Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason and Survival, the first of The Science Network's annual Beyond Belief symposia, held from November 5 to November 7, 2006, was described by the New York Times, as "a free-for-all on science and religion," which seemed at times like "the founding convention for a political party built on a single plank: in a world dangerously charged with ideology, science needs to take on an evangelical role, vying with religion as teller of the greatest story ever told." According to participant Melvin Konner, however, the event came to resemble a "den of vipers" debating the issue, "Should we bash religion with a crowbar or only with a baseball bat?"
The event was conceived as a response to the efforts of the Templeton Foundation to reconcile science with religion, according to its underwriter Robert Zeps, who told an interviewer, "I am not anti-Templeton in the sense of funding scientists to say mean things about religion. I simply believe that all study should be free of any particular agenda besides learning...Most take the position that the religious right are just nuts who are loud but frankly undeserving of a response...I believe that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and pretty much all of the tech age wealth is firmly on the side of science and they need to step up and say so in a way that is heard by the anti-science lobby."
Many conference participants leveled strong criticism at the activities of the Templeton Foundation, including claims that it attempted to blur the line between science and religion and that it funded "garbage research" aimed at showing a healing effect of prayer. The conference devoted its final session to "the negative effects of introducing religion into medicine." A Templeton spokesperson responded by warning against "commercialized ideological scientism," the effort to profit from promoting science as the only guide to truth.