Theology turns the other cheek

November 27, 1998

Chris Lote writes, "On the scientific level we understand the reason for religions", and then proceeds to present a set of personal prejudices as fact. Who are the scientists to whom s/he refers? Is s/he one of them? Natural scientists have to be methodologically atheistic, whatever their personal, ideological position is concerning God. What is distinctive about theologians is that they are methodologically theistic.

Does this mean they have to be ideologically committed to belief in God in every instance? I do not think so, but given that they accept the theistic hypothesis as in some sense valid, then it is likely they will be. The distinction between methodology and ideology is important. If we were to confuse methodological atheism with ideological atheism, then we would blame natural scientists for the terrible acts of inhumanity and genocide, committed by ideological atheism, whether of the Nietzschean or Leninist/Stalinist/ Maoist variety.

To remove theology from the university system would be an act of ideological atheism, which the scientist as scientist should not support. But, how appropriate that someone who evinces ideological atheism (and thus is not speaking in their capacity as a scientist) should suggest eugenics as a means of removing those with whom s/he disagrees.

Ian Logan

Honorary research associate Lincoln Theological Institute for the study of religion and society University of Sheffield

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