The debate between science and religion has been raging for centuries and no doubt will for some time to come. That said, we may well be in for some interesting surprises in the coming months when we receive the data from the U.K. Census 2021. I predict that a majority of the population will chose no religion, and of those that do, especially Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, they will do so not because of belief, but cultural and group identity.
The truth is that traditional theistic faith, that is the idea of an all powerful, all knowing, benevolent ‘Lord God’ passing judgement on our thoughts and actions, is simply unbelievable to most people today who, in the age of science, have been nurtured on the idea of reason and rationality.
For me, it is not the idea of a divine transient universal consciousness that is the problem, but the idea of God as a super human being with miraculous powers sitting in judgement.
Most religions are built on the idea that their God and their Prophet represent the true path and those who follow others paths are ‘kafir’, ‘non-believers’, ‘nastiks’, etc. Some religious fanatics even claim those who reject God are devil worshipers and worse, and that therefore attacking such people would be a holy act!
Coming to science, reason and logic, it is argued that this is cold and soul less, that it cannot address existential questions associated with the purpose or meaning of life and existence. It’s like the analogy of a vehicle. Without science one could not have created the vehicle, but equally science cannot tell you where to go; you have to decide that for yourself! The role of God and religion, it is argued, is to provide you with a moral compass to help you to navigate the journey of life.
As a non-religious person, my inclination is towards favouring a rational, scientific world view, though I am also am very weary that scientific discovery is no panacea for the challenges faced by humanity. I believe that wisdom is timeless and can be found amongst all cultures and religious traditions throughout human history.
And so for me the challenge for humanity is to stop investing in pointless and destructive religious beliefs and rituals and pointless and destructive science and for us to move towards a new enlightenment. That is one that is built on the principles of empirical facts, universal truths, wisdom, divinity, the rights of all species, both animate and plants, and harmonious ecological existence.
To those people who take pride in, and comfort from, adopting specific religious identity, including adopting an external appearance, I say there is nothing wrong with that but try to see beyond the surface and ones own ‘in group’. That means connecting with wider humanity and focusing on what unifies not divides. This is, for me, the most important lesson taught to me by Baba Nanak and that is why I am proud to be a Sikh, that is to be a student of wisdom, reason and logic and a seeker of universal love and divinity.
[Gurnam Singh is an academic activist dedicated to human rights, liberty, equality, social and environmental justice. He is an Associate Professor of Sociology at University of Warwick, UK. He can be contacted at Gurnam.firstname.lastname@example.org]
* This is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.
Towards a more loving, sharing and caring world in 2021 (Asia Samachar, 22 Dec 2020)