One argument that secular humanists and neo-Darwinists can’t stand is when their blind belief in, and zealous defense of, the evolutionary interpretation of unobservable past processes is labeled as “religion.” Yet one San Francisco artist, who claims to not practice any organized form of religion, has gone a step further by producing his very own Temple of Science.
Conceptual artist Jonathon Keats—known for such other odd works as “the petri dish God” and a prototype Ouija voting booth—opened his latest project on September 27, 2008, at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley, California. Sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley, and indirectly by taxpayers, its full name is The Atheon: A Temple of Science for Rational Belief, and it is billed as “a secular temple devoted to scientific worship.”
Delivering spiritual fulfillment through exposure to the latest research in fields ranging from cosmology to quantum mechanics, the Atheon offers a nondenominational alternative to theocentric religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Our credo is to make faith rational.1
Keats told Wired Science that the inspiration for the project was a 2006 Beyond Belief conference, which featured notable evolution evangelists such as Richard Dawkins. He said the Atheon takes the worship of science seriously and is, in fact, not a parody. “If it’s interpreted as one, I will have failed. It’s not a parody any more than a thought experiment is a parody.”2
The problem with the Atheon is simple for Bible-believing Christians: it breaks the first of God’s Ten Commandments.3 Atheists will most likely take Keats’ temple as a joke, as the media shows they have no real issue with any religion except Christianity.
But for those who pursue naturalistic science as a religion but despise any reference that would label it so, how will they take it? Will they embrace the Atheon as an outlet for them to finally come out and admit, “I am a follower of the religion of evolutionary science”? Or will they blast its celebration of “scientific worship” in all the blind fervor with which they’ve tried to expel objective science and critical thinking from laboratories and classrooms?
Either way, Keats’ work presents an interesting paradox. The University of California is a public university system and receives some federal money (i.e., your tax dollars), a portion of which has gone to fund the Atheon.4 If the Atheon succeeds in promoting its worship of science, then it will have openly demonstrated that blind faith in science is indeed religion. And since naturalistic science is taught in our public schools, and school children are expected to accept on blind faith that it is true, any public institution teaching any such form of science is in violation of the “separation of church and state” doctrine—at least, as Americans have allowed it to be redefined in the past several decades.5
Keats’ Temple of Science has opened a window on the nasty little secret that Darwin’s theory is used by many as an alternative to “theocentric religions,” and is not empirical science at all.
- The Atheon website at www.magnes.org/windows/.
- Keim, B. Artist Builds Temple of Science. Wired Science. Posted on wired.com September 28, 2008, accessed September 29, 2008.
- Exodus 20:3.
- Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund, University of California, Berkeley, website.
- The concept of “the separation of church and state” was advocated to protect religious rights (i.e., the church) from governmental control (i.e., the state), not to bar religion from the public arena. The phrase is best attributed verbatim to Thomas Jefferson in his 1802 letter to a group that called themselves the Danbury Baptists. The text of the original letter is available on the Library of Congress website at www.loc.gov. Despite popular belief (and in part, distorted education and bad press), the phrase does not appear in the U. S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor.
Article posted on October 6, 2008.