However one parses the numbers, nonbelievers are undoubtedly getting bolder and even celebrated, as evidenced by best-seller lists in recent years. Lewis and other instructors conceded they will find it hard to avoid mentioning “New Atheist” authors Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, but said they would not dwell on the trio.
Lewis said he’ll look at both sides of the debate. “What we will be focusing on is our response to individuals who have thrown down the gauntlet and say’To believe in God is not to be believe in science, and to believe in science is not to believe in God.’”
“There’s a little fundamentalism on both sides of the aisle.”
Central to the course will be the question of suffering — “the oldest religious question in the world,” Lewis said. “Why, if there’s a good God, do we have suffering, especially of the innocent?”
As for science and Darwinism, the biblical book of Genesis “is not a science book and should not be read as one. Our faith does not rise and fall on the age of the Earth.” And people of faith are at a threshold moment: “We cannot continue thinking of God in traditional ways and still accept Darwinian science.”
Lewis said it’s not uncommon for Catholic thinkers to believe in evolution. The course will include the work of the Rev. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest who was also trained as a paleontologist and geologist. Teilhard de Chardin accepted Darwinism as fact as early as the 1930s, but his writings were condemned by the Vatican.
The course comprises two lectures from Lewis; a look at psychology and atheism from Jesuit psychologist Rev. Joe Schner, who will examine whether the human brain is hard-wired for religion; an examination of suffering by Michael Stoeber, who told the introductory class that the “New Atheists” tend to overemphasize “the underbelly of the Catholic Church”; and a theological and philosophical perspective from Jesuit Gordon Rixon.
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