Rosh Hashanah: Science Vs Religion. Faith, belief, and metaphors.

Last night we scanned through our PVR and found we had recorded back in September a really interesting programme: Rosh Hashanah: Science Vs Religion.

A debate between the UK Chief Rabbi  Lord Jonathon Sachs and 3 scientists. The first Baroness Susan Greenfield is a neurologist; the second Jim Al-Khalili is the chair of the UK Humanist Society and is a physicist; and finally he talked with Richard Dawkins who is a biologist and [virulent] atheist and wrote the book The God Delusion.

Lord Sachs’ main argument was that science answers how things work but religion answers why. He was also quite clear that for him, I thought, much of the Old Testament, was not fact but metaphors designed to teach the people living at that time something important. In particular that they must cherish their children, as many cultures at the period that these books were written did not but considered children as consumables and items to be sold or bartered or indeed left to die if this was more convenient.

I have read an interesting blog by Mark Rowlinson [which I am reblogging] as a commentary on this programme and he makes some good points. But I cannot agree with the comment made on another blog that most Christians would disagree with Lord Sachs. Only if they believe in the actuality of the creation and that the bible is more than nice stories explained in a way that less technical and less scientifically complex societies than ours can understand. After all, you need to speak in a language that your readers and listeners can empathise with or they won’t listen to you… story-telling is all about morality and teaching whether they are the stories in our ‘fairy’ tales – the ones we tell our children such as Red Riding Hood, or the stories that are told in the Old Testament for sure. [I can’t speak to the New Testament as I have only read small excerpts, but expect that much of it is the same in reality].

If you want to see some of the programme some excerpts are still available at the links below.

The Chief Rabbi also has a blog and on this blog is the text from a speech he gave to the house of Lords in which he says that religions  act as a countervoice to the siren song of a culture that sometimes seems to value self over others, rights over responsibilities, getting more than giving, consumption more than contribution, and success more than service to others. Now I believe in all these actions but I confess do not have a religion – I am closest to being a Humanist than any things else and thus do not accept that you need to be religious to undertake these actions. I also cannot see in our culture that many of those who are most religious are those acting this way, indeed they seem to be those who hold the most repressive views of how people live, they are those who against women as Bishops for instance, or against gay marriage in church or other religious establishment.


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