I am in love with science. I smile like a fool just saying the phrase, merely because there is too much to admire, and I can’t help but allow a little awe spill over. Words could not properly convey the vast justice we have done to ourselves by pursuing it, given the tragically beautiful and amazing things we have discovered (purposefully or otherwise) as a result. The adjective “diverse” seems too weak to describe the innumerable paths one may take in helping to solve another mystery of our world – after all, everything is in our reach. We invest in both the complexity of the galaxy of the cells we are composed of as well as the silent, incomprehensibly powerful quantities of space. We are not restricted. We are never finished.
Beyond my passion for science, there is another part of me that I hold even dearer to my heart, one that I want to share with a burning desire. My religion.
It is at the mention of religion in most conversations that the light in my companion’s eyes turns dim. Disappointment, awkwardness, and sometimes even annoyance flickers across their gaze, and in that moment I steel myself, hurt yet not wanting to show it. The person, whomever they may be, will often apologize, explaining that they held their own beliefs, and that it wouldn’t do to get into an argument. Of course, this does not always occur, and even when it does, I never view this response as negative or offensive. These people only want to avoid a delicate topic, and do not want conflicting beliefs to harm the relationship they have with me. What does trouble me, however, is that they feel this way in the first place.
In modern times, religion seems to provoke feelings born from thousand-year-old conflicts, entailing either polite rejection or complete mayhem. It is commonplace to assume that uttering the term creates nothing but negativity, and that it is right to never bring up the issue of religion. This complete aversion to such a large cultural component is unnecessary, and it is our responsibility as the world’s future adults to ensure that it does not last any longer.
To illustrate what removing religion from socially acceptable topics would encompass, allow me to return to the subject of science. By definition, science is the study of the natural and physical world through experiment and observation. Using the analogy of popular youth speaker Matt Fradd, it is the flashlight we use to discover the room (meaning, our world) around us, incapable of disproving anything that lies outside of the area. In other words, we learn about the natural world, and we recognize it, yet it does not mean we can assume there is nothing beyond it. Therein lies the issue - why are we able to discuss differences in interpretations of the natural world, but are incapable of doing so when the supernatural is involved? Religion includes both faith and reason, refusing to reject the physical world but allowing it to bolster our beliefs in a higher power. It is necessary to express what we feel and understand of our world and what lies beyond it, involving all possibilities and accepting every human’s free will to accept or reject what another might consider the truth.
I have had the joy of a conversation that perfectly exemplified this only recently. Volunteering in a hospice on a sunny Saturday morning, I had the pleasure of meeting a girl my own age, with whom I spoke with for an hour or so. We discussed our interest in the healthcare field, and that the sciences were something we each enjoyed. Through natural discussion, the topic soon shifted to religion. Because of my Indian heritage, she had assumed that I was either a Muslim or a Hindu, and was surprised to know that my family had been Catholics for generations. The discussion turned to how she had chosen an agnostic point of view, and an insightful experience followed. We each talked of our beliefs, listening to the other and asking questions, offering what we had to say without forcing any beliefs on anyone else. I told her that I believed in a God that respected the free will of every person, and that He wanted only to reach the every heart, offering them the choice to accept Him or not. She told me of her struggle with finding truth, and that she was open to new ideas or beliefs, but did not know what to trust in just yet. After we had completed our work, we soon parted ways, each more informed of another life.
This girl and I had talked with one another, each interested in both the factual and spiritual - we did not argue or laugh at a differing point of view. One aspect flowed into the other, and we were successfully able to speak of religion as we had science, not falling into either awkward silence or angry quarreling. It is my sincere wish that I be given the chance to have another conversation like this one, or to at least see a change in how faith and reason are perceived today.
I realize that many might argue that the discussion of religion cannot be compared to how science is discussed, as religion and science are seemingly completely different. I disagree wholeheartedly - science and religion cannot be separated, as each plays a role within the other. As the late Pope John Paul II stated, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.” The two are more similar than most believe, and as I previously explained, they certainly do not contradict each other.
I am not capable of speaking for others. The point I am making may be something that another person of faith disagrees with. What I am sure of, however, is that religion is not a concept we should be afraid of. I would love to partake in a world in which I am able to speak of my passions, science and religion, and pursue my interests in both. But in order to create such a world, in which faith is spread but not forced, persecuted, or looked down upon, we must be brave enough to speak of it.