Posts Tagged ‘science’

As I’ve talked about in many posts, the outside view of devout Christians has become increasingly one-dimensional, with misconceptions that the loudest members of our very large community are somehow representative of the whole.  In light of the recent debate on creationism by Bill Nye “the Science Guy” and Ken Ham, I thought it was time to make an attempt to discuss faith and science.


One of the common misconceptions that non-Christians, particularly atheists, have is that somehow, people who believe in God universally do not believe in evolution and do not accept modern science.  Further, there is often an assumption that Christian or just generally religious scientists will be prejudiced in their research.  Neither of these are, as a rule, true.


The debate is not between atheists who believe in the Big Bang and Christians who believe that six thousand years ago God created the earth in six days.  There is a very wide range of opinions within that spectrum.  At this point, a very large percentage of Christians, particularly liberal Christians, see no contradiction between current scientific theories and religious faith. 


Let me start with some vocab.  I’d like to separate between the terms “intelligent design” and “creationism”.  Intelligent design tends to refer to the idea that yes, there was a big bang and evolution but all of it was guided by an intelligent creator.  Creationism tends to refer to the fundamentalist opinion that the world was created exactly as described in the first chapter of the book of Genesis and that the Bible represents all of human history.  Frankly, I think that’s a misnomer, because creationism seems to be a word that could be open to a much wider interpretation, but this is how it’s usually used so I’ll follow convention.  Contrary to popular belief, these two are very different theories and are far from interchangeable.  It is inappropriate and inaccurate to lump these two approaches together.


First of all, while I firmly believe that God is the creator of our universe, I will admit that I do not buy into the six, twenty-four hour day theory.   Even ignoring scientific evidence, scripture says that God didn’t create the sun until the fourth day.  Given that our concept of a day is defined as a revolution around the sun, it seems clear to me that God was not referring to a day as we know it.  I do not know whether God thinks of time differently, He was using flowery language, this was an analogy (an interesting theory that posits the creation story is an analogy for how we should observe the Sabbath, something that I’m sure I’ll discuss in another blogpost), or whether something got lost in translation, but I do not believe in the six days theory.  However, I do believe that God designed the universe, that He put into place all of the patterns and natural laws that we see around us.  I do not think that science will ever prove or disprove God but for me, and for many other Christians, science is in fact an expression of God.  It is our ability to view His masterpiece and the perfect order that He created.  It’s a chance to see His beauty.  I’ve known people whose faith in God is nourished and encouraged by their scientific studies and research.  The two are not mutually exclusive, but in fact are compatible.  To study science is to study God’s creation. 


However, just because these are my beliefs, does not mean that I support teaching them in school.  We believe in the separation between Church and State and therefore, we do not teach one religious theory over another.  What we teach in school is what we can express via facts and evidence.  It is not the place of public schools to debate theology.  A caveat, I do not, however, think this gives teachers’ license to talk about the validity or invalidity of religion, that’s not their place either.  For Christians who don’t agree with evolutionary theories, you have a right to your opinion, but our faith is something that should be communicated and expressed at home, and no one is denying you that right.


When I attended a Christian school, my scienc teacher said something that I’ve taken to heart and thought back often on, she said “I don’t know for sure whether the world was created in six days or in millions of years.  All that matters to me is that I know God created it.”


This debate, frankly, is one that people use to highlight differences and to stir up arguments.  At the end of the day, it matters a lot less of how we got here than that we are here and we are living together.  Evolution is not trying to destroy religion, intelligent design is not trying to destroy science.  It’s time for both sides to stop treating the other as if they were.


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I’d like to write this post on a topic that I feel is undermentioned: the rise of evangelical atheists.


Now, first of all, while I know I will make many atheists angry at this characterization, I believe that atheism is a religion.  I don’t think rituals or even God are necessary for something to be a religion (Buddhism lacks a strong deistic view).  I think religion is a belief about the spiritual nature of the universe.  Atheists believe that there isn’t a spiritual part of the universe.  That is a belief.


The interesting thing is despite atheism’s desire to be described as a religion, they are beginning to adopt many of the trapping and habits of religion.  There are now atheist/secular campus groups.  There are atheist/secular chaplains.  And there is now evangelical atheism.


I tend to define evangelical atheism as the belief that a) traditionally religious people are wrong in their belief of God and b) the need to express that belief and try to convert them.  This is a loose definition.  I am more trying to refer to an attitude rather than an actual act.


Atheists who desperately are trying to convince people of traditional religious faith that they are wrong, that there is no possible way their beliefs can be correct, are proselytizing.  They are no different from Christian who argue that the only way to heaven is through Jesus and it’s necessary for you to accept him as your savior now.  Many atheists (and people of other religions), understandably get bothered when the next piece is how if you don’t believe those things, you’re going to hell.  But now it is common to hear atheists saying that only stupid, ignorant people still believe in religion or the Bible.  I don’t really see how this is less offensive.


I don’t object to atheism.  It might not be something I share or even appreciate, but it’s something that I understand and I respect their rights to their beliefs.  I have many friends who are atheists, live-and-let-live atheists.  But what scares me is the rise of a type of evangelical, militant atheist.  A form of atheism that not only doesn’t acknowledge the possibility of a God…but believes that it is necessary that other people realize the error of their ways and think the same way (much like evangelical Christians who want the world to convert to Christianity).   It is a form of atheism that is not simply a belief, but that thinks that that belief needs to be spread.  It sees traditional religions as some sort of threat, as antiquated artifacts of a more primitive time that we need to throw away.  It is a form of atheism that does not leave room for other faiths.


I know many of us snort when people talk of how religion is “under attack” in America.  We all know that religious freedom is generally well-protected.  We also know that in the vast majority of America (which does not include where I live, in Massachusetts), religion is still a very dominant piece of life, perhaps even to the point where it can isolate or exclude people.  However, the attitude has been around for some time, and I feel it is growing, where atheism believes that there is no room for traditional religion, no room for deeply religious people.


I am a Christian who deeply believes in God and her faith.  I am not irrational or illogical.  I have actually thought very deeply about this.  I am not ignorant, narrow-minded, or backward.  I don’t think I need fixing any more than atheists think they need saving.


I respect your right to your own beliefs without judgment on you as a person.  Please do the same for me.

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