Call to Worship at the Temple of Science

Illustration for article titled Call to Worship at the Temple of Science

It's been almost seventy years since Albert Einstein argued that "science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind" in an influential Nature essay. The faceoff of science v. religion, however, is far from over — just ask our creationist VP nominee. In Berkeley, California, one artist is attempting to heal this rift by introducing the concept of "scientific worship." I bet you the Pope'll be thrilled.As io9 sister site Valleywag reported a few days ago, September 27th will see the opening of the first temple of science worship.

Establishment of an Atheon has been a high priority in the scientific community for the past several years, rivaling even enthusiasm for the new Large Hadron Collider. "When you listen to people like Nobel-laureate cosmologist Steven Weinberg, or Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, you hear a lot of talk about how god-based religion is out-of-date," says conceptual artist Jonathon Keats. "The leading minds believe that science can and should provide a spiritually satisfying replacement. But until recently no one bothered to consider what form that alternative might take."


The building might not be ready for visitors yet, but the Atheon's website is up, containing a more detailed mission statement:

The Atheon is a secular temple devoted to scientific worship. Delivering spiritual fulfillment through exposure to the latest research in fields ranging from cosmology to quantum mechanics, the Atheon offers a nondenominational alternative to theocentric religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Our credo is to make faith rational.


Sounds like a great idea to me, especially when you consider that the Atheon will feature stained glass windows with NASA images of cosmic background radiation. But is cool art enough to combat the revulsion that so many scientists — say, for example, Richard Dawkins — have for organized religion? If the modern minds of science are growing more and more comfortable rejecting traditional spirituality, it's difficult to imagine what kind of niche this Atheon will be filling. It could easily become just another art museum, or just another place to hear physics lectures. Keats doesn't seem to fear those eventualities. He sees a future with "an Atheon in every town." I don't know about that, but the Atheon certainly appears to be a step in the right direction for every string theory nerd who'd like to have someone to pray to — and every Southern Baptist who's afraid they'll be foisted from church for studying biological engineering. Image of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City from Wikipedia.

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Spinoza's God, though, is atheism. It's simply substituting the common definition of "God" for the warm fuzzies you (and I) get when we consider how impressive the universe is.

That feeling is cool, don't get me wrong; and if you're a person capable of feeling it, you should get involved in an activity that educates you about the universe so that you can feel it again and again.

You know, an activity like science.

But it's not religion. It's not even the equivalent of religion. It may be spirituality, depending on how you define that term personally (I find that's how I can be a spiritual atheist), but I don't think worship should be a part of it. Worship implies a complete lack of challenge or skepticism, and skepticism should always be a part of your interactions with the universe and with science.


I'm glad you got a good belly laugh, Capt, people should laugh more than they do, but I do wish you'd answer my question about Dawkins. Having read his books and listened to a few of his lectures, I'm curious what precisely he does that makes people consider him a militant, since he's never in his life served in the military or taken up arms.

I mean, he's certainly written a book with the aim of bringing people around to his point of view, but since when did trying to convince people of a certain position with a calm argument constitute militantism? (Quick guess - when atheists started doing it.)