Reading about world events today takes a lot of courage. Wars never seem to abate, societies conflict, masses are still oppressed, mass executions occur frequently, world finances fluctuate and millions suffer. Closer to home, divorce rates, drug dependency, civil upset and political acrimony occupy front page news daily. And closest to home, the upwelling of changes in our society continue to sweep us along in a wave of increasing stress, anxiety and even depression.
On top of all this, the anchors on which our ancestors depended for their stability seem to be steadily eroding. An example can be found in the erosion of family stability resulting from the increasing divorce rate. Further, one out of five U.S. adults do not identify with a specific religion, according to a 2012 poll by the Pew Research Center. A 2010 Pew poll finds that fully twenty-five percent of the Millennial generation (born after 1980) are unaffiliated with any particular faith. The increase of middle classes around the world seems to be always accompanied by a decrease in belief.
Even further, these polls find that an increasing number of respondents claim either to be agnostics or atheists. The more militant atheists find the reduction of believers as a sign of the maturing of human society. In their view, best represented by such authors as Richard Dawkins, science is well suited to replace religion as a basis for the continuing development of human society.
Professor Dawkins’ critique of religion and its traditional expressions of belief contains just enough truth to foster disbelief, but insufficient weight to replace the lofty tower of stability that belief has traditionally offered.
We miss the feeling of ‘belonging’ that we found as children in the church, but are uncomfortable with both today’s traditional religious expressions and the thin basis for optimism offered by Professor Dawkins’ science. We do not find answers in either science or religion to the increasingly difficult questions that life continues to pose, questions which must be answered before the consequences of the answers are known.
So we find ourselves in more troubled times in which we seem to have fewer coping strategies. Having been unable to relate to traditional expressions of belief, we put them aside and search for newer, more relevant ways of making sense of the world in which we live, wanting to reconcile rejecting the religion we were raised in with finding a way to make sense of things. As the atheist author, Peter Medawar, acknowledges in his book, “The Limits of Science”, “I regret my disbelief in god and religious answers generally, for I believe it would give satisfaction and comfort to many in need of it if it were possible to discover good scientific and philosophic reasons to believe in God.”
Could there be a third approach that builds on the innate strengths of these two grand schemes, these two approaches to the single reality in which we live? Could the reassurance of religion be distilled from its many expressions, metaphors and myths and alloyed with a science which has found a ‘soul’?
This is the approach that I will take in this blog: using the perspective of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin I will outline the potential for an understanding of reality which on the one hand is based on the amazing findings of science in the last century; and on the other opens new opportunities to reinterpret traditional religious beliefs.
Who was Teilhard?
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French priest, theologian and paleontologist, developed a view of reality informed equally from his study of science and training in religion. He saw the universe as an evolving system whose evolution leads to matter, then to life, then to humans. As a result, he was able to bring remarkable insight to both physical processes and the understanding of the spiritual. In doing so he was able to demonstrate the huge confluence between the teachings of science and the beliefs of religion.
In this blog I’ll explore this confluence to demonstrate that the beliefs of religion can be seen to be remarkably compatible with the ongoing findings of science. Teilhard believed that God can not only be seen through the lens of science, but religion can continue its evolution towards personal relevance as well. Its traditional teachings can be ‘reinterpreted’ in the light of the findings of science to reveal their significance to our daily lives.
“The Phenomenon of Love” Blog, Continued
The preceding blog, “The Phenomenon of Love”, addressed Teilhard’s view of love as the latest manifestation of the unfolding energies of the universe. It addressed the history of the different human approaches to love as well as its treatment by science, philosophy and religion. It summarized love from Teilhard’s perspective, in which love could be seen as the most recent manifestation of the evolving energies of the universe: that which unites us in such a way that the rise of cosmic evolution continues through us. Understanding love as a cornerstone of creation is the first step to understanding the unfolding of the cosmos in terms of both science and religion.
“The Phenomenon of Love” blog can be selected at the top of this page.