Science belongs to the religious too
Sadly, we’ve reached a point where I have to declare my atheism and some scientists are scared to ‘come out’ as Christian
by Fern Elsdon-Baker
A respected friend and scientific academic colleague confided in me last week that she didn’t feel able to tell people in the science community that she was a Christian. It was an assertion, she felt, which would lead other colleagues to assume she was in some way stupid.
Her “coming out” as a Christian struck a chord with me because, to a large extent, it mirrored my own experiences of how faith is often portrayed by those whose job it is to communicate science. It is also indicative of how many young scientists are beginning to feel about their personal faith.
Now it is at this point in any discussion about the science v religion debate that I have to declare my own position: I am an atheist and unquestionably pro-science. It is actually a point of some consternation that I do feel the need to state this because, quite frankly, what I do or do not believe is my own business.
How I chose to define myself in terms of identity markers should be inconsequential to my career as a science communicator and academic. In fact reading down my own personal top 10, atheist comes at the very bottom after woman, British, partner, daughter, sister, friend, academic, sci-fi geek and Marmite lover.
Up until a few years ago I felt no need to articulate my atheism as a facet of my identity within my work. It is only since the “new atheism” narrative took hold, one which has come to demarcate a rather intolerant and simplistic view of the world, that I have felt compelled to talk about my own perspective lest I am accused of being a secret creationist theologian for seeking an open dialogue around science and belief.
Ironically, I have also become increasingly ashamed to even mention my atheist world view in case others assume it means I am in some way discriminatory of their beliefs.
Although many may not recognise it there exists at the heart of the science-religion debate more than one ideology driving the conflict.
The dominant narrative in the debate tells us that the problem lies firmly with the theology camp. That those who cling to outdated, anti-rational beliefs are responsible for driving the so-called “clash” of world views in contemporary society…
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