In a spectacular and telling failure of journalism MSNBC reported recently that Pope Francis “broke with Catholic tradition” by asserting that the Big Bang theory is real. Instantly, the Internet responded with the name Georges Lemaitre, one of the creators of the Theory of Universal Expansion who also happened to be a Jesuit priest. He is also the first entry on a Google search of “Catholic Big Bang.”
That the MSNBC author did not bother to do one search before making a pronouncement about the faith of a billion people displays abysmal incompetence. But it also reflects very skewed and dangerous ideas about the nature of religion widely held in the media and creative class. As atheist Sam Harris put it in his article “Science Must Destroy Religion”: “the conflict between religion and science is inherent and (very nearly) zero sum.” This confrontational attitude ,which is unnecessary and harmful, springs from a slew of misconceptions about religion as a human phenomenon.