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Sunday, December 9, 2007

The success of "the New Atheists" on getting the discussion of science, secularism, religion onto the public sphere

Unless you've been living in a cave in the past year, you've probably noticed that the religion vs. science is one of the most important issues taking center stage on mainstream media. Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion alone already sold more than 1.5 million copies and it's in the process of being translated into different languages. The combined bestseller successes of Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, their presence on TED as well as a number of conferences, university lectures and debates, the high profile visibility of the courageous Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the issue of religion taking center-stage in the presidential elections, are testaments to the success of "the New Atheists" on getting the discussion of science, secularism, religion onto the public sphere. In short, it's hip to be an Atheist nowadays (except for Sam Harris) ;)
As expected, a lot of religious conservatives rose to the challenge by protecting their deeply held beliefs and dogmas. As a result, most of the time, the discussions end up taking pot shots at science and religion. No synthesis. No integration. Only more shouting and misunderstanding.
For the past few months I've been surfing the wave of this important national conversation about science and religion, and lately taking sides in favor of what the New Atheists stand for: a critical reflection on the irrational claims of religion.
Previously, I've lamented my observation that integral voices are absent from this national conversation. Yes, integrally-informed people are ranting on their blogs, but that's about it. There are no integrally-informed representatives engaging the philosophers, scientists, politicians, and thinkers on this very important national debate on science and religion. Or is there?
Michael Dowd is a former evangelical minister who has embraced Evolution and is now preaching the gospel of Evolutionary Christianity. His book, Thank God for Evolution!, has been praised by Nobel laureates, professors, scientists, politicians, religious leaders, and spiritual teachers (e.g. Andrew Cohen). The endorsements alone made me want to read his book.
I haven't read the book yet, but just by this WIRED interview alone, I get the sense that Michael Dowd is one of the sane integral voices that are badly needed to join the national conversation on science and religion...
If you think Michael Dowd's philosophy sounds Wilberian, you're not far off. Check out one of the charts he uses. And here's a video of Dowd in action.
Although Michael Dowd is still preaching under the banner of Christianity, his approach is very skillful. He (and his science writer wife, Connie) meets people where they're at. By adopting evolution, he's providing a healthier narrative for Christians--a much better translation mechanism for religious people to embrace both science and spirituality in the process. Very fluffy.
I'm interested see a conversation between Michael Dowd and the New Atheists and see Dowd respond to their arguments. I'm sure there will be points of disagreements, especially for Atheists who abhors Theology, but I think that there will be more points of agreements, synthesis, and possible integration.
Move over Dinesh D'Souza. Michael Dowd's Evolutionary Christianity should be heard by the American public.
P.S. Serendiptously, Michael Dowd has a profile on Zaadz. Check it out and send him some love :)

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