Friday, July 11, 2014


I am grading final exams for one of my summer courses.  One question I require all students to answer requires them to compare the state of religion and religious faith in 1500 to the present day, using a quote from Charles Taylor's A secular Age.  Many of the responses discuss science as a leading factor in this change.  I don't intend to debate this idea here - the very first thing I ever wrote was an essay for myself on the relationship between religion and science.  I was 13 years old when I wrote it and I came then to much the same conclusion my students of today do in their answers. My thoughts have changed since that essay of 50 years ago.

What interests me at this moment, however, is science.  That is, what is science to these students? Most of their answers suggest that science is the answer to all questions, or to those questions worth asking.  Questions worth asking are those where there exists a concrete impact on human life, sometimes direct as in disease or pain, and sometimes indirect as in food supply or weather.  Unspoken is any consideration of what might come after life.  Morality is assumed to be 'natural', or 'logical', that is, morality is not something that needs to be discussed or thought about in any deep way, it is merely obvious.  All 'real' things and morality are not connected in any direct fashion to religion.

I am not sure what to make of all this.  I would have thought, or hoped at least, that a study of different religions as integral components of societies across time and space would have changed this meme.  Apparently not.

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