The topic of evolution came up over lunch last week. One of my co-workers asked two questions: 1) *Which came first, the chicken or the egg? 2) *If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes? These questions disturbed me. It wasn’t the questions themselves or even her answers that took me aback. What bothered me is that she never even attempted to answer these questions. It never occurred to her that a logical answer was possible.
More than anything else, religion’s uncanny ability to restrict human curiosity troubles me. There’s nothing wrong with the belief that everything in this world is part of a grander plan. Religion is a source of comfort and joy for many and it has incredible potential to do good. It also has a great ability to bring violence and death. We’ve seen these abilities throughout history. Religion has been used as an excuse to wage wars as much as it has been used to provide for people with great need.
As far as I am concerned, hindrance of questions and curiosity is the greatest evil religion can bring. Where would humanity be if we just accepted the way the world was? It’s all part of God’s plan. Every bad thing that will ever happen to you is a test of your faith. The world would be a dark place if every person thought that way. We’d have no electricity, no cars, no air conditioning and none of the many other human inventions that make life what it is today. No one would have bothered to ask the questions that lead to these inventions if they were satisfied with the way things were.
How would we treat illnesses if the world were without the person who sought the cure? The progress of humanity depends on our curiosity. We can’t just stop, saying, “I don’t understand this phenomena, so it must be the work of a higher power.” Years, decades or centuries might go by before humanity finds the answer to the aforementioned ‘this,’ but that doesn’t mean the answer isn’t out there.
There seems to be a debate going on that pits science against religion, as if the two cannot exist in harmony. This is a disheartening development because we don’t have to choose. I remember sitting in chemistry class learning about the Periodic Table. We were learning about the discovery of various elements. I’ll never forget that class, because an epiphany I will carry for the rest of my life came to me that day. Dmitri Mendeleev created the first widely recognized periodic table and predicted the existence of elements we had yet to discover. Let that set in for a moment. Using the same math and science that organized his existing periodic table, Mendeleev accurately predicted the existence of undiscovered elements and their properties.
The world isn’t random. The cosmos make sense. They follow a logic and form a trail we can trace. It will never cease to amaze me how, in the chaos, beauty and diversity of our world, it all makes sense. Asking questions and exploring our curiosities is how we progress human kind into the future.
When discussing science, it’s always funny to me how some people will suddenly start asking questions as if science claims to have all the answers. It doesn’t, and it never will. Every answer we find comes with brand new questions. There will always be something left unexplained. Facets of our universe will always remain beyond our comprehension. That’s just the way to the world. The existence of seemingly unanswerable questions does no disprove science any more than answered questions disprove Divinity. The two are not at odds with each other.
The rift between religion and science is not the worst offense caused by the restriction of questions. This restriction prevents us from growing in our relationship with Divinity. Just like we have to be able to ask questions about our world to progress, we have to ask questions of our faith to grow in our understanding of Divinity.
When a religion or dogma restricts a person from questioning their beliefs, they prevent them from having a deeper relationship with divinity. Their religion, dogma or tradition becomes a sort of false idol. They hold those above their spiritual relationship with Divinity. Religion should assist in the worship and understanding of God. It should encourage questions that help people grow in faith.
I continue to look for a religious community I can call my own. I’m not looking for a place that agrees with everything I believe. Instead, I’m looking for a place that will accept me with open arms, questions and all, and provide me a place to grow my personal relationship with Divinity. I look to embrace my spiritual journey, always seeking to grow further in faith.
*The questions at the beginning of this article do have logical answers. Google them if you’re curious.