Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Science and religion: " He believes that there is NO God, and that Mary is His (God's) mother."

I am moved by the beauty of religious thought, sentiment and expression but appalled by its untruth in the popular version. But something in me has always enabled me to synthesize the two into a meaningful pattern. That has always enhanced my capacity for a fuller enjoyment of life and for seeing the ordinary raised to sublime levels. That is why I have never thought it necessary to believe in God in order to be religious or to enjoy the scriptures. In a way, i am like George Santayana about whom it was said, " He believes that there is NO God, and that Mary is His (God's) mother." I have never felt a need for believing in the historical veracity of religious epics or lore in order to be moved by them. For me, the Mahabharata may never have happened or Guru Nanak may never have stopped a falling rock with his palm, and these may only be fine specimen of excellent story- telling but that does not make Nanak any the less relevant or Mahabharata less profound and significant for me. I have always believed that for the most part, religious stories are nothing more than " rumours raised to the level of legends". And I see as clearly as anyone else that there is no proof for that which most religions take for granted. But that does not make me distrust my love for the transcendental mysteries of universe or the enigmas of life. I see no harm in seeing prose as prose and yet continue to refashion it into poetry. I enjoy the prose of astronomy and the poetry of the stars at the grandest scale. Even if life could be reduced to the dullest detail by science, we will never be short of an Einstein standing at the shores of Atlantic and pondering the infinite unfathomability of the universe. I recognise science as the mathematics of poetry, and find both equally respectable. I see both science and religion as essentially human endeavours towards truth, and their over-stated contradiction also as a necessary condition for human advancement.But both have to keep growing.The good news is that there enough religious people willing to trust their health to science of medicine and there are enough scientists willing to be lost in the rapturous spiritual delights of transcendental literature and music . The trouble with followers of religion is their refusal to accept science and reason as essential parts of the grand cosmic design; the trouble with followers of reason and science is a certain lack of patience with and open-ness towards things that exist outside the explainable truths of life. Both speak in the name of all pervasive truth, and both have their own versions of that truth - an attitude that inflicts injustice on both science and religion. An enlightened scientist or an enlightened believer in religion both acknowledge the un-knowability of the universe.But one calls it the infinite universe while the other calls it God. The religious man violates the canons of faith when he regards himself as the possessor of knowledge on something he himself calls un-knowable.The man of science who declares that everything worth knowing has already been known and therefore a final verdict on the nature of reality can be delivered plays false to the basic tenets of science. Neither religion in its popular form nor science in the hands of the half-enlightened can provide all the answers. A scientist and a saint share their pursuit of truth. But pop-science and pop-religion will always be at war - in an unseemly cock-fight, in fact. The greatest truths invite both the religious and the scientific minds. The saint and the scientist are both glowing particles among myriads of particles that make up the cosmos.Each lights up his torch to reveal a glimpse of the truth. Neither the saint nor the scientist claims to know the whole truth - not at this stage of human development at least.

A l lot of religious stories will be rejected just as a lot of scientific theories have been rejected or updated. There are no absolute truths anywhere-- certainly not in popular versions of science and religion. However pure science and mystical traditions seem inviting and even tempting as pathways to the understanding truth. A spirit of inquiry is basic to both, although the popular version of religion seems to shut its doors on everything except a blind adherence to dogma. That is not only unscientific; it is irreligious too.

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