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Dr. Marty on Science and Faith

Martin Marty knows a litte something about the world of religion, especially about religious fundamentalism.

The dangerous idea Professor Marty shares with us: “You are not going to get rid of technology, you are not going to get rid of religion.” And therefore, it would be a good idea to get the two of them to relate to each other in a way better than they have in the past.

1/3rd of the world is Christmas, 1/5th is Muslim, and it will soon be 1/4th. In other words, religion isn’t dying out any time soon.

A grant for three million dollars to study religions from the MacArthur foundation, looking at 23 different religions. (Imagine the problems for the caterers. She loved the Christians, because they ate everything.)

Marty argues that religion hasn’t been taken seriously enough by scholars and other thinkers. He talks about a CIA agent who was asked how the CIA could have missed the Iranian revolution. The agent explained that they paid attention to a lot of things. “The only thing we paid no attention to was religion, because religion has no power in the modern world.” Needless to say, that attitude doesn’t work today. “The state department has got religion.”

Pope John 23rd wanted to expand circles of tolerance within the church. He began teaching that Catholics should dialog with the Orthodox church, spreading out to Jews and Muslims, and even to Hindus and Buddhists. The pope also declared that there were people without faith who were great forces for good. This led to a commission Non Credence – a commission on non-believers: communists, athiests and protestants. At this conference, Dr. Marty posited a future where both science and religion move forward together – societies don’t forsake one in favor of the other.

For example, Dr. Marty refers to the Amish’s attitude towards technology. THey work to keep the technological world at a distance: no phones on the property, no radio or television. Want to know more? Here’s their website: www.amishacres.com. He visited a megachurch in Texas and watched a preacher give a sermon from a pulpit as complex as a 747 cockpit – the sermon was about the dangers of technology.

Technological connection has been tremendously helpful for fundamentalist movements. He argues that you rarely see religious liberals on television – these tools work better for fundamentalist movements. The rise of radio was critically important both for the Muslim brotherhood and for evangelical christianity.

I had a tough time finding the thread of Dr. Marty’s talk, beyond “technology and religion are not going to go away.” He’s a funny and charming speaker, but I can’t help thinking that Richard Dawkins is about to eat him alive.