In its earliest forms, religion’s purpose was to provide an explanation for patterns in nature observed by mankind. All across Europe, archaeologists have found ancient “Venus figurines” that are thought to have symbolized fertility, something that was necessary for survival. Among other evidence, these figurines show that the hearts of mankind are prone to worship something greater than ourselves.
Archaeology and the Bible
Aczel dedicates an entire chapter to rebuking the claims that there is not archeological evidence for stories and people from the Bible. Many ossuaries, chests built to preserve human remains, have been discovered with inscriptions including “Simon, Builder of the Temple” and “Joseph son of Caiaphas.” The most significant discovery has been that of the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in the late 1940’s in Qumran. The scrolls, which contain every book of the Bible except Nehemiah and Ester, are dated from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D by archaeologists.
When discussing science and religion, an image of Galileo arguing with the Catholic Church almost always comes to mind. Like many scientists of his day, Galileo had no personal agenda to discredit religion; he simply sought the truth. In fact, the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe originated with Aristotle, not the Bible or the Church! Galileo’s unjust persecution and enduring discoveries show that adapting Church teachings based on new discoveries does not spell disaster for religion.
Creation and the Big Bang
Georges Lemaitre, a Belgian Catholic priest, first proposed the Big Bang theory in 1927. While many religious people today seem to be at odds with the scientific consensus here, the idea of our universe starting from one single point aligns quite nicely with the idea of God as Creator. Aczel writes that “we do not – and perhaps cannot – know what caused the Big Bang or what, if anything, existed or happened before it."
Since the Scopes trial, the theory of evolution has been seen as a sort of boogeyman plotting to discredit religion. However, this was not Charles’ Darwin’s intention when he first published On the Origin of the Species. Darwin, who studied theology at Cambridge University, wrote in the conclusion of his landmark work, “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed [“by the Creator” was later added] into a few forms or into one…” In addition to Darwin’s consideration of a Creator God, Aczel notes that while evolution serves its purpose of explaining where we come from biologically, it does not sufficiently address some qualities of our nature, such as human altruism.
Aczel goes on to address many other issues including quantum mechanics, probability, and art. What’s clear from his book is that religion and science are only incompatible when one views the other with fear and hasty judgment. Life’s greatest questions should be discussed openly and guided both by science’s verifiable methods and religion’s reminders of our purpose to seek what is good, holy, and true.
(courtesy of believenet.net)
(courtesy of believenet.net)