Feb 01, 2014 | By

Is the Science-Religion Debate Turning a Corner?

In the Big Questions Online forum this month, Kelly Clark posted an essay that takes aim at atheist claims of rational superiority.  Under the provocative title “Is Atheism Irrational”,  he borrows the line of reasoning from atheism that labels belief in religion as mental weakness, illusion, or “cognitive functioning gone awry” and applies it to findings that show a correlation between low empathy (in the form of autism) and a belief in atheism.  The hypothetical (and ironic) conclusion is that atheism is no more rational than theism.  He notes that “the vast majority of those who work on these topics are atheists or agnostics”, which explains why this finding may have been overlooked.  In the comments, Roy Baumeister notes as well the correlation first observed by Freud that there is a “pattern of filial love correlating with religious faith,” which supports the idea that such psychological factors can influence one’s beliefs.   Baumeister concludes: “A bit more gentle respect all around would seem appropriate. Thanks for your essay, which exemplifies that spirit.”  My own concluding comment: “The bridge between science and religion, or theism and atheism, has to be built on a foundation of humility – something sorely lacking on both sides.”

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