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Reflections

The debate over science and religion is, of course, a concocted rather than a real conflict, as the briefest look at the history of science shows. We all know that some extremely devout people -- Da Vinci, Kepler, Newton, Descartes to name a few in the Judeo-Christian tradition, to say nothing of the long history of Islamic science and mathematics -- had pretty powerful scientific minds. We know that these men saw nothing contradictory between their religious beliefs and the investigation of the natural and physical world. We know that striving to understand nature and the universe was, to put it somewhat simply, a means to reading, with increasing accuracy, the mind of god. And, deep down, we know that it's time to leave the pointless argument about science and religion to high-school debating societies. As intellectual issues go, this one's pretty uninteresting.

Giorgio Vasari, in his "Lives of the Artists" (1550) wrote that Leonardo’s “cast of mind was so heretical that he did not adhere to any religion,”

Art historian Sir Kenneth Clark describes Leonardo as “not a religious-minded man." “In his notebooks and letters, Leonardo protested the sale of indulgences, liturgical and ceremonial pomp, obligatory confessions, and the cult of the saints. He assailed the clergy—at all levels—for their lack of morality, values, and education. As a scientist, he questioned the contemporary reality of miracles performed by priests and monks.”

Johannes Kepler “regarded the Copernican theory as literally true -- not a convenient fiction. With respect to questionable Biblical passages (e.g. Josh. 10: 12, Ps. 104, Job 34), he noted, "It is not the purpose of the Holy Scriptures to instruct men in natural things." Despite his exemplary life, he was denied communion by his own Lutheran church, first at Graz, finally by Tübingen in answer to his formal petition. Although he subscribed wholeheartedly to the Augsburg Confession (15 30), he could not quite endorse the Book of Concord (1580) because of its doctrine of the omnipresence of Christ (e.g., in the sacrament). He preferred the Calvinistic emphasis upon remembrance, but could not accept its complementary insistence upon predestination. He regarded himself as a catholic (including Lutherans and Calvinists, as well as Roman Catholics), but he could not agree with the Papacy (e.g., it's idolatry, saints, et al.)."

Sir Isaac Newton was an antitrinitarian, an Arian (someone who rejects the divinity and resurrection of Christ) and an anti-papist. Not to mention an Alchemist - a grotesque lapse of one of the most, if not the most powerful minds of all time.

"In his own era, Descartes was accused of harboring secret deist or atheist beliefs. Contemporary Blaise Pascal said that "I cannot forgive Descartes; in all his philosophy, Descartes did his best to dispense with God. But Descartes could not avoid prodding God to set the world in motion with a snap of his lordly fingers; after that, he had no more use for God."

If we go beyond the facile generalizations and glossing over of facts, which informs the intellectual dishonesty of religion apologists, we find "extremely devout people" not so devout after all and/or rather conflicted indeed by the cognitive dissonance inevitably caused by the insurmountable contradiction between ethics and religion, and the insurmountable contradiction between science and religion.

My friend, BH, beliefs are not always based on the divine or a theistic position. When you attack people for their beliefs, you are attacking them-their personhood-who they are. Think about it.

No, I do not think the debate is " uninteresting" as the last commenter wrote. In fact, the compatibility of science and religion will always be open to debate. It will be, because humans have the capacity for reasoning as much as we do for intuitive faith. One aspect (reasoning) asks us to be responsible for our choices and destiny, but faith nurtures us in times of deep tragedy and chaos. Both are necessary to survival of our species.

The capacity for reasoning is obviously not present in equal measure in humans. In fact the greater the capacity for reasoning the lesser the adherence to faith based preachments. The fact the 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences (the cream of the crop of the world's scientists) are Non Believers is just one illustration of this reality, albeit an overwhelming one.

If any of those scientists witness a tragedy, such as 9-11, or suffer a devastating loss, the game suddenly changes. How many times have I cried out to God in times of crisis without having to think "This is not logical, I do not normally require prayer nor faith in God to get me through this."

Under your 'definition' on non-believer, we would all wind up inconsistent in our beliefs and actions. Your understanding is too narrow, too strict and does not account for the way people really are.

A proposition held in a person's identity -- a belief -- is the essential core of a person. For a-theists and others who denounce/decry religious beliefs is to ignore the obvious: that we all operate on a set of beliefs [some may or may not have scientific and/or doctrinaire basis]. Just because a religion codifies belief does not mean that beliefs are inconsequential. In fact, they are omni-present in the human race. It might just be that having beliefs is nothing more than 'the soul.'

Yes, beliefs are not inconsequential. They can be and often are catastrophically consequential when held absolute in the absence of evidence or indeed in the face of contrary evidence, as religious beliefs are.

"Evil spirits" were once widely (and in some areas still are) believed to be responsible for the propagation of disease. One of the, if not THE greatest advance in medicine was the introduction of the Germ Theory of Disease -a """Belief""" arrived at through the scientific method. This is just one of innumerable examples of the benefit of believing things that are arrived at by gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning, experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses instead of believing things based on myth, superstition and unctuous dispensations by ancient and modern charlatans i.e. religion.

Apologists complain that the following Quranic quotes are willfully taken out of context by Islam-bashers:

Quran 8:12: Instill terror in the hearts of the unbelievers. Strike off their heads and cut off fingers and toes
Q4:89: Take not infidels as friends until they fly in Allah's way; but if they turn back, seize them, kill them wherever you find them
Q9:5: Fight and kill the disbelievers.

So, did Bin Laden and associates also take these preachments out of context to let them serve as inspiration and justification for their activities? Perhaps their context then is not sufficiently persuasive to prevent them from acting as a call to violence. Such beliefs, then, ought come equipped with warning labels since their believers lack the wit to recognize their absurdity.

A proposition held in a person's identity -- a belief -- is the essential core of a person. For a-theists and others who denounce/decry religious beliefs is to ignore the obvious: that we all operate on a set of beliefs [some may or may not have scientific and/or doctrinaire basis]. Just because a religion codifies belief does not mean that beliefs are inconsequential. In fact, they are omni-present in the human race. It might just be that having beliefs is nothing more than 'the soul.'

Yes, the onslaught of religio-dogmatic-based terrorism in today's very rational, scientific world is enough to jerk agnostics out of their slumber and launch a full bore a-theistic movement in order to quell such rationalizations for violence. But, I submit, beliefs go intimately with the territory of being human. That is, without them, we're not going to be more 'civilized' -- it may just be that actions are less coherent, less effective, more instinctive, more gut, less frontal cortex. There is a big range in beliefs: from pure, intolerant ideology based to a loose collection of of maybes. Either way, tightly-held or easily given away, beliefs are embedded in the history of each person. Beliefs actually create identity. Beliefs are not to be treated lightly. I am respectful of a person's identity and curious about their beliefs. Often people are sincerely unaware of their belief system. And, I have the 'gift of fear' - Gavin deBecker. I am aware of my own survival in the face of hatred, intolerance and violence.