“The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false,” wrote the thirteenth century philosopher Thomas of Aquinas, and this is as true today as it was then.
That is the most succinct statement I’ve found amongst a deluge of extremely badly written articles around the net that try to argue for a happy coexistence between science and religion, or try to act the rethorical contortionist by claiming two two can never mix.
The bane of knowledge is Google because in certain subjects, the parts of the internet that is emphasised are the parts that argues the most, and links the most. Instead of an academic debate among scholars, what is exposed is the hysterical shrieks of the partisans of the subject.
My theme of the positive aspects of secularisation in Europe is drowned in adverb- and scripture-laden histrionics about pro and con of religion itself. And that makes me think that Aquinas was right eight hundred years ago. The truth of both atheism and faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels when the prophets of either side try to duke it out.
Can an argument be made about the coexistence of faith and religion in one body, that is not itself a contortionist thing? I suppose, althought I admit that I don’t understand how because science does invalidate the religious texts of Christianity. I can’t really speak of Hinduism, Buddhism, or Islam because I don’t know those religions, and I’ve certainly never read the Vedic scriptures or the Quran.
What I mean with contortionist is that it seems like religion must be abstracted, in effect made into a parable or an allegory or a simili in order to fit into a mind that employs critical thinking. And the abstraction of the religious text does in itself remove value from it, and must by necessity make it into something interpreted.
In the interpretation, the universality of the text is removed, and it comes to mean different things to different people. In so doing, and I may be wrong about this, Christinanity has moved from a position of power where you adhered to the dogma in order not to be punished. Today the evangelists try to convince you to become a Christian so that your adherence to dogma leads to rewards. That’s a powerful difference, and a very weakening one. If the sinner is not afraid of punishment, in this life or the next, the only recourse is to promise material wealth in this life. Lord, won’t you give me a Mercedes Benz, as Janis Joplin sang, instead of “Sin no more to avoid the fires of hell”.
Abstraction also removes it from what is observable in nature, and religion is made safe from those observations. This is an ongoing process as we learn more and more about the universe, the Bible is more and more abstracted. During the last hundred years it has gone from being a literal interpretation to a highly abstract one.
We know a lot about the universe today. Not everything by a long-shot – but the advances in geology, biology, medicine, astronomy, chemistry, physics, anthropology, and so on keep pushing the narrative of the Bible out into the fringe. No intelligent and even slightly educated people seriously believe that women were created from the rib of Adam today, or that dinosaurs existed concurrently with ancient man, or that the universe is six thousand years old.
Yet, these notions are being argued strenuously for in one of the most advanced of the Western nations, the United States. There are occurrences here in England too, so the United States isn’t that unique.
In 2008 the Education Director of the Royal Society, Michel Reiss, publically stated that teachers should answer questions about the Christian creation myth. He was quickly relieved from that job after a furious reaction from fellow scientists. Still, about ten percent of the UK population believe in creationism in one form or another.
Even though Thomas of Aquinas eight hundred years ago admonished the faithful to study and learn science, many purposefully chose to not only be ignorant of science, but to actively reject science out of a political narrative that is hard to understand. Not only do they chose for themselves, but also for their children.
The ones that wish to have a scientific mind, and at the same time keep their faith, abstract religion like I said before, but the ones that actively profess a literal belief in the Bible seem to multiply to the point that they’re beginning to have a political impact.
That is a problem because the literal understanding of the Bible is demostrably false, as can be seen in any introductory book of science in many fields, and not only in the “contentious” sciences like Biology. Any textbook about Geology speaks of geological ages, tectonic movements over millions of years, and the formation of the planet billions of years ago.
It seems to me that the idea that science and faith can coexist is coming to an end because of this, and people will start to have to pick a side. Either they can side with the truth that is science, or they can side with the provable untruths of the Bible. Aquinas warning echo down to us through the centuries, and is proven true on a daily basis. But still, I’m not too sure that people with go with reason and rationality, because I’m not certain that people make a rational choice between the two.