Christianity claims to be able to answer the Big Questions of Life. These are questions such as, why are we here? Or, where did we come from? Or, what is the purpose of my life? Or, what happens after I die? It’s true that Christianity can answer these questions, but so can any person or any religion. It’s whether the answers are believable that matters.
For discovering reality, religion fails. We have never learned anything objectively true from religion. Surprisingly, we rarely answer the Big Questions by turning to science, the discipline that has faithfully answered so many other questions. But science can help here, too.
For example, why are we here? Science has an answer: we’re here for no more cosmically significant reason than why deer, jellyfish, and oak trees are here. We can’t be certain, of course, but then we can’t be certain that unicorns don’t exist. There’s no good reason to imagine they do, so we live with the working assumption that unicorns are just legend. Similarly, there’s no good reason to imagine there is a divine plan for our existence.
Let’s move on to the question, where did we come from? Science has some remarkable and compelling answers (Big Bang and evolution) though it still has questions (Why did the Big Bang happen? How did life start?). Science never answers anything with certainty, but the scientific consensus is the best approximation we have to the truth, and it continues to improve. The retort “Well, if science can’t answer it, my religion can!” is not a meaningful response. Yes, your religion may have an answer, but is it worth listening to? Is it backed up with evidence or just dogma? Why trust its answer over conflicting answers from other religions?
What is our purpose? There is no evidence of a transcendental or supernatural purpose to your life. One great thing about rejecting dogma is you get to assign your own purpose. That responsibility can be intimidating, but it can also be empowering. No one is better than you to decide your life’s purpose.
What happens after we die? There’s no evidence that anything more remarkable will happen to you than happens to a deer, jellyfish, or oak tree when it dies.
Science has answers, it’s just that religions don’t like them. Supernatural answers to these questions are groundless without compelling evidence. So far, there is none.
Science has only one reality to align itself with. It gives answers backed by evidence, and we don’t need faith to accept them. Unburdened by science’s need to conform to the evidence, each religion makes up its own truth, which is why religions can’t agree and why their answers aren’t grounded in reality.
Think of a church steeple with a lightning rod on top. The steeple proclaims God exists, and the lightning rod says it can reduce lightning damage. Which claim is backed by evidence?
Religion makes truth claims and so does science, but science takes it one step further: it actually delivers on its claims.
Continue to chapter 13.
Image credit: Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)
[The earthquake] was God’s punishment for lightning rods: Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (D. Appleton and Company, New York 1901), p. 366
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