I admit, I have no real explanation for the existence of highly learned men that are militant atheists, e.g. Richard Dawkins, Samuel Harris, and Daniel Dennett. But then again, I haven’t read their books either, so it’s difficult for me to judge just how wise they really are. I can offer some personal experience in dealings with people within my own department though. The Indian fellows seem to be the most skeptical of religion, since in their home country (of India, of course), religion is routinely used by politicians to stir up divisions among the electorate and ensure the ruling parties keep power. Several of the Arabs I encountered are atheists, which I can actually understand and sympathize with. In the Middle East, they grew up so steeped in fundamentalist Islamic mumbo-jumbo, that a trip to the West and America must have felt like taking a plastic bag off of one’s head.
I see it really as an unfortunate turn of events that men like Dawkins, Harris, and Dennett use their intellect to tear down Christianity. The peculiar thing is that it wasn’t always this way – Newton devoted much time to his religious writings, as did Blaise Pascal. Cauchy was a stern Catholic. Heck, the chemical engineering department at my university has believers of various stripes – though religion rarely comes up in personal discussions other than, “I did X, Y, and Z with my church/temple once.” We also have several Mormons in our department (who happen to be married and have children already). My friend (before he graduated and left the school) from the office next door was a Jain. A very good friend of mine from undergraduate years is a devout Catholic, and won’t eat meat on Friday. He is so adamant about meat on Friday, that he waited until the clock hit 12:00 AM on his dashboard when driving home one Friday night before pulling over to get some Burger King.
Why did it all the sudden in science become chic to be an atheist if you’re a scientist?
I think one reason might be the sex angle. It might seem like a silly hypothesis, but it explains much. You see friends, I’m going to reveal a shocking secret to you: male scientific types tend to have enormous difficulties getting sex from women. I can attest to this personally – the fish just do not bite when you are an engineering or science student. You are a nerd and women don’t want to date you or sleep with you – period, end of story. What is the poor science student to do? Now you want him to become a follower of a religion which wants him to remain chaste until marriage? The way these men see it, religion is simply another obstacle they don’t need to finally getting laid. Religion is simply a tough sell to people that want to have sexual freedom. End of story.
Me, I never had any “great scientific awakening” in school that convinced me to become an atheist and abandon my religion of Lutheranism – so I haven’t. It was simply patently irrelevant to the classroom discussions. When would religion ever come up in a discussion of fluid mechanics? Or the sizing of distillation columns? Or the design of control systems? I simply don’t understand how these guys had this “great awakening” from their science classes, when I was too busy studying hard just to pass the darn tests.