Worshippers at a small church in coastal Maine will be treated to a science lesson during next Sunday’s sermon: “The Big Bang: God Spoke and ‘Bang’ It Happened”
Even Genesis allowed Him six days.
I’m not sure why that churchyard billboard jumped out at me. I don’t consider other people’s religious beliefs, however ludicrous, to be my business. But in a world in which centuries-old doctrinal differences still cause genocidal massacres and thousands of violent deaths – and where one sect’s holy shrine is another’s military target – religious activity can no longer get a free pass.
In America, 46 percent of the people believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, while only one in seven accepts evolutionary theory. These numbers haven’t changed in 40 years. What has changed is the context in which those beliefs are practiced. The free exercise of religion has jumped out of the church and into the political arena, where it challenges science as simply another, often blasphemous, set of beliefs, and where religious groups make ever-more muscular demands to insert their private theologies into the public discourse.
I don’t think that’s what the founding fathers had in mind. They had seen, in Europe and America, among Protestants and Catholics, the toxic mixture of religion and government – not to mention the experiences of African slaves and Native Americans, for whom the combination meant permanent bondage and annihilation.
Religious freedom and political democracy depend on the wisdom to keep them separate.