Albert Meyer: Religion, science and ethics
Published: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 11:49 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at 11:49 a.m.
In his August 30 letter, J. Leroy Tillman writes that among the "major religions" Islam (founded in the 7th century) is the youngest one. What this point also makes clear, is that all the religions he mentions are rather old belief systems.
Since their creations we have developed new ways both to understand nature and
society, generally referred to as science The main feature of science, are not its specific findings, but the method used to develop its findings. All ideas need to be tested, and must be considered provisional since they may be replaced by new findings.
We have also developed systems of ethics, while similar to those found in many religions, do not depend on a deity for their inspiration. We have also learned, that some of the bloodiest conflicts in history, have been fought for religious principles, or at least, as Bob Dylan has sung, "with God on their side."
It should also be pointed out that Muslims have been the victims of intolerance as much as anyone, with the Crusades and current day beatings of immigrants in Europe being examples.
It was in good measure due to the awareness of this type of conflict, that our founding fathers established the principle of church and state. Since they also established freedom of speech, they recognized that these are two separate issues. While I respect the right of anyone to worship a diety(or deities) they wish to, and to do so in their homes or buildings designated for that purpose, dangers arise when believers move into the public arena and try to impose their views on others.
Public schools are especially to be excluded because of the dangers not only offending someone, but a concern for preventing violence. When I was in the 5th
through 12th grades, I am not sure I could have restrained myself if another student had a swastika or anti Semitic remark on a shirt. If not me, it would have been some other classmate. Don't you think the potential for some Islamic students to feel the same way exists?
It is also somewhat ironic that the current debate regarding the attribution of the devil to one group. This statement is unwarranted. However, the notion of a devil or satan is a construct of several religions. To those of us that believe in the need for evidence to establish something's existence, we have no worries about the devil.
Am I absolutely sure of my views of nature and society? I can't be given that science is the basis for many of my views and one of the current principles of modern science is uncertainty. While I am quite sure of what I believe, I can't be absolutely sure. If we all had at least some doubt, we would be less likely to try and impose our views on others.
Today unlike the periods when most religions were founded, we have weapons that can destroy life on this planet. It was this sobering thought that inspired Bill Maher's, otherwise, humorous look at religion, “Religulous.”
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