To know if religion and science are compatible is enough to know if science and religion give the same answers to: How and why many religions emerged, evolved and disappeared? Does religion make us moral? Is there causal link between religious ritual, such as prayer, sacrifice, or the observance of a taboo, and an expected benefit or reward?
Faith and rationality are two modes of belief that exist in varying degrees of conflict or compatibility. Rationality is belief based on reason or evidence. The word faith refers to a belief that is held with lack of, in spite of or against reason and evidence. Faith is belief in inspiration, revelation, or authority. Religious experiences of awe, gratitude, contrition, etc., ground the beliefs implied by the believer's sincere reports of such experiences, provided they can be said to cause those beliefs. But it may well be that the beliefs are part of the cause of the experience rather than the other way round. The problem of belief in divine revelation is how this could apply to disputes between two religions that both rely on the role of divine revelation, and the question of whether a belief is genuinely grounded in religious experience or is genuinely grounded in inspiration. Obsolete religions, which no longer have active adherents, are evidence that faith is not eternal truth.
Religions are an historical fact in which such utterances as “There is a God” are intended as much like “There is a star ten times more massive than the Sun” and there are many beliefs that are held by faith alone, that rational thought would force the mind to reject. Examples of conflict include the creation-evolution controversy, and controversies over the use of birth control, the separation of church and state, opposition to research into embryonic stem cells, or theological objections to vaccination, anesthesia, and blood transfusion. A detailed study in 1998, "Child fatalities from religion-motivated medical neglect", Pediatrics, 101, found 140 instances of deaths of children due to religion-based medical neglect. Most of these cases involved religious parents relying on prayer to cure the child's disease, and withholding medical care.
Even the most docile forms of Christianity currently present
insuperable obstacles to AIDS prevention and family planning in the
developing world, to medical research. U.S. House of Representatives
voted effectively to ban embryonic stem-cell research on February 27,
2003. Research on embryonic stem cells requires the destruction of human embryos at the 150-cell stage. There is not the slightest reason
to believe, however, that such embryos have the capacity to sense
pain, to suffer, or to experience the loss of life in any way at all.
What is indisputable is that there are millions of human beings who do
have these capacities, and who currently suffer from traumatic
injuries to the brain and spinal cord. Millions more suffer from
traumatic injuries to the brain and spinal cord, from Parkinson's and
Alzheimer's diseases, from stroke and heart disease, from burns, from
diabetes, from rheumatoid arthritis, form Purkinje cell degeneration,
form Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and from vision and hearing loss.
Those opposed to therapeutic stem-cell research on religious grounds
constitute the biological and ethical equivalent of a flat-earth
society. But shouldn't we allow people think as they choose? Freedom
of belief is a myth, we are no more free to believe whatever we want
about God than we are free to adopt unjustified beliefs about science
Consider the sacred texts from which the very idea of faith flows.
Koran 9:73 and 9:123, for example, command the faithful to "make war
on the unbelievers." In Deuteronomy 13:6 et. seq., God orders his
followers to murder without pity any neighbor, friend, or family
member who questions his authority. And in John 15:6, Jesus suggests
that the faithless deserve incineration. The pious priests of the
Spanish Inquisition made famous various techniques of torture. Such
carnage, by the way, continued well into the nineteenth century, until
the last auto-da-fé was executed in Mexico in 1850. Self-styled
Protestant 'reformers,' to be sure, were no less committed to faith,
and consequently, no less brutal. Heretics were still reduced to ash,
scholars were tortured and killed for impertinent displays of reason,
and fornicators were murdered without qualm. Religious moderates, of
course, will argue that it is not faith, but rather man's baser
instincts that inspire such violence. But could even the most
obsequious religious devotee contend that the witch-hunts or the
Crusades would have occurred and persisted in the absence of their
mythical foundations? Ordinary people cannot be moved to burn genial
old scholars alive for blaspheming the Koran, or to celebrate the
violent deaths of their children, unless they believe some improbable
things about the nature of the universe.
Religious moderation is the product of scriptural ignorance. Some
fundamentalists at least accept the original intent behind the less
pleasant verses in their Bible or Koran. The paradoxical liberal
Christian hermeneutic, by contrast, seems to imply an immutable God
that evolves, or an omniscient god that was somehow so dramatically
less inspiring in Deuteronomy than in Matthew that contemporary
Christians are completely justified in ignoring the former and
exalting the latter. By failing to live by the letter of the texts,
while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious
moderates betray faith and reason equally. Moderates are betrayed by
at least two myths: First, that theism offers benefits that cannot be
found elsewhere, and second, that individual tolerance of unjustified
beliefs is compassionate. Exactly what moderates deem compassionate
about the cultivation of recurrent persecutions and massacres is
Believers in God don't want treating the hypothesis of God as just one more scientific hypothesis, to be evaluated by the standards of science in particular and rational thought in general, their faith is quite beyond reason, not a matter to which such mundane methods of testing applies. But there is no evidence that a religious faith that rejects reason would also serve us while seeking truth. If faith is the only way to know the truth of God, how are we to know which God to have faith in? Rational argument can not reach the believers because the believers had declared that it can not by his own decree. In debates beyond reason there are no rules and anybody can say anything. The lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. What's the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, an outside time God and no God at all? There are an absurdity in to cite a imaginary definition of attributes as proof of existence in real world. Faith is the belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence. If there's no way to disprove my or your contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that Zeus or Shiva exists? My or your inability to invalidate the existence of Zeus or an Hindu God or your imagination, is not at all the same thing as proving it true. The Church contends that acquisition of knowledge, even though not sinful, is dangerous, since it may lead to pride of intellect, and hence to a questioning of the Christian dogma.The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence, but what can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The burden of proof lies upon a person making scientifically untestable claims.
The success of science is the evidence that justification of a belief depends solely on the evidence for it.
- Sam Harris. 2004. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.