The Shoes on Your Feet

Religion & Science are painted and distributed by their most extreme exponents as totally at odds, complete opposites, but are they really? Our feet are equal, yet opposite, and in so many ways so are religion and science, faith and reason. Like the shoes on your feet, they can either help us travel further in comfort or doom us to a standstill, depending on the fit and use.

The Shoes on Your Feet

Religion & Science are painted and distributed by their most extreme exponents as totally at odds, complete opposites, but are they really? Our feet are equal, yet opposite, and in so many ways so are religion and science, faith and reason.  

Like the shoes on your feet, they can either help us travel further in comfort or doom us to a standstill, depending on the fit and use.

Firstly let's go back to the beginning though, as we have some housekeeping to do.  When I speak of the word 'Religion', I am not talking about the so-called "big three" of Christianity, Judaism, or Islam.  I am not talking about any one religious practice at all.  I like to be more specific than that, so if I refer to a specific group, I will, but when using the word 'religion' I am talking about coming together as a group in practice and in the belief of any group of people, I talk of the original search for understanding of where we came from, and why we are here.  Religion has become a dirty word, but it is the association of control, burden and punishment that some groups attribute to it that has caused this.  Religion on its own does no harm, it is after all a journey of discovery.  Add humans, and a desire for control and authority, then we have the problem. 

This confusion about "what religion is" can be demonstrated by doing a quick search on the internet for "religion" and then changing the filters to images.  The Bible, the Koran, statues and books are plenty, they all show "a practice" but not "the practice".  Nothing as an image is as generic as the term, because we all, myself included for a long time, look at the world through our own understanding and learned perspective. 

It goes back to the old question, one used by a very good friend of mine who was, in his earthly life, an atheist.  "I don't believe in any God Nick," he said, "so which single God of the 4000 or so that I don't believe in do you follow?"  I have also seen used this question, framed differently to attack, not politely debate.  My answer, the same as it always has been in any context, often raises an eyebrow and has in fact earnt me a great many friends who call themselves Atheist, even if the initial framing was in the form of an attack.

"All of them and none of them."  I look for the truth and similarity behind the original effort to describe a divine creator being, not the political, social or egotistical addons that come after the fact.  I do study those aspects, but personally do not prescribe to such "interferences".

Science, when I speak of it, is the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence, or put another way; the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation, experimentation, and the testing of theories against the evidence obtained.  Again a journey of discovery the search for understanding of where we came from, and why we are here. 

Already, they are not so far apart.  Science is not absolute, our understanding grows as we do, as we learn, we ask more questions, as we discover those answers, we ask more, and find new ways of seeking and verifying those answers.  Two hundred years ago, if you had a box in the corner of the room with dancing people in it, you would have been called a witch, whilst the ability to send such images to this kind of technology, to manipulate the radio waves that sent them was still a long way off, we did not invent them, we simply learned to harness them, make use of them, they existed in natural and crude for long before we knew they were there.

I first heard the phrase "Faith and reason are like unto the shoes on your feet. You can travel further with both than you can with just one." on the TV Series "Babylon 5" in the season four finale, "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars", in 1997.  Although spoken by the fictional character: Brother Alwyn Macomber, the words in the script were committed to the ink by the writer and creator of the show, J. Michael Straczynski. 

The work of JMS as his fans call him, and the words of so many of his characters inspired me and challenged me on a spiritual level even to this day.  The character in this episode, Brother Alwyn, went on to explain, "Faith sustains us when reason tells us there is no hope."  As I have grown, I have come to realise there is more to it than that, but it was a massive starting block, one that sustained me through many questions and challenges.

Likewise, I was also the boring geeky kid who wasn't satisfied in science class with the clef note lesson plans that told us all we needed to know and no more, so when we learned about evolution, I went to the source of modern understanding.  I used to even read the appendices.  (Yes I was that much of a geek). 

Some will use Darwin’s; The Origin of Species: By means of Natural Selection as a club with which to bash creation beliefs.  I am not talking question, or debate, but flat out rule it out of order.  So when this happens, I quote Darwin himself; "In my most extreme fluctuations, I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind."   

Being Agnostic, he was a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God.  And Darwin was deeply against Spiritualism, I know this - but the point is, he was against established teachings, not the "concept" of a creator.

Even that famous equation E=mc2 is not entirely simple in understanding and practice when dealing with gravitational fields.  In fact, anyone who deals in quantum physics will tell you we actually know very little, most is theory.  Anyone postulating a scientific theory would do well to conclude with the phrase; "based upon current understanding, technology and observable data".  

Anyone who tries to usurp Religion with Science, or science with religion, is missing the point.  If we go back to that first quote, "Faith sustains us when reason tells us there is no hope."  It tells us life, and answers to questions are far more open to discovery when we hold both concepts in our pockets.  They say, "out of the mouths of babes", well, one question that comes consistently out of the mouths of the young, is "why?".  It's the first question.  It is the question that motivates faith and science, equally.

'Why?' is the question that created both religious movements, and scientific methods.  We just can't help ourselves but try to understand everything.  This can only be a good thing, a motivation to simply understand.  In recent years, however, science has become a 'new religion' of its own.  Add into this 'wiki-versity' and the school of 'google', and you get backseat scientists who claim great scientific knowledge - but only because they read it on the internet.  Give me an opinion on the internet, I will find twenty that disagree.  Any scientist will tell you that to disagree is part of the scientific method, to research, challenge and verify, and go back and do it all again, is part of the job. 

Except if you read it on the internet...  Then it must be true!

Science does not have all of the answers, religion never did.  So the best way?  Wear both shoes, and listen to opposing views, because one thing that really did hit the nails on the head, even though there are varied views on who said it, ranging from Alexander Pope to Alfred Einstein (and is still a misquote anyway) was; "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot."  Personally, I prefer Terry Pratchett's version; "They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but it's not one half so bad as a lot of ignorance."

Being open to both sides of the debate fulfils the origins of their existence, the journey of discovering.

That being said, there is one piece of the Abrahamic Creation story, that does beg the question, are they opposite, or one and the same?

“Then God said, ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’ Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; it was so."

Stuff and nonsense, Right?

The Firmament is a protective dome. No, I don't believe there is a big glass bubble around the earth.  We do know that there is a bubble of gases surrounding this planet, which means we get to live, breathe, and are protected from radiation from space.  The atmosphere certainly sounds like a protective dome to me!  But that first line is even more telling.  'in the midst of the waters' and then it divided the water from above and from below it.

Did you know, until about 2.4 billion years ago, bacteria lived in an environment with no oxygen?  To photosynthesize, bacteria would use electrons from hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen, or iron to trigger photosynthesis.  Around that time in the ocean was something called cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) and it discovered it could do something that changed everything, according to John Allen, a biochemist at University College London. The algae discovered a brilliant new way of doing photosynthesis, which was to take electrons from water.  The by-product of photosynthesis is oxygen, and the new gas accumulated in the atmosphere. This event was called the Great Oxidation Event.  An enzyme is believed to have 'capped' the oxygen level to 10% until 450,000 years ago when the plants took over and gave the atmosphere the boost it needed for beings like us, but nonetheless, an atmosphere with oxygen, keeping space radiation out, and holding up those molecules of water called clouds in the sky? 

Sounds a bit like the description in Genesis to me, if you take into consideration social and cultural understanding, that is exactly how someone without scientific knowledge might describe it, and those who channelled it from the world of spirit didn't need an electron microscope or a Bunsen burner to tell that story.

For me, my feet hurt an awful lot when on long walks, so I need a nice pair of matching shoes, and life certainly is a long journey of discovery. 

As for which God, I refer you to my usual answer, and frankly, it's not my job as a minister of Spiritualism to tell you who or what God is - that's a personal conversation, a personal relationship, and something that must, in the end, reside within us, not from without. 

God lives in its temples, they say.  Well, I might not be athletic, but our Gods, reside within us, so our bodies are all our temples, so it is just as well that our shoes are supposed to stay on the outside.

Many Blessings, Rev Nick Brown