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Underlying Assumptions

There are commonalities between science and religion as systems of knowledge that help conceptualize them as complementary and reciprocal.  The first is that they both derive from  assumptions and articles of faith.

Religion assumes the existence of a Divine and Transcendent Reality, an Unknowable Creator referred to as God.  Religion then assumes that, although humanity cannot know God’s essence, we can perceive attributes of God and intimations of Divine will through revelation.  Religion further assumes that we can learn to apply these revealed teachings towards the betterment of humankind.

Science assumes that the phenomenal world, apparently chaotic, is actually governed by universal laws and principles which constitute a hidden order.  Science then assumes that humanity can increasingly understand these hidden laws and principles through systematic and rational methods.  Science further assumes that we can apply this knowledge towards the betterment of humankind.

These articles of faith are almost identical – in one system, applied to physical reality; in the other, to spiritual reality; though in both, being applied to human social reality.

How do you see these common assumptions operating in your field?

3 replies on “Underlying Assumptions”

“Unknowable”?

Authoritarian religions work to limit access, to convince people that “We know God and you don’t.” Nice racket for those who practice it — but bearing no relation to the experience of anyone who actually knows.

There is no reason to define “religion” based on the practice of authoritarian forms, any more than we should define the word ‘politics’ via a description of despotisms.

Does ‘knows God’ imply ‘knows God perfectly’?

No, I don’t even know my wife ‘perfectly.’ But I know, roughly, what to expect from her; and I hope to know her better over time; and that is what knowing God is like. “Facts about” are included, but it’s not primarily a matter of knowing “facts about”, but of being able & willing to ask & listen.

We have several systems of knowledge about the world, about how/why it works in certain ways, not in others, which I can ‘apply’ toward my “betterment” —

but I don’t have a “system of knowledge about my wife”. Some approaches are more likely to lead to things going well with her — but generally she treats me well because she wants to; and with God it is much the same.

The really essential religious teaching is that God wants to be known, and will help in that direction. Much of the rest — comes down to getting ourselves sufficiently domesticated, that we don’t use what we’re given to our detriment.

Science, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to come with any such guidelines towards its application. Straight manipulation of physical causation — but this would only be an adequate guide to action in an uninhabited world.

Hi treegestalt, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

I agree, religion is not defined by the practice of any one of the multitude of sects currently in existence, nor is it simply an attitude to life not susceptible to organization. The Baha’i Faith teaches that God’s essence is unknowable, yet what humanity can progressively understand are God’s attributes and the intimations of Divine Will through God’s Manifestations. We can strive to understand the Revelations of these great religions, with the knowledge that our understanding will be limited, in order to apply these teachings into daily life. In the same way, science is the system in which we can strive to understand the laws that govern physical and biological reality, with the knowledge that our understanding will be limited, in order to apply these understandings into daily life.

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