Last week we held the first of what we hope to be an annual series of Faith and Astronomy Workshops. The 25 participants, educators, priests, and deacons from parishes from across the US and Mexico, gathered to learn a little astronomy from the inside while chatting about how we can combine astronomy into our ministries.
One of the features were a series of sessions where the participants talked about their experiences dealing with science and religion in their home parishes. Below the cut, I’ll summarize some of the issues they brought up.
By the way, the participants all get a one-year membership to The Catholic Astronomer. I encourage them – and everyone else – to comment on this posting. Let’s keep the conversation going!
The first day, we addressed the question: What are the issues? What are the kinds of faith/science conversations we have in our community?
Here are some of the points that the participants brought up…
We see a contrast between the level of education in science and that in religion. Many people have a fundamentalist view of cosmology and the Bible. Often our people have a high school or college level knowledge of science but only a third grade level understanding of religion and theology. While this level of theology is sad, it is also true that even a college level knowledge of science still sees science as a big book of facts with the answers in the back of the book… Many people are over-sure about “facts”.
The prevailing materialist world view means that many of them really think that some day we will have a final “God equation” that explains everything, i.e. no need for religion! But notice that this assumes that both science and religion are seen merely as a source of “answers” rather than a conversation about the questions.
Some of the social sciences like anthropology, are struggling with the big question of what is the objective truth?
What are our images of God? Alimonies are metaphors, but many of our popular images are from another culture or age.
Students especially see questions in black and white, and cannot handle ambiguity or subtleties.
One issue is, if there is only one objective truth, why are there so many religions?
How can there be a good God in a cruel world?
Finally, many people seem to be afraid to even address such big questions; they have a fear of heresy, a lack of willingness to question; People want answers but didn’t know what to ask; sometimes they are afraid of the answer.