Most conservative Christians believe the Biblical statement, which I am in too much of a hurry to look up right now, that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Most agnostics and humanists would vigorously reject this statement. But maybe it is, in a way, true. If so, how?
Conservative Christians really do mean “fear.” And by fear of the Lord, they mean that we should be afraid, very afraid, that if we question so much as the tiniest point of doctrine that they assert about the Lord we will go to Hell. The fear of disagreeing with any of the self-appointed spokespeople of God is supposed to be the basis of all wisdom.
But they have it wrong in two ways. First, I think they misunderstand “fear,” giving it a modern English interpretation. They think it means that we should be very, very afraid of asking questions such as “How do you know that thing that you assert?” But instead I believe that “fear” means awe and wonder. One can have a great deal of technical knowledge about the natural world, but unless one feels awe and wonder then the natural world is not God’s creation but is just a pile of resources for rich Republicans to make money off of. Most scientists I know—and I know a lot of them—feel awe and wonder at the cosmos that we are privileged to investigate. It is we, the scientists and anyone else who feels awe and wonder, are the ones who truly fear the Lord.
Second, the Biblical statement says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, not the entirety of it or the end of it. Conservative Christians think that your unthinking acceptance of their assertions about the Lord is the entirety and the end of wisdom.
Although I do not assert many of the traditional doctrines, I do have the fear of the Lord as the beginning of my wisdom: I feel awe at the universe, and I use that as my starting point for learning more about it, from my own research and investigations by others.