Professor Brad Gregory

Poor Galileo, sent to the woodshed by the Church for showing that the earth revolved around the sun. That 17th century dust-up has ever since been offered by atheists as evidence that religion and science have no place together — if religion has a place at all.

Along with the phenomenon of the “new atheists,” British scientist Richard Dawkins among them, many people of faith have heard friends or family members contend that religious faith is not intellectual and therefore is not worth taking seriously.

Professor Brad Gregory will tackle the topic head-on during his talk, “Science vs. Religion? The Compatibility of Catholicism and the Natural Sciences” on Thursday, Sept. 12 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood.

The talk is part of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s Year of Faith Lecture Series. New York Times columnist and author Ross Douthat will speak about religion in America on Sept. 19 and Archbishop Chaput will conclude the series on Oct. 1. All talks begin at 7 p.m., and the cost for each is $5 per person. (Register for the lecture here.)

“The split of faith and science is a fruit of what happened in the (Protestant) Reformation,” said lecture series organizer Meghan Cokeley, director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for the New Evangelization. “This split between the natural world and faith (has grown), whereas Catholicism has always seen these as deeply integrated.”

Gregory is well suited for the topic, Cokeley believes. He is a former professor at Stanford University, current professor of early modern European history at Notre Dame University and author of “The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society.”

Explaining the link between science and religion has made Gregory a critic of those who deny the intelligibility of religious faith. (See his article outlining the “insights and oversights of the new atheism,” and watch a video of Gregory with Father Robert Barron on Catholicism and the new evangelization.)

“He has taken on the new atheism in powerful ways,” Cokeley said. “The new atheists have been unintelligent in their accusations of religion. They don’t treat religion in an intelligent way and they’ve never even read anything in theology.”

In a promotional flyer for the lecture, Cokeley invites people interested in attending the lecture to bring along friends who “identify themselves as atheist or agnostic and challenge them to put their conceptions of God and the Church to the test. (It is) an excellent opportunity to evangelize and be evangelized!”

The new evangelization is the theme of Archbishop Chaput’s Oct. 1 lecture, and is the focus of Cokeley’s office, newly created July 1 to specifically promote the movement among Catholics and all residents in the Archdiocese.

Cokeley has found that generally, people are responding positively to the Catholic Church’s call for reinvigorating the practice of faith through the new evangelization. While the majority of Catholics “are not familiar with what it is or have not heard about it,” a smaller number have told her it “has been a long time coming. This is what we are about,” she said.


Register for the lecture and learn more about the Year of Faith Lecture Series here.