Thursday, March 20, 2008

Science and Religion

A conversation I had today reminded me of a story that happened once many years ago.
I was a student and sharing a townhouse with other students. Some people came to our door one Saturday morning to tell us about their religion. I don't know what they were. Mormon? Baptist? Jehova's Witness? It didn't matter. It was just bad timing on their part. And a poor choice of opening line.
You see, when I answered the door, they asked a very literal question, rather than state their purpose. They asked "Do you know what will happen to you when you die?"
And I was doing homework at the time. I'd answered the door in nasty exercise clothes (to include bloody sneakers--from running far too much) with my one-legged, beat up rescued Senegal on my shoulder and a copy of Spitz's Medicolegal Investigation of Death in my hands.
I answered "Yes, I have pictures. Wanna see?"
Not really understanding how creepy I probably looked. Just answering a question that almost no one ever comes to your door to ask you. A question that I knew the answer to. A question I had been studying for months.
They panicked and ran.
It reminded me of how differently I see religion than a lot of people seem to. I consider myself a devout Catholic. I follow all the rules--almost, studied theology all the way thru college, and truly believe in it (not always the 'teachings', but dogma and doctrine yes).
However, I am entirely too much the scientist to quite fit in with those very active in their Faith or what I would consider more spiritual. Not that either is a bad thing. Just different.
In Theology in college we would be assigned papers to prove that certain teachings were correct or incorrect. Others in class would argue based on the writings of Sts Ambrose, John of the Cross, or Thomas Aquinas. I, who was in the same class, had read the same books, and was given the same assignment had trouble making any argument (or being swayed by one) that was not based on math.
While I was able to argue every point. While I completed every assignment. And while I was able in wrote-type assignments to show I had absorbed the material. I did very poorly in those classes. And I totally understand. There were directions implied that I never followed because I just can't understand them. To me faith is theory and hypothesis. And while you may believe it with every fiber of your being, a proof--what I understood the assignement as--requires just that.
Which for me is math.
I was in a totally different world from my professors and fellow Theology students. We spoke the same language, but at the same time couldn't have spoken 2 more different ones.I have friends, family, coworkers who all see the world more like my professors and fellow students from those classes. For them, the world seems more spiritual. They prefer to listen only to religious music, mostly only read books on religion, and can find an answer to all life's questions in scripture.
For me, I just don't see the world the same way. I read scripture and only see more questions. But I look at scientific studies and I see His answers.
Just as I saw a definitive answer from Him in those taphonomy studies. And while I believe that my soul is very real and will one day go to some reward or punishment (I hope reward), I *KNOW* and can prove what will at least happen to my body right after. And to have any answers about this world I think can help bring us to a full understanding.
I see doubt as a natural part of faith. And knowledge as something that doesn't require faith at all. Knowledge is easy. Faith isn't. But the two are linked for me. Always will be. Faith makes you seek knowledge in order to better understand your Faith. Which makes more questions, to again make you seek more knowledge.
And so on.
I've babbled enough.


Amy said...

Just curious if my post inspired yours. . . I love how much you think through things! It's refreshing! And, honestly, I'm one of those poor souls who does not find faith or knowledge easy! If I am able to understand anything and have faith in anything I know it's because God is enabling me. So maybe that's why I have faith - the very fact that I believe and understand is proof enough to me. Ok, I just got lost in my own comment. LOL! Like I said, neither one comes easy for me.:)

Becoming Mommy said...

Yes and no.
The topic came up with someone I know who wanted to know how to get her dog to stop snarling at Jehova's Witnesses. I gave some ideas about the behavioral motives and training ideas. But also told the story above.
I thought it was funny. Sort of an inkling into my occasional utter cluelessness. Self deprication.
She didnt understand it, and was offended I'd be so cruel to them.
Just got me thinking how I have a slightly different drummer when it comes to faith and religion. We're all dancing to the same song, but I like congas and they have a drum line.

caramama said...

I'm very similar in that I need to find out the scientific answer to the questions that faith brings up. I really believe that God works through science, and that God gave us questioning natures and brains to figure out answers. My belief in science, math, the concrete, does not lessen my faith or belief in God. It's nice to know that I'm not alone (well, my hubby is the same way, so we're not alone).