Humans have turned to religion and to science for answers about the vast, mysterious world we live in. Neither science nor religion however have succeeded in guiding humanity to a healthier, kinder engagement with each other and the planet.
Paradoxically mainstream science and religion considered to be polar opposites, have fundamental similarities. While we can argue that both have contributed to humanity, both have also been manipulated in service of agendas that are dangerous to people and planet. The pious attitude towards science that justifies exploiting and damaging life in order to learn about it, is as dangerous as any organized religion that justifies oppression in the name of an abstract God.
In our devout pursuit of religious righteousness we are oppressing the rights of people, animals and the planet. In our pursuit of “scientific knowledge” for the sake of knowledge, we are destroying life.
Motivated by fear, greed and ignorance, we are abusing these systems to interfere with the fabric of life while marketing this interference as righteousness and scientific progress.
We are investing billions of dollars in sophisticated technologies for human “advancement” and “benefit” while depleting the soul of humanity and the earth that sustains us. The stamp of “scientific evidence” to justify the development of dangerous but lucrative products is not very different from the way some religious institutions use the divine to justify greed and oppression.
We have anointed these two separate systems as authorities regarding the world we live in, one based on rational, scientific knowledge and one on faith. We have bestowed on the representatives of these systems the authority to define that which is true. However, with the advent of the information age, and the range of opinions and scandals in the arenas of both religion and science, it is increasingly evident that neither, on their own, can be reliable guides for healthy human culture.
Both religion and science evolved as constructs that promise to give ultimate answers to life, and as such appeal to human fear and confusion in the face of the unknown. Both offer comfort in the belief that the world can be known and that there are authorities who can guide us through our perplexity.
In some ways both science and religion have been abused to create cultures dependent on external authority for greed and power. While religion focuses on faith and science on the rational mind, both emphasize learning through one primary channel of mental engagement. Both have been used to alienate people from cultivating innate wisdom and authority through learning from their own direct multi-sensorial experience of the world. The ways religion and science are often taught blunt the development of integrative intelligences and the capacity for empathy, kindness and compassion.
Both science and organized religion are often presented as superior to other frameworks and this hierarchical notion entrenches the dependence on these frameworks. This dependence, whether on science or religion, can then be abused for political, ideological and financial agendas. Those with resources are able to leech onto religious and scientific institutions to market their own sinister agendas.
For the world to benefit from religion and/or science it is essential that we transform our attitude towards them and the way we educate about them. We need to liberate them from the manipulative cultural marketing that positions official representatives as authorities on truth and reality.
A healthy relationship with religion and science is more likely to exist when we shift from arguing that which is “true” and “right” to exploring that which is most kind and healthy.
It is important to expose students to different perspectives within each field as well as to complementary areas of knowledge and wisdom beyond religion or faith. It is also important to teach not only critical scientific thinking, but also the capacity to discern the impact of beliefs and practices on the long term health and vitality of people and planet.
For people to be able to discern what serves health and well-being and what obstructs them, it is essential that we cultivate the ability to learn from direct engagement with life. For a shift to happen we need to position religion and science among other arenas of knowledge and faith rather than as superior to them. Such a shift will reflect an evolution from societies dependent on external authorities to societies that cultivate autonomy and interdependence in service of the wellbeing of the individual and planet.