|In this post:|
Religion/Philosophy and Science should
be partners in humanity's search for its
role in the Universe.
Here are some thoughts on how Religion
must evolve to serve that purpose.
What do you think of these ideas?
In Posts 14 and 15, I suggested that Science, far from competing with Religion and Philosophy, should be, ideally, a partner. Both paths to knowledge are needed for the task of discovering and implementing our species’ place in the Universe. The role of Science was discussed in Post 15, along with some of the obstacles that stand in its way. But how are Religion and its cousin, Philosophy, to make their contribution?
Given that both Science and Religion/Philosophy are essential tools for learning humankind’s purpose in the Universe, how have they, over the ages, performed?
Science has, after a slow start, become a very impressive and productive tool — especially in the last 500 years or so. However, unless it can kick some of its more recent habits, (see Post 15) it might well be at its most productive right now.
As for organized religion, no matter how its performance is measured, it is now probably close to its lowest point since the Dark Ages. Sadly, most of organized religion’s woes have been self-inflicted. These issues include:
Fundamentalism, violence, and the loss of adherents (See Posts 4 and 5) The three Abrahamic religions have traditionally chosen, to differing degrees, to declare their scriptures to be the Word of God — true, inerrant, and unchanging. In ancient times, this belief structure provided stability and imbued the scriptures with authority.
However, scholarship since the Enlightenment, in fields ranging from text analysis, to science, to history and archaeology, has challenged the concept of divinely given scripture, and set in its place the understanding that the scriptures are the works of humans, created over a lengthy period of time. Modern scholarship has also shown that much of the scriptural understanding of the Universe and the history of humankind is either incorrect or mythic.
For some, these changes have produced crises of faith. Many have either left or become distanced from their religion. For these people, the scriptures upon which the faith is based seem irrelevant, incomprehensible, or just plain wrong.
In other cases, the challenges to orthodox belief about scripture have produced the opposite effect. Instead of accepting the results of modern science, followers have clung ever more tightly to traditional beliefs, moving toward fanaticism, fundamentalism, and a shutting out of the modern world.
Condemnation of sexuality The astounding error of confusing sexuality with sin has adversely affected the lives of countless people both within and outside of the church, including women and children. It has also driven many people to reject religion in its totality. What a complete misunderstanding of the nature of humans!
Exclusion or debasement of women Many, if not most, traditional religions have been strongly patriarchal. Not only have women not been allowed into the governance of these organizations, but their role in worship and in just about every other aspect of life has been severely limited and controlled. Effectively excluding half of the human race as equal participants has not strengthened organized religion’s ability to advance human knowledge and understanding. Although many if not most religious organizations have rushed to fix this problem, that has not been completed, and, in any event, most of the damage has already been done.
Where Does Religion Go From Here?In spite of its many issues and current weaknesses, Religion of one sort or another will probably survive as long as the human race does, mainly because it appears to be something we have been endowed with as part of the creation of the Universe. (See Post 9 about spirituality brain parts and a spirituality gene.) However, organized Religion as we know it will survive or die based on its ability to face its current problems and adapt to future ones.
One such problem, and one that is arguably the major obstacle to our species’ progress, is that of human evil. In every generation a minority of people commit legal and moral crimes including theft, racism, violence, murder, bullying, rape and terrorism. While we argue about what roles both nature and nurture play in this phenomenon, questions abound. Why doesn’t punishment work? What can be done to completely eliminate human evil? Would a society without evil experience a reduction in energy, entrepreneurism, drive or creativity? So far, in spite of condemnation from just about every form of Religion, evil persists. Is it possible that an evolved Religion, working with Science, could finally succeed in removing this scourge?
It probably won’t surprise you to know that I have some ideas about the ways in which Religion might best evolve. I will elaborate on these ideas in future posts. For now, though, I’ll simply list them, in the hopes that they will stimulate questions, comments and challenges from you, Dear Readers. In fact, the next two posts will be my responses to the comments that I have already received, as well as those that come in response to this post. Here are my thoughts on the ways in which Religion should evolve in order to best serve humanity. What I would hope to see is:
- A move toward Cosmotheology, which focuses not just on our single, very small world, but on the entire, unspeakably immense Cosmos.
- The construction of Rational Religion, based not on scripture, but on information, much of it supplied by Science.
- A theology that is future-based, that anticipates issues and proposes questions to Science.
- A practice of practical prayer and meditation coming from thankfulness and self-examination.
Let me know what you think. Please either use the Comment feature of this blog, or send me an email.