Atheism may well be on its way to becoming the new cool religion. Its evangelists have constituted a vocal minority of well learned scientists and humanists seeking to define the parameters of truth and reality.
But, religion goes beyond spirituality alone. It is a deep rooted ideology that guides action. It is a worldview capable of inspiring great good or great evil in the hearts of men. Mankind determines what he employs belief for. Some of the greatest scientists and humanists believed in God. Therefore, religion does not preclude reason or compassion.
I should point out that religion and Christianity (to which I subscribe) are not interchangeable. Studying the Bible, you will discover that Jesus was strongly opposed to the traditions & religions of the time. He did not come to create new ones. He recognised that the grand experiment of the “Law” and the requirements of the Old Testament were inadequate in helping mankind to develop a relationship with God. So he ushered in a new way – a relationship that inspires lives and is focused on fundamental principles of love. The word Christian, thus became the descriptor of a lifestyle and ideology built on grace. It was not the name of a new religion. But mankind, as it is wont to do, developed an incredible system of norms, edicts & doctrines around God’s free gift and religion was formed. Jesus did not do that. We did. Let’s own it.
Now, whether you believe in an external force that sparked the beginning of the known world, or believe it happened by chance or subscribe to Stephen Hawkings’ invisible time doctrine; your belief will greatly influence your approach to science and life.
The Christian faith is not opposed to scientific discovery and does not conflict with it. For example, the Bible does not say the earth is 6,000 years old nor was it created in 6 “calendar” days. Scripture doesn’t make those claims. There is also clear evidence of evolution, improvement and adaptation of species in the world. That God chose to give the breath of life to a flagship creation in the exceedingly long lifespan of the universe does not negate the existence of other species or preceding evolutions. The Earth (and indeed the Universe is very old). I tend to think of creation in batches rather than one continuous production line.
John Lennox in his video lecture, “Has Science Buried God?” explains that “modern” science was propelled by religionists in the western world who believed there was order and design in the world and so they set out to prove it. Their religious worldview created their passion for scientific discovery. It did not limit it. However, some religionists were apalled by what they discovered and so chose to hide some facts or distort them. (Anyone remember the “earth is flat” theory?) Lennox further noted that there are many religious Nobel prize winners and other bastions of science. Louis Pasteur, Issac Newton, Hildegard of Bingen and Leonardo da Vinci spring to mind. Srinivasa Ramanujan, whose story is captured in The Man Who Knew Infinity, believed God was speaking to him through mathematical discoveries. Belief in God did not curtail the scientific pursuits of these giants. A Priest, Lemaître, articulated the principle of the Big Bang. At the time, he was scorned for it.
Atheists like Bertrand Russell say that if God exists, then who created God? I think this question is an important one and it greatly excites me. Pondering it has led me to all sorts of intellectual quests. For the first time, I was able to grasp that truly if God is creator then he must dwell outside of his creation. If he does not dwell in time, then the language of space time cannot describe or constrain him. Without time, there is no “beginning”. For example, if you exceed the speed of light, science posits that you will attain a state of timelessness and words like coming or going will cease to have meaning. Could this be what the Bible describes as Eternity? Is this why God cannot age? Science also tells us that the closer you get to the speed of light, the more the aging process slows down. There’s more. If you do not inhabit space time, can a concept like morality describe your ideology? Will good and evil mean the same thing to you as it does to earthlings? When you use concepts like Father or Son, will they mean the same thing earthlings understand? Thus, atheistic questions thrill me. They make me think!
Growing up, I loved the series, Star Trek. In it the Counsellor of the Spaceship Enterprise, Deanna Troi was half Betazoid, a race with a curious culture. They got married stark naked. Earthlings would consider this lascivious. Another race, the Vulcans were a highly rational species whose sense of morality was quite different from that of Earthlings. It was defined by logic not humanism. My point is, we are willing to believe in mythical creatures that are not subject to the rules and morality of space time but balk at a God who can be.
Science has given us many gifts but has still not been able to resolve a conundrum Descartes, the Philosopher, ruminated on – proving why humanity is self aware and not just a collection of physical elements and neurons. Also, why we are unable to replicate what makes us self aware outside of living beings. In fact, the entire branch of knowledge called Philosophy attempts to explain the seeming irrational aspects of mankind.
Science is currently trying to imbue unpredictable self awareness in machines. It is trying to substantiate the soul. Yet, it rejects the notion of anything outside of the realm of rationality.
Religionists have an interesting record of manipulating the world around them. Those who believe in spirits say that beings outside of man inhabit the earth and can interact with and manipulate it, including inanimate objects. This is how many came to believe in poltergeists. I’m a big fan of science fiction and believe eventually mankind may be able to do what the film, Transcendence, predicts – merging a spirit or soul with a machine. Weird, I know. But if spirits can inhabit humans or pigs, why can’t they control machines?
My central concern in the midst of all this is: no group can use the things they have observed, tested or believed to define absolute truth for others. To do so is to remove the concept of choice and the freedom to adopt a personal worldview. Belief in God should also not be used as a blanket explanation for the things we cannot understand. When we finally understand them, does that remove the need for God? I prefer to take the approach that although God is the initiator of the world, nature and mankind are operators. The buck stops with man to discover, discipline and regulate the world. Belief in God is also not a last resort or comfort of the hopeless, desperate or simple. I know this because my belief to God did not follow this path. Let me share a little bit about my background.
I am a very rational curious being. I was top of my class in Quantitative Analysis in Primary School and went on to score As in Physics and Mathematics in my Secondary School finals. I ended University with a 2nd Class Upper in BioSciences. I understand and love science. I still study Physics today. I am also gifted & creative and have been privileged to hold leadership positions from childhood till date. Finally, I come from a liberal family. I was free to read what I wanted and to live my life according to my personal beliefs. Yet, I chose God. My reason was simple – Science could not explain the yearnings of my heart or the thirst on my soul. Heck, science couldn’t even explain to me what a soul was in adequate terms, not to talk of a spirit. (Those who have experienced malevolent spirits know that such beings are not figments of imagination.) I just felt there was more to life. What that “more” was I didn’t know, but a belief in God made sense to me and still does. I chose to believe in God. I defend that choice and respect any other person’s decision to not believe in God.
Faith has never been antithetical to reason and teaching people that faith is devoid of reason is one of the biggest lies of religion. In Hebrews 11, biblical scripture teaches that faith has substance and is evidential. That same scripture also states that Abraham “reasoned” that God was able to raise up Isaac his son. Faith is not real if it hasn’t gone through a process of reasoning and arrived at a choice to believe God. In John 1, Jesus is introduced to us as the Logos, a Greek concept that inorporates an appeal to reason and logic. It is distinct from pathos (an appeal to emotions) and ethos (an appeal to character).
So what is the “reason” for faith? I’ll answer by first asking this of the scientists who are reading this post – “What is your reason for believing in gravity?” Most likely, it’s because you trust the character of Isaac Newton who wrote the mathematics for it and those who codified it in papers and textbooks. You trust the successive experiments that have upheld its existence over many years. Very few scientists ever bother to personally prove each fundamental theorem undergirding gravity, yet we build other theorems and calculations on its mathematics. Are we working by faith and the work/words of others who have gone before us?
The substance of faith in God is simple. We believe the words attributed to him, the words written about him and his character demonstrated in our relationship with him. We do no more than what others do when they believe in their spouses or parents. And our faith has degrees. For example, I believe God heals because he has healed me. I also believe he uses others to heal. But, I fail to understand why he doesn’t heal everyone.
The central premises of reason, free will and choice are embedded in Christian scripture. But they exist alongside other difficult concepts like followers being punished (or blessed) wholesale for a leader’s decisions. Sometimes, such consequences happen generations later.
In closing this article, I will say this – there are many hard truths in scripture. They challenge me to think. I am not intellectually lazy. But, I accept what God says about himself because of my relationship with him and his actions in my life. If he does not exist, then I must conclude that I am mad, hear voices, have experienced hallucinations and have lived a life entirely built on lies.The Christian faith is not opposed to scientific discovery and does not conflict with it. Click To Tweet