Should We Preach Science to the Faithful?

Now there are two ways to interpret my question:  Should we preach science to the faithful?  First, the religious right in America already believe atheists are trying to convert them through liberal education, so the question becomes:  Should we not teach science to protect people’s faith?  The second way to look at that question is to assume the faithful have a war on science which turns the question into:  Should we teach science so everyone will understand that faith is fantasy?

Evangelical America already knows secular American has declared war on them.  Liberals say, “Oh no, not us,” but I think they are avoiding the issue.  Most liberals are not atheists, or even agnostics, and cling to bits of religion, mysticism and theism.  They want to be modern, educated and embrace science, but deep down they want God and heaven to exist.  They want everything science can give them, like brain surgery, GPS, television,  computers, cell phones, antibiotics, and so on, but they don’t want to let go of God.  The conservative religious right have always known deep down that science invalidates religion.  That’s why they want to do away with The Department of Education, change goals for higher education and rewrite K-12 textbooks.

For decades liberals have embraced the idea that all we need to do is embrace the separation of church and state and the religious will be protected and the liberals can keep science and education.  They see this as fair, ethical, legal and most of all high minded.  Sadly, this is completely clueless as to what the faithful want.  They want America to be a Christian nation.  Liberals have no idea what this means, or what it implies.

It would be fantastic if religion was a personal belief that was never political and always personal, but that’s not the case.  For decades the religious have wanted to take over politics to get what they want.  They are pushing their agenda so I’m asking should liberals push back?  Of course, the faithful will claim we’ve been pushing them for decades and they are only defending themselves.  It’s a complicated issue.

Nevertheless, we have to ask:  How hard should we teach science, skeptical thinking, and evidence based reasoning?  Essentially, the faithful are saying, “God says things are like this…” and we’re saying “There’s no God, but science tells us this….”  As much as some people want to believe that God and Science can coexist that’s just not true.  Early humans embraced metaphysical fantasies long ago and it’s taken millennia for some people to break out of those fantasies.  Our choice is accept the fantasies or accept the truth about reality – there is no sitting on the fence.

I’ve never liked proselytizing.   I’ve always thought the idea of missionaries traveling to other cultures to convert those people away from their own religion as offensive.  I’ve always been a skeptic, an unbeliever, an atheist, and I’ve never wanted to go convert the faithful to my way of thinking – until now.  What’s the harm in letting people believe in God, or believing they will go to heaven and meet all their old relatives and friends.  It’s a wonderful dream to dream.  What harm could there be in leaving people alone to believe in religion and all the things religion promises them?

But the Republicans are forcing me to make a choice.  They have made their religious goals political.  They have put education and science in their gun sights.  They have essentially made the two political parties Democrats=Science and Republicans=Religion.

I use to believe it was important to let people believe whatever they wanted until I realized the faithful had begun an anti-Education campaign.  Conservatives believe liberals are pushing education as a way of destroying their religious beliefs.  Many liberals disagree with this, and even I don’t think it’s a conscious agenda, but I do think a good education tends to dispel religious beliefs.  It’s natural for the faithful to fear higher education and to want to control the K-12 curriculum.  I think liberals are being disingenuous not to recognize that a good education does erode religious belief.

But I think the faithful and conservatives need to realize that attacking the Department of Education, Higher Education, and the money we spend on K-12 schools is equal to the idea of liberals wanting to do away with Churches.  The educational system is essentially the secular church of liberal beliefs.  Now fundamentalists know this and that’s why they are attacking the educational system.  Liberals have their heads in the sand if they don’t see this.  Atheists believe in science and education, it’s not a religion, but it a belief system.

I know conservatives can’t understand this, but liberals and most atheists are very big believers in the freedom of religion, and they don’t want to challenge religious thinking directly, and especially not politically.  But conservatives don’t see that, and they have decided to attack the educational system.

The faithful feel its their duty to spread the word of their faith and to attack evil where they see it.  Of course, Muslims and Mormons believe this too, and they are growing faster than Christianity.   All the aggressive faiths are in a battle for the hearts and minds of the people of Earth.  My question is:  Should atheists, skeptics, free thinkers, and other non-believers get in on the action by converting new recruits?  Among the religious the war for souls is really a battle for who describes God best.  Even though most Christians and Muslims hate each other, they do share the concept of God. 

If atheists become missionaries for science, it will become a battle for God versus Science, and that could lead all religions to band together, and they’d have a big majority.  Lucky for believers in science the faithful don’t get along.  However, does that mean we need to make scientific converts to win the battle for scientific thinking?

When you think about it though, isn’t that what’s already happened around the world?  Fundamentalism is pushing back against the secular all across the globe, in a disunited front?  I think the recent rise of atheism is a retaliation to that movement.  Maybe it’s time we all put our cards on the table and be honest.  There are many Christians out there that want America to be a Christian theocracy.  I think they are jealous of Islam innate relationship with politics.  I want politics that’s based on reality and science.

On the surface Republican politics appears to be about reducing taxes, especially for the rich.  And the rich members of the party see reducing the size of the Federal government as the best method to this goal.  Below the surface are the religious members of the Republicans, and they’ve latched on to making a smaller Federal government as their method to undermine liberal education.   The reason all candidates fall all over themselves claiming to be the one true conservative and the reason why they fear being called a moderate is because they are united in in their goals even though they want to achieve different outcomes.

For 2012, the question becomes:  Are there enough pro small government voters to elect a small government president?  Conservative politicians think they represent the majority of Americans but I can’t believe that.  We’ll find out in November.  Who are you going to vote for – the Party of God or the Party of Science?

JWH – 3/11/12

9 thoughts on “Should We Preach Science to the Faithful?”

  1. Not much to say, except two things.

    On one hand, I do have my doubts on the existence of God, however my own empirical experiences have cast some doubt on the issue.

    On the other hand, I am okay with there being no God and I just fucking die. The end. But then I really dig science, to the point that if I was forced to chose between them. I chose Rockets and Science over God (who being compassionate, loving, merciful and all that jazz should of course, forgive me doubting since It ain’t exactly taking out NY Times ads announcing “I AM.”).

    And okay, it has turned into three things. Sorry, I ramble, just got home from sixteen hours of work. Light work, but work none the less.

    The last thing (and while I would love to use the gripping hand here I would be forcing it I think) is that, sir, we *are* believers. We just don’t believe in God, that does not stop me, you or anyone from being believers. The christians don’t own the word no matter what they think.

    All in all, as usual (not a big fan of the tech pieces, but that is mostly a difference in philosophies), I enjoyed this article. Keep up the good work.

  2. Oh and a fourth thing.

    If it be war, then let us hoist the Jolly Roger (the real one) and get to gutting them down like mud fish. For the betterment of our species. And before they kill us all.

  3. Jim, most liberals are religious believers. You can believe in God and evolution. You can certainly believe in God and global warming. And there’s absolutely no question that you can believe in God and the separation of church and state.

    I believe that there’s a fundamental conflict between evidence-based thinking and faith-based thinking. And yes, when you understand the scientific method, it’s hard for me to imagine why you’d want to abandon that in order to just believe what you want to believe.

    But I can live with liberal believers. I don’t have to agree with them in order for us to live together in peace, and even to work together on those things we agree on. Of course we’re going to disagree about some things, but so what? Who says I have to agree with everyone about everything? You and I don’t even agree on everything.

    I don’t know if we should preach science, but we should definitely teach it. But if you separate our political system into atheists and believers, we atheists are going to lose. And you don’t need to do that. I’m a strong supporter of freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. The bottom line is that you can believe whatever you want, whether I agree with you or not.

    That’s the whole point of living in a diverse, pluralistic nation. We don’t have to be all alike. No matter how much I disagree with you, that’s not a problem as long as you use only persuasion, and don’t try to force your religious belief – or disbelief – on anyone else.

    1. But conservative believers can’t believe in God and evolution, or God and global warming, or God and the separation of Church and State. Bill, what you are saving to the conservatives: You can be just like us liberals if you see the logic of things. Most liberals make the lament: Why can’t we just get along and let everyone believe what they want. You’re missing the point. The conservatives have already decided that science is wrong, and they are acting politically on that belief. Fundamentalists have drawn the line in the sand over and over again and liberals keep ignoring it. They really believe all of creation is only several thousand years old. They really believe Darwin was nuts. They think cosmology, geology and particle physics is all made up. They firmly know that global warming is some crazy cock and bull story to stop economic progress. Now they’ve decided The Department of Education must go and high education isn’t for everyone.

      We might be a pluralistic nation, but there’s only one explanation for how reality works. To tell people they can believe in God and evolution is pretending the conflict doesn’t exist. Conservatives have picked their side and commenced fighting long ago. Liberals want peace and love. They don’t want to fight. I think it will be too late to fight when we’re living in a theocracy.

      1. Actually, conservative believers can – and probably will, eventually – believe in such things, Jim. After all, how many conservative believers still think the Earth is flat? They’re resistant to changing their beliefs, but that doesn’t mean they don’t change. It’s just slow.

        But you’re missing my point. I felt you were saying that it’s godless liberals against conservative true-believers. But you’re leaving out a huge number of liberal Christians who do, by and large, accept science.

        When it comes to religion, I disagree with them and they disagree with me. But so what? We still agree on many things, including the separation of church and state, which we know is the best thing for all of us.

        And this is our strength. We accept diversity. We’re tolerant of differing beliefs. That doesn’t mean we can’t disagree, not at all. But we can disagree about some things while still working together on others.

        Conservatives are much more black and white. Either you agree with them about everything, or you’re a traitor. Note how Rick Santorum claimed that Satan was influencing mainstream Protestant denominations. You’re going to have a harder time working with someone if you think he’s being directed by Satan!

        So let’s not forget that we have allies, even when we disagree with them – often vehemently – about some things. We’re allowed to disagree. We don’t have to agree about everything. We can argue about some things while working together on others. That’s one of our strengths.

        If we’re going to be (peacefully, I hope) fighting the theocrats, as it looks like we must, let’s not forget our allies. Without our liberal believer allies, we atheists would be toast. I recognize that, and I appreciate it, even when I disagree with them about their faith (and, indeed, about the value of faith-based thinking in general).

        1. As I said in the essay, “Most liberals are not atheists, or even agnostics, and cling to bits of religion, mysticism and theism. They want to be modern, educated and embrace science, but deep down they want God and heaven to exist.” There are very few voters that just back science and discount religion 100%. I’d like to think a majority of liberal fence sitters if pushed would come down on the side of science, but that’s probably wishful thinking. I believe most liberals want to serve two masters. They are wishy-washy.

          In terms of science v. religion I personally think it’s a black and white issue, with no room for gray. I have to admire the conservatives for their dedication to picking a side and sticking with it. Of course, I think they picked the wrong side. Actually, my essay could be more of an attack on wishy-washy liberals than staunch conservatives.

          To boil the whole thing down. The conservatives have decided to reject science. I’m asking the liberals to pick a side. I’m quite confident that reality is not described by religion, and equally confident that science describes reality the best we know how. The conservatives have chosen to embrace fantasy on the assumption that it might pay off in the after life. I’m saying to the liberals, pick a side and fight for it because the conservatives have defined the fight.

      2. OK, I agree with that 100%, Jim. Well,… 98%. Heh, heh. To be honest, I think that, if it came down to choosing a side, liberal believers would generally choose to believe what they want to believe. I guess I’m not quite as optimistic as you are about liberal fence-sitters.

        That’s the problem I have with scientists who are religious believers, too. There’s no problem as long as their scientific specialty doesn’t contradict their religious belief. But when it does, which side will they pick? They wouldn’t be believers at all if they were fully evidence-based, so I suspect that most of them would choose their faith.

        1. I also wonder if some conservatives if pushed to choose between religion and science might pick science. Some Republicans are acting so nutty right now that moderate Republicans might feel the need to distance themselves from the crazies.

          It would be much better for the theists not to push this fight at all. It would be better if people didn’t link religion and science in any way, that way people could accept science and still hold personal beliefs about God and heaven.

          The Arabs have a saying, “Trust Allah but tie your camel.” Christians say, “God helps those who help themselves.” The thing is science works, and it works consistently, and it works across cultural and political boundaries. Science is universal so its ecumenical.

          To reject science means rejecting modern medicine and technology, fruits of science that most people love. If the fanatical faithful push the fight to make people choose between religion and science, science does offer some appealing pluses.

  4. By design religions try to grow, and therefore are intolerant of other systems. Religious tolerance is a tremendously desirable and totally unachievable goal. It only has a chance of working between groups that are fairly close in their beliefs. It could perhaps work moderately well if we were all adults, but people have children and they want their children thoroughly indoctrinated in the family “religion”. The neighbors, with their “outlandish” beliefs are always exposing decent (Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, Scientologist,… take-your-pick) kids to the abominations and Satanic practices of (Wicca, Voodoo, Falun Gong, Guana Jim, Comet Worship, take-your-pick). They are ALWAYS exposing ankles, aborting fetuses (or infants), killing goats on their front lawn, farting in public, playing music, mistreating their women, mistreating their men, eating with the wrong hand, drinking the wrong stuff, smoking the wrong stuff, eating unclean stuff, worshiping too many gods, worshiping too few gods, or something utterly intolerable to God-fearing folks. It just goes on and on. The framers of the US Constitution could never have envisioned anything like the variety of belief systems as we now have to contend with.

    Jodie Foster chickened-out during the Astronaut-selection scene in Contact when asked how she could represent humanity considering that she believed that the majority of the race was deluded–She just mumbled something stupid. What she should have said: “There can be no rational disagreement with the fact that the majority of the human race is seriously deluded. The only subject up for argument is the decision on which (if any) of these mutually intolerant groups is sane.”

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