical for the way humans are, i don’t know if getting rid of *religions* would be such an awful idea.)

    • Nick K.

      I’m in complete agreement. However, what I have found, as I read postings from “New Atheists” and Evangelical Atheists, I realize that they do not have anything “new” to say. They say the exact same arguments made by atheists in the 1950′s, the Edwardian Era, the Victorian Era, the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, the Roman Empire, etc. The only thing that is different is the technology. However, their smug superiority seems to be constant throughout time.**

      **This comment does not apply to the many wonderful and thoughtful people I personally know who are atheists/non-believers. Just the ones that like to hide behind the anonymity of the internet.

  • Val P.

    Wow Pastor Bob – great sermon. I happen to be a parent of an “evangelical” athiest. If I don’t set parameters beforehand, everytime we get together he will spend the entire time hammering at me, trying to get me to denounce my religious beliefs. He is a science major, a philosophy minor, and is very active on all the athiest FB sites. I block a lot of his posts as they show up on my FB page because they offend me.

    A month or so ago I got into a long FB debate with an old “friend” that I went to high school with, who also happens to be an athiest. I posted a picture from the Christian Left on my FB – which set him off. He posted wikipedia notes about ancient pagan gods who were just like Jesus – they were born of a virgin, they performed miracles, they were sacrificially killed for the sins of their followers, etc. During this FB assault, my son the athiest joined in. My worst nightmare, to have my every religious belief questioned by two educated athiests who were determined to disect my beliefs like they would a bug. In effect, they were trying to “save” me from Christianity!

    At the end, it became clear that my son is and has been offended that I would want to belong to a religion that damns him to hell for all eternity because in this life as a mere human he is unable to logically accept the miracle stories. And I told him I’m offended by them too. Because if I can love this child regardless of how irritating and how offensive he is to my sensibilities at times, how much more must his Creator love him? Maybe I’m more of a Christian Universalist, but I honestly believe that when it says no man comes to the Father except through Jesus Christ, that does not necessarily mean in this life. God made this beautiful young man, and I know he is one of the flock that the Shepherd is searching for. And he won’t stop until my child finds him – on this side or the other.

    Thank you for this sermon, and for the opportunity to tell my story. And for anyone who feels the need to tell me my son is going to hell – don’t. I know your story, I once was you. Don’t go there until you’ve walked in my shoes.

    • Nick K.

      Val P.-I am so sorry to hear that your son is like that. For the record, I don’t believe your son is going to hell because he doesn’t believe in God. I just wish there was some way to make him realize that he is acting no less bigoted and intolerant than the fundamentalist Christians he condemns. But he’s young, maybe once he leaves behind the trappings of youth and grows up some, he will not be so rigid in his beliefs and worldview as the young normally are. Maybe he will out grow his intolerance in time and become as accepting of others as his mother is of him.

      • Val P.

        Thank you Nick. He recently went on a friending spree on Facebook and “met” a bunch of athiests who were so off the board with their animosity that they actually offended his sensibilities. He realized “Hey! These jerks are talking about my mother!” And so he has acknowledged intolerance on either side does offend him. We are actually very close, he tells me everything – and I have learned the best I can do is keep my mouth shut and just be there.

    • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

      St. Monica never gave up on her son, either. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Twiga.Riq Richard W. Fitch via Facebook

    As one person once put it: Science starts one millisecond after the Big Bang and not a nanosecond earlier.

  • Don Whitt

    Wonderful sermon, Pastor Bob – thank you.

    The problem on both sides of the argument is dogma.

    I’m always amazed at the quantum-like nature of Jesus in scripture. If you think Jesus is here, he’s probably over there – and then gone to a whole other level of thought than you originally suspected. Jesus was often describing the nature of nature when describing the nature of God, and vice versa.

    Atheism is completely understandable in our modern world. Nietzsche said it long ago – “God is Dead”. Rationalism had the power to destroy the concept of God. That was his point. Not that God was actually something that could be killed. But there’s no mutual exclusivity between faith and reason. They are two sides of the same coin. Atheists and evangelists both miss that point, I think.

  • http://www.gaiaonline.com/guilds/viewforum.php?f=1630&_gaia_t_=1272 Robert

    Awesome article.

    I’m formally trained in mathematics and consider myself a mystic. The science vs. religion cage match has been debunked for about 10 years now by modern historians of science. It’s one of the mythic histories we in the western world seems to cling to forming it’s identity and tout it’s illusion of superiority over those they perceive as savages.

  • Lee Marshall

    What beautiful beliefs, Val. Your son is lucky to have you. Is he aware that your beliefs are more inclusive than he seems to think?

    I personally believe in God, but am not a Christian, by the way.

    • Val P.

      Thanks Lee – yes, we talk about it constantly, ha! He is obviously searching and searching, and so it’s a topic of constant conversation. I used to argue with him, but now I just love him.

      I’m leaning more toward Christian Universalist myself – which I’m sure would not be considered Christian by some ~ Whatever, you know we all are making our way the best we can on our own journey. What I really like about this site is the chance to discuss beliefs with all sorts of people with all sorts of beliefs. Not the sort of things you can discuss with fellow Methodists over lunch after church :)

  • http://theaspirationalagnostic.wordpress.com Eva

    I used to be an evangelical atheist, now I’m travelling towards becoming a believer. I can certainly see the problems inherent in both evangelical atheism and evangelical christianity; I don’t know which one bothers me more. That said, if God loves those who question and doubt, then I’m definately a favourite!

    Eva

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      EVA! It’s been too long since I’ve heard from you. It’s great to hear from you again.

      • Eva

        You crazy christians sure know how to make a girl feel special ;)

        • Donald Rappe

          I’ve recently discovered that when people’s names show in red it means they have a blog. I just glanced at yours and I like it. The questions you ask seem very similar to the questions I ask or perhaps asked.

  • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    I read this earlier today and didn’t reply because of a need to grab food and go to work.

    Skimming commentary…

    The way I see it… I came to this conclusion a while ago after seeing the pushy “evangelism” that goes on among both sides in online debates… What I think…

    … is that if you believe in something, you ought to believe in it. What I mean is, whatever it is that you believe in, you should trust it. If you really do believe that you are right, there’s no need to constantly be trying to proove it to everyone. And if you’re truly open-minded, you’re open to the concept that “maybe you’re wrong but it’s OKAY.”

    If you believe in a loving God who wants to have a relationship with everyone and/or save everyone from Hell – TRUST that he’s going to speak to everyone in his own way in his own time (ESPECIALLY if you believe in eternal hellfire yet insist that God is Love). If he really is a “good” God, you *have* to trust that he’s going to give everyone a chance. If you think you must preach and push and see people walking away, trust that “maybe it’s not you” who is to deliver those particular people salvation and maybe you should shut up and chill out a little instead of pushing them away.

    Conversely, if you believe, as a quote I once read stated, that “Atheism is the destination of everyone who thinks,” then TRUST that all the “thinkers,” all the “smart, quality people” will eventually lose their faith / see reason. TRUST that it is a natural result of deep thought if you really think it is. If you have someone in your life who is a beliver who angers you becuase you think that “they’re too smart for that!” then trust that eventually, they’ll come around if left alone with their thoughts. And if they don’t come around before they die? Trust that “maybe they weren’t as smart as you thought they were.” Problem solved! Now, if you’re trying to de-convert the world becuase you find religious/spiritual people threatening (you hate thier cultural influence, what they’re teaching children, how they’ve taken over politics) – know that you’re better off fighting the politics and leaving the “fangless” believers alone, or even allying yourself with believers who *share* your views of the politics and will *fight with you.*

    The fact of the matter is that the world is full of “stupid” and/or “sinful” people. No matter who you are, there will always be people who exist that you find to be “stupid” in one way or another. Suck it up and deal. Every indivudual must deal with people with whom they disagree (unless you spend your life in a dark hole somewhere). I have friends with whom I agree with religiously, but disagree with politically – and vice versa. And you know how we get along? Avoiding hot-button issues, focusing on the things we mutually like, realizing we all have perfectly human reasons for our views and general respect. It’s not hard, really.

    • Diana A.

      Loving this!

      • Val P.

        So true – I may print this out and give to my son everytime he is getting revved up for another athiest/Christian ho-down.

        • http://sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

          Aside from being fairly “liberal” in my Chrisitanity (though I do believe in the story of Christ as more than just a pretty myth… I really do believe in a real God that’s more than just an idea and a real Ressurection… so I’m not completely “fangless”)… I am fairly agnostic about it. That is, I have doubts. In fact, I don’t think faith that isn’t questioned and doesn’t go through doubt isn’t a faith worth having.

          Sometimes my doubts get dark, though – especially after I’ve been arguing with certain people (spending too much time in Huffington Post’s Religion section comments with evangelical athiests, for instance). It latches itself to the self-doubt I’ve always had about whether I’m a good person, or worth being alive. I know that if it didn’t carry on a religious flavor, it would carry on some other flavor because it *always does.* I am always finding reasons to doubt my worth – my place in the world, my lack of “success,” my loner-nature and introversion (the world has a hard attitude toward natural introverts), and other things: even the brain-chemistry type mental illness that is the reason why I have the turmoil I have in the first place.

          When it’s religion-flavored, it’s especially painful for me because I really do think that the hope of there being a God, there being a transcendent meaning to life beyond the material is what inspires me to keep going. I don’t think I’m worth anything, or at least “enough” in the material sense. I’m too broken, was cracked from the get-go. I can contribute unique things to Humanity, but they don’t get very much attention, making me think Humanity doesn’t really need them. So, when I am feeling like I’m a “weak” person or my brain is terminally flawed because I apparently “need a God,” that’s just another knife in my heart about how much I’m a waste of skin and organs. I’m never going to be as “strong” as the world wants me to be. Besides, I get the feeling from a lot of people that even if I were to lose my faith this moment, I would still be an inferior-stupid because I’m 32 as opposed to so many of them who are smarty-smart for losing their faith at age 8, or age 5, or “never saw the magic.”

          Still, I’m agnostic about it – which means I do wrestle with doubt and, in fact, I tend to think atheism makes more sense – in that, atheists have all they need – the world right in front of them, everything they can touch and feel and measure. The wonders of nature and the cosmos as physical are enough for them. They don’t have my particular weaknesses. I am jealous that they have all they need.

          But when people push, and “evangelize” and act up on a high horse, flaunting their mental “superiority,” as said, it can hurt me, but in the end, I grit my teeth, raise my middle finger and walk away. One of the major reasons why I don’t just give into my doubt and become an atheist is the “evangelists.” The thing that scares me more than losing the “things I need” if I were to lose my faith is the idea that the loss of faith will make me into a turbo-jerk. Now, I have atheist friends who are not turbo-jerks, but it seems like the majority I run into are, or are at least so insecure in their own smarts that they have to make sure everyone knows what smarty-brains they have for not believing in the stuff a lot of people believe in.

          So, whenever someone gets on an “godless evangelism” tear, they really ought to know that some of the people they want to “push” will just push back. And bite. That’s my reaction to being pushed by people about *anything,* not just religious/non-religious stuff.

          Wow, I rambled.

  • Achilz

    I think it is easier to be an atheist and understand faith than to be a believer and understand atheism. Certainly, there are obnoxious, judgmental, belligerent jerks on both sides. But I think that on the whole atheists are more accepting of religion than the other way around. I also think that is because an atheist can look at religion purely as a matter of faith. Logic and reason can get you only so far. To believe in God requires that leap of faith. An atheist goes up to the riverbank and says, eh, I think I will stay dry.

    A believer, however, must make the leap. He or she must accept what cannot be known as though it is Truth (with a capital T). That requires a certain emotional commitment to belief, which atheism simply does not require. The believer believes that by taking the leap, he or she is experiencing the fullness of life, going where logic cannot take you. It is easy to see why people who have found religion would have a more difficult time accepting those who stay on the riverbank (“come on in, the water’s fine”). Yet the atheist remains unwilling. Perhaps that is perceived by some to be smugness, by others as subversive but very few of those who are in the river can truly accept those who want to stay on the bank. It is a harder decision to understand.

    • http://mikeponders.wordpress.com Mike Bruno

      In one sense, it is an empirical truth that atheists broader understanding of religion/faith than believers. A recent survey showed that atheists top the list in terms of broad knowledge of religions.

      http://pewforum.org/Other-Beliefs-and-Practices/U-S-Religious-Knowledge-Survey.aspx

      • LSS

        (1) knowledge and understanding are not the same. i think some atheists understand where believers are coming from and some don’t… more based on whether or not they have been there.

        (2) i think FEW believers understand where atheists are coming from, unless *they* had already been there before.

        (3) i think some people arrive at atheism due to feelings and some due to logic and some due to a combination … the same way that people go to religion for different reasons and in different ways.

        caveat: none of what i am saying is based on research, just anecdotal about the impressions i get from what people say to each other about stuff. so i could be wrong. i say all of this as a believer who has lately gotten a bit of understanding of what atheists must feel like about religion … before, i had no clue… now, i feel like i kind of get what bothers them.

        • http://mikeponders.wordpress.com Mike Bruno

          Good point….most atheists WERE theists at one time [typically] due to childhood inculcation. For the most part, we have looked at it from the inside and the outside.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            I know I have.

          • LSS

            that is probably very useful to your being able to actually talk with atheists in a climate of mutual respect.

            is it maybe true that most people who are currently christian were raised christian? i get that impression, but again i am not sure and also unsure how to google such a thing.

          • LSS

            wikipedia cites sources who claim that 2.5 million worldwide convert to christianity every year and/or 6 million africans. and there are well over 2 billion christians in the world…

          • http://mikeponders.wordpress.com mike bruno

            In the U.S., the fastest growing segment is the “non-religious”…by a significant margin.

          • LSS

            what i was trying to figure out was about the background of christians (how many had gotten there after an experience of atheism or other nonbelief vs. how many were raised christian. but it’s hard to tell because there could be a lot of overlap…)

            and the reason i had this question was because i *think* more atheists know (by experience) where christians or other theists are coming from, compared to less christians having experienced non-belief and knowing where atheists/etc. were coming from. but i am just guessing and i wondered if it were true but it seemed a difficult statistic to search.

  • http://mikeponders.wordpress.com Mike Bruno

    Well this is a nice break from the gay-centric stuff that that seems the now-primary subject of this blog. I have long been supportive of gay rights just as I am supportive if rights for the left-handed, so reading about it is rather boring. Not being a Christian; it was obvious long ago. Of course is is still a front-burner issue for groups that think Fox News is actually a reliable and unbiased source of news. Anyway…..

    Bob, you would seem to be in a small minority. The large majority (76%) of the National Academy of Sciences is specifically atheistic with (I think) just 7% being theistic. It would seem that studying matter and our universe through the sciences is one of the most effective means of expunging traditionally religious thought.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Nirakia Karin Kloppers via Facebook

    Science is belief too.. many scientific “facts” are just theories taken on faith until a better theory comes along :)

    • http://mikeponders.wordpress.com mike bruno

      Your point is true only in the narrowest philosophical sense. That matter is made up of atoms, that pathogenic bacteria causes disease and that humans evolved from other species are “just theories”. Science has a clear leg up because we celebrate when we are shown that we are wrong. That leg up is because science has a vastly higher standard for evidence.

  • jh

    Just sort of skimming due to insomnia here, and can’t tell you how much I appreciate the discussion. I get sucked in to reading the comments on religion stories online, which seem inevitably to be full of vitriol from all comers. It’s really interesting (and maddening) to not have a dog in the fight and to see how incensed both sides can get. I often feel like the debate is many, many layers beneath what it could be — I wish there was more dialogue about peoples’ grounds for epistemology, historical debates about the nature of knowledge, the legitimacy (or not) of human subjectivity, the actual practice of particular instances of ‘science,’ the existing methods in place for the academic study of religion and culture, etc.

    anyway. thanks for the non-shrill conversation here, y’all.

    • http://mikeponders.wordpress.com mike bruno

      I’m not sure I have seen a blog where ‘science’ was so often put in quotes. I’m not sure what to make of it.

      • jh

        I put science in quotation marks when I’m referring to it (and related concepts/ideas) as a rhetorical device that people deploy when making arguments. I do the same with religion. I guess it’s because I think there is too little emphasis placed on how people practice religion and how people practice science.

        Also, I’m a social scientist, so I put pretty much everything in quotation marks.

  • anonymous coward

    It’s worth noting the Pew study also shows that Mormons and evangelicals, on average, know more about their own religion than atheists do, which shouldn’t be surprising.

    • http://mikeponders.wordpress.com Mike Bruno

      There are a number of interesting take-aways from the Pew study. To [poorly] analogize… It is as though most groups know all the nuance of their own book (i.e. Harry Potter) and can relate many details and subtle character relationships, but know little or nothing about Hemingway or Twain or Shakespeare. The other group might be less familiar a given book, but have a much broader familiarity with literature as a whole. I would suggest that it is better to be in the latter group. I think the Pew study point out that atheists are in that latter group.

  • http://nevender.blogspot.com Nev

    Josh, a small question, how does this fit in with Jesus’ words here ?

    Matthew 28:18-20

    18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore[c] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.[d]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X