“Tra-di-tion! Tradition!” (Science and Religion)
Maybe you’ve seen the film, “Fiddler on the Roof,” and the struggles that the main character, Tevye, has with his children and whether they should conform to tradition or not.
In many ways, the struggle of whether traditions have become outdated or not is the struggle between science and religion, today. I would say (and have said!) we need both. Neither ought to exclude the other.
I join in religious community for some grounding. I follow a liturgical tradition – which, to the outsider, may smack of outdated tradition – because it helps me to observe occasion respectfully, and to use words and images that can connect me to what I believe in ways that other things can’t. So, when I gather with other Christians and we share in Eucharist, or Holy Communion, I don’t believe that we are eating the literal body and drinking the literal blood of Jesus Christ. Instead, I join with other Christians in this ritual to remind me that we are all connected – wherever we come from, whatever we do – and that we are remembered, wherever we may go, having completed whatever we’ve have done. And this ritual is made tangible in the taste and touch of a loaf of bread and cup of wine. …other examples would include the ritual of baptism, or ashes on the forehead on Ash Wednesday, or singing together, or hearing stories of our ancestors in the faith – they all have meaning beyond the literal. The point of religion, as I see it, is to engage in the uniqueness of life in order that life might have meaning for the individual, and we go about doing this in community. Sometimes religious life gets caught up in the details of the corporation, and imposes such institution-building ideas on people (which leads to feelings of guilt, or denial of the individual), and I think that is to its detriment.
At the same time, I’m grateful to the evidence-based observations and learnings of science. In medicine, we have learned all kind of things through experiment and new knowledge. Often, old knowledge is replaced through experimentation and new understanding. In technological advancement, be it computers or airplanes or what-have-you, I am grateful for new advances as well, and am happy to make use of them! New technology often replaces old technology – even to the point where old technology is obsolete and has no further purpose. New learning can often replace old understandings. The point of science, as I understand it (and I say that because I simply have not studied it in depth), is to find final answers – that is, to narrow in on details so that we might know definitively how things work. I am amazed at what we, as a species, have discovered, and continue to be at awe with what we continue to find out! Knowledge really is power.
So, in these musings, I have wondered about the relationship between science and religion. For me, they are not exclusive by any means. So, science and religion are both necessary. I have thought that perhaps one way of looking at the two and how they related is this: Science works to have checks in place so no one is wrong; Religion works to have checks in place so no one is right.