So I had more white noise (read: Strongly Christian documentary film propaganda) on in the background, and heard a few things that piqued my interest. The filmmaker interviewed a few PhDs and dropped several names, names of Nobel Prize winners who believe in God or believed, as the case may be, and during the interviews I really got the feeling that the message was “Look at all these smart people who believe in God! You want to be smart, too, don’t you?! Then you should believe in God.”
The problem I have is that argument misses any sort of coherent point, because what does a person’s personal belief have to do with their work?
If a person wins a Nobel Prize in Physics, or Chemistry, it is generally because the contribution they have made to their field is exceptional–and to get that far, you have to have had your work peer reviewed by hundreds of men and women. And for me, I have never asked what the religious conviction is when reading about a specific revolutionary scientific breakthrough. The person might secretly be a Neo-Nazi, might be a Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim, or atheist. Don’t care. I don’t care so much that it isn’t even a question I would ever ask.
There are brilliant men who are atheists, as there are brilliant men who are religious — but one thing you will never hear me say or imply is “You should be an atheist because Richard Dawkins is an atheist.”
Religion, in any form, is largely a personal venture and belief system. Oh yes, you can believe in your Church, or your Bible, but generally you have a say in those beliefs. You can decide whether your pastor is intelligent or whether he is a liar (or both, which is often the case). For me, I did not become an atheist because it was the cool thing to do, or because I thought Dawkins was just like… So dreamy, you guys, like Oh. Em. Gee. No, I read the Bible, I went to Church, I read Dawkins and Hitchens, I read a bit of Sam Harris, and I read some Reza Aslan. And by combining their ideas in my head, I came out the way I am.
So I think we can all agree name dropping for the sake of name dropping (as opposed, say, making a proper citation) is the most shallow mechanism for creating converts, and has no place in the modern discourse.
Ok, it’s an annoying bit of postmodernism, but I feel you’re intelligent enough to get why I feel compelled to say something so horribly trite as the following:
I would have to say “Religion, in any form, is largely a personal venture and belief system” is a very European post-enlightenment view… it’s not a granted point despite the fact many occidental people take it as an Axiom. Religion to an African can’t be separated from everyday life, nor can an Arab compartmentalize his Islam.
That’s why the cross culture discussion and politics of world religion tend to fail, the religion is personal… is a religious viewpoint.
So I can say I agree with you, as far as we can suspend our own paradigm we shouldn’t let others have undue influence over deep convictions. But, I think we must also admit we are influenced by others so credit is given where it is due and our place in a community is acknowledged… again this goes against the “only personal” grain but it’s more intellectually honest.
I’m not sure where it leaves us though.