Science and Religion
Natural science is the study of nature and religion is the study of how to live. Religion is the collective knowledge of humanity on what works in living one’s life in the world. Natural science does not tell us how to live or what the world is or its purpose but rather how it works. What the world is and it’s purposes are metaphysical questions and cannot be answered by the Scientific method. They are questions for philosophy and religion.
The minute science begins to try to tell us what the world and its purpose is, it ceases to be science and becomes philosophy or even religion. Science cannot tell us what the world is any better than it can tell us what gravity is and for that matter, what science is. If you say science is the study of nature you have not told me what it is but rather what it does. For example, for measurement, gravity could be labeled a force but that does not tell you what gravity is but rather what it is like. But what is a force? Science mainly tells us how things behave and attempt to measure their behavior, and it often does this by the use of metaphors. A good example of this is light. Sometimes light behaves like a wave and other times like a particle. On the other hand, religion also uses metaphors to explain life and right living. These metaphors come in the form of stories, myths and similes.
Humans attempt to label and define everything with words. It is our way of bringing order out of the chaos of existence. Science, Philosophy and religion are the tools we use to do this labeling. These disciplines are often so intermingled that it’s impossible for the majority of people to even get close to separating them. Science is based on facts that can be demonstrated and tested and Philosophy is based on things inferred from the facts. The problem is that inferences that are inferred from the facts can be infinite. These inferences could be called hypothesis, or a stronger word could be theory. A hypothesis has little or no factual evidence of its truthfulness; a theory on the other hand has evidence, but many lack the means of testing it or falsifying it. If these two things are absent, a theory will always remain a theory. e.g. String theory.
There are two predominant philosophies that attempt to explain what the world is. They are materialism and dualism. Materialism is the belief that everything is made up of matter. Dualism is the belief that a second ingredient exists which they may call, spirit, consciousness, life force or something, which is unseen. It is important to remember that the ancients did not concern themselves with the nature of the seen or unseen. They simply accepted the fact; there were things that we see and there were things we could not see.
The philosophies of materialism and dualism are not the dominant philosophy because they have been proven by science. Both have been around a long time and were embraced before modern science was created. You could call them the philosophies of existence, but neither should be called science in a true sense of the word. Both have an element of faith. The materialist believes that only matter exists but makes a leap of faith when he adds the word ‘only’. The dualist has the problem of testing what they would call spirit.
However, when everything is said, the debate between materialism and dualism will not settle the question, does God exist? The debate if ever won would rather, simply help determine the definition and nature of the deity, which is quite impossible to know to begin with, if we are talking about the God of the Bible, who some theologians within the church referred to “as the nothingness” to ensure they did not insult him with a belittling description.
The Great Atheist Illusion
The greatest illusion embraced by the atheist is not that there’s no God but rather that they are free from illusions. The belief that you are free of all illusions is the most dangerous illusion of all for it opens the floodgates to the acceptance of unreality in a multitude of forms.
It is evident that atheists have not experienced God but how in the world can they deny that others have not experienced Him. Seeing that experiencing God is a personal matter that cannot be judged empirically by outsiders, as no one can get into another man’s mind or body to know how or what he is, or has experienced. However, this is the very thing that an atheist must claim. This claim springs from an illusion of omniscience and an assumption that the only true knowledge must be objective knowledge.
We know that human beings experience pain to various degrees, and that it is impossible for one to experience another man’s pain exactly and to the same degree. The same thing is true of our experience of God. People experience God in different ways and to distinct degrees. Therefore, the atheist claim that there is no God is totally unreasonable and contrary to the experiences of billions of people. Have they tested empirically everyone’s experience of God? The only real claim that they can reasonably make is that they have not personally experienced God. Even so, in their arrogance they go one step further and say that no one has, or can experience God and if they claim they have, they are delusional.
The most that atheists can honestly claim is that they have not experienced God. However, that might be saying too much for they could have encountered God and not recognized it as a God experience. This could be a very likely theorem seeing that their preconceived biases could keep them from recognizing a God experience if they had one. The most that an atheist can say is that they have not had an understandable experience of God. Of course, many atheists will say, if they have not experienced God, that he cannot exist or that God in some way is obligated to reveal to them himself in such a way that he would be undeniable. They seldom blame themselves for accepting an ideology or world view that will not allow them to experience God. It could be that they’re like a blind man who denies the existence of color because he cannot see it or has not experienced it and then blames color for their inability to see it.
In the end, the old saying that a man with an argument will never convince the man with an experience is true. The only person in whom the atheists experience will stick and will move to their unbelief are those who have never experienced God and are already in a sense in the atheist camp. The atheist will never be able to argue that God does not exist, with a man who has experienced Him. That would be like telling a man who was rescued from the sea, by an other man in a lifeboat, that the other man did not exist.
Humans come to know things through many ways. We learn through our mind, but we also learn through our other senses. In actuality, our mind processes the information that we get through our other senses. However, if some sense has been crippled or damaged, we may become dead to that sense and no longer be able to experience it or the things that it was created to sense. It could be also that some knowledge requires more than one sense and channel. I think this is the case with the knowledge of God. The knowledge of God requires the whole man. If any part of the man has been damaged or disabled it becomes increasingly hard for that man to experience God in any meaningful way.
Therefore, talking to a hardened atheist is like talking with a handicap man who doesn’t know that he’s handicapped. I once talked to a young atheist who I knew growing up, who had grown up in a very dysfunctional family where there was a great deal of brokenness. His parents claimed to be Christians and for whatever reason they could not work through their dysfunction. This environment caused him to be bitter towards his father and somewhat towards his mother. The bitterness not only hardened him from having a relationship with his father but it also hardened him to having faith in God. Being an intelligent person he had to come up with a rational explanation for his lack of faith. His self-justifying mechanism is the source of his unbelief and not his intellect.
Does the Earth’s Size Matter?
I often hear people say that people in Biblical time believed that the earth was the center of the universe. This is truly a miraculous statement seeing that people in biblical times in general did not even know there was a universe. The truth is, it was early scientist’s who believed that the earth was the center of the universe, not biblical writers.
Furthermore, it was not until the 20th century that the idea of an expanding universe was set forth by Hubble. The consequence of that discovery was that the earth became relegated by pseudoscience to an insignificant place within the universe. This dogma of insignificance was totally based on its size and place of the earth in the universe. This thinking could be akin to saying that a man’s importance is based on how big he is and where he lived at a particular time and place. I guess these folks believe that if God created the world that he would’ve created it as the biggest planet in the universe for man to inhabit. Of course, this thinking comes from the childish idea that big is better or that God is just a big man. Therefore, he must create a big place for the beings created in his likeness.
From a theological point of view and a rational point of view, the earth’s significance may have nothing to do with its size or place within the universe but rather with its function. Could it’s importance be found in the fact that God placed the creature created in his likeness on the earth to grow and mature into the sons of God? Could the whole thing be based on relationship and purpose and not on size? There are numerous schools throughout our nation, some big some small, some better than others. However, when my kids were in school, I was interested in their small school more than any other school in the land, you see sometime importance is based on relationships and not size. God has no little people and no little place He just has relationships. “God is love”.
Rejecting the God of the Child
I have had a number of people tell me that they rejected God when they were a child. When someone says this in most cases what they rejected was not the true God but rather the wrappings of religion or a child’s view of God. For a child, most of religion does not make sense, especially the so-called worship service where the seated child’s feet are hanging in midair, and someone is preaching a message above their heads about a subject they are not much interested in.
Some children as they grow into adolescence confuse or equate the rejection of religion with the rejection of belief in God. However, it is quite doubtful that any child would have the intelligence and the experiences of life to reject a mature view of the deity which their young minds are incapable of conceptualizing. In most cases, what they reject is an anthropomorphic or personal corporal view of God, i.e. God is a man sitting upon a throne in heaven. Of course, this picture thinking of God as a man would’ve been rejected by many if they had matured in their faith anyway. The adult mind understands that the spiritual (unseen), and the physical are linked by metaphors and symbols that cannot be taken literally. This is not only true in religion but in science as well. I am still astonished at the number of atheists who cannot or refuse to look at these concepts metaphorically.
It may be time to rethink your beliefs about the unseen with your adult mind. Try to think of God as pure spirit or pure personality. If you are into reason try super consciousness. If you’re into morality try thinking of him as the highest good. If you are into relationships try thinking of him as pure love. The Apostle John did refer to Him as love. “God is love”. However, remember that anything that we compare God within our human experience will fall short of the reality. God is greater than any mortal mind can imagine so at best we must use metaphors and similes to speak of him. Otherwise, he would not be God. If you want to know more about the true God check out my blog lyleduell.me