Agnosticism, Atheism, Religion, and Science

Agnosticism is an expression of humility, and does not imply an attack on what others believe in.Atheism is a strong attack on a deeply cherished and long-held-as-sacred belief (in the existence of a Divine Principle).

Therefore,   atheism sounds (even if it may not actually be) arrogant to the ears of believers, because it is an explicit rejection and repudiation of a belief that is dear and sacred to believers. With all the well-recognized negative impacts on society and civilization, religions have also done (and continue to do) much good for billions of people, at least as they see it. Atheists have every right, in a free society, to articulate their profound faith in the non-existence of any God, but if they do this with claims that science proves atheism, they should expect a diminution in respect for science from the public which may not be all that equipped to understand what is meant by their statement.One can be an atheist without knowing any science.One can be a theist while being a good scientist. There are ample instances of both kinds.Both atheists and religious people have the responsibility to condemn all the atrocities that have been done and are still being done in the name of God and religion. But atheists will be doing a great service if they don’t associate this with science, not only because there are a good many scientists who are theists, but also because one can make the atheist argument without hanging on to the coat-tails of science. Indeed, many keen thinkers from ancient Greece, China, and India to the modern world have written eloquently and convincingly on the atheist position without saying that atheism is the only possible or inevitable conclusion to which Science takes us.It is only when scientists explicitly attack religion that antagonism to science arises. So long as science goes about its creative and exploring business, people are not against science.

If scientists say that there is biological evolution which is one of wonders that Almighty God has wrought in the Universe, many deeply religious people would embrace evolution and respect science also. But when scientists (on however valid a ground) keep publishing books to the effect that God is a delusion, God is not great, or people who believe in God are under a spell, while they may make fellow atheists feel great for expressing their own disbelief more cogently and eloquently, they are also likely to turn more people against Science. Science is not an offensive word, but atheism is to many people. If anything, we need to use the word science more and more and explain to the public what a fine, noble, and enlightening enterprise science really is, rather than shy away from it because a few brilliant writers are using it as a weapon against people’s religious beliefs. Respect for science and a clear understanding of its framework are more important for civilization and more urgent for society than the cessation of periodic visits to church, mosque, synagogue,  and temple, or the termination of the celebrations of Christmas, the Ramadan, Hanukkah, and Divali.


About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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