Religion & Science Are Not At Odds
The multitude of studies that have been done over the past few years to determine the cause of so many people identifying as having "no religion" reveals that one of the main reasons is that religion (and Christianity in particular) is "anti-science."
There's some truth in that assessment, to be fair.
Because I travel in the Christian lane of religious thought, I can speak with some authority about what I have observed firsthand, and the anti-science voices within Christianity speak loudly and frequently enough to verify that assumption.
Many Christians assume (because that's what they've been taught) that the Bible should be taken literally, even the parts that weren't taken literally by the originators who passed them down thousands of years ago.
Perhaps unknowingly, Christians who adopt this stance have entered into a centuries-old debate that goes back to St. Augustine, who wrote about this in 415 AD.
Augustine wrote that to believe the book of Genesis was a factual account of the creation of the cosmos did violence to the Gospel. He went on to say this:
If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?
I've always found it interesting that many thought leaders within the "literally true" camp love to refer to St. Augustine to bolster their theological beliefs, but they always seem to leave out his writings on biblical literalism.
Why am I writing about this today? Well, I feel like this is one of those topics that deserves some deeper thought by all of us. Our world is becoming increasingly divided over issues like this, and we must know how to respond.
Some of us struggle to answer our friends, co-workers, and loved ones who might believe Christianity is a "one-trick-pony" regarding "foolish opinions about our books."
We don't know how to counter the arguments of people who claim that they reject religion because it is incompatible with science. So, most of us go silent. We don't have to, though.
Some sixty years ago, the philosopher Alan Watt had this to say about the science/religion conflict:
The clash between science and religion has not shown that religion is false and science is true. It has shown that all systems of definition are relative to various purposes, and that none of them actually “grasp” reality.
The fact is there is enough mystery to go around within the spheres of both science and religion. Each has its own foggy regions that are unknown, and each struggles to grasp reality.
As it turns out, God defies all of our attempts to explain God.
You can be a Christian and embrace science. A great many texts from the Bible that so many Christians want to take literally were not meant to be. The truth within them transcended the "facts," and the authors were fine with that.
You can also be a science-minded person and embrace Christianity. Christians are not single-minded on biblical literalism; many believe in embracing the considerable truths within the mystery of our faith.
May we find new ways of knowing and seeing grounded in the mysteries of what we don't know, even as our faith seeks understanding.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all, now and forever. Amen.