To many people, science and religion are opponents in a fierce intellectual debate. It is often presented as a choice science or religion. To others, there is no conflict, merely different spheres of influence.
Science deals with the material world. It deals with facts that can be observed by the human senses.
Religion to some extent deals with the material world. But, religion affirms that the material world is only part of reality, and the real essence of life is beyond – experienced only as an intangible consciousness and spirit.
Religion in Conflict With Science?
It appears that religion is often in conflict with science. This is especially true for the religions which take sacred books as the quintessence and revelation of the divine truth. This conflict is no more in evidence than the debate between proponents of evolution and those who take a literal interpretation of the Bible, which is said to prove the world is only 6,000 years old.
Science and Religion in Harmony
However, to many religious/spiritual people, this literal interpretation of the Bible is a misleading aspect of religion. The sacred books of the East such as the Upanishads suggest human history is much earlier and the world travels through great cycles. These teachings are not in conflict with the theory of evolution or the discoveries of science.
“People say that science and religion are always at daggers drawn. This need not be true. Science plays its role dynamically in explaining the immanent God. Religion plays its role divinely in interpreting the transcendent God. Science deals with the physical world, while religion deals with the inner and spiritual world.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Spirituality, the inner religion finds no conflict with science. However, to spirituality, the materialistic world holds little attraction, for spirituality and mysticism are concerned with what lies beyond the mental and physical plane. To a scientist, mystical experiences, consciousness and the existence of an all-pervading divine consciousness are impossible to prove (some scientists would even claim what cannot be proved with the ordinary senses cannot have a reality or can be explained through other phenomena such as hypnotism.
“The religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
However, to a spiritual seeker, the religious life is not about proving anything. It is about a state of being; if others think they are building castles in the sky, it is not important. Science needs to prove its conclusions but the loftiest religious experience is not for proving to other people.
The debate between science and religion is often misplaced. There is no necessity of conflict, but, it must be remembered they are concerned with different aims, objectives and experiences. It is also dangerous to place prescriptive labels on either science or especially religion. Religion means many different things to different people. One cannot lump a Buddhist monk in the same bracket as an Evangelical Christian in America. Both science and religion have a role to play in the human life.
Excerpt from Essay on Science and Religion
Science sees; religion feels. Science says to religion: I am seeing only to give you what I see. Religion says to science: I am feeling only to give you what I feel. The benefit of science is recognised first in the mental world, then in the physical world. The benefit of religion is recognised first in the psychic world, then in the physical world.
Science says, Truth-discovery is life-mastery. Religion says, Life-mastery is truth-discovery. Science walks along the road that leads from perfection to satisfaction. Religion walks along the road that leads from satisfaction to perfection.
Excerpt from Einstein: Scientist-Sage, Brother Of Atom-Universe by: Sri Chinmoy