Science vs Religion Part II: Religion
by Matt Voss
A continuation of last week’s post, “Science vs Religion Part I: Science”
The pro-science crowd tends to pigeonhole people of faith as ignorant or at least unscientific that they could readily abandon all reason in order to believe in fairy tales. One mention of anything supernatural and therefore unobservable, and you’ll find yourself booted out of Science Camp. We really can’t blame these folks, though; science is supposed to be based on observation, after all.
The pro-religion crowd seems to hold to the assumption that the purpose of science is to somehow disprove the existence of a God, whereby making science the blaspheming enemy of all that is holy. Indeed, there are devout and militant atheists that attempt to use science to that end, and we really can’t blame the God-fearing for being a little upset about it. Let’s talk about that.
Let’s Talk About Religion
I should note that while I’m sure my own journey through atheism, skepticism, agnosticism, and to Christianity will find their way into a future article, I intend here to paint a slightly less-subjective view of religion. I’ve done some reading on Islam, Judaism, and a handful of others, but admittedly, the bulk of my research has been on Lutheran and non-denominational Christianity.
Reason and Religion
Too often in the debate between science and religion, a science enthusiast will load up on knowledge and prepare for war with a young, new, or otherwise less-than-prepared Christian. I remember doing this to a nice Christian lad when I was young and coming away thinking I had done him a favor by talking him out of his religion. I hope his faith ran deeper than I could mine with my 5th-grade knowledge of the fossil record, but I guess I’ll never know.
I think I was a pretty average atheist; rather than just leaving the topic alone, I thought that people ought to know what I knew. I figured that anyone soft enough in the head to believe in people coming back from the dead needed my help to recover their reason. No rational person could believe in some all-powerful, invisible God, right?
Science in the Church
On the other hand, some scientifically-minded Christians go deeper than others, not in search of fortification of the views that they already hold, but to test and clarify their views. They live in search of the truth intrinsic.
Contrary to popular belief, some great minds have actually been rationalized into faith in God rather than out of it, and some are not only prepared for debate with real scientists, but are scientists themselves.
Copernicus, Bacon, Galileo, Newton, Keppler, Pascal, Gottfried Liebnitz, Kelvin, Joule, and Pasteur were all Christians. These names are some of the biggest in science, and yes, they are old, but to declare their religion irrelevant based on the societal norms of their respective times would be purely speculative, and, well, unscientific.
One of my personal heroes, C.S. Lewis, followed a train of pure thought in his search for truth and ended up at the God of Christianity. Ravi Zacharias’ genius awoke in his teens after a suicide attempt and he went on to become a master of debate on the subject of Christian Theology and Apologetics. These are the people with whom the atheistic thinkers should talk.
Hate in the Church
Militant atheist, Richard Dawkins, in one of his books asks us to imagine “a world with no religion… no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts…no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as ‘Christ-killers,’ no Northern Ireland ‘troubles,’ no ‘honour killings…”.
Dawkins makes no mention of human sacrifice or cannibalism, and there are myriad other crazy things people do for spiritual enlightenment ranging from the grotesque to the merely silly.
Did you know there is a ritual in Southwest India called “Made Made Snana,” which literally means “taking a bath by rolling over leftovers”? It’s exactly what it sounds like.
Throughout history, religion has been responsible for many a dirty deed, but we don’t even have to look at history or the other side of the world- hate is alive and well in the U.S. of A, and some of it goes to church.
The Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS is known for its “God hates fags” mantra, but that’s just the tip of the crap-burg. They keep a series of live counters on their website measuring things like “events picketed” numbering more than 60,000 to date, an ever-ticking number of people “cast into hell since you loaded this page”, and a counter stuck at “0” measuring “nanoseconds of sleep that WBC members lose over your opinions and feeeeellllliiiiiings.”
Their website (my own religious convictions do no not require me to offer them a backlink) sprinkles in a lot of out-of-context biblical references, but they apparently haven’t read the rest of the book, which focuses on love, charity, peace, etc. I can’t reconcile in my mind the idea that one could claim to love someone and simultaneously take no notice of what he says.
All I have to say to the haters at WBC is this: Like it or not, God’s invited ALL of us to the party, but he won’t want any drama, and there’s still time to be uninvited.
Indeed, religious atrocities do litter the historical landscape, but is religion itself the enemy or is it just a misappropriated weapon in the hands of the fearful and ignorant?
The Religion you Don’t See on TV
Speaking on the topic of religious atrocities, well-known skeptic of religion, Michael Shermer says that, “for every one of these grand tragedies there are ten thousand acts of personal kindness and social good that go largely unreported in the history books or on the evening news.”
Years of my own research has found that Shermer’s assessment is absolutely true; just beyond the veil of the sex-and-violence mainstream, there are innumerable stories and personal testimonies to the transformative and benevolent power of religion. Seek, and you will find.
Religion: What’s in it for me?
Loads of studies have been done on the objective effects of religious participation. Just google it and you’ll find droves of evidence of strong correlations between people that attend church and things like:
- A longer life expectancy (+7 years or more!)
- A stronger immune system
- Lower blood pressure
- Less depression
- Less drug use and alcoholism
- Fewer criminal tendencies
- A higher rate of employment
- Better sense of purpose
- A higher rate of overall satisfaction
Studies also positively correlate kids that attend church with:
- Less delinquency
- Less smoking and drug use
- Better school attendance
- Higher graduation rates
The Economy of Religion
Clearly, individual involvement in a healthy, non-culty church is good for the individual’s health, but what about the rest of the world? In addition to the indirect societal benefits of a population needing less incarceration and costly rehabilitation, religious people contribute tremendously to the economy.
Forbes Magazine says that according to professor of sociology Rodney Stark, the American economy feels a whopping $2.6 trillion boost from charitable giving by the religious. To put that in perspective, that’s about one-sixth of our total economic output.
So can we trust religion or not?
Religion is not perfect, but it’s good. Despite the numerous and monumental snafus, it’s good for people, and it’s good for society.
One thing I know for sure is that religion at its core is more about having a personal relationship with God and how I treat my fellow man than it is about a relationship with a church or its system.
Keep the main thing the main thing. If we can focus on the main tenets of loving our neighbors as ourselves and always, always making peace where we can, we’ll do more than just reclaim what religion is all about but, but we’ll make the world a better place in the process.
Next week, I’ll wrap up this whole Science vs Religion series with some examples of how Science and Religion actually have each other’s backs on several issues.