There is a wonderful essay here by Paul Wallace. One could quibble with Mr. Wallace here and there, but his over-all take and his tone is refreshing and encouraging to say the least. Here is a guy who “gets” it. More importantly, I think this probably reflects the way a great many, if not most, scientists truly feel about the relationship between “science” and “religion.”
The telling point he makes, which is all too evident when reading the comments he takes issue with, is that most secular fundamentalists haven’t a flipping clue as to what Christianity is or teaches. These people are fighting against phantoms. The ignorance would be funny if it wasn’t just so embarrassing. At least serious Christians know something of philosophy, science, and the thinking of serious atheists of the past. Serious Christians have been to the brink with these thinkers and dared to look down. Today’s secular fundamentalists/atheists have dared nothing but to congratulate themselves for slaying figments.
He also points to what “myth” really means in these sorts of conversations. And in this context, it is what postmodern philosophers mean when they speak of “narratives” “world-views” and really, metaphysics in general. As such, secular humanism and philosophical materialism are “myths” which may or may not be true, but they are myths nevertheless.
Here are some good quotes:
First, Christianity is in fact compatible with evolution and the “closing of the gulf between humans and other animals.” There are many extraordinarily intelligent Christians who have freely admitted that evolution poses challenges to Christian theology and have freely chosen to not ignore them or sweep them under the rug. They have a deep knowledge of Christian history and theology as well as evolutionary theory. And they have reconciled the two and find joy living and working on the boundary between them. These people are not uncommon. Many of them are parishioners in Catholic and mainline churches, many are teachers and professors, and many of them are ordained ministers. What is evidenced in this comment is a failure to pay attention to the fact that Christianity is a complex and intellectually grown-up tradition.
And, Oh my! If only Christians would wrap themselves tighter in the mythology! That would be a good and even glorious thing, so long as we all understand what is meant by “mythology.” To say something is a myth is not to say it is false. Myth tells truths that are not expressible in discursive language. Myths can be true or false. A false myth, like a bad scientific idea, is quickly discarded because it does not speak the truth about the world. A true myth survives because it resonates deeply with lived human experience. A true myth brings one face-to-face with reality and has nothing to do with literalism or the ignoring of scientific evidence.
I would like to ask a favor of the atheists and secular humanists who wonder how to approach us religious people. Please do not “accommodate” us. Please do not “confront” us. Instead, get to know us. Please do not presume to know us already…Get to know some of us. And then, at some point, do the unthinkable: Take the risk of disbelieving—just for a moment and as a truly live option—the ideas you think hold you and your world together. Disbelieving is one of the most vitally important things people can do. Without disbelief there is no growth. To disbelieve is to live.
And what I am aiming for is much more modest: For at least one person to think twice before making a caricature of Christianity. Doing so is sloppy thinking and, more often than not, doing so has no effect beyond making serious people write you off. People should criticize Christianity all they want, but they should do so in knowledge—knowledge won by the act of disbelief—and not in ignorance of the thing criticized.