It Pays to Understand Religion

Religion Plays a Major Role in Shaping Humanity

Religion Plays a Major Role in Shaping Humanity All along the arc of humankind, religion has controlled and transformed existence. It continues to arouse passion, inspire crusades, instigate controversy, and arbitrate values.

Whether you are deeply religious, an ecumenical, a nonbeliever, or hold indifference towards organized religion, it pays to understand religion, mysticism, and spirituality. Here’s why: a well-informed understanding of humanity entails an appreciation of the role that religion plays in shaping ideas, worldviews, and events that have an impact not only on the political, economic, social, and cultural memes of the collective but also on the attitudes and behaviors of the individual.

Furthermore, appreciating religious beliefs other than one’s own is a key element of wisdom, open-mindedness, and tolerance.

Religiosity of Scientists

Given the shifting relationship between religion and science, I’ve always been fascinated by the religious and spiritual opinions of scientists.

The collective perception of the interplay between religion and science has changed significantly over time, especially since the 16th century when Francis Bacon pioneered experimental science and unleashed the intellectual development of the scientific discipline. Francis, Galileo Galilei, Blaise Pascal, Isaac Newton, and other titans interconnected their science with their Christian faiths. Present-day scientists such as physicist Stephen Hawking (who is “not religious in the normal sense”) have offered alternative rationalizations of spirituality. Astrophysicist Carl Sagan and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (who said, “not only is science corrosive to religion; religion is corrosive to science”) have aggressively criticized conventional religions.

I shall publish a series of articles where I gather views that prominent scientists hold on faith, God, and their religiosity. On Friday, I’ll feature Jane Goodall, the leading primatologist.

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