Neuroscientists think that our brains are wired to have a sense of belief, and this sense crosses cultures and continents to be something deeply human. I have no problem with that. As creatures of intellect, everything is perceived through our brain. Consider for example that the emotion of love is a pattern of neuronal impulses in my brain. But that I can explain it this way, doesn't in any way change the transcendent feeling I have, in loving and being loved, The biological explanation really doesn't matter to me, compared to my own experience. Thus, whether you believe God is literally all in our heads, or whether you believe God put your awareness of Him there, doesn't really matter: your brain is parsing your experience and interpreting it as belief. And I have no business telling YOU what you perceive; no more than you have any business telling ME how I experience love.
So if we are actually evolved towards belief, if it's another complex behavioral trait, perhaps it isn't surprising that some people are missing that sense-- just as some people are left handed when most are not, or some are gay where most are straight.
Therefore I suggest that the non-angry atheist, the subtype that includes accommodating non-believers like me, are simply missing The God Gene. So to speak. (Aside: THis is only a term of speech; complex behaviors are far too complicated to ascribe to A Single Gene, as I have discussed at length elsewhere.)
But back to this conflict in making science religion, and religion, science. The philosopher John Gray said in an interview,
"I'm very opposed to investing science with the needs and requirements of religion. I'm equally opposed to the tendency within religion, which exists in things like creationism and intelligent design, to turn religion into a kind of pseudo-science. If you go back to St. Augustine or before, to the Jewish scholars who talk about these issues, they never regard the Genesis story as a theory. Augustine says explicitly that it should not be interpreted explicitly, that it's a way of accessing truths which can't really be formulated by the human mind in any rational way. It's a way of accessing mysterious features which will remain mysterious. So it was always seen right up to the rise of modern science—as a myth, not a theory. What these creationists are doing is retreating, they're accepting the view of religion promoted by scientific enemies of religion, and saying, no, we have got science and it's better than your science. Complete error."I agree.
Interestingly, it's largely (though not exclusively) the conservative fundamentalists who attack science and see it as a threat, not the more intellectually grounded mainline. And it's these fundamentalists against whom the Dawkins school is reacting, by themselves going fundamentalist.
Believe it or not, most non-believers really don't care if you believe. We aren't making a religion out of our faithlessness, because we just don't get it. When people ask me if I "worship" Darwin, I am really puzzled. They are projecting their need to believe in Something, and assuming that someone who doesn't believe in God has replaced Him. But this concept is completely alien to me. Darwin was just a scientist, who like all of us got some things right, and some things wrong. I don't "worship" him or anyone else. I really don't have that wiring.
Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist, made news this week by saying he doesn't believe in an afterlife and called such a belief a "fairy tale." While this was rude, what got lost in the fallout was what else he said:
In the interview, Hawking rejected the notion of life beyond death and emphasised the need to fulfill our potential on Earth by making good use of our lives. In answer to a question on how we should live, he said, simply: "We should seek the greatest value of our action."Gray went in the same direction:
"Without spurning any of the advances of science, we could be friendlier to our mortality. The transience of our lives is one of the things that makes it valuable."We pass this way but once. Those of faith may see it as a step on a journey, those without may see it as all there is. But surely what we have in common is that we are all here. Life is transient. We need to be conscious in giving it value.