For better or worse, it’s an epidemic: people are turning their backs on religion. Religious leaders are at a loss as to what to do about it. They may try to water down their teachings to make them more palatable, compromise their moral positions, or introduce non-traditional music into the church. One thing is for sure: they just don’t get what the problem is. It seems they are unable to respond to the underlying reason people are walking away.
The fundamental problem is that religion, as it is understood today, is incompatible with the analytical and rational mentality that has become dominant in these modern times. It just does not make sense. Mind you, I say this as a deeply spiritual person. The truth is, spirituality does make sense, or at least it can. In fact it should.
How did we get here? As the scientific age emerged, it threatened religious tenets. Religions responded by declaring science blasphemous, a sin. The divide between science and religion continues to this day. People are forced to pick a side. Increasingly, people favor science.
In reality, science can deepen our understanding of religion. It can cast out superstitions and distortions. Science can provide insight into the true meaning of deep spiritual teachings that otherwise make no sense. For example, the religious idea that one God created everything. To the scientific mind, that doesn’t appear to make any sense. As a result, people reject it. Now, with our understanding of modern physics, scientists have developed insights into the mechanics of how all things emerged from one thing. We can then start to make some sense of the idea of God.
For many, this would involve redefining the very word “God” to free us from years of illogical indoctrinations that we ultimately had no choice but to turn our backs on. The religious minded may, at first glance, find this ‘redefinition’ offensive. In reality, it’s just the opposite. It’s clarifying. It purifies out any superstition, distortion, or misunderstanding of what the original spiritual teachings actually were. A definition of “God” that is consistent with both our spiritual experience and physical laws of nature would be a significant step for both religious and scientific thought.
To take this step forward in the integration of science with religion requires some humility from both sides. There needs to be a willingness to go back to basics — first grade, if you will, and start with fundamental points, one leading to the next as they build upon one another. Both the religiously and scientifically minded may find this insulting, even threatening. Particularly spiritual leaders and Ph.D.s in physics see such endeavors as beneath them. They consider themselves to be advanced, with little time or need for remedial education. The truth is that biases die hard. Even a perfectly clear and logical sequence can be argued and rejected when viewed through the eyes of ego, indoctrination and, dare I say, fanaticism.
Examples of such fanaticism abound in all fields of study. As we all know, one religion rejects another; one denomination even rejects the others. When physicists view a galaxy even older than what the Big Bang Theory determines the age of the universe to be, scientists turn a blind eye.
Of course, ‘experts’ on both sides feel no need to reexamine their perspective, each sure their viewpoint of the world is correct. Maybe other people need to consider other viewpoints, but they don’t. They already have everything figured out. That sort of limited attitude seems to be an innate quality of the human condition. It is christened with such terms as devotion, clarity of thought, unbounded faith, rigorous logic, denying the devil, embracing the Lord, etc. Needless to say, wars have been fought for that cause.
Going deeper into any field of study could be viewed as a refutation of what preceded. Redefining terms like “God” should be embraced as a deepening of knowledge. That should not feel like a threat, but rather an epiphany.
Be a person scientifically or religiously oriented, in the early stages of the remedial study, it can feel like one’s world is being threatened. Rest assured that it all comes back together with a more profound, fulfilling, and satisfying understanding.
To be a whole and complete person, all aspects of one’s being must seamlessly integrate with one another. Spirituality, religion, science, moral tradition, the heart and the mind all can come together into a unified whole. One aspect of a person’s being need not feel threatened by another. To attain that level of life requires an examination and reexamination of all viewpoints, of all paradigms. Though at first the aversion may be great, the rewards abound. Certainly, in our scientifically-oriented age, the future of religion depends upon it. Spirituality does make sense. But until science is embraced by religion, the true nature of religion and spirituality will evade even the greatest spiritual leader.
Michael Mamas is the founder of The Center of Rational Spirituality, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the betterment of humanity through the integration of ancient spiritual wisdom with modern rational thought. Dr. Mamas helps individuals and organizations develop a deeper understanding and more comprehensive outlook by providing a ‘bridge’ between the abstract and concrete, the Eastern and Western, and the ancient and modern. Follow Michael Mamas onFacebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.