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CTDL 202: Our three weapons are Religion, Science, Einstein, and oh I’ll come in again.

At the risk of stirring a pot (or poking a dog with a stick), I’ve got three excerpts on where science and religion meet.
The first is from the Archbishop of Westminster, who has some good advice to respect and treat with “deep esteem” atheists and agnostics. I think this advice should go for both sides.

The Archbishop of Westminster has urged Christians to treat atheists and agnostics with “deep esteem”.

Last year, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor complained of a “new secularist intolerance of religion” and the state’s “increasing acceptance” of anti-religious views.
To stem this tide, he said Christians must understand they have something in common with those who do not believe.
God is not a “fact in the world” as though God could be treated as “one thing among other things to be empirically investigated” and affirmed or denied on the “basis of observation”, said Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor.
“If Christians really believed in the mystery of God, we would realise that proper talk about God is always difficult, always tentative.
“I want to encourage people of faith to regard those without faith with deep esteem because the hidden God is active in their lives as well as in the lives of those who believe.”

[From BBC NEWS | UK | 'Respect atheists', says cardinal]

Next we have the Einstein letter recently released that showed he felt religions were on the whole “pretty childish.” This is something he was, I believe, fairly careful not to say in his public discourse. One could argue this was because he knew it would be unpopular and effect his ability to influence policy and/or funding. One could also argue that he realized picking a fight with the religions of the world wasn’t a particularly useful thing to do.

The great scientist’s views on religion have long been debated, with many seizing upon phrases such as “He [God] does not throw dice” as evidence that he believed in a creator.

But the newly-unveiled letter, a response to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, has cast doubt on the theory that Einstein had any belief in God at all towards to the end of his life.

In the letter, dated January 3 1954, he wrote: “The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.

“No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

[From Einstein thought religions were 'childish' - Telegraph]

The last was found on Boing boing, as so many wonderful things are.

WITH economic and communications globalisation, some form of a global civilisation is beginning to emerge, perhaps homogeneous, perhaps forever diverse. We all face the challenges of global warming. We face peak oil, that year after which we shall never recover so much oil again – with unknown economic consequences, including hunger and resource wars. And all the while, our diverse cultures are being crushed together.

One response is a retreat into fundamentalisms, often religious, often hostile. This is hardly surprising, as humanity is still split between 3 billion who believe in the Abrahamic God (the majority of whom are Muslim, though a powerful minority are fundamentalist Christians), a billion who, like myself, believe in no supernatural god (though some of these are militant atheists), and the other traditions such as Buddhism. Clearly there is an urgent need for some new thinking.

That is why I wrote Reinventing the Sacred, though I am well aware that the very possibility and wisdom of such an enterprise is suspect. For those of faith, it is sacrilegious; those who are not religious remember Galileo recanting before the Inquisition and the millions killed in the name of God, and want no part of a God or a sacred that demands retreat from the truth of the world.

[From Perspectives: Why humanity needs a God of creativity - opinion - 07 May 2008 - New Scientist]

I’ll be picking up his book in some form or other, and reporting back to you. I think he’s got an interesting point, that we have an almost visceral need for something to hold sacred (religions point to this as evidence of God). I mentioned a couple days ago the Ann Druyan quote on “Sacred” as “those truths that inspire awe,” I’m hoping to build on that with this.


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