The Transylvania Times -

Science vs. Religion


July 13, 2017

In 1925, John Scopes, a substitute teacher in Dayton, Tenn., was charged with teaching evolution in violation of Tennessee’s Butler Act. William Jennings Bryan, a religious fundamentalist, prosecuted Scopes. Clarence Darrow, the leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, defended him.

The trial was staged to produce an effect. It provided an opportunity to focus Americans on fundamentalism in America. “Fanaticism,” as Darrow called it, threatened public education and the spirit of inquiry and skepticism that sustained civilization. Darrow described the trial apocalyptically as “Scopes isn’t on trial; civilization is on trial.”

Bryan argued that the Bible was the authoritative source for determining how humans were created. Darrow argued that humans evolved over millions of years from apes and monkeys. The trial established the division between religion and science in the American mind that still prevails.

Pew researchers stated that from 2007–2012 the number of Americans not identifying with any religion increased to 23 percent of the U.S. population. While this increase was significant, in 2014 Pew revealed that this group has not grown since 2012. Seventy-seven percent of Americans still called themselves Christians.

In 2016, James A. Haught, editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail, wrote, “People who tell pollsters that their religion is ‘none’ have increased rapidly to one-fourth of the U.S. population.”

“Western civilization has entered the long-predicted Secular Age when the power of religion over society gradually recedes,” he wrote.

According to Haught, the shift started in Europe after WWII, and today, in some European nations, fewer than 10 percent attend worship services. One-third of Americans under 30 have ceased worshipping, he wrote, a trend which has political significance “because those who don’t attend church are strongly liberal, progressive and Democratic in their values.”

Today, the tension between science and religion persists. But, even though the “nones” are increasing, to dismiss the beliefs of godly people is a willful blindness to the fact that most Americans are still religious.

No matter your political leanings, please take time to recognize that in America you are free to believe whatever you want.

Al Mercer



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