Science and Religion

“We reject any idea that would influence our way of life that is not plausibly supportable by science”

My son Jacob came up with the above statement several years ago, and the rest of us agree with it completely.

We are Christian, and hence believe in a “here-after” (life after death). Such a belief is not plausibly supportable by science, but a belief in a here-after should also not influence a person’s way of life. They should still live a good life, and be ethical, and treat people well, and be honest, all in the same way, whether they believe in a here-after or not. Consequently, a belief in the here-after does not violate the above statement.

Similarly, ideas of “evolution” vs. “creationism” vs. “intelligent design” should not influence the way a person lives their life. They should still live ethical, honest lives, and treat people well, and not let those competing ideas influence how they live, or how they treat their family, or how they treat their fellow human beings. So those beliefs similarly do not violate the statement.

Also, “plausibly supportable by science” does not mean “provable by science”. It just means you should be able to present a plausible argument that is based on science, and in so doing, it moves the discussion away from religion and moves it into a discussion on science.

This also means that if you disagree with any of our beliefs, your best chance of influencing us to change it is to present a scientific argument to support your alternate belief, and your argument should also be based on how your alternate belief can help society better than our belief can. If you present your argument that way, you just might influence us. But if you instead try to present a counter-argument based on faith or testimony, it’s not likely to move the needle with us.

What are some examples of common religious beliefs that are not, in our opinion, plausibly supportable by science, and that also might influence a person’s way of life? Below are some that we have encountered in various churches. I apologize to folks that hold any of the following beliefs— I do not wish to attack your belief. I only wish to point out a few examples of things we do not believe, and the reasons we do not believe them.

  1. Paying 10% of your income as tithing rather than feeding your children or meeting your debt obligations. Science doesn’t support that idea, and it can cause obvious harm to people here on this earth. If you have the spare money and wish to donate it to your church, then by all means do so. But don’t do it at the expense of starving your children, or of defrauding another person by not paying them what you owe them. Those needs must be met first. Then if you have any surplus afterwards, you can use it as you wish.
  2. “You’ll get blessings in heaven if you do it”. If the idea or principle can be scientifically demonstrated as harmful to people here on earth, it needs to be avoided, and no “you’ll get blessings in heaven” argument is going to sway us.
  3. Divorcing someone or ostracizing someone from your fellowship, just because they no longer believe in the same church as you. That idea is not supportable by science, and it causes harm. You must find some other reason to justify the separation (and yes, there are plenty of valid reasons, but I won’t go there right now). Otherwise you should work for reconciliation, and support each other in your differences, and actually cherish those differences. The world would be a boring place if everyone was exactly the same. We need to cherish our differences.

From the above, you can see why my son Jacob likes to self-identify as a “Theistic Rationalist”. Theistic rationalism is a hybrid of natural religion, Christianity, and rationalism, in which rationalism is the predominant element. It values rational thought, science, and the scientific method as valid mechanisms for resolving conflicts inherent in much of religion. I like that label, and think it does a pretty good job of describing us. And it conforms to Jacob’s statement that I shared at the top of this post.

“The past is only relevant to the extent that it provides educational value.
The future is only relevant to the extent that it guides present actions”

This is another of Jacob’s sayings that he came up with a few years ago. It is based on the fact that we all make mistakes. Don’t get bogged down in those mistakes. Pick up and move on. You’ll be OK. God loves all of us.


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