Thinking About – Science and Religion

There are a few discussions happening on Facebook about science and religion and whether they can exist together, or whether science will make religion/spirituality redundant. I’m very happy that many of the born-again Atheists that, after reading The God Delusion, went on evangelical campaigns to convert the world to Dawkinsism seem to have backed off a bit, as this has allowed this space for more open discussion.

bluedotLast night I watched a documentary on the Voyager space probes. As the years came and went after their launch and these probes made their way past each planet, they somehow transmitted images back to Earth and for the first time we saw the planets that share our solar system (how this signal get’s from space to Earth when I have trouble getting a WIFI signal from my lounge to my bedroom is another of life’s mysteries…). As Voyager flew past Neptune and entered deep space the scientists on Earth managed to get the camera to turn back towards our solar system and it sent back an image. This image is, to me, one of the most sobering and grounding images ever taken. Among the grey of space there was a tiny blue dot. That was Earth. It looked so small, so fragile. It puts everything in perspective.

This leads to another thought. Of all of the uncountable life forms on Earth (yes, let’s start with just the Earth) from bacteria, viruses, insects, fish, all of the species of mammals from whales to farmed sheep, the birds, each of which were born and are alive, somehow, a statistically almost impossible feat, I ended up being born a human. Not only that but I was born a human living in the south east of England. I could have been anything. But I was born as me. Next time I complain about the strength of my home WIFI signal just remind me of this.

So how do I, a Pagan polytheistic animist, square the Voyager image, and the film above with my beliefs? Let’s have a look.

I once had my own business and I shared this with a very spiritual man, but not a religious one. He once said to me, “Well, if you’re going to worship anything it makes sense to worship the things that keep you alive. The Sun, the Earth.” The solar system, and our planet’s relationship with it create our seasons. I read a wonderful blog by the Druid and blogger John Beckett on Patheos some time ago. Sadly I can’t find the post, but the gist of it was that some believe Atheism to be the natural state of the human mind. John’s argument suggested that, if all evidence of every religion was to disappear from the Earth, and somehow the human race also forgot all religions, that lack of religion and belief would not last. At some point we would look to the Sun, the seasons, the stars, and the Moon, and we would begin to see stories, to see meaning behind the natural movement of the Earth and its relationship with its closest celestial bodies. We would begin to develop deeper relationships with the seasons. Many modern Pagans do this now. It’s just common sense to me. So the stories of my ancestors, and the ancestors of other tribal peoples around the world can still offer valuable lessons. They are beautiful and poetic ways to relate to the world. When I look towards the sea I see Llyr. As an animist I don’t see Llyr as the God of the Sea, I see him as the sea itself. The stories of Llyr and his children give me ways to relate this powerful element that makes up a third of our planet. You might see it as a powerful and useful metaphor. To me it’s more than that. Who is right? That’s not the important question. To quote the Bard – There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. – Hamlet (1.5.167-8)

I love to watch scientific programs. I’m also not against Richard Dawkins. I love his book The Ancestors Tale. I don’t think he would like me saying this but I found it an incredibly spiritual book, and instead of challenging my Paganism, it added even more depth to it. Quantum physics is suggesting the existence of alternative universes, some even filled with alternative Damhs living parallel lives. So to believe in Otherworlds is also not too far out there. Of course there are places where current science and my beliefs separate. As an animist I believe that all things have consciousness, from my dog, to stones, to trees, and I believe that, as I have consciousness, through meditation and Journeying, I can communicate with the consciousness of others, and of Otherworlds. When I get to areas like this there is faith because it is subjective and is only proven to me by experience. I don’t expect anyone to share my beliefs.

As I watch programs like the one on the Voyager probes, see videos like the one above, see from a photograph just how small our planet really is, it makes me wish the perspective it gives me was contagious. I wish those getting upset to the point of murder about a cartoon, and those who felt they needed to draw that cartoon, politicians who seem hellbent on creating fear of an ‘Other’, all those involved in war and power, would see that we are one species, floating through space on a tiny planet that somehow manages to sustain an abundance of life. That our existence is a miracle, that we could be so much more than we are.

But then maybe I’m seeing the Star Trek utopia, and it seems we are a few generations from that.

12 Comments

  1. John Beckett January 22, 2015 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Damh, thanks for the kind words. I think this is the post you were referring to:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/2014/11/organic-religion.html

    I never get tired of standing underneath the night sky, looking up, realizing how vast and old the universe is, how small and brief I am, and yet knowing I’m a part of it all!

    • Damh the Bard January 24, 2015 at 1:32 pm - Reply

      That’s the one! Thanks John.

    • Polly Knowles January 26, 2015 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      Thank you so very much for the wonderfully informative and beautiful post. @John Beckett…

      And to Damh the Bard for the the website his blog,and superb links,to information that is in valuable.

      In peace always to you both,

      With thanks,and with gratitude.

  2. Jayne January 22, 2015 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    Gosh you are such a profound person…what you’ve written about is sobering, uplifting and true. Thanks for taking the time to share it!

  3. Dennis January 22, 2015 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    As a witch, with a very scientific outlook on life how do I square my religion with the scientific method of Dawkin?
    As you point out, we came from outer space carried on a comet/ space rock that crashed into Earth and somehow in that early melting (cauldron) pot the earliest life formed and over the millennia life as we know it was formed and evolved into us. So where do out Gods and Goddesses fit into this? For me they don’t fit into our creation, but I do believe in their energies in the natural world and a thought form created by our ancestors and carried forward by everyone who celebrates their existence. Rather like Tinkerbell in Peter Pan. The moment we turn our back on them they will cease to exist!
    Irrespective of belief, the majority of peoples of the world celebrate the wheel of the year in their own way, even if its only the changing seasons. Seeing a snow drop signalling that spring is on its way, the trees changing colour and their leafs falling as the wheel changes from autumn and winter approaches.I think that even Dawkin would understand that!
    What is wrong in celebrating the changing seasons? Yes, we all know that its not some unseen God who drives the sun across the sky chasing the moon. But there are still people who believe that the earth is flat and that the earth is hollow with a civilisation living under the Earth’s crust! So if you want to believe that we have to pray to make sure the sun rises in the morning, so be it. There are more than enough people who are prepared to kill if you do not share their belief system so I am not going knock it.
    Yes we must not forget that we are just a speck in our solar system, an even smaller speck in our galaxy. Then hoe many solar systems in our galaxy and how many galaxy’s in the universe? the fact that if our planet was further towards the sun, our atmosphere would have boiled away and we would not exist, further out and we freeze. But from the exploration on Mars, it appears that it once had running water, and atmosphere. But where/why did it go? Could that happen to us?
    When you look up at the stars at night, do you wonder if there is another life form which may be like us or not, more primitive or advanced lookup up at their sky wondering if someone out there is wondering if someone is looking back at them? I do!
    Blessed Be

    Dennis
    May your Gods and Goddesses go with you

  4. Stephen January 22, 2015 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    To look into the night sky with the knowing we are all part of the Universe for all eternity this is science fact. The Comfort of this knowing is our spiritual inheritance. Thought provoking post Damh ,thank you. /|\

  5. Stifford January 23, 2015 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Love this post. Especially the bit about not seeing a god of, but the sea itself. I have to say something about the athiest cause though. Most people are born into the clutches of a church. Indoctrinated from birth. Then they find centuries of defence designed to not let people leave. Threats of going to hell, family being cursed, cast out and hated by everyone they have ever know. Athiests are rising up and shouting as loud as they can, agressively, that there is a way out, that you dont have to beleive what you were forced to.. The reason they have to shout so loud is not because they are trying to Convert people to atheism. Its because to be heard against the power of churches is almost impossible. I was an atheist my whole life and still dont beleive in man made deities. But i have spent my whole life in the woods knowing in my heart that these places are alive. In an eywa way. With a powerful spirit and consciousness and when i discovered obod it was everything to me. I love the ancient lore about deities but to an atheist-druid like me they are metaphors and projections of ideals. As you can imagine it is a struggle sometimes and when i see articles like this that dont force you to choose between science Or religion it makes my heart truly glad.. Blessed be dave you are an absolute star !!

  6. Carrie Viscome Skinner January 23, 2015 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    Ahh…perspective…Something I really needed today. Thanks Damh.

  7. Polly Knowles January 26, 2015 at 12:27 am - Reply

    Thank you for the wonderful post,and your website.

    I am never lonely with so many stars as friends,trees to sit under,and feel them almost hug me as a father to a daughter,or grandfather,uncle,aunt cousin friend.

    I am surrounded by friends in the animals that I see daily.whom seem to say hello in their own way,and send me on my way,I look up to the night sky,and feel that a mantle of peace surrounds me,and just like a blanket,wraps me up in it’s essence,and smiles back at me,before I go to sleep.

    And in the morning the sun welcomes me as it shines in at the window,and lights up my day..

    I stand at the sea and look out, to horizons that have been gazed upon before by many,and will be again..

    And I know,that in my life,even with health problems that I have,I am blessed,and that I am part of a past present,that is the circle that does not get broken..

    In peace to you always.
    And with heartfelt thanks.

  8. […] I find the timeliness of this prompt to be pretty perfect, since Damh the Bard just recently made a post about science and religion in past week or so. I won’t ramble about his views here, but I do recommend hopping over to […]

  9. john p johnson March 11, 2015 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    hi damh,i for one think that having a spiritual outlook is completely different from organised religion,indeed, the coming of spring,the changing seasons,and yes the fact that humanity can now see that other stars have planets,maybe with advanced life,all these things to me are very spiritual,scientific discovery,can be very spiritual,we too are also part of nature with our enquiring minds, as an eco socialist,i feel

  10. john p johnson March 11, 2015 at 11:37 pm - Reply

    hi damh,i for one think that having a spiritual outlook is completely different from organised religion,indeed, the coming of spring,the changing seasons,and yes the fact that humanity can now see that other stars have planets,maybe with advanced life,all these things to me are very spiritual,scientific discovery,can be very spiritual,we too are also part of nature with our enquiring minds,in peace.jpj

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