Now bear with me, here for a moment. One of my prime missions in life is to find and eliminate hypocricy in my life. And so I expect others to point it out to me as I point it out in others (the "mote in your brother's eye" style of thing).
One of the conclusions I've come to is that no one is so hypocritical as the dogmatic. This applies to all areas of life, whether it be ones personal opinions ("I'm right, because I'm never wrong"), politics ("No party, no matter what"), culture ("You can't use the n-word, only we can use it") or, of course, religion.
To be dogmatic is to be unthinking, to not use one's brain and make one's own decisions. This is, in the "religious debates" something that the atheists declaim as being one of their primary criticisms of believers. And yet many of those self-same people who ridicule belief hold their own views so tightly that they have created for themselves a system of belief every bit as dogmatic as any religion.
Consider, for example, the case of Christopher Hitchens, the self-professed "new athiest". Recently, he was diagnosed with oesophogeal cancer. A catholic priest commented on CNN on Tuesday that people should pray for Mr. Hitchens. Predictably, this has outraged athiests.
Why do I say "predictably"? Because, like the most vocal elements of any group, the extremists in the athiest community are so convinced of their own beliefs (or non-beliefs) that that cannot tolerate anyone who disagrees with them. That is, they feel that religion is being "shoved down their throat". And yet they can't see that their "morally superior" attitude of outrage is shoving their opinion down people's throats.
Let's look at this rationally. A priest has given his opinion; an opinion that, if adopted and acted on by others would have zero effect on Mr. Hitchens rights. In fact if, as his supporters believe, there is no God, then it would have zero effect on Mr. Hitchens in any way. Where is the violation of rights, then? Where is anything in any way, shape or form being "forced" upon Mr. Hitchens? If one even stretches the point to say that this is being done "without Mr. Hitchen's permission" it begs the question of the things that are done by the Freedom From Religion foundation against the permission of believers.
The point is simple and is being missed, as Maxwell Smart would have said, "by that much" -- the athiests "up in arms" about this are being as intransigent and dogmatic about their beliefs as those whom they deride. In a word, hypocritical.
Science and faith are not incompatible. Even Stephen Hawking has averred this. Why are they not incompatible? Because they are apples and oranges.
Science, by definition, is a system by which the mechanics of life, the universe and everything can be explained. Faith is a system which explains the unexplainable. Science is a system by which hypothesis are testable and provable. Faith is a system by which there is nothing provable but "taken on faith".
It is just as erroneous and disingenuous to try to "prove" with science, logic or rationalism that God does not exist as it as to attempt to inject religion into biology, cosmology or any other scientific realm. Forget, for a moment, that its a logical fallacy to prove a negative ("God does not exist") -- something that many atheists seem to forget, meanwhile touting logic. Even if such a thing were possible, by definition that would not invalidate religion because religion does not account for proof, only for belief.
Galileo said, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." Religious zealots who deny science would be well served to remember this.
But equally, the radical, or as I call them, "agressive athiests" must realise that, as Shakespeare put it and science continually confirms, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." (William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 1 Scene V). Humans are not the pinnacle of the Universe. What hubris to believe that all of the Universe has culminated and came into being for the purpose of creating any one person and that any person knows everything there is to know about and in the Universe.
But that's what dogma stems from and feeds on - pride.
Jack McDevitt's book "Odessy" is a wonderful scifi adventure that touches on this dichotomy as an intergal part of the plot. This section puts the entire problem of dogma in perspective where either extreme is concered:
"We can create the appearance of knowledge, the illusion of knowing how to grapple with a problem. Far too many educational systems have done exactly that. The result is generations of mouthpieces who can pour forth approved responses to programmed stimuli that contribute nothing to rational discussion. Dogma is for those who wish only to be comfortable. Catechiems are for cowards; commandments, for control freaks who have so little respect for their species that they are driven to appeal to a higher power to keep everyone in line. If indeed we have a Maker, I suspect He is proudest of us when we ask the hard questions. And listen for answers."
But he sums it up, a bit later, most eloquently:
"This must have been what it was like in Tennessee three centuries earlier during the Scopes trial. He retreated to his hotel and listened to the crowd thumping and banging in the streets. The counterdemonstrators, unfortunately, were just as fanatical. They were at the moment trying to shout down the organist and his choir. MacAllister looked around hopelessly. His supporters were every bit as deranged as those arrayed on the other side. The real enemy, he thought, was fanaticism."
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