Over the past 10 years, a small industry has developed pitting religious people against secular people and vice versa. Preachers, like Mike Huckabee, claim that unbelievers are waging a war against American values, by which they mean Christian values. And militant atheists, like Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins, have pinned responsibility for more or less every human failing in history on the evils of faith. It would seem, at least from the outside, that religion and science are continuing a longstanding cultural war.
Fortunately, new research from the Pew Research Center has shown that it's mostly a phoney war. The sense of a public conflict has indeed grown over the past decade:
"A majority of the public says science and religion often conflict, with nearly six-in-ten adults (59 percent) expressing this view in newly released findings from a Pew Research Center survey. The share of the public saying science and religion are often in conflict is up modestly from 55 percent in 2009."
- Pew Research Center
But when you ask individuals whether they feel, in their own inner lives and in their beliefs, a strong sense of conflict between religious and scientific understandings of the world, they feel it less and less.
"The share of all adults who perceive a conflict between science and their own religious beliefs has declined somewhat in recent years, from 36 percent in 2009 to 30 percent in 2014. Among those who are affiliated with a religion, the share of people who say there is a conflict between science and their personal religious beliefs dropped from 41 percent to 34 percent during this period."
- Pew Research Center
While the sense that religion and science are at odds in society keeps growing, the tension in people's lives is diminishing. The Pew researchers conclude that "people's sense that there generally is a conflict between religion and science seems to have less to do with their own religious beliefs than it does with their perceptions of other people's beliefs."
The conflict is manufactured for the amusement of people who indulge in outrage for entertainment. In the quiet moments of introspection, conflict and outrage dissipate.
The new Pew research generally corresponds to what might otherwise be called common sense. In daily life, in the life we actually lead, people with faith and people who have no faith mostly get along perfectly fine. The truth which the militant atheists and the militant preachers haven't figured out is that the distinction that matters isn't between the faithful and the faithless but between assholes and those who aren't assholes. And of course, being an asshole has very little to do with how you believe the universe or the human species came into existence. It has much more to do whether you believe in things like culture wars in the first place.
*silently hopes the bigots of this forum read this.
Out beyond ideas
there is a field...
...I'll meet you there.