Those who support the compatibility of religion with science argue that these two facets of our lives form complementary lenses through which we can view reality. Moreover, they claim that science does not answer life’s biggest questions, like those about why we are here. Opponents counter that religion gives us, at best, a blurry vision of reality and, at worst, an irrational and eventually destructive one, while science alone provides us with a proven survival mechanism. Which side is correct?
Prayer is to religion what research is to science. Each is a tool to give us an edge on reality. Prayer gives us comfort and research gives us knowledge. But both give us hope.
The difference is that prayer is based on what we want to happen, whereas research is based on what actually is happening, despite our needs and desires. This difference is key, because it shows that prayer not only might fail to help us, but that, more importantly, it is founded on an irrational expectation and serious misunderstanding about the nature of reality.
It is important to mention, however, that prayer does seem to satisfy one of our very real and basic needs, that of calming our fears and giving us confidence to continue living. Science tries its best, but our imaginations are insatiably hungry for answers. Religion, by wishing into existence an all-powerful or otherwise supernatural helping hand, trumps any and all scientific claims to truth. It doesn’t really matter that most tests of religious beliefs fail.
So it seems that, although religious belief has little or no basis in reality, it is a major fact of reality that science cannot satisfy our imaginations. Does this mean, then, that religion has some place in our lives? If so, does that mean that religion does us any good?
The answer to the first question is yes. Religion does have a place in our lives by virtue of the fact that science cannot satiate us. But the answer to the second question is no, because religion, being based on something other than reality, cannot ultimately satisfy us, either. Science is our only hope for survival, even if it doesn’t keep us warm at night.
Oh, wait, it does! I forgot about my heater.