• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Do You Have to Choose between Your Brains and Your Beliefs? No, Part One

A young journalist once said to me, as the sound guy was winding up his cables and the camera guy was putting his equipment in its case, “May I ask you a personal question?”

She had been interviewing me for a Canadian TV network on some topic in contemporary religion and society in my historical/sociological mode and the interview had gone fine. Now we had a couple of minutes while the tech guys tidied up.

“Sure,” I replied.

“Well,” she started, “you actually seem to believe some of this stuff.”

“I do.”

“Really!” she exclaimed. “And do you go to church?”

“Yes, pretty much every week.”

“Really!” she exclaimed again. And then there was a pause.

“You know,” she then went on, pensively, “I had a roommate like you once. She was reasonably bright, and had a sense of humour, and also was a Christian. That’s now two!”

When I think of Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens railing against stupid Christians, which is to say, against Christians (who, by their definition, simply are stupid), my first reaction simply is, “These guys need to get out more.”

However much sophistication they affect, they must run in very narrow circles. I mean, two billion or so Christians and they think that all of them are stupid? Two billion Christians, and Dawkins and Hitchens don’t know any who are intelligent?

Actually, of course, they do. Geneticist Dawkins ought to know, and certainly knows of, Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project and an outspoken Christian. For his part, Hitchens is a columnist for The Atlantic Monthly and used to submit copy to former managing editor Cullen Murphy, a Roman Catholic.

So people who ask this question either badly need to expand their circles of acquaintance or, instead, rephrase the question.

For the question really can’t be, “Do You Have to Choose between Your Brains and Your Beliefs?” Obviously, obviously, you don’t. Many, many manifestly smart people don’t.

But the question might be, “How Do You Put It Together? (I Can’t See How You Can.)”

And that is a perfectly good question, to which I’ll turn in my next post.