Thursday, November 14, 2013

Spiritual History

I was turned on to this video with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Neil Gaiman, and something that Mr. Tyson said stuck with me.

When you look at people who are religious today, who are not in conflict with science, they have viewed their religious texts as a spiritual - something that gives them spiritual support. Not as a science textbook. [...] The conflict in society is when you have those who are still religious, who want to use their religious texts as their access point to understanding the natural world. And persistent efforts of the past to make that happen have just simply failed.
While it's an interesting statement, I think that is misses the mark slightly. The issue, as I see it, is with people who want to use their religious texts (given that Christianity is usually the religion being spoken of, that text is the Bible) as history books. Especially when they treat said texts as a literal, accurate, history of the events that it purports to chronicle.

This is the main problem that drives the conflict, as least as far as I understand the current conflict between certain strains of Christianity and secular science. Once one takes the Book of Genesis as a literal history, many parts of modern science become unacceptable. Not because the Book of Genesis has anything to say about the science, but because the science suggests that a completely different history must have taken place.

And, to a degree, there is yet another conflict that lies under all of this. Mr. Tyson points out that religious people who are not in conflict with science view their religious texts and spiritual documents. But one of the things that I have noticed when it comes to Christians (Evangelicals, mainly) who do see themselves in conflict with science is that they link the spiritual and, more importantly, moral utility of the Bible to it's historical accuracy. So, if there was no Garden of Eden or Great Flood, then the Ten Commandments lose their usefulness as rules.To the extent that this is true, the conflict between science and religion isn't going anywhere.

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