Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By Jim Shipley
Shipley speaks 

Science and religion-compatible


There is an interesting documentary on YouTube about a recent archeological expedition in Iraq and Iran—what was ancient Persia and before that Babylonia. In ancient texts and evidence in excavations there are stories about Sodom, Gomorrah and the big flood.

That area of Persia/Iran was and is susceptible to flooding. They use round bottom boats of the type described in Torah in the story of Noah. But, there is no history of a great flood—plenty of floods, but not one big enough to bring penguins from Antarctica and giraffes from Africa.

A lot of what we read in Torah was written during the Babylonian exile. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But... like the song says “The things that you’re liable to read in the Bible, they ain’t necessarily so.” Much of our Torah and the New Testament consist of stories to illustrate the existence of a Higher Power and are necessary to get the reader’s attention.

People need to believe in something greater than themselves to deal with life and what it throws at them. Without Faith, we would as a world, be in even worse shape than we are.

But Faith, like Joseph’s coat, comes in many colors. At one time it was stone idols and fire. Faith. Without it we would not have electricity, Einstein’s theory, automobiles or trips to the moon. No, Faith should never be a problem. Religion on the other hand...

Religious leaders take Faith and fashion it into a regimented program of belief and discipline. Some of them throughout history take off on their own route through Faith to religion. Sometimes, strong leaders—up to dictators, use God to tell their followers what God told them or what he meant.

Sometimes, to do this, some religious leaders have to defy reality to keep the Faithful in line. Judaism started with a set of rules that all these millennium later still make incredible sense. The Ten Commandments by themselves set rules that adjusted in their wording to modern situations would make this a most delightful world in which to live.

There is not, nor is there ever, a conflict between Faith and reality. God, whatever or whoever he may be probably has a plan... but we nor any religious leader is prescient enough to know what that is. The problems arise when the people who are appointed or in some cases self-appointed start interpreting Scripture to suit their own purposes and ignore history and science.

Can religion and science exist together? Of course they can! Look at a spider web—chimpanzees have 98 percent of our human DNA—how can you not believe that a Higher Power, something beyond our own narrow experience had something to do with that? In1844 when Samuel F.B. Morse sent the first telegraph message—what did he transmit? “What has God wrought.”

I have failed over the years to picture some bearded figure, surrounded by a mystic light sitting on a high throne somewhere “up” in heaven, handling every little problem—not just on earth but in the billions and billions of stars that you can only see on a clear night away from civilization.

William Shakespeare wrote: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are in our philosophy.” I believe there is a Higher Power of some kind and perhaps even a grand plan. And, maybe humans are just a teeny part of that plan. If it is a plan for peace and goodwill we certainly are not the answer.

Is there any question that religious wars have killed and are killing more people than all the plagues and floods in history? Every war has started through the will and purpose of some “Strong Man.” Too many times these tyrants call upon religion to justify their means. Religion, not Faith.

Could we have Faith without religion? Maybe. Probably. But humans tend to question and seek simple answers. Jews? Vey! We are the greatest questioners of all. Go to any city with a solid population of Orthodox Jews. They (we) do not accept the word of any fellow human just because he stands on a pulpit or a speaker’s podium. Study and discussion—okay, argue—over Torah is going on as I write and as you read as it has for centuries. Interpretation of Torah or the New Testament is varied and difficult because it should be. It is the reason we have seminaries to train our rabbis and our priests and reverends.

They need that base. That base comes from Human Faith. They read and study and interpret. But when they carry that interpretation to reverse the actual facts of human development, science and evolution—facts that are more and more indisputable as science gains new insights and modern tools—they are doing a disservice to their congregation, mankind as a whole and to God—whomever he may be.


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