This is another excerpt from my upcoming book, Mere Science and Christian Faith: Bridging the Divide with Emerging Adults. When I mention that I specialize in religion and science and, to some degree, the study of emerging adulthood, people often ask about whether the growth of the those professing no religious affiliation (i.e., the "nones") means a growth in atheism. My response is well summarized in the quote below from a student.
“I think most people are neutral—‘It’s cool if you believe it.’ If they want to believe, more power to ’em.” Amanda, age 19, atheist
Overall I don’t often encounter the sneer and hard-edged approach to Christian faith thatRichard Dawkins emits and embodies. The key value I find in eighteen- to thirty-year-olds is tolerance. The attitude of atheist students today is kinder and gentler than that of my Berkeley classmates in the eighties, who seemed intent on disproving my faith.
In addition, it’s important to note that these New Atheists don’t speak for all scientists. Consider what one nonreligious scientist had to say about Dawkins:
“He’s much too strong about the way he denies religion. . . . As a scientist, you’ve got to be very open, and I’m open to people’s belief in religion. . . . I don’t think we’re in a position to deny anything unless it’s something which is within the scope of science to deny.”This leads me to conclude that the future of science and religion will have a bit less antagonism even if, increasingly, our country will look beyond the church to figure out how to bring the two together. (Unless, of course, a large contingent of the church changes its course and stops rejecting mainstream science. But that's a subject for another blog...)