Infidelities: Collection No.1
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SOUTH HAMPTON, N.Y. — When the baby-boom generation first decamped for college, if there was one intellectual topic that was totally passe, it was the relationship between science and religion. Hardly anyone was studying the subject, assumed by most thinkers to represent a total dead end. Now, as the boomers' children start off to college, if there's one intellectual topic that is starting to blaze red hot, it is the relationship between science and religion.
ROCKVILLE, Md. — The dying woman looked up at her physician. "What do you believe?" The question unsettled Dr. Francis Collins. For days, he had watched the elderly woman serenely endure the pain of a failing heart, certain she was leaving this world for a better one. She talked to him often of her faith.
Baroness Warsi accused secularists of 'denying people the right to a religious identity' when in fact secularism supports this right. Photograph: Steve Parsons/PA If atheists are bemused by the latest attacks on secularism, spare a thought for Britain's Christians. Most agree with equality for homosexuals , support the separation of church and state , and share the basic principles of humanism. Many of the comments supposedly made on their behalf must be as alien to them as they are to the rest of us.
There is the world we live in and then there is the world of the Bible. In our world, the ' real world ', the world of flesh and matter , there is no magic , no metaphysical conjuring , nothing supernatural or transmundane . What exists is experienced empirically —through the five senses —and therefore measurable , testable , subject to examination and experiment and ongoing scrutiny . Sure there is talk of the supernatural , of the occult , of miracles and faith healing and psychic phenomena , events or agents that can nonchalantly circumvent the laws of physics . There are books and movies and TV shows and sermons from the pulpit and paintings of supernatural entities like angels and ogres and ascending gods aglow and crowned with halos . But in the ' real world ', the world outside of language and art , the world we live in each day, there none of these things.
This article originally appeared on AlterNet . As an atheist and a liberal, I’ve found it tempting to simply laugh at Republicans fighting each other over the issue of whether or not Mitt Romney, a Mormon, gets to consider himself a Christian. From the nonbeliever point of view, it’s like watching a bunch of grown adults work themselves into a frenzy over the differences between leprechauns and fairies. But watching the debate unfold, I’ve become concerned about what it means to make someone’s religious beliefs such a big campaign issue, because it’s indicative of a larger eroding of the separation of church and state, which concerns not just atheists but all people who understand the importance of maintaining a secular government. Robert Jeffress, the influential senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, went on “Focal Point” with Bryan Fischer and declared that one shouldn’t support Mitt Romney for president because Romney, a Mormon, isn’t a real Christian.
It seems to me that many nonbelievers have forgotten—or never knew—what it is like to suffer an unhappy collision with scientific rationality. We are open to good evidence and sound argument as a matter of principle, and are generally willing to follow wherever they may lead. Certain of us have made careers out of bemoaning the failure of religious people to adopt this same attitude. However, I recently stumbled upon an example of secular intransigence that may give readers a sense of how religious people feel when their beliefs are criticized. It’s not a perfect analogy, as you will see, but the rigorous research I’ve conducted at dinner parties suggests that it is worth thinking about. We can call the phenomenon “the fireplace delusion.”
The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless. The day I became an atheist was the day I realized I had been a believer. Up until then I had numbered myself among the “secular ethicists.” Plato’s “Euthyphro” had convinced me, as it had so many other philosophers, that religion is not needed for morality.
The Improbability of God by Richard Dawkins from Free Inquiry , Volume 18, Number 3. Much of what people do is done in the name of God. Irishmen blow each other up in his name. Arabs blow themselves up in his name. Imams and ayatollahs oppress women in his name.