There is an important fight going on over the origins and definition of what we like to call Science. Theory, tested against available fact, peer reviewed, and accepted provisionally until new and relevant facts are discovered: this is what makes up the “belief” of science and secular learning.
The is a major push from a certain segment of the population to equate “theory” with “faith”. There are people who want to push the idea that science is a new religion, and not a system of observation-based hypotheses about the the true functioning of the universe.
And it comes from the Humanists. There are people who, thinking that they can oppose religion using its own vocabulary, drape religious lexicon over science and term it Secular Humanism. And this allows those who desperately need to repress knowledge to call science a religious pursuit, and hold their myths up as being no less valid than the carefully constructed theories of thousands of years of study.
I am a theist. I am a Deist, in a certain sense, as well as a Panentheist. I am a pagan who believes in the archetypes of all the old Gods and many new concepts as ways in which we can relate to, and maybe communicate with, the greater divine essence. I am not saying that I don’t have kooky beliefs.
What I am saying is that those beliefs are different from my trust in the scientific method. Those are things I have faith in, knowing that the personal experiences that lead me to those ideas cannot be duplicated for everyone else to see, while the basis of any viable theory is that is can be tested and measured in reproducible experiments and equations. The only “faith” needed is a faith in the process and in the over-all skepticism and professionalism of the scientific community world-wide.
Science has been wrong, and science, as a body of work, records those errors along with all the work that went into developing the theories and, ultimately, in proving them flawed. Science can afford to be wrong, and our greatest advances often come at the expense of an old, often treasured theory that, until very recently, explained everything it was meant to.
Few religions have that grace. They must always be right. When they are wrong, it is blamed on transcription errors or misinterpretations. Rarely can an institution simply admit that some piece of doctrine just doesn’t stand up to what we know about the universe, even to the point of calling observation-based labeling and ordering a false religion.
We cannot allow that to be the language that frames this debate. Religions can (and likely will) argue to the end of days about God and what was being thought in the moment of the “Big Bang”, but we cannot allow them to put facts on the level of even the deepest faith, because it both belittles and taints science. No one should ever be willing to kill over a theory; no one should ever be tortured until they accept that Newtonian calculations of gravity fail us, at times, and that the theory of gravity is incomplete. The evidence stands on its own, and no jihad needs to be sanctioned to purge the ranks. Science should never stoop to the tactics of religion, or it isn’t being scientific.