Theology turns the other cheek

November 27, 1998

I hope Chris Lote's letter (THES, November 20) was tongue in cheek, but I fear it might be taken seriously. There is an implicit syllogism in his argument whose absurdity becomes all too apparent when it is spelt out: (i) Belief in God is irrational; (ii) Scientists are supremely rational and thus do not (cannot?) believe in god; (iii) Therefore God does not exist.

No doubt God will be amused, but not those scientists who are Christians. In biological sciences departments of which I have experience, the percentage of such people has varied from 10 to 20 per cent, well above the United Kingdom average of 5 per cent. Christian beliefs are widely caricatured by Dr Lote and his ilk as synonymous with Creationism and extreme biblical literalism, completely ignoring the contributions of many prominent scientists to a more serious science/religion debate. Some theologians are catching on and constructing an open-ended theology of creation that celebrates the insights of cosmo genesis and evolution.

Dr Lote's view of history is bunkum. If the sole purpose of religions is to identify outgroups for inhuman treatment, where does he think we got the notion to treat such groups in any other way? Was it not Jesus who told us to love our enemies? At the root of most great liberation movements you will find men and women of profound religious faith. Tribal and other ethnic groupings offer at least as good a source of outgroups, and most recent examples of genocide (the Holocaust, Rwanda) were primarily ethnic rather than religious (I will acknowledge a possible exception in the case of Bosnia). The record of atheistic regimes in matters of human rights hardly gives one cause for optimism.

Dr Lote's comments if applied to homosexuals, Jews or any other minority group, would stir up a hornets' nest of indignant protests from politically correct libertarians. Why should believers in any kind of god be any different? Perhaps Dr Lote is stuck in a time warp where the church is a load-bearing pillar of the British establishment? In the meantime, I await the arrival of the thought police in science, vetting grant applications and journal articles not on their merits, but according to whether the scientist involved is now, or ever has been, a card-carrying believer in God.

Rev Dr David de Pomerai

Member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, senior lecturer in molecular toxicology University of Nottingham

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