Religion vs Science


Photo: csmonitor.com

I have always respected most religious beliefs. Sure, I put my foot in my mouth occasionally, but I have no problem with religion in itself. I can see how there’s a human need for spirituality of one kind or another, and that some of us have a bigger need for it than others. However, there’s supposed to be a separation between church and state in this country, and when that idea is so blatantly trampled, when religion interferes with science, education, politics and human rights to the degree it does here, then the respect is clearly not mutual, and I don’t feel as obligated to be religiously correct.

There’s a difference between a belief and scientific fact. After all, the whole point is that you can’t prove a belief; you have to believe it. The whole point of science is exactly the opposite; without evidence, something can’t be accepted as scientific fact. And I have a problem with the fact that those who can’t tell the difference have such a big a say in this society. Here’s some evidence:

According to a recent Gallup poll, 46% of Americans believe absolutely that God created the world and humans in their present form (without any gradual evolution from anything else) within the past 10,000 years, like the Bible says. That’s almost half the population! To my Dutch mind that’s inconceivable. That’s not being religious, that’s being medieval. Even my most religious friends in the Netherlands realize that Genesis should be read as a figurative creation story, not literal scientific truth.

So almost half of Americans are convinced that a god created humans, and that evolution is wrong. Does that mean that more than half realizes that evolution is a scientific fact? Absolutely not. According to the same poll, only 18% is convinced by the theory of evolution. The rest isn’t sure. Oh boy.

No wonder there was recently a big battle in Texas between science teachers and politicians who wanted evolution to be taught alongside creationism, as “another theory”. Surprisingly, common sense prevailed. I was genuinely flabbergasted. But this battle is going on in other states as well and it’s far from over. The creationists’ side is busily supported by pseudo-science that’s so hilarious I’ve just got to give you Dutch people a taste right here.

Scientific research is underfunded, in part because of religious politicians who are shamelessly anti-science and therefore give it no priority. For instance, when asked in an interview if he thought that climate change is causing the earth to be warmer, 88-year-old Texas Republican Ralph Hall, chair of the House of Representatives Science Committee, replied, “I can’t say it doesn’t have a percentage of effects on it – one percent, three percent, five percent. But I don’t think it’s the cause. I don’t think we can control what God controls.”

Why ever not? After all, the religious powers have always controlled what God wants, thinks, says and controls. That’s what the the Bible-thumping is all about. Because those who think that the Bible is the word of God have clearly never read it. It’s a collection of short stories, poems, songs, instructions and rules written by a whole lot of people, most of them men, between four thousand and two thousand years ago. And hundreds of years after that, another bunch of men decided which texts would be included and which wouldn’t. The whole thing has been a labor of convenience from the get-go.

The Bible has been used to argue what God wants and feels and does ever since. Killing is bad. Killing is good. Lust is bad. Come in, have a seat, have some coffee–no? At least have my daughter then, or a donut.  Love thy neighbor. Thy gay neighbor is an abomination. Be a good Samaritan.  God helps those who help themselves. Oh wait, that last one isn’t actually in the Bible, but it sure would be convenient if it were.

I’m sick and tired of people imposing their religious beliefs on everything. What the Bible says about creation is irrelevant in the science classroom, because it was written before science existed. That anyone believes God abhors gays is irrelevant to anyone who values human rights. And someone who’s convinced that global warming is controlled by a god shouldn’t be on a science committee.

As for the morality of religion, I think I need another post.

13 responses to “Religion vs Science

  1. It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

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  2. What can I say!
    To my Dutch ears it is archaic!

    What you are telling here I often encounter on US forums etc.
    It is really beyond me how people can believe creatonism is a fact!

    I was brought up in the Catholic faith!
    I’m not an “active” Catholic anymore (regular going to church etc, not agreeing with some churchpolicies) but that doesn’t mean I’m not religious anymore.

    For me Genesis is, like you said, a symbolic representation. of creation.
    Evolution over biljions of years doesn’t contradict that.

    Many Americans forget/don’t know that the Bible is full of symbolism, Because that was the way people did passed stories to the next generation.
    Like the Koran, wich they often despise, the Bible has their own set of bloodthursty, violent and cruel stories.
    If people want to live according to the Bible they have to take that in account.
    Wich ofcourse they don’t.

    They also forget that in pré-Christian time science was higly respected.
    There is nothing wrong to ask yourself why and how!

    They think so much in the concept of an eye for an eye!
    There is no compassion, respect for those that don’t fit their idea of being a Chrisitan.

    Seperation of Church and State in the US isn’t visible.
    When people ensist on it it is often done disrespection the feelings of the opposition.
    (Example: Memorials containing crosses etc.on public places, crosses in schools)

    As you might know in the province Limburg, where i live, you find many
    roadcrosses on public or private property.
    Nobody makes a problem when they are on public property.

    It is just a give and take of two parties!
    Why Americans find that so difficult?

    LOL: I never look at a peanutbutterjar the same anymore!

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    • I agree with most of what you say. But crosses at crossroads–regardless who owns the land–is different from having religious symbols at public schools or the ten commandments at a courthouse. Those give a message about where those institutions stand.
      Here, too, there are lots of crosses alongside the road, but for different reasons. Christians put crosses at places where loved ones died in car accidents. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen any other type of roadside memorials…
      LOL: yeah, look closely every time you open a new jar 😉

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  3. Barbara, I agree with everything you said, but I’ve recently concluded that there’s another factor here other than just religion – it’s the tribal nature of American politics. Once a certain percentage of people in the party adopt a position, that position becomes a sign of tribal membership. It’s a sign of whether you’re one of “us” or one of “them”, and no longer a scientific or even religious question. For example, ten years ago there was a mixture of views in the Republican party about climate change. John McCain was a strong advocate of taking measures to reduce climate change. However, now it’s an indication of group membership and you cannot be considered a true Republican unless you adopt the official tribal position on this issue.

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    • True. I also think that tribal membership has to do with the influence of the tea party. A Republican politician just won’t get the votes now if he/she isn’t supported by the tea party folks, and so they have to become more conservative.

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  4. I think we have a light misunderstanding here!
    I’m not talking about Christians put crosses at places where loved ones died in car accidents.
    The many hundreds of road-side crosses and chapels are typical features of Limburg’s countryside.
    The first ones were placed in the 7th and 8thcentury.
    Only the bigger places had graveyards, the smaller village burried their dead near the crosses.
    Later it became a custom to place a cross at a spot were someone had died by lighting, murder, war.
    Crosses praying for peace
    Farmers hoped for Gods blessing when they placed a cross.
    Crosses to thank God.
    In the last ten fifteen years you will find small roadside memorials (bermmonument) beside the road where somebody died in a car accident.
    If they don’t form any danger for roadsafety, they are often allowed to stay because they are a warning for others to drive safely.

    Yes, in public schools there should be no crosses etc.
    Yes there are places where it must be very clear tha church and state is seperated.

    What I mean is for instance some time ago there was a lot to do about a war memorial: The Mojave Memorial Cross.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mojave_Memorial_Cross

    I can’t understand that there is in facto no real seperation of church and state in the US but they make an awfull fuzz about religious symbols in the public realm.

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    • Ah, you see, there is a small, yet ever more vocal group of people in America that is pointing out these violations of church and state. So they aren’t the same people who don’t care if they violate the separation between church and state. If that small group of people didn’t make a big fuss every time another religious thing was done in or near public buildings, then you might as well just forget about separation all together.
      Those who keep insisting on putting religious items in public places have this revisionist belief that America was founded on religion, but it wasn’t; it was founded exactly because there was no separation between church and state in England.
      And it’s not just about the location of a religious statue, or a cross, or whatever; at issue is also the fact that these things are often paid for with public money.

      Yes, I know what crosses you mean in Limburg. I’m just comparing them to the roadside crosses here for loved ones who died in a car accident because they are part of the culture, and not on the grounds of or in public buildings.

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  5. Marie-Jacqueline

    Those crosses in Limburg are often on private but also on public ground.

    I think the big difference here is that in the Netherlands seperation of church and state is clear and an accepted fact.

    So both sides respect eachother in what they represent.
    Therefore there is no need to make a big fuss of crosses on public ground.

    You gave me a better understanding this concerning the US.
    I can now understand the fuss better!
    In the US there should be very clear bounderies on what is acceptable and what is not.
    Otherwise seperation of church and state will be totally gone the drain in the US.

    I find it however hard for those that have to remove memorials on public property.
    In the US circumstances concerning seperation of church and state there is no other option but removal.

    It is sad that people are not able to find a common, for both acceptable, ground in that!

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    • It’s also hard for atheist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu etc. soldiers who are excluded by that cross.
      That’s the thing; it’s always people who are part of the majority religion who don’t care if there’s no separation between church and state. That would be just fine with them, because they’re not the ones under threat or being excluded or ignored or insulted.

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  6. Marie-Jacqueline

    Yes, I think I made the impression that I was limited this to crosses!
    Ofcourse other religions are excluded by a cross.
    You will find Stars of David as a gravestone
    But other religious signs will be very rare I think!

    It is a pity that people are often tempted to think in we and them.

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  7. God, am I embarrassed to be American. Excellent post!

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