One of my Facebook friends recently posted a link to a page entitled “The Big Think.” This page is a collection of videos and articles from well-known and influential people. The link posted on my friend’s Facebook page was a short monologue given by Dr. Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and author. The topic Krauss chose to speak on was “Is Xenophobia Inherent in Organized Religions?” Right off, I was puzzled by the title of the clip because he is a theoretical physicist so why would he be speaking about socio-cultural matters? My guess would be that he would want to talk about what is in his area of expertise, say maybe… “physics?” Of course he can talk about anything he wants to but a curious choice, nonetheless. However, he is listed as an expert on the page. Is he an expert in culture/religion?
Nonetheless, as I watched and listened to him speak, it is clear that he has a gift for communication, has a pleasant appearance, is intelligent, and is very engaging. However, when I actually listened to the content of what he was saying, I was humored in one sense because he seemed oblivious to the irony of accusing most of the world’s population (those who are of organized religions) of being xenophobic while totally missing that such a statement is xenophobic in itself. My other reaction was concern because charming and influential people like Doctor Krauss are saying things that in my opinion are quite alarming.
Before I discuss Krauss’s perspective any further, I want to make a distinction between atheists and “radical” atheists. I have known and worked with atheists through the years and found them to be very good associates and acquaintances. Of course, true tolerance endorses the right for all to hold their opinions and express them freely. So, naturally, people of good will who hold to any belief system will be tolerant of one another’s perspectives. This is a foundational principle of democracy (even though this tolerance seems to be waning in recent years). But what I realized when listening to Krauss is that he is of the new variety of “radical” atheists who believe that religion is a negative and subversive force in culture and that it is basically the root of all evil, thus no real tolerance for Christians and other religionists from Krauss. He is not just a person who endorses atheism but aggressively goes after other groups of persons pinning the woes of the world on them.
During his short monologue, he went into the usual radical atheist rant about the subjugation of women by religionists (I guess he really did not read Paul’s letters too closely or realize that Western culture actually does pretty good in this area-not that we are perfect), or question why anyone would believe in something that was created by iron age peasants (I guess he forgot that most of the major scientific accomplishments throughout the ages were accomplished by religionists such as the great, ancient Babylonian astronomers, the Greek scholars/theorists/astronomers who were pagan religionists, and the long procession of great Western astronomers who affirmed belief in God, etc.), and that religionists always want to kill, ostracize, and send people to hell (I guess he forgets about the great genocides of atheist regimes of the 20th century, and the fact that Christians are charged to love other people even their enemies, not condemn them to hell). Surely, all people who are a part of organized religions are not contributing to the demise of the world? In that he paints all persons from organized religion with a broad brush, he commits religious bigotry and seems totally unaware he is doing it.
In addition to his hostility towards those of organized religions, it seems that Krauss thinks that the only domain for real truth is found in a test tube. But how can you come to the conclusion that the universe came into existence by itself or by chance in a laboratory? How come truth cannot come from domains other than science, say from logic, philosophy, principles of investigation or heaven forbid, from even religion? What about the professional geneticist who I recently had breakfast with who described the amazing complexity of the cell and that as time goes on and with the advancement of scientific technology to look at the cell, new layers of complexity and design are constantly being discovered? This led this geneticist to proclaim awe in the design observed in just one cell and the belief that a super-intelligent mind must have designed it.
Does Krauss really know any of those he speaks against? Has he dined with any religionists? I really think that is part of the problem. Instead of demonizing those who don’t agree with you, why don’t we seek to try and know them as persons? Why doesn’t a Christian invite a Jew to lunch? How about an atheist and a Hindu go out for coffee? Perhaps, we would be less willing to think of each other as evil entities if we just realized that those of other religious perspectives (radical atheists are religious too) are just people. I am not saying that we should compromise our core beliefs at all. But I am saying that we should try to have relationship with those that we disagree with. I am someone who could do better at this.
It seems to me that Krauss is hostile towards anyone who holds to a standard of truth other than his own. It is obvious that Krauss believes that one is intolerant and xenophobic if one does not view things the way that Krauss does. This is where a brilliant man like Krauss is toxic in condemning billions of people who are not like him. In Krauss’s case, his video clip should not be on a site named “The Big Think.” A more appropriate name for a site with this clip would be “The Bigot Think.”
Link for Krauss Clip here.