Most of us living in a democracy appreciate our pluralist society. We are used to relating to others who have different religious, political and other beliefs. We accept that our employers, employees, teachers, students, doctors, patients, customers, shop-owners, etc., may think differently to us. This is usually not a problem – providing people are respectful to one another.
But what about the individuals who are so sensitive they cannot tolerate relationships with those holding different beliefs to theirs? Life must be very difficult.
At one stage our institute took part in a scheme for the temporary employment of unemployed people. One guy we had was a real problem. He was an extreme Christian and took offence at nearly everything that went on in the workplace. Some of it related to what he considered blasphemy but I also wonder if he was also offended by the scientific research that went on there. I could see how his attitude made it difficult to maintain employment.
His case came to mind recently when reading a post by Rob at Thinking Matters (a local Christian Apologetics site). He describes how as a science student “it is usually with some trepidation that I attend lectures and talks such as these, just in case my faith is shattered.” He seems concerned the lecturers “have something to gain by converting me.”
Well, welcome to the real world, Rob! It’s just possible that these lecturers, whatever, their personal belief, are not preoccupied with yours! Lecturers and presenters usually live a more interesting life than that.
Scaring students away from science?
Rob also suggests the declared atheism of some scientists “plays a role” in student “disinterest in science.” That’s the old claim that scientists like Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Harry Kroto*, who actively promote and popularise science, are “scaring” off Christians – encouraging them to see science as “atheistic.”
Strange! Over the years I have had many teachers, lecturers and bosses who were religious or had different political beliefs. I also enjoy articles and presentations by people like Francis Collins and Ken Miller. I never found these lectures or books infectious.
It does no harm to expose oneself to different beliefs. You never know, Rob, you might find some of them useful. And most people agree that Sagan, Dawkins, Tyson and Kroto have done a lot to develop public enthusiasm for science.
*Harry Kroto is responsible for the Vega website which provides videos of documentaries and lectures covering a wide range of topics. I am currently watching his lectures on astrophysical chemistry – very interesting.