Christian and atheist dating

"I suspect we're not the only family in the country that likes to have a friendly row on Christmas Day," admits Jim Al-Khalili, sitting in his office in the physics department at the University of Surrey.

"I guarantee we will have the usual Al-Khalili religion debate. It's the same old argument every year."But this year might be a little more fraught than most. Someone who doesn't feel the need to tell you that what you believe in is stupid.

Many people of religious faith assume that if you're an atheist you're an empty shell. Why should someone of a particular religious faith have some preferential treatment over anyone else?

This notion that the Church of England is the official religion of the country is utterly outmoded now.

Last album listened to: The Eagles Greatest Hits (in the car on a drive back from Yorkshire)Last book read: Erwin Schrödinger's What is Life?

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In spite of the growing number of singles we are seeing today, rarely does the church ever consider that they may be existing in an unnatural state.Mr Khalili's mother is still a devout, church-going Christian but, next week, her 40-year-old son will become the next president of the British Humanist Association, the ever-expanding organisation for, in its own words, "people who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs"."She felt somewhat disappointed that I had taken on this role," he admits. You shouldn't be any more disappointed than I am that you go to church every Sunday.'"Mr Khalili, who grew up in Iraq with his Christian mother and his "bordering on agnostic Muslim" father, is a theoretical physicist and also presents The Life Scientific on Radio 4. Take my mother, I will tell her: 'I'm happy for you, because I know your religious faith fills a hole in your life.' I can see how important it is to her to have this faith. "I'd like to see her one day say: 'You know, I don't think God exists,' but I'm not going to be arguing and pushing that she is wrong."I am against creationism being taught in schools because there is empirical evidence that it is a silly notion, but I don't put religious faith in that bracket. The burden of proof is on them, yes, but I don't force it upon them to prove it.A scientist-atheist then – which makes comparisons with Professor Richard Dawkins inevitable. If they want to have a religious faith that is up to them.It doesn't stand up to empirical evidence."In the same way in medicine, alternative medicines like homeopathy or new age therapies – raiki healing – a lot of people buy into it and it grates against my rationalist view of the world. Getting married in a church has a cultural resonance that has nothing to do with religion. At the time I was an atheist, but it was nice."He added: "I find it quite difficult to ridicule people of faith.I've debated on stage with the Archbishop of Canterbury, with the Chief Rabbi, but one thing I do feel very strongly about is this idea that they have the moral high ground. If you have faith in humankind and all the qualities that we like to encourage – compassion, empathy and so on – these are things that make us human."I am totally against, for example, bishops in the House of Lords.

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