Does it have to be science OR religion?

The Guardian's web site has published a piece on the decline of religion, essentially making the claim that science negates the need for faith among the young. Although statistically, church attendance in the UK has been declining for some years, this is not the same as claiming that people are abandoning Christianity for atheism, or that science is the reason.

 

The article claims that without religion, individuals "have the freedom to determine our own fate and find our own purpose." That's not, of course, entirely true. None of us exists in isolation, and we are all influenced and shaped by the values of our families, friends, those we hold in esteem and the general culture in which we live. And while, within these parameters, we might find our own purpose (our 'fate' being determined by many things that are out of our control as well as our own decisions), each individual's life makes up only a small fraction of the whole of human existence, which itself makes up only a small fraction of all the life that does and has and will exist on earth. When we also consider that the earth is just one planet in a vast universe, the question of meaning and purpose becomes much larger than any one individual.

 

The Guardian article says that, as well as science, the perception of religion as a force for evil - as evidenced, for example, by events in the Middle East - drives young people away from religion. This is probably more accurate. But the truth is that it isn't religion itself that is evil, but, like any system or ideology, people can corrupt and make use of religion for evil purposes. Science, just like religion has been used in this way. The theory of evolution, for example, has inspired such things as eugenics and what is known as Social Darwinism. Atheistic societies are as capable of atrocities as societies that allow or encourage religious faith.

 

Today is Darwin Day - Charles Darwin's birthday - a day to acknowledge and celebrate the great contribution that Darwin made to human knowledge and understanding of life on earth. But we should also acknowledge that science does not provide the answers to all of humanity's questions, nor is it the solution to all of humanity's problems. Religion, despite the ways in which some people misuse it, still has a part to play in exploring the place of human beings in the wider universe, and what it is all about.


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