Science and Religion: An unsophisticated view

Introduction

     When I was at school many years ago, I never took any science courses. My parents were good Catholics who went to church every Sunday, but I didn't care for that either. I was very much interested in baseball and movies. I quit school after finishing eleventh grade. I started from the bottom and became assistant manager in this big grocery store in our town. I was happy with my professional employment, and I retired a couple of years ago.    

     I read newspapers regularly, but mainly the sports section. I enjoy cartoons. One day a couple of years ago, my son's wife - she's a college kid - took me to a lecture on science and religion just for the heck of it.  I didn't get a clue about what the dude was talking: evolution, anthrophic principal, determination, and stuff I had never even heard of. He even talked about somebody writing a free will or something. I just didn't get one grain of info from that speech. I felt real small about it.

     So I decided to take courses on science in the evening, given in our school system. I also wanted to learn about religions, 'cause I thought religion was simply Christmas and Easter, but this speech, I tell you, it really got me thinking. Now, after two years, I want to write on science and religion. I know I'm not one of them guys in a college with high-flouting degree and all , but he, I too have a right to speak about science and religion. Everyone got to have what they call liberality of expression, right?.

 

Part A: Science

     First I took this course in chemistry. I learned  that some things, like copper  and carbon, are elements and others, like water and sugar, are compounds. I don't know why, but I'll take their word for it. I'll admit I used to think that compounds are where some big buildings are enclosed in, with walls and all.  But who am I to say? Times have changed. One day they talked about gases: oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and stuff. I didn't know I've been breathing this my whole life. I used to think it was just plain air. Now I know where all the pollution comes from. The teacher said that even gases obey laws. I wanted to know in which country they make laws for gases? The guy just ignored my question. Then we learned that there are  teeny weenie things called atoms. I thought atoms are stuff for making big bombs which we must not use unless it's extremely necessary because they can cause winter hollowcost or something. At one time only we guys  and the Russians had atoms, but now every Tom and Henry has them. What's this world coming to? But that's politics. In another chemistry class, they said that carbon atoms look like small pyramids. Gosh, what will they think of next! Then he talked about alcohol and stuff. Benzene molecule has a ring. It must be a pretty small one, I guess. They called these things organic. I used to think organic means manure and manure-grown vegetables.

     After finishing chemistry, I went for this biology course. I learnt many things about life, I mean about our insides. They call this anatomical structure. They like big words, those scientists. And when they use a small word, it means something one hundred percent different. Examples: I used to think the cell is just a phone you use for walking and driving, or maybe a dark dismal room in a prison. But now I know we have lots of  cells in our body, and I mean lots and lots. Even the brain has cells, they say. Can you believe that? Man, science is really wonderful! I get real excitement when I study science. When the teacher mentioned genes, immediately the color of blue came before my eyes. But these genes you don't wear. They're right there in your body cells, very small, but very important. They say we have black or brown eyes or we become bald very early, only because of our genes. I didn't know that. Then the biology guy said we may even be good or bad because of our genes.  Now, with due respect, I donít buy that, 'cause this is going too far. Finally, I understood what this DNA is all about. Ever since the OJ case, I've been very curious about this. Now I know: this is some twisted stuff in the cell. Like our social security number, each of us has a different DNA. 

     In class, one day, I had a hot exchange with my teacher on evolution, and I mean hot. The teacher, he made a statement that millions of years ago our great, great grand-parents were monkeys. Some kids just sat there like they were dumb and swallowed this nonsense. I raised my hand and said, "No way, Mister, nobody is going to tell me I came from a monkey."

     The teacher tried to prove his position by saying this great scientist said this, that great scientist said that, talked about birds call finches, turtles in Galapogolos Island, long giraffe necks, and all that. Who cares!  All that cock-and-bull story didn't impress me. I held on to my firm position, 'cause we must draw the line somewhere. One thing I know: in science you have freedom to think. You don't just accept something 'cause some big shot said so.

     Yeah, I heard about what happened to a guy called Galileo way back when. He said the earth was round, and nobody believed him. The Church fathers asked him to recount his theory and they put him in house arrest and asked him to read the Bible. Now, that I think is no fair, 'cause everybody must have freedom to think the way we want. This is the American way, right?  If one guy thinks the world is round and another it is tubular or whatever, why fight about it? We all breathe the same air, don't we? Some think it's just air, others say it's all gas, so what? Why put somebody in jail for holding diversity of opinion?  That's my philosophy.

     So I want you to know that I am not religious or obstinacious or something. But I just can't accept a monkey in my family tree, that's all to it. They belong to some other tree. Next thing you know they'll say we came from donkeys. No, sir, no, if this is your science, I told my teacher, you may keep it, but donít count me as a member. This has nothing to do with science which I have great respect for. But I also have self-respect.

     Next I went to a physics survey course. The first thing the teacher asks me,  how much math I know. I told him I could count to more than a thousand and add numbers, but that wasn't enough for him. I said I could go up to ten thousand, but that didn't impress him either.  He looked very depressed, but I had a right to be there because I pay my taxes, and this course is in a public school. I don't understand why he had to be so fussy about the math stuff, because I got a lot from this guy anyways. He taught me about force and energy and fiction, why a pendulum vacillates, about the fact that when something is in heat, it becomes bigger, and all that. He also said there was something called momentum.  I thought this was a political conception which they use in election campaigns. I have heard political candidates say they must keep up the momentum.

     One day our professor talked about elementary particles. This was real fun, especially all the fancy-dancy names he gave: like electron, proton, meson, bozon, so on. These are very, very, very small gizmos, even smaller than the smallest dust particle. Then he said that electrons are kind of uncertain about where they'll go next, because some guy called Heisenberg made this his principal. Wow! I always wondered how they make those TVs, cordless phones, supersonous jets and all that. Now I know it's all based on physics laws. Am I glad I studied so much physics!

     Another teacher told us about the sun and planets and stars. I had no idea they were so far away.  I used to think they were just maybe hundred thousand miles away. No sir, it's more like a hundred million. Not only that, there are billions of stars. Most of them are invisible anyways, so what's the use, I thought. But it's good to know. That's what science is. Know everything about everything. For example, many of them stars are extremely hot. So what, you may say. But in science you want to know. I learned that nucular reactions occur deep in their corpse. Maybe one day we can do this in human lavatory, the teacher said.  There are  infinite number of galaxies, each with billions of stars.

     He explained that space and time are curved. Now you figure that out, 'cause I had some problems here. I just let it go.

     These guys have figured out that all this: atoms, carbon pyramids, nucular reactions, light rays, etc.  was made for us to happen!  Don't ask me how they know this, but something called anthrophic principal says this. It's kind of difficult to explain, our teacher said, 'cause something called constants are finely tuned, like in a radio. This happened when the universe began with what he called a Big Bang. That really melted my brain.  This is where religion comes.

 

Part B: Religion

     Like I said, my parents were good Catholics. Unfortunately, when I looked into the Bible, it didn't grab me. First I couldn't figure out what those chapter headings mean: Genesis, Galatians, Colossians, Leviticus, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, Ruth: somehow they didn't appeal to me. The very first book begins this way: God said, 'Let there be light.' Now honestly, who could have heard God when nobody was there? I was very scientific even as a young man. Now I don't want to say nothing  bad about any holy book, but these  numbered lines, and long family trees and fantastic stories, I don't see any serious connection between all this and God Almighty who I know is there in Heaven, invisible to human eyes. You can't see Heaven even with the most powerful telescope.  You see what I mean? Also, in Church, they kept jumping from section to section every week, I got confused very early in life. Then there was this Father Joe, everyone kept saying he spoke very well. Maybe, but his weekly speech didn't mean a whole lot to me. I have nothing against Christ or anybody, mind you, but I just couldn't keep going to church.

     Anyway, when I was twenty two, I meet this fine woman and we fall in love like two normal people. Turns out she belongs to what they call Judaic tradition. And she doesn't take her tradition no more seriously than I do mine. But my parents are very upset, and her parents are very upset, and they all say we'll be very unhappy if we marry, what will happen to our kids, and so forth. So we say, "Sorry, folks, but we've decided to get married anyways." This was  forty years ago. We have no major complaints so far, except now and then she gets to be bossy, and she likes to argue about movies. But that's life. We ain't unhappy compared to many of our friends.

     Now, I wanted to know about religion, you see.  So I go to my Church to become a member again, but when I talk to the padre, he says my marriage wasn't done properly 'cause I married a Jew-lady. And he asked if she was willing to be baptized. I said I should discuss the matter with her. But when I asked my wife, she became furious like nobody's business, as if I was asking her to jump into a very cold lake or something. Some people get very mad if you ask them to switch religion.  This is the truth.

     So I look into the yellow pages to see if there's some Judeo-Christian church which can accommodate both of us. Man, I discovered there are so many Christian dominations you won't believe! Assemblies of God, Bible Healing Temple, Methodist Church, Anglican, Greek orthodox, Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, North Baptist, Zion Hill Baptist, Mormon Churches, and on and on the list goes. But I didn't see no Judeo-Christian Church. Looks like no one ever thought of having a joint venture like this, like Saul and Peter or something.  I can understand different model cars, but I couldn't figure out  why we need so many brand names for churches. Donít we all accept Jesus Christ as our Savior? Well, not all, perhaps. My wife, for one, will vehementally disagree.

     So I decided I'd pay a friendly visit to a synagogue with my wife. She said firmly she wouldn't go. She's a little stubborn now and then, you know. But otherwise she's a good lady.

     "But why not?" I asked, trying to persuade her.

     "Because," she explains, "when I was a young woman, I found out it says in the Torah that a wife 'must grind flour, bake bread, wash clothes, cook food, suckle her child, prepare his bed, and work in wool' for her husband, I knew right away that such rules could not have come from God."

     "Oh, come on," I said, "all religions probably have similar rules for women. Maybe, it was okay in the good old times, why make a big deal about that now? You don't have to do any of that for me, except maybe iron my shirts."

     "And I don't believe God would come down from wherever to speak in Hebrew to Mr. Moses and disappear for such a long while."

     "But I don't mind becoming a Jew, why should you?" I asked.

     "I don't think they'll let you, even if you wanted," she told me. You see, the Jewish people think they are a chosen people, to begin with. I don't like that idea a wee bit. I think that's racism pure and simple. We are all chosen people."

     I thought she had a point. But I very much wanted to become part of some religion. So I wanted to try out Islam. I get a copy of the Holy Koran. It was very interesting, here and there. But they have too many angels and jinns  for my taste. I liked their heaven with  nice gardens and fruits and flowers and silk and beautiful young women too, but they have a real fiery Hell that I just couldn't take. Now I am not a bad guy, I can tell you, so I don't expect to go there. But just in case I don't measure up to Allah's standardsÖ. I found out too that if you are a Muslim you say nothing bad, even as a joke, about the Prophet and Allah. If you do, they'll get you one way or another unless you go into hiding, protected by Scotland Yard and FBI put together. Now this I can't accept. But let me also make it perfectly clear to all Muslim peoples: I have only most highest respect for Holy Koran and for Prophet Mohammed. I also think all the Ayatollas are good too. I don't want nobody to get mad with me, okay? We live in a very touchy world where everybody must be respected, whatever they say, no questions ask. I fully accept this multipluralism or diversification or whatever.

     So next I go to the Hindus. I visit a Hindu temple. It was very beautiful outside and inside.  I saw many big dolls, like in a museum or something, but someone explained these are all gods. They were nicely dressed up I must say. Some of them Hindu gods had four arms, and this I thought could be a problem when you wear a sweater or something, for example. Another god, he had a full elephant face, really, with a long trunk and a big round tummy. A third one was a plain old monkey. He was wearing a crown, and a dress too. This  brought to my mind my biology class. Maybe, I thought, Hindu scientists believe not only man, but gods also come from monkeys. Is that what they're trying to say? Then I saw man with a bushy hair- and this is the truth: he wasn't wearing a shirt. He was the priest. At one point,  everybody stood up and started singing together. The priest lighted up a lamp and moved it in circles near the face of these god-figures. I couldn't figure that out what he was trying to accomplish. But I'm sure it had some purpose.

     One Hindu man told me I should do this thing called yoga for peace of mind and good health. He took me to class with about ten or so people. He introduced me to a guru who  made me repeat something which he whispered into my ear, and I had to  promise him I won't tell anyone what it is. I can't even remember it now. He called it my mantra. We were all asked to squat on the floor, with our legs crossed. Man, I tell you, that wasn't easy. We closed our eyes and we had to say together  "om," like in "home" without the h, but a very long o, three times. We had to take  very deep breaths. The guru explained that the secret of good health is in taking deep breaths. I wanted to know if this is true when there is too much smog or air pollution. But I didn't ask. Then we had to do all kinds of twisting and turning. It was too much for me. I am kind of flabby, and that makes it little more difficult to yoga.

     Now I go to this Buddhist center, 'cause they say this is another great religion, with lamas and all. There was this nice short fellow there, with a round face and a bald head, wearing spectacles and a brick colored toga. He started by saying that all life is a pain. I disagreed right there, 'cause I think life is mostly fun. True, now and then things get bad, but you can't have everything good all the time. That's no fair either. But one thing he said I agreed with one hundred per cent. Do everything in moderation. I've no problems with that, especially when I think of my beer-drinking  buddies. But do I have to become a Buddhist for that?

     Next,  I heard about something else called Jaina. Maybe that would take me to something, I thought. But I soon found out that these guys are what they call purely vegetarianism: That means only greens, maybe potatoes, but no meat at all. No chicken, no fish, no eggs. Now for someone who likes double cheese burgers, this is no religion, I told myself.

     I tried out a couple more religions. One is called Sikhism. If you become a Sikh, you stop using the razor, and you give up hair-cutting. This may be convenient when you travel for many days, but somehow I didn't like the idea of a beard and turban all the time. And then they wear an iron bangle and carry a little knife. Now what kind of religion is this, imposing dress codes and hair-styles? No, this was not my cup of tea either. Someone who knew my struggles suggested that I should try out Bahaism because it includes all the religions I have tried plus some. I couldn't cope with even one of them how could I handle all?   

Conclusion

     I concluded I am not cut out for any religion and veesay versa, as some people say. I don't wish to harm nobody. I'm willing to give help out anyone if it doesn't cost way too much money or pain, and I'm ready to share my meal with stranger of any race, religion or sexual ornamentation. I don't need any of this other stuff in religions. I can't cope with any.

     Now two questions remain. First: How did it all begin? Science says Big Bang, and religions say God. Why not simply say, God said, "Let there be a Big Bang, and the wide world was born." And God also said, "Let there be a Little Bang, and the DNA was born."

     Second question: What will happen to me when I die? I'll just wait and see, and I'm in no hurry to find that out. That's my statement on religion and science, and now I must get back to my sports program on TV.

 

12 February 2000