One of my more recent readers, who goes by the moniker "John", has raised a rather interested side-thought with regards to my most recent post: "Religion: A Soothing Balm for The Masses?" He has opined that, despite the obvious flaws and terrible ramifications of religion (Which I have highlighted from time to time in my blog), homo sapiens can derived some good out of the concept of Religion, and as far as the Space Age is concerned, humans will eventually bring their infantile beliefs to the stars and beyond.
Its a chic thought, I admit, and although I was inclined to denounce the whole idea as complete baloney, I will perhaps elucidate my thoughts and highlight several flaws of this rather cheesy "space age religion" argument.
The Advent of The Space-Age
It is almost a given to state that sooner or later, the first man will step on the Martian landscape, and Man will almost certainly colonize the Moon, either within this century or the next. As science and technology progressively open up new frontiers for our civilization, it is inevitable that we will be more reliant on Science than at any one point in the history of human civilization.
Having said that, John inevitably raises the question; in his own words: "Should we abandon Religion or fix it? Religion is simply a means for humans to rationalize the great unknown that confronts and bewilders us......Rather than abandon the benefits derived from Religion, perhaps it might be more beneficial to abandon the falsifications and failings of Religion."
John is spot on with regards to the "falsifications and failings of Religion": Either through deliberate subterfuge or sheer ignorance, us humans have inherited from Religion a vast amount of half-truths and hogwashes. The Holy Babble, for example, claims that the world was created in 6 days, a massive, singular flood killed almost every life on Earth, save those on both Noah's Ark, Jonah was supposed to survive in a fish's stomach without being digested by its gastric fluids, and lest we forget, the rather "virginal" story of Jebus' virgin birth.
Falsehoods aside, religious and sectarian violence have caused the ruin and destruction of empires (most notably the Roman empire), nations, peoples of various cultures wholesale, and it is not uncommon for religious teachers of all manner and creed to abuse their vested powers for their own financial, sexual or other forms of gain.
John seems to hint that we should discard all these "evils" that seem to plague Religion since time memorial, and the gist of it should be retained and carried for as a "emotional, philosophical" baggage in the form of a quasi, space-age religion, as we begin to jet off into infinity and beyond.
Can Religion & Science Co-Exist?
A crucial question to John's supposition will be a question of two conflicting schools of thought: More often than not Religion stands at direct opposition to Science. When Galileo suggested that the planets revolve around the Sun, instead of Earth being the center of the Universe, he was charged with heresy. The Scopes trial in the early 1900s put Darwinism on trial, and even in the advent of 21st century Science, we have to deal with religious nuts who staunchly refuse to have blood transfusions, vaccinations for cervical cancers and other medical treatments because of the rigid demands of their respective religious dogmas.
All these conflicts and dilemmas are not simply one-offs or mere coincidences, as some moderates may concur, but rather because of deep-seated differences etched within the philosophies of both schools of thought: Science requires evidence for its suppositions, and every preposition and hypothesis must be justified with solid evidence and data. It thrives on bringing forth the truth, and is not afraid to admit its failings: Potential Falsifiability is applicable to all scientific theories and laws, which states that every scientific knowledge has the potential to be wrong one way or another.
Religion, however, rests its reputation on third, or latter person testimonials, one-off dogmas, and supernatural tales that are at best wild, deluded stories concocted by deluded, albeit talented story-tellers of the ancient world. Most, if not all the incredible claims can neither be justified nor proven, and faith or blind belief must be invoked in order to justify the dogmas of an ancient, archaic religion. Unlike Science, Religion demands for total servility and obeisance to its vast throngs of dogmas and moral codes, leaving no room for questioning and discerning.
Space Age Religion?
With all due respect to John, I am not inclined to buy into the idea of a hybrid Space Age Religion, although I fear that Religion, like the rat that hides in the cabins of ships, Religion will be unwittingly shipped out into Space along with pious Spacemen who have crazy inclinations to convert a Martian or two on the trot.
Religion, with its rigid dogmas and outright rejection of evidence, concerns itself not with truth, but total piety and obedience. This nonchalant attitude towards Scientific endeavor will only hinder the progress of Science as humans seek to surmount the immense difficulties of forging into the almost infinite realms of space.
Like John, I agree that there is beauty in Religion, albeit from a mostly aesthetic point of view: The beauty of the Sistine Chapel, the angelic voice of Gregorian chants, the awe-inspiring Taj Mahal, and so on. Having said that, we should not ignore the bloodthirsty history and lessons behind these beautiful monuments, if only because we do not wish to repeat the vicious cycles of religious genocides yet again on a more "inter-planet" scale, if that is one way of putting it.
After all, the last thing we want is an Inquisition on the Moon.
"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful."
-Seneca the Younger
(For A More Detailed Read of John's Site, Kindly Proceed Here. )