Thursday, January 1, 2015

On Religion, Science, and Bumper Stickers

On Religion, Science, and Bumper Stickers -- Is there some kind of contest between science and religion? Why does it have to be either/or? (And other deep thoughts prompted by a bumper sticker.)  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}
I can't say exactly why, but I love a good bumper sticker.

There's just something satisfying about a poignant truth or funny joke that gets its point across using nothing more than a 3"x11" rectangle.

That's why I love to read bumper stickers. I'm probably the crazy lady tailgating you on the highway so I can read yours.

But I guess I don't love all of them. Or agree with them.

After a visit to Children's Hospital, I read a bumper sticker on a car in the parking garage that said, "Science flies people to the moon. Religion flies people into buildings."


I thought about that bumper sticker as I buckled up the baby, crammed the stroller in the trunk, and drove home. 

It bothered me, and not just because the small lettering would probably cause accidents later as people like me tried to get close enough to read it on the road.

True, people do heinous things. Sometimes they use religion as a cloak to do it. But for every act of religious terrorism, I know religion inspires hundreds of thousands more acts of kindess and goodness. For every holy war, there are millions of acts of service done quietly in the name of God.

I'm not just talking about Ghandi and Mother Theresa, although they certainly do count. I'm talking about regular people. I'm talking about myself.

I wasn't always Mormon. I grew up Lutheran and spent my tween years in an agnostic period where I just wasn't interested in religion.

If I hadn't had a change of heart in my teens, I probably wouldn't have become an axe murderer, but I also wouldn't have grown as much as I have in the last 15 years.

My family members will at least tell you that a side effect of my conversion to Mormonism is that I'm nicer to be around.

Spending time in prayer and contemplation forces me to be honest with myself. My faith makes a lot of difference in how I raise my kids and what I think is important to teach them about life.

Because of my faith, I've answered calls to bring meals to new moms, spent time praying for other people's needs, and volunteered for countless hours of church service that I probably wouldn't have done otherwise.

Knowing that I'm accountable to a higher authority than myself makes me a more intentional mother, wife, friend, and neighbor. I think God wants me to make the most of myself and be a force for good in my family and in the world.

Some people use their religious beliefs to justify hurting others, and that's too bad. Because churches are a good thing, not just for individuals, but for society.

Churches give lots of time, money, and manpower in charitable aid. I've been asked by a few friends who aren't religious to invite them to any service-related activities at my church; they say they want to volunteer more but they have a hard time connecting with service opportunities without a church.

Religion is linked to more stable families and better health. Also less violent crime and substance abuse. It's obvious that religious beliefs are tied to your moral values. At church we're taught to be honest, kind, and forgiving  even when no one is watching.

Christianity in specific teaches us to love God and love our neighbor (Matthew 22: 37-40,) and that those two great commandments are inseparably linked. The more active I am in my faith, the more I internalize it.

So in summary, the bumper sticker in the garage and I are going to have to agree to disagree. I think religion has more to offer society than acts of terrorism.

But my main frustration was still something else, a question: Is there some kind of contest between science and religion? Why does it have to be either/or?

When you ladle soup out of the pot, it's still soup, no matter what half of the pot you got it from. To me, truth is just truth. Scientific knowledge and religious knowledge aren't opposites, just different halves of the same pot of soup: science answers the "how" and religion answers the "why."

Science tells me how the universe was formed, religion tells me why God formed it.

Science tells me about the biological makeup of my body, and religion tells me why I'm here on earth at all.

Learning about the physical universe elevates my reverence and awe for God, and it also deepens my appreciation for science. Even at my basic level of understanding, the one strengthens and reinforces my love for the other.

Albert Einstein said that "every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe — a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble."

When I learn about the physics of light  how it behaves, how it moves, how it exists in relation to time  it sheds a whole new dimension on the boatload of light/dark analogies in the Bible and the Doctrine & Covenants (a Mormon book of scripture.)

The more I learn, the deeper I want to dig into both science and religion.

In college, one of Phillip's materials science professors explained how he started keeping a journal of all his spiritual thoughts in his 20s. He did this diligently for decades.

As the years went by and he got further into his career, mathematical equations started popping up in his "spiritual" journal. He was making connections between his spiritual knowledge and his secular knowledge, which really aren't totally independent of each other, after all.

No matter where it comes from, truth is truth.

Hey, maybe I could get that on a bumper sticker.

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Anonymous said...

Well said! I'm new to this blog and really enjoy your writing style, humor and way of explaining things in "lay-mans" terms. I was raised Catholic but don't really practice an organized religion at this point (even though I have a strong belief and love in God). My husband and I are often having the science vs. religion debate and his view is always "either-or" and my view is "why not both - they go together. "

On another note you crack me up with your kid stories and I admire/envy your large family (I only have 3 kiddos)! Keep up the good work!

Jenny Evans said...

There's no "only" in 3 kids! I think I felt as maxed out when I had 3 as I do now. It's hard work! Thanks for adding your thoughts and I hope you keep coming back!

Unknown said...

Thank you for your thoughts, they are so well said. Truth is truth, and when we understand all truth, they will fit together into one great whole.
One of my sons did a science project on Fractals. They are simple equations that can make fake trees look like real trees, all different, but of the same species. They can make coastlines looke like real coastlines. They often look like paisley patterns, with the same repeating design on a smaller and smaller scale. When I learned about them, it came to me, that these equations were used in the design and creation of the earth. Personal inspiration, but I felt its truth.

Jenny Evans (sister, not author) said...

Another excellent post! I love how clearly, thoughtfully, and intelligently you've presented this idea. It's something I think about a lot.

PurpleSlob said...

I definitely agree with you, that science and God work together. After all, God created science!! And God is ultimate truth!
Actually, Christianity is a relationship to Christ, not a religion at all. So, maybe the bumper sticker is right. that religion doesn't have personal relationship with Christ as the foundation, hence the hate and violence.