Science and religion aren’t necessarily incompatible. Religion just needs to be able to adapt to new certainties and proven scientific realities.
Let us, for the moment forget our religious beliefs and start to construct a view of reality based on actual science (and not speculative science, either).
The Universe is quite old. We can see something like 13 or 14 billion years into the past, so the scientific conclusion is: the Universe is at least 13 or 14 billion years old OR God created an illusion for us. I rule out this second possibility merely because God seems to have created a rational universe in which we have been able to create and verify certain beliefs based on trial and error, on postulates, laws, and constant testing and revision which are the hallmarks of science.
And, my second conclusion (as you may have already guessed) is that the proven laws of science are the structure and discipline used in the Creation (if there was a Creation). In other words, the actual laws of the actual Creator include, at the very least, the laws of science. These are laws that cannot be violated. They are proven, reliable, and inviolate. The Universe is relatively stable in that the proven laws all see the amount of energy+matter as being stable in any region of space excepting outside influences and intrusions. E=mc2 means that if energy is created, matter is diminished proportionally and in the same vicinity and vice versa. The Big Bang Theory, though around for ninety years and modified repeatedly, relied initially on a number of assumptions whose proof have been illusive and (in my opinion) speculative. Negative matter, substances that repel matter and, if combined with matter, produce nothing, haven’t been found or produced. Instead, particles of opposite charge combine to produce precisely the amount of energy which Einstein’s equation predicted. Furthermore, negative matter would imply the existence of negative energy. As we experiment with temperature, we discover that we cannot reach zero degrees Kelvin and we have discovered (so far) that going past it to negative absolute temperatures appears to be impossible. No other actual negative energy (or matter) has been found despite a lot of looking and speculation.
My third postulate is that all “sacred” texts are the work of mankind and that it may be impossible for any current human to understand the nature and goals of a being capable of creating an immense universe composed of more suns than we have sand on each and every beach, capable of creating everything out of nothing, and capable of seeing entire solar systems enveloped in impossibly energetic explosions and then new solar systems, galaxies and groupings of galaxies recreated in their place. Please note that I can’t rule out a single primary cause/creator/watcher/super-parent. I can, however, be reasonably sure (after all the erroneous, self-serving, self-aggrandizing,and impossibly anthropomorphic attempts so far) that understanding and reasonably translating His/Her/Its communications, if any ever existed, is a task not accomplished without all (or, more difficult to prove, any) of the aforementioned faults. The best hints about our Creator seem to have all come from science and not prophets or soothsayers or holy men.
This does not imply that spirit, soul, or something ethereal doesn’t exist and I don’t even try to rule out their or God’s existence. However, I have observed enough “religious” attitudes and behaviors to rule them out as not conducive to “peace on Earth, goodwill to all men [and women].”
The concepts of “good” and “evil” have, in and of themselves, caused and exacerbated a great deal of mischief and mayhem in the world. When used excessively, these words are a common precursor to violent, aggressive, and ineffective behaviors. The use of the word “evil” almost always precludes seeing the other side of an issue and seeing ones own faults and misdeeds contributing to the dispute. The label “evil” usually presages an irrational escalation of animosity and misunderstandings.
So, while “evil” may exist, the identification of its causes (and its uses) seems elusive and often counter-productive for those of us more pragmatic individuals that wish for all earth life to continue, grow, and prosper as the highly interactive and interdependent unified whole that it actually is and, quite possibly, was meant to be.
Separating out an “us” and a “them” has caused us many deep-seated problems and heartaches. We have succumbed, in the past, to aggrandizing certain families and, almost without thought or intention, belittling others due to some often irrelevant difference.
During the Dark and Middle Ages in Europe, a single family ruled everywhere and called itself “nobility.” They sponsored long and bloody wars among themselves to keep their populations weak, fearful, and obedient and they demonized and slandered their close relatives in nearby “countries” or “empires” to create fear and enmity with which to maintain control of their own territories and “subjects” while expanding their influence and power by robbing and brutalizing “foreigners,” “infidels,” “savages,” and various forms of “evil menace,” and “existential threat.” During this time, they were aided and abetted (and sometimes opposed) by the second and third sons of “nobility” who changed their names to hide their links to secular rulers and walked “in the [gilded and expensive] shoes of the fisherman.”
One difference between “us” and “them” has been whether your mother was considered descended from Sarah, the wealthy and beautiful wife who seduced rulers and gained wealth and power for her husband with “God’s” assistance or whether your mother was descended from Hagar, Sarah’s slave who was forced to have Abraham’s firstborn by Sarah and a bunch of angels presumably sent by an exclusively Jewish God.
Another distinction has been whether you were credulous about certain unusual claims about the parentage of a Jewish man that lived 2,000 years ago and whether you believed the words attributed to Him and whether you followed the “leadership” of His “representatives” on Earth, many of whom have been shown to be scoundrels and mistaken in their leadership of the societies they pontificated over.
And still another distinction was whether you believed in the words of another “Prophet” named Muhammad. While “Prophets” were once thought to be the wisest and holiest among us, an unbiased review of their “revelations” often discovers nonsense and self-serving, self-aggrandizing hyperbole.
Our leaders have used these distinctions and many others to divide and confuse us. Currently, you are either “red” or “blue” and this distinction separates two ostensible “realities,” one supporting Democratic claims of malfeasance in office by Republicans and one supporting Republican claims of malfeasance in office by anyone who doesn’t follow Donald Trump’s leadership and “wisdom.”
And it’s all part of the same thing: people finding ways to get our emotions stirred up and thus win our uncompromising loyalty and credulity.
So what if we discarded all this and started over? What if we tried to imagine a God/Higher Power/Creator that was the God of all things, living and inanimate? What if everything was “holy” and “sacred” and owned, not by us but by some unimaginable “Creator”? How would we handle these “gifts” that were not to hoard but to give and share and use for the common good and the best possible win-win outcome for everything? How would we, how could we not be grateful and joyful and generous with all we’ve been given?
©David Ney Dodson, Phoenix, AZ, September 2021