Michael Battalio

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Serious Conversations (part 6)

A bit of a disclaimer, this is the sixth in series of serious blog posts about religion and philosophy. If you have ever chatted with me about philosophy and religion and very much disagree, be prepared for that to continue.
These are my responses (Edited, of course, to offend as few people as possible; although offense is inevitable with me.) from a conversation I am having with an atheist friend of mine about the meaning of life, consciousness, physics, the kitchen sink, religion and a couple of moral issues thrown in to boot. This entry is about the origin of God and Science.

My friend and I have taken up several other topics, but we are currently revisiting religion. I will post our conversations on family, art, and a comment on what we want to do with our lives further on in the series.
I began the conversation:
The older I get, and the more stuff I learn about, the harder and harder it is to believe in a religion.  Being a child and believing in a religion is easy because children can be convinced of everything.  Which, from a atheist’s perspective, is why religions force parents to teach their children about faith at an early age (It could also be why in the Catholic Church you must agree to raise your children Catholic if you want to be married in the Catholic Church.) because they are so impressionable, and it’s easy to convince them to believe.  The older I get the more I realize that if I hadn’t been raised in a religion, I probably wouldn’t be religious.  This is a scary thought.  Religion could be the second Christmas myth, and unlike Santa Claus, when we get old enough no one tells us that Jesus is just a made up story for the sake of the holiday, which is quite possible.  The question becomes, where did religion come from?  If it’s just something that we conscript children into, who conscripted the first generation?  Could Jesus be a real person?  What about Moses, Mohammad, Buddha? How unlikely is a God who created all of us?  What about a Son who died for us?  (Notice I still capitalize the names.  I still haven’t given up on religion completely.)  If God didn’t create the universe, where did it come from?  Perhaps the answer is in front of us; perhaps we will never know.

To sum up my friend’s reply: Humans, being curious and having a desire to understand all that they see, came up with way to explain all the phenomena around them. God was attributed as the doer of the unexplainable. If there was not an obvious explanation it must be God. And humans wishing to control whatever they can to better their condition created religion via ceremonies, rites, sacrifices, worship, to influence of that entity with controlled the unexplainable.
She continued: Just like religion, science was conceived to explain what was confusing. Science was just another method to make order of the chaos. And like religion, science has changed over the ages.  The science we know today is not like the science of the ancient Greeks. What we consider science today is based on the, well, scientific method: developing a hypothesis and testing to see if that hypothesis is correct. Before the scientific revolution, science was not this. Scientists used Aristotelian logic to try to derive truths about the world without much experiment, most of which turned out wrong.  
Science and religion did not really become separate things until around the 1800s or so, and they didn't come into direct conflict until much later, when people began questioning one from the other’s point of view. My point is that religion and science are sort of different ways of addressing the same questions (explaining the things we don't understand).  But you can't really judge one of them by the other one's rules and standards.

Well, where does this leave me?  At best I can believe with the part of me that still has faith.  (Faith being believing in something which by definition you have no proof of.)  And calling myself agnostic with the scientific part of me.  I’m not saying that science and religion contradict each other.  As my friend said, they were created as different methods of explaining the same world. And today, many religions embrace science. I’m saying that science doesn’t need religion, and that religion can adapt itself to whatever science proves.  There will never be a way to prove religion wrong.  Religion will always redefine itself.  But the question is, do I still have faith?
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