Everyone has probably seen a map of world religions where the colors of different regions identify the predominant local religion—Roman Catholicism in one color, Hinduism in another, and so on. To see what this reveals about the truth of religion, let’s first consider a map of World Science.
Imagine such a map. Over here is where scientists accept that the earth goes around the sun, and over there, it’s the other way around. This area is where they think astrology can predict the future, and that area is where they reject the idea. Intelligent Design thinking reigns in the blue area, and evolution in the green.
Naturally, each of these different groups see their opponents as vile heretics, and they have fought wars over their opposing beliefs. To keep it manageable, the map might only show battles with more than a thousand deaths.
Of course, the idea is ridiculous. A new scientific idea isn’t culturally or geographically specific, and, if validated, it peacefully sweeps the world. Astronomy replaced astrology, chemistry replaced alchemy, and germ theory replaced evil spirits as a cause of disease. One scientist should get the same results from an experiment as another, regardless of their respective religions. Muslims largely developed algebra, but there is no Muslim algebra. Christians largely developed physics, but there is no Christian physics. Evolution, germ theory, relativity, and the Big Bang are part of the consensus view among scientists, regardless of where they live or whether they are Christian or Muslim, Hindu or atheist.
While scientists have egos and aren’t perfectly objective, reluctance from the old guard only slows the inevitable. Contrast scientific progress with the idea that Shintoism will sweep across the West over the next couple of decades and replace Christianity, simply because it’s a theory that explains the facts of reality better. It works that way in science, not religion.
Let’s return to the map of world religions. Religions claim to give answers to life’s big questions, answers that science can’t give. Questions like, what is our purpose? Or, where did we come from? Or, what happens when we die?
But the map shows that the religious answers to those questions depend on where you are. If you live in Tibet or Thailand, Buddhism teaches that we are here to learn to cease suffering and reach nirvana. If you live in Malaysia or Morocco, Islam teaches that we are here to submit to Allah. In a mostly Christian country, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever,” according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Hinduism, Scientology, and all the rest—each has its own supernatural answers to these big questions, and each answer is not backed by evidence and must be taken on faith.
We ask the most profound questions of all, and the answers are location specific? What kind of truth depends on location?
For discovering reality, religion fails. Science follows the evidence, but religion is cultural. Next time someone nods their head sagely and says, “Ah, but Christianity can answer the big questions,” remember how empty that claim is.
Continue to chapter 2.
Image credit: Wikimedia, CC
Geocentrism: the astronomical model in which the earth is at the center of the universe. This model is less intuitive but much simpler than heliocentrism, developed by Nicolaus Copernicus in 1543, in which the earth orbits the sun.
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