Today while driving in my car, I was listening to an interview on NPR with a physicist discussing how in quantum physics the creation of something out of nothing is not only likely but a regular occurrence. Most of these creations spring into existence and then disappear, but something on a much larger scale happened to make the earth as we know it. The discussion turned to the place of religion and philosophy in light of this information. The physicist argued that there is no place for religion or philosophy in his view of the world, in fact the usefulness of these entities passed away a long time ago. While he talked about his views of religion as a myth held by people unenlightened enough to accept that their beliefs had been debunked years ago, I thought to myself, "Idiot!"
This physicist is more intelligent then me when it comes to science. I know next to nothing about quantum physics, but I know religion and philosophy has not lost favor with the general populace. I could look up statistics and prove that these subjects are highly important to a large percentage of the population. Even many people who claim to be atheist believe in spirituality of some kind. For these people questions about purpose and meaning in life are of value. I scoffed at this arrogant learned man, who published a highly controversial book, as being an idiot. He may know lots about his subject, but little about anything else. He insulted all religious people by saying belief in God or gods is the product of a lazy mind, too uninterested to come up with a better explanation than "God did it."
The more I listened, the greater my indignation. I created arguments in my head to prove to him that he is an arrogant idiot that knows nothing. I have been doing this for years, listening to other people's viewpoints solely for the purpose of punching holes in them when they did not align with mine. You can ask my sisters, they were often on the other end of my sharp words and unwillingness to understand them. I have matured since the days I used to obliterate my sisters in discussions. I speculated about my quick negative response. How am I any better than this physicist? He does not care to try to understand people with an opposing view, they are unintelligent, unenlightened, and lazy. They are idiots. I did not view this man as someone who comes to life with a unique perspective and try to understand him and his message. I labeled him as an idiot, thus putting myself arrogantly superior to him. The simple truth is that I felt threatened by his message. I am religious and I enjoy philosophy. His beliefs called mine to question. I had to defend my world view because if what he said had truth in it then I would need to reexamine what I believe. In essence this was a challenge to me, can I still believe even though an accomplished scientist sees them as folly? Maybe this man felt defensive about his perspective on life so presented it in an antagonistic way? If he attacks first and harder then he can protect himself against the criticism of everybody else.
Aren't we all like this? Unwilling to try to understand a different perspective, belief system, or theory because of the danger it poses to ourselves. Can we step away from being arrogant idiots to seeking to understand others and by doing so care about them? If we really believe what we believe then no amount of new theories or scientific discoveries will shake that, then we can reach out and genuinely say to another, "I want to know you." After all isn't that one of the main things we seek in relationship with others, to know and to be known.