“As science and reason continue to uncover truths about the universe, our world, and even the human mind, faith and religion become increasingly unnecessary and regressive anachronisms….Regardless, the sort of faith required to hold to religion is, in fact, incompatible with science.”
About this second point – I think the idea that religion and science are incompatible stems from a misunderstanding of the purpose of both.
Science observes and analyzes the physical, observable world.
Spirituality, by definition, deals with the unobservable, the purely subjective, that which takes place in the mind, heart, soul, spirit.
Science deals with facts.
Spirituality deals with meaning.
The purpose of spiritual texts are to enlarge and challenge the soul. Religion is not supposed to describe the physical universe but rather to wake our souls from habitual slumber. Toward this end, religious writings employ poetry, story, parable, hyperbole, symbolism, imagery, paradox, allegory, and any number of other devices. Spiritual writing is supposed to engage the imagination. While spiritual writing can certainly include fact, it deals not so much with facts (descriptive accuracy) as with truth (revelation, epiphany, eureka!), which has a different flavor.
By the same line of reasoning, science has no business concerning itself with spiritual questions. While some facts in science have “meaning”, these kinds of meanings are only relevant to other physically observable facts. For example, the evidence for evolution can “mean” that animals, including humans, have changed over time. The same evidence cannot “mean” anything for or against the existence of G-d. The physical facts bear no causal proof one way or another. The belief “the universe is the result of a long string of accidents” is just as much a statement of faith as the belief “ G-d presided over that long chain reaction in order to bring us to our present state.”
You cannot prove that G-d exists from scientific fact. Neither can you disprove that G-d exists. A G-d big enough to create the universe, the atom, and the human brain will, by definition, be ultimately incomprehensible and inscrutable to any system in which that brain tries to fit and categorize Him/Her. So you can be an atheist, but you can’t say that science proves you right.
A few words here on an assumption that always seems to surface in these conversations. One of the things that I love and appreciate about atheists is that they ask all the really good, important questions. I know very few atheists who are coasting blissfully and ignorantly through life. They are intentional people. But they do tend to regard their theological position as being purely rational, devoid of myth, story, and all that interpretive nonsense.
I beg to differ. I think that humans can’t live without stories, without meaning. To be human is not to tell stories, to be human is to be stories. As such, I think that atheists do not escape mythology. They can’t help it – and they usually end up making mythologies out of science. Which is fine. We all need our mythologies. Atheists just have trouble admitting it. And I think they can get just as defensive about their myths as creationists do about their own. Speaking as a former atheist.
For more on making myths out of science, see C.S. Lewis’s rather brilliant essay “The Funeral of a Great Myth.” You can see part of it here by clicking “search inside this book” and then flipping through to page 82. I recommend finding a full copy of the essay, though. It’s dense, but very insightful.
For a little more on the topic of being both spiritually devout and scientifically rigorous, read this interview with Dr. Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health. Here’s an excerpt:
“I came to my faith sort of in a later time in life than many people. I didn’t really experience a conversion until I was 27. And I was already interested in genetics, and I worried that there was gonna be a collision here in terms of my interest as a scientist and what I’d come to believe as a person of faith. But, actually, this has been a wonderful, synthetic experience. For me, as a person who believes in a personal God, the opportunity to uncover something about us that nobody knew before but God knew is really a moment not to be missed. It expands the experience of discovery in ways that people who are not believers, I think, don’t quite get to experience. It’s an opportunity both for scientific exhilaration and actually for worship….”