Evolution Sunday

Today more than 618 Congregations across America and five nations will participate in Evolution Sunday. More than 10,000 ministers have signed the letter supporting the idea that science and religion are not incompatible, and support for Evolution Sunday grew 13 per cent to 530 congregations in 2007.

Several years ago, I was married to a very open-minded and warm-hearted Born Again Christian woman. Despite our differing perspectives on theology, me being an Atheist, we did work perpetually to understand one another’s point of view. I read the Bible cover to cover and began attending my wife’s church, Christ and Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church in Norfolk VA, an incredibly ornate church, hundreds of years old, which provided an unlikely place to find Enlightenment values.

While I still disagreed with many of the church’s teachings, I was willing to entertain them in order to challenge and refine my own ideas. Similarly, this church regularly entertained the ideas of other theologies, hosting representatives of spiritual philosophies that were completely incompatible with Christian teachings, such as Buddhists and New Age spiritualists. When the theologian Huston Smith gave a talk at the church, the Reverend followed it with the statement, “While you all know I disagree strongly with many things Mr. Smith has said…” he then proceeded to emphasize only those things they agreed on.

Many Creationists have stong criticisms for churches that take part in today’s activities, and many scientists have strong criticisms of the whole idea too. Such criticisms reduce debate to a zero-sum game, where one side can only win through the complete and utter defeat of their opponents. My message to the folks on both sides of the aisle who take such a perspective: enjoy pushing your boulder up the mountain forever.

Meanwhile, those of us with a bit more political savvy know that disputation is a game of inches, like American football, where we all work to nudge the ideal mean a bit closer toward our goal. I’m an atheist, and it’s doubtful many religious people read my blog, so my nudging is for what I think my fellow Brights need to take from Evolution Sunday, which will ultimately nudge the ideal mean in direction better for everyone. I think Michael Zimmerman put it best himself:

[Evolution Sunday] is designed to provide an opportunity for congregations around the world to discuss the compatibility of religion and science, to investigate why religion and modern science need not be at war with one another. The event is designed to demonstrate that those shrill fundamentalist voices that assert that people must choose between religion and science are simply incorrect, that they are presenting a false dichotomy, that no such choice needs to be made.

Got that? False Dichotomy, and that goes for us atheists too. It is possible for person who looks at Evolution without an invisible hand guiding it and a person who believes in that invisible hand to have a healthy conversation about the science of evolution without their pro or con invisible hand positions entering the conversation in any way, shape, or form. Why alienate each other over something so trivial?

Despite our many quibbles, human beings of all faiths, politics, and none of the above all overwhelming believe in and work to ensure our common welfare. Religious and non-religious people need to remember that, if all the members of one side were to vanish tomorrow, the other would be in a world of hurt without their fellow humans’ daily altruistic contributions to our common society.

The Clergy Letter Project has a large collection of sermons written by clergy and religious leaders across the U.S.