Contemporary science is a wonderfully collaborative activity. It knows no barriers of geography, race or creed. At its best it enables us to wrestle with the problems that beset humanity and we rightly celebrate when an advance is made that brings relief to millions. I have spent my life as pure mathematician and I often reflect on what physics Nobel Prizewinner Eugene Wigner called ‘the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics’. How is it that equations created in the head of a mathematician can relate to the universe outside that head? This question prompted Albert Einstein to say: ‘The only incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.’ The very fact that we believe that science can be done is a thing to be wondered at.
A common claim made by many atheists is that religion causes evil, suffering, division and war. For example, at the Munk Debate in Toronto last November, Christopher Hitchens argued this very point against Tony Blair. Religion, Hitchens claimed, causes sectarianism, division, strife, disagreement, war, poverty and a host of societal evils. In his best-selling book, God is Not Great, Hitchens even wrote that “religion poisons everything”.
In Mere Apologetics, Alister McGrath points out that “one of the most familiar criticisms of Christianity is that it offers consolation to life’s losers.”(1) Believers are often caricatured as being somewhat weak and naïve—the kind of people who need their faith as a “crutch” just to get them through life. In new atheist literature, this depiction is often contrasted with the image of a hardier intellectual atheist who has no need for such infantile, yet comforting, nonsense. This type of portrayal may resonate with some, but does it really make sense?(2)
A common accusation thrown at Christians is that they are anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-contraception. Many people have a perception that the church is negative — anti-everything — and Christians utterly prejudiced. How might we respond?