"The Secular is Religious"

It has probably become obvious to anyone who knows me or reads this blog (the few who do) but if anyone has ever wondered what approach I take as far as addressing atheism it is summed up here by Jamie Smith.

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6 Responses to "The Secular is Religious"

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    “Evidentialist tit-for-tat”? That says it all. A frank admission of making it all up. I am afraid that asserting that secularism/rationalism is just as bad as religion isn't going to work when evidence keeps supporting one over the other. For “what I trust” is reality, not theology.

    The critical difference in interpretation is between reading minimally from the text of the world, or projecting luxuriously into it from one's fantastical traditions and psychological fixations. Humility, in a word.

    We could go into examples if you like.


  2. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    It's a frank admission of nothing but the truth. We all know and see the same evidence. Or, let's do this: Tell us what evidence you have or know of, that Christians are unaware of, that proves or seems to indicate there is no God. You might be able to wrap up this centuries old problem for the entire world right now.

    Further, your stated difference of reading “minimally” and “projecting” is funny in that it demonstrates Smith's point perfectly–and that you write it as if it were a humble statement might be as close to something Michael Scott from “The Office” would say as I've ever seen.


  3. upwardcall says:


    I find it ironic that you accuse the Judeo-Christian faith (JC) of the very things that “science” and “scientists” have be purpetrating for centuries — intolerance and intimidation… You guys are not innocent.

    When we take a look at characteristic behaviors of the JC faith and the scientific community in terms of these behavior patterns, what do we find?

    I believe we find, over all, that the JC faith has consistently embraced true scientific endeavor and its findings. That takes time. Is it a story of perfection? No, not in many specific cases when viewed in the “micro”. But when viewed in the “macro” we find the embrace to be consistently present.

    Have there been “mean spirited” representatives of the JC faith? Yes, indeed. But, at least we admit it. At least we repent and own our own crumby history and offer it to be “redeemed” — used for good. At least we seek to learn from our mistakes instead of pretending they don't exist.

    Those of the JC faith who do not are, in my opinion, not very good representatives of the Good News.

    But, is the same true of science? Are you guys a repentance bunch? Are you willing to admit your failures, own them, learn from them in humility?

    We are all “sinners” who fall short of the glory of seeking the truth and commending it in a compelling way with gentleness and reverence for those with whom we share it. That is true whether you faith is in Jesus the Christ or the god of science.

    I believe the evidence of humility favors the JC faith over the scientific community in this area.


  4. upwardcall says:


    A P.S. that might sound contradictory to the previous response. (That is the way paradox works.)

    Professor Thomas Kidd, historian at Baylor University is quoted as saying, “Christianity is going to, at some point, offend people in the secular world.”

    If in being a Christian I become inevitably innocuous to those who seek self above truth or use truth to further their own ends, then, to some degree I am not living a truly Christian life.

    You could and might say the same thing about being a scientist. That is the cost of discipleship whether you be the disciple of Jesus Christ or science or atheism.

    Once again, what is the energy behind our inevitable offensiveness? Is it seeking and speaking and living the truth in love?

    I just hope I can be “humbly offensive.” Ha Ha sort of…


  5. Burk Braun says:

    Hi, Upward-

    Thanks for commenting. I think you are indulging in a false equivalence, just as Darrell and his sources are.

    “That is the cost of discipleship whether you be the disciple of Jesus Christ or science or atheism.

    Once again, what is the energy behind our inevitable offensiveness? Is it seeking and speaking and living the truth in love?”

    I will assume, as you say, that you agree with the scientific corpus, generally- gravitation, quantum mechanics, evolution, neuroscience, etc. You agree, as I do, because it is absolutely compelling, based on evidence and logic.

    That is as far as an atheist goes, truth-wise. But you go farther and add god(s) of whatever sort, as people have in countless guises over history and before. But none of them are evidentially or logically compelling, and the burden of proof is very much on you to show that this extra inferred bit makes any sense whatsoever- that is fits with reality.

    This checking on whether things fit with reality is after all the job of scientists- it is what they do, and go to the ends of the earth, to extremes of intellectual gymnastics to do. If the story doesn't check out, what are we to make of it?

    So the question is not personal humility- whether one is polite and retiring. The issue is intellectual humility- whether one puts the cart of faith before the horse of observation and analysis.


  6. upwardcall says:

    I believe the point is, in fact, humility. The humility of the JC faith, over the long term is clear in my estimation. It has allowed good science to deepen its sense of the wonder and magnificence of the Lord God as creator, sustainer, and director of the universe. The JC faith has believed that “truth is truth wherever we find it.” What is more, the truth is designed to point beyond itself to the “author of truth” — God. I love science and all the truth it can pass on to me. But, not all truth is of the same quality. The truth of jumping up and down on a trampoline is subject to a more powerful truth, gravity. Truth is a tricky thing. The same truth of the relationship between the kid on the trampoline and gravity is different on the moon. That bit of experience cries out for something beyond it. And so on and so on. The end and beginning of that road of pointers is God. It is the impatient and the triumphalistic practictioners of both science and the JC faith that muddy the waters for both the scientist and the priest (could there be such a thing as a priest/scientist).

    I believe the JC faith is humble enough, in the long term, to embrace with humility, the rich wonders of good science, when practiced by those who do so with the same kind of humility and regard for Mystery, Wonder, and God.

    Let me quote a wonderful Orthodox teacher and preacher, Fr. Patrick Reardon regarding humility and embracing the pointers.

    In “the biblical story of the meeting of Balaam and Balak (Numbers 22:36-39) … The impatience of Balak, the king of Moab, is set at variance with the caution of the soothsayer from Pethor… Balaam's caution stands Balak's reckless enthusiasm. Difficult to discourage, the king pays no attention to the doubts of the soothsayer. He is so confident of the outcome that he refuses to consider the possibility of failure. Balak combines boundless assurance and a fixed idea—a dangerous mixture if not diluted with a heavy dose of objective counsel. In his fixed idea, Balak is like Captain Ahab in Melville's Moby Dick. In the irrationality of his overconfidence, he resembles ‘The Hairless Mexican’ of Somerset Maugham. Balak is both. Is any man is so dangerous as him who fastens uncritical enthusiasm on a fixed idea?”


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