On Religious Scientists and Other Things

As a biologist I sometimes find myself pathetically content to meet one or two other fellow biologists to discuss evolution with. In my country, according to a poll conducted by Eurobarometer in 2010, a staggering majority of 92% “believe there is a God”, 7% “believe there is some sort of spirit or life force” and a pitiful 1% doesn’t “believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force”. The percentages drop considerably as we move towards western Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries. As it happens, levels of literacy are correlated with high percentages of religious belief, but this is quite misleading and there are several exceptions (e.g. Lithuania – 99.7% literate people and 47% believe in God, according to the Eurobarometer poll). Indeed, poverty and social status have a lot to say regarding a person’s beliefs and so is their educational background, but what about the highly educated believers in God and evolution deniers?

What strikes me most is to find myself surrounded by biologists who share the belief that God created human beings, other animals, plants, and every element that makes up the world. These are people of many contradictions. This isn’t a problem I am facing only in my science course, but everywhere around me. Grand churches bloom like mushrooms after the rain everywhere around the country – the latter I find easier to swallow. While churches are tax-exempted, as much as 67 hospitals had been closed down in 2011 because of a lack of funds from a government that strangely funded many rising churches, including the abomination whose construction will be finished by the end of 2016 – a giant church worth around 500 million euros planted in the middle of the country’s capital. This unnecessary building was stupidly named “Romanian People’s Salvation Cathedral”. They utterly forget not every taxpayer is a religious person and that 1% of non-believers had their contribution to the state poured into that church. Shouldn’t the taxpayer money be used for the betterment of infrastructure, public services and such? Who needs half a billion euro church? Is your faith really measured by gold and riches?

For a long time the younger generations in Romania battled with the old ones, especially after 1989, the year of the Revolution, but the conflict is still there and will persist for a long time. Some of my professors are older and some are younger, but there’s a percentage of God believers in both categories, which is an alarming truth. How can a creationist-scientist hybrid inspire future scientists? To be clear, no professor in my course ever mentioned God created the world, but there are small details which give them away. I’m observer of the people around me and my professors are no exception. I was pleasantly surprised to discover there were professors in my course who supported facts and not beliefs, but most of them didn’t talk very much about the fact that creationism is merely a story people tell themselves to feel less alone in this big, bad world. No wonder they chose to be neutral given the proportion of believers in my Biology course, a staggering percentage of 40%.

People like Sir David Attenborough, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, physicist Lawrence Krauss, naturalist Charles Darwin, Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Hawking, Edward O. Wilson, and many other notable scientists, have denied the existence of God. I am inspired by their lives and their work, especially Charles Darwin’s, who despite living in a deeply religious society and despite his beloved Christian wife, found the courage to publish his masterpiece On the Origin of Species in 1859. He, as many other scientists, thought the world would wake up eventually and accept evolution as a fact, yet nowadays, most of the population on the globe believes otherwise – the world was created by a supernatural being.

I am constantly wondering why do more and more people need to believe in a god, why do they prefer a story instead of evidence and logic? Much of Darwin’s book was edited and re-edited since its publication and some parts have lost their original meaning. And that happened in only 155 years! Same can be told about the Bible, which was written two millennia ago by various people and has known many revisions. Also, much of its meaning was lost during the translation of the manuscript, yet some people believe it literally.

It’s becoming harder and harder to live in a world that despite all the discoveries and technological insurgence, still clings to ancient fairytales told to each generation to ensure the brainwashing of those who someday might have the power to influence the future generations as others did before them. My parents have never been the religious type and I am most grateful for that because I had the liberty to choose myself what I believe in and this is a practice professor Richard Dawkins encourages most fervently. For a while my grand-grandmother, a devout Catholic, tried to show me what religion had to offer, yet to me they were all stories and I never believed them to have happened – I never thought Red Riding Hood existed so why should I believe that the biblical stories are real?

At school, during elementary and high-school we were forced to study religion (not a history of religions, but orthodoxy, which is the major religion in Romania). It never made sense to me and during high-school I ardently hated it. The young brainwashed professor who was teaching us the great wisdom of the orthodox religion was more on the insane side. She gave us DVDs with live abortions and told us any contraceptive method is a crime against the mighty God. How can a professor tell that to a thriving bunch of 17-year-olds? Anyway, I was most gladly when I moved towards higher education where studying religion wasn’t part of the curriculum.

I don’t hold any grudge against religious people, some are very good friends of mine and I respect them for their personalities, but I can’t agree with them on the matter of religion. It imposes many limitations on what a person can achieve and given we all have only one life to live, it is such a pity to let all the wonders of the universe go undiscovered or ignored. I love understanding the processes that put into motion the world around us, I love the accumulating knowledge and I can’t nor want to experience its absence. If you do believe God said “and let there be light” why don’t you believe he might have referred to your mind too? Why else would we need a brain if not for thinking? The basic functions of the animal body don’t need such a complex structure to back them up. Think about it.

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