Ever since he told a Guardian reporter last weekend that the idea of an afterlife is a “fairy story for people afraid of the dark,” Stephen Hawking has been in the religion news. Aside from making him a Twitter trending topic, Hawking’s remarks have led to renewed commentary on the relationship between faith and science in the blogosphere—and to a snide comment from Growing Pains/Left Behind star Kirk Cameron. The interview follows a longstanding history of remarks on religion by Hawking, as well as his declaration of the death of philosophy in a book published last year.
The author of A Brief History of Time isn’t the only physicist making religion headlines. Not long ago, a paper presented at the American Physical Society’s annual meeting led the BBC to report: “Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says.” The Richard Wiener and two colleagues, identifies nine countries—Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland—in which religion may be extinct in a few generations because the utility of religious non-adherence is greater than the utility to be expected from religious adherence. In the latest installment of the Martin Marty Center’s Sightings, David Gottlieb critiques a central premise of the study by Wiener et al.:
they may have failed to consider the possibility that at least some of these societies may be post-secular: that is, ones in which the “religious” and “irreligious” interact and overlap, coexisting in a competitive but mutually beneficial tension.
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