Monday, September 14, 2015

I Rather Wish Contemporary Atheists Knew Something about Christianity before They Started Writing about It

The other day, The New Yorker [whose editorial board is getting more and more curious in its sources of content] published an article by a physics professor about how "All Scientists Should Be Atheists". This is hardly a radical notion, and one that has been expressed many times over the last 100 years or so, with the tension of religion and theology is exacerbated when between ignorant professors and narrow-minded scriptural literalists.  Perhaps I feel close to this topic as my late father was both a successful physicist and a man of faith and found each discipline informing the other.

I also have to admit I'm becoming a little bored with the cartoon-ish prejudices of those who wish to tell me what I "should" do or be as a Christian, whether they are university-coddled scientists, ecclesial bureaucrats, dull-witted educators, presidential candidates, social justice snarkers, or members of the legislative and executive bodies of both the state and the country.  I was framing a response for The New Yorker's online comments section when I stumbled upon this to which I link below.  Anything that I may offer at this point is moot, as a better writer and philosophical thinker than I has already expressed my perspective.

His errors go well beyond that, as they inevitably must, given the depth of his ignorance and the lack of intellectual rigor tolerated by the editors of The New Yorker. Consider this:
The notion that some idea or concept is beyond question or attack is anathema to the entire scientific undertaking. This commitment to open questioning is deeply tied to the fact that science is an atheistic enterprise. . . . We owe it to ourselves and to our children not to give a free pass to governments — totalitarian, theocratic, or democratic — that endorse, encourage, enforce, or otherwise legitimize the suppression of open questioning in order to protect ideas that are considered “sacred.”
This is, as it should be obvious to those with a passing familiarity with the issues, absurd. It simply is not a part of orthodox Christian thinking — certainly not a part of the Catholic tradition — that “some idea or concept is beyond question,” or that the “commitment to open questioning” is inherently part of “an atheistic enterprise.” In fact, Christian intellectuals have long held exactly the opposite opinion: that truths, including moral truths, are discoverable through ordinary reason without recourse to revelation. This is the basis of the natural-law thinking that can be found prominently in the work of Thomas Aquinas and — if Professor Krauss were inclined to take a peek — in the Declaration of Independence, not to mention pretty much the entire intellectual foundation of the American political order.

To be a Christian is to be in a perpetual cycle of doubt and faith, always questioning one's belief and practices, and seeking a deeper comprehension of the eternal.  To assign us the role of thoughtless clods in need of dismissal is an adolescent perspective and one that reveals how limited and parochial contemporary education has become.