Why do I support religion and religious thinking?

Who am I, and what do I stand for?  I’m a scientist and a mathematician.  I teach math at a community college.  I have a PhD in a scientific discipline, with a strong background in math and physics.

I seek to understand the universe in scientific terms.  Because of my background, I do not believe that a personal, omniscient, omnipotent, God exists.

However, I want to be very clear that I’m NOT anti-religion.  I disagree with atheists who would eliminate religion.

Why do I support religion and religious thinking?

The short answer: Because I think there’s something necessary to human civilization that religion provides, that without it we risk our own destruction.  And until we understand what that something is, we must be very careful about eliminating religion.

Religion is in trouble in western culture.  Religious peoples in the west are in a battle for their cultural survival.  Left unchecked, the advancement of science will totally destroy religion.  I have seen it in myself, and I understand how the psychology of scientific thinking dismembers and crushes religious impulses.  I have somehow found the strength to withstand the final annihilation of the religious impulse within me, but the atheistic army marches forward with great success.

It’s a battle between theism and atheism, and I stand in the middle, now unwilling to take sides.

I have been on both sides of the fence.  For the first 10-12 years of my life, I believed wholeheartedly in God.  I wanted to be a Catholic priest.  I attended Catholic grade school.  Then I discovered science.  I looked up at the night sky and decided that there was no room for God in the universe, that God was not necessary for its functioning or for our understanding of the universe.

But in the intervening years, I have come around to the idea that liberal thinking, often synonymous with life without God, presents a huge risk to our culture.  As a civilization, we are at that point when our tools and weapons are far more powerful than our moral skills.  In our hands we hold the means of our destruction, and we don’t know what to do.

Some would argue that it is the great religions of the world themselves, embodied by such people as George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden, that present the risk, that liberals are peaceful people and wouldn’t hurt a flea.  There is some truth in this view, but it ignores the terrible moral relativism that liberals advocate.  There is a price to pay for liberalism, paid by the people who commit suicide, paid by the homeless, paid by the single mothers, paid in the form of the stark loneliness of the disconnected in our vast society.  I’m one of those disconnected, even surrounded as I am by friends.  I find myself contemplating suicide on a daily basis.  Why?  Because I don’t know why I’m here.

It is an oversimplification to say that Christians are conservative and atheists are liberal.  And anyway I don’t think that it boils down to liberal versus conservative.  I DON’T know what it boils down to.  But I do know that there is something of value in religion, in the bible, even in the tele-evangelists who unscrupulously profit from people’s need of religion.  I don’t know what it is, but I want to explore and find out.

I’m open to anything in this search.  Maybe I will come to believe in God, though I think that if that happens too easily, then I will have failed.  I believe that I serve a useful purpose by being in the middle, a sympathetic atheist in search of what “God” can offer Man, that to convert too quickly (should that be my eventual fate) would do a dis-service to the needs of Christians and atheists alike.

I challenge both to look at the other and ask, “Why?  Why are you the way you are?”  And to ask this without dismissing the answer.  Because the truth is in the answer, even if we don’t yet understand what that answer looks like.

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