Are you there, God?
The Templeton Foundation invests millions so scientists might prove that faith works.
But their answers aren't what Sir John Templeton wants to hear.
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By Lawrence Osborne
Dec. 24, 1999 | Our culture views religion with a capitalist's skepticism. In October
1983, Ronald Reagan leaned over to Tom Dine, the Israel lobby leader, and said: "You
know, I turn back to your ancient prophets in the Old Testament and I find myself
wondering if we're the generation that's going to see that come about. I don't know
if you've noticed any of those prophecies recently, but believe me, they certainly
describe the times we're going through." The Cold War, in other words, was Gog and
Armageddon all over again and as such its outcome could be accurately measured in the
prophesies of the Good Book. The Jewish prophets worked like a weather forecast:
gnomic but empirically shrewd.
For Reagan, religion was not an elusive private affair or a mystical revelation that
the ancient desert eremites might have recognized, it was part of the quantifiable
material world. Religion was true because it "worked." Americans want religion to pay
off and give us a competitive edge. We are a nation of materialists, engineers and
money-makers, not artist-monks, and our religion has a peculiar whiff of
sanctimonious brimstone and hysteria: "Night of the Hunter" mixed with car
salesmanship, gestalt therapy and a dash of the Harvard Business School. How much
better if we could bring religion into line with what we really believe in: machines.