I noticed today in the Claremont/Rondebosch People’s Post there is a letter that singles me out by name. It’s on page 12 and, surprisingly, is available online. It’s not a great interface and I don’t think it will be there after a week so I’m including the full text below.
Thanks, Farieda and Karima. Atheists like Red Bull and Jason Bosch need lessons in respect from Muslims, Jews and Christians alike. Our faiths created science, Jason. “The fool says in his heart: ‘There is no God.'” Einstein, Kepler, Newton, Arab mathematicians and astronomers were not fools, Jason.
It is not signed. I still had last week’s issue so I went to see what Karima and Farieda had said. It wasn’t anything particularly constructive, only expressing anger and demanding apologies for the insult to Islam and Christianity from where Jesus was used in a commercial. It’s also interesting to note that if you’re not coming from a religious background that is what is considered extremism. If you’re religious you have to start killing people before you’re considered an extremist or militant but as an atheist all you have to do is disagree. I also find it amusing how quickly the religions seem to have made up with each other. It was at the same time that there was a huge Christian uproar over another highly offensive act, a company, correctly, labelled hot-cross buns as halaal.
Back to the letter though. I can only assume I was singled out here because my letter, whether children should be taught fact or faith, had been published just a couple of weeks earlier, since I hadn’t made any comments on the Jesus advert. If it’s disrespectful to say that evidence about the world trumps superstitions about the world then I’m just going to have to be disrespectful.
Did their faiths create science? Yes, I’ll concede that. Is that relevant to anything? No. Alchemy led to chemistry but that doesn’t make them compatible. The same goes for astronomy and astrology and for religion and science. Next we jump to a pointless quotation. It’s always recited but falls flat because there’s nothing to support it. All it really is is a personal insult, strangely enough in a letter calling for respect. And finally, we get the list of people who were religious and scientists and smart and it’s really tiresome. As has been pointed out many times by others, if you weren’t religious in the past you could be imprisoned or worse (depending on your specific time period of course) so most people did profess a religion.
This list is particularly bad because of the choice of people. Einstein said a couple of things regarding religion but he described himself as agnostic and didn’t believe in a personal god. Newton held heretical views of Christianity such as rejecting the trinity and the idea of an immortal soul. Furthermore, just because someone might be an excellent mathematician doesn’t mean they are just as excellent when it comes to theology. In any case the argument from authority is not particularly convincing if your interest is in the evidence for a position and not who holds it. They are people like everyone else and, while they excelled at certain things, they struggled with others and were, at times, completely wrong.
I’ll respect the followers of a religion as individuals. I have religious friends and family members and I certainly do not hold it against them. However, I will not respect superstitions just because they mean something to someone. I will respect beliefs that are based on evidence and that is where religions are sorely lacking.