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Science versus Religion

In spite of the rapid decay of organised religion in most European countries, many people still cling to a vague belief in God and in related religious ideas. A few adopt and defend them fervently. How can this be so in the modern world of gene therapy and space research?

In spite of the overwhelming success of the scientific method of thinking and its application to achieving practical results, it seems to bring as many evils as benefits. For this reason, many people distrust and fear science. They do not want it to be true that science has all the answers, because that seems to mean that there is no hope of an alternative to the way things are. They would rather believe that there is a way of solving problems which lies outside the realm of science and common sense.

In spite of the desire to escape the pressures and anxieties of the modern world, and a readiness to abandon common sense in order to embrace the supposed certainties of religion, more and more people are finding difficulty in taking it seriously because so many things about religion contradict each other or experience.

The anomalies and absurdities that make it difficult or impossible for the majority of people to take religion seriously are often excused by religious apologists as being accidental features that could be straightened out. They ignore the fact that religion has had a very long history and prehistory during which the process of straightening out has been going on all the time. If we study the history and the geography of religion, we can see that the absurdities are fundamental, and that when they are finally eradicated it will mean the eradication of religion itself.

The reasons which make people want to turn to religion are genuine reasons. They are sufficiently aware of the world they live in to know that life for the great majority of people, even in ‘advanced’ countries, is hurried, anxious and stultifying, while millions in the world are haunted by insecurity, poverty, starvation and the fear of war. And they feel that something could be done about these things, considering the enormous productive potential and ingenuity of modern technology. Yet it is exactly here that religion, or what is left of it, has become thoroughly integrated with the sick philosophy of modern capitalism – that the only things we can have in this life are the things that don’t really matter. This is not only false – it is dangerous for the future of humanity. What angers the socialist is what this vague religious attitude which many people still retain enables their feelings and thoughts to be manipulated by the unscrupulous, through modern techniques and media of persuasion, so that they are not left free to do their own thinking. In a multitude of subtle ways people are persuaded that no real relief or improvement is possible – above all, that there is nothing they themselves can do about their problems.

Instead of retreating from science, the socialist applies scientific enquiry even more thoroughly – to human affairs themselves – and asks how it is that our living standards, our personal relationships, industrial relations, commercial practice, international affairs, are as they are, and why they change as they do. Instead of faith, humility and resignation, the socialist approach is one of knowledge – of coping with reality instead of escaping into ‘higher things’.