A Bahá’í perspective
For many centuries there has been conflict between advocates of science and those of religion. There has been a belief that scientific truth contradicts religion and one was obliged to choose between being a religious person and following God’s teachings, or a scientist and being a follower of reason.
Science and religion, in the Bahá’í view, complement each other, like two wings of a bird, and the advantages of both need to be used together, if we are to build a progressive and peaceful society.
Scientific method is our tool for understanding the physical side of the universe and is the key to new technologies. It is this knowledge system, which studies the material universe and teaches us how to generate material means for the advancement of humanity.
Religion is the knowledge system that studies the powers of the human spirit and is concerned with the demands and the desires of our higher nature. It is the fruit of Creative Word of God, which transforms human thought and action. God’s teachings offer to humanity a basis for values and provide answers to moral questions, human purpose, and our relationship to God, which science does not provide.
Believing with conviction and acting with assurance
According to the Bahá’í Scriptures: “When religion is upheld by science and reason we can believe with assurance and act with conviction, …”.
If we look at the religion in its purest form (the way it was revealed through God’s Messengers) it is not opposed to scientific facts. God, Who has given us the gift of the intellect, does not expect us to lay it aside when investigating religious truth.
“All religions teach that we must do good, that we must be generous, sincere, truthful, law-abiding, and faithful; all this is reasonable, and logically the only way in which humanity can progress,“ state the Bahá’í Writings and ”All religious laws conform to reason, and are suited to the people for whom they are framed, and for the age in which they are to be obeyed”. Furthermore, “in divine questions we must exercise reason, analyze and logically examine the facts presented so that confidence will be inspired and faith attained”.
Of course, science does not have answer to every question about human existence. Although, through science we can figure out the “how” of the universe, science alone cannot help us find the meaning of our existence. Insights into profound questions of meaning and purpose of life do not come from science, but from religion.
Complementary roles of science and religion
In general science provides us with tools and means, and religion teaches us how to use them to the best advantage of all humanity. For example atomic energy is useful, but without God’s guidance it can become one of the most destructive forces produced by science.
According to a statement of the Bahá’í International Community: “In the quest for truth, science and religion — the two systems of knowledge available to humankind — must closely and continuously interact. The insights and skills that represent scientific accomplishment must look to the force of spiritual commitment and moral principle to ensure their appropriate application”.
We also have to acknowledge that scientific knowledge and reason make an essential contribution to understanding of the Scriptures. “The principle of the harmony of science and religion” advocated in the Bahá’í Writings “means not only that religious teachings should be studied with the light of reason and evidence as well as of faith and inspiration, but also that everything in this creation, all aspects of human life and knowledge, should be studied in the light of revelation as well as in that of purely rational investigation”.
Independent investigation of reality
The independent investigation of reality, whether scientific or religious, is strongly encouraged in Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings. Individuals should strive, He said, to free themselves from prejudices and preconceptions. According to the Bahá’í Writings: “… in the search for truth man must weigh religious questions in the balance of science and reason. God has given us rational minds for this purpose, to penetrate all things, to find truth”. At the same time “… the principle of harmony between religion and science, while it enables us, with the help of reason, to see through the falsity of superstitions, does not imply that truth is limited to what can be explained by current scientific concepts”.
For civilization to progress the advantages of both religion and science need to be woven together. Religion should guide science ethically, and put to good use rather than bad. Science should be able to provide more answers to those global problems, which as yet have not been seriously addressed. Religion and science, as complementary aspects of human life, need to be seen as two wings, which must work together.
The Bahá’í Writings assert: “Put all your beliefs into harmony with science; there can be no opposition, for truth is one. When religion, shorn of its superstitions, traditions, and unintelligent dogmas, shows its conformity with science, then will there be a great unifying, cleansing force in the world which will sweep before it all wars, disagreements, discords and struggles – and then will mankind be united in the power of the Love of God”.
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