General, Research, Technology

Will science replace religion?

It so happened that on my eighth birthdaypresented a children's encyclopedia about everything in the world and a children's Bible. I read both books, but I liked the encyclopedia more, because there were dinosaurs, but not in the Bible. Just at that time, I almost never parted with my favorite toy - a little tirex, so it was not clear to me where Adam and Eve lived when dinosaurs roamed the Earth (which later also died out). In fact, almost all children ask similar questions when they learn about the giant dinosaurs that inhabited our planet 65 million years ago. Adults, of course, also want to know the answers to these and other questions, but for more than a century now the best minds on the planet have been trying to come to a consensus on whether science can replace religion and if so, why doesn’t this happen. It is not surprising that the “eternal” conflict of science and religion has generated a lot of controversy not only among scientists, theologians and priests, but also between them. Given the sensitivity of the topic, in this article we consider the replacement of religion by science ... from the point of view of science. Here we go?

Do we really need to separate science from religion?


  • 1 Resistance
  • 2 Science against religion
  • 3 Roots of Religion
  • 4 The future of science and religion


In 1966, a little over 50 years ago, the outstanding Canadian anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global death of religion at the hands of developing science:

Belief in supernatural powers is doomed to extinction worldwide as a result of the growing adequacy and dissemination of scientific knowledge.

Wallace's opinion was not exceptional. On the contrary, modern social sciences, which were formed in Western Europe in the 19th century, took their own recent historical experience of secularization as a universal model. Let me remind you that secularization is a process in which the role of religion in society gradually decreases. Social sciences in the pastthe idea that all cultures will eventually come to something similar to secular, western, liberal democracy. But then something close to the opposite happened: Secularism could not continue the global procession on the planet, and different countries, for example Iran, India, Israel, Algeria and Turkey, either changed their secular governments to religious ones or witnessed the rise of religious nationalist movements. Secularization has failed. But why?

As Peter Harrison writes in his article on Aeon,the author of The Territories of Science and Religion and editor of the journal Narratives of Secularization, the reason probably lies in the active planting of secularism, as happened in India and Turkey, for example secularism harmed science.

See also: Superstition from the point of view of science: why do we believe in the supernatural?

First Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehrudefended secular and scientific ideals and included scientific education in the modernization project. Nehru was convinced that the Hindu ideas of the Vedic past and the Muslim dreams of Islamic theocracy would necessarily take the path of secularization. “In time there is only one-way traffic” He declared. But as the subsequent rise of Hindu and Islamic fundamentalism convincingly testifies, Nehru was wrong. Moreover, the combination of science and secularization led to the opposite results, and science became a “by-product” of resistance to secularism.

The theory of evolution is a proven scientific fact.

Turkey is an even more telling example. Like most pioneers, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, was a convinced secularist. Ataturk believed that science was destined to supplant religion. To make sure that Turkey is on the right historical path, he assigned science, in particular evolutionary biology, a central place in the state education system of the young Republic of Turkey. As a result, evolution began to be associated with Ataturk's entire political program, including secularism.

Islamist parties in Turkey seekingresist the secular ideals of the founders of the nation, also attacked the doctrine of evolution. For them, evolution is associated with secular humanism. The culmination of these sentiments was the decision taken in June 2019 to remove the teaching of evolution from the school curriculum. Doesn’t resemble anything?

Secular Humanism opposed to a religious worldview, does not recognize the existence of supernatural forces above man and nature.

Science versus religion

Contrary to the expectations of scientists and intellectuals,the spread of modern science did not lead to secularization, and science and the scientific method did not stand at the head of most societies. Unfortunately, we found ourselves in the future, from which many warned. So, in 1997, astronomer Karl Sagan in his book “A world full of demons, science is like a candle in the dark” wrote that seemingly innocent hobbies of religious, esoteric, astrological and other practices and trends are a danger to the future of mankind.

What is consciousness and how it appeared, howschizophrenia and belief in conspiracy theory are connected and what happens to us after death, read on our channel in Yandex.Zen. There are articles that are not on the site.

Moreover, in many Western countriesthe decline of religious beliefs. For example, the latest census data from Australia showed that 30% of the population do not consider themselves to be one of the existing religions and this percentage continues to grow. In 2018, The Guardian published a stunning article entitled “Is there no more Christianity?”, Which contains data from opinion polls about the religiosity of Europeans. The results showed that the number of young people who do not profess any of the existing religions continues to grow.

Moreover, the survey revealed thatthe least religious country in Europe is the Czech Republic - 91% of respondents in the age group of 16-29 do not consider themselves to be one of the religions. 70% and 80% of the young population of Estonia, Sweden and the Netherlands also describe themselves as non-religious. And the most religious country in Europe turned out to be Poland, where only 17% of young people declared their non-religiosity, followed by Lithuania, where 25% adhere to the atheistic worldview.

Do you agree that this is exactly the case in Russia? Source: St. Mary's University, Twickenham

But there are many development So, according to Stephen Bullivant of St. Mary’s University in London, countries that are next to each other, with similar cultural characteristics and history, have different religious profiles. Nevertheless, on a global scale, the total number of people who consider themselves religious remains high, and demographic trends suggest that in the near future the world will face an increase in religiosity.

So, Christians will be another four decadesremain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other of the major religions. According to the Pew Research Center, these trends will last until 2050. Moreover, atheists, agnostics, and everyone who does not consider themselves to be one of the existing faiths will be more in countries such as the United States and France, but their total number of people on Earth will decrease. All forecasts are based on the coverage and geographical distribution of the largest world religions, data on fertility and mortality, age differences, migration, etc.

According to Pew Research Center forecasts, by 2050 the number of Muslims (2.8 billion or 30% of the population) will be almost equal to the number of Christians (2.9 billion or 31%), perhaps for the first time in history.

The roots of religion

If you think carefully, each of us hashis own favorite theory of how religion came about, where it came from and why it is present in all human societies. Certainly, religion unites, calms, satisfies the thirst for knowledge and gives meaning to life. However, considering religion as something separate from the evolution of Homo Sapiens would be wrong.

Religion gives comfort and ready answers to difficult questions.

As he writes in his book “God as an Illusion”evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, from the point of view of an evolutionist, religious rituals are just as striking as a peacock's tail in a sunlit meadow. At first glance, the peacock's tail seems like empty fun, which does not increase its chances of survival. However, it is the owner of the most magnificent tail among peacocks that spreads their genes, unlike competitors. The tail is an advertisement, its existence is evolutionarily justified, as it attracts females.

You will be interested: Evolution of the brain explains faith in God and supernatural phenomena

The same can be said of time and power,which the hut birds spend on the construction of a hut .; the building is a kind of “tail”, which is made of twigs, bright flowers, beads and trinkets that we managed to find. The main goal of this construction is to attract a female. In both cases, if the birds did not behave like this, their chances of transmitting their genes would decrease.

Religious behavior, Dawkins writes, is the human equivalent of building a hut. It takes a lot of time and energy, andits manifestation becomes no less bizarre than the plumage of a bird of paradise. Because of religion, the lives of believers and others may be in danger. History shows that thousands of people were persecuted and tormented, and in general, resources absorbed by religion are enormous.

However, religion is more than peculiar.“Guarantee” of gene transfer. From an evolutionary point of view, the benefit of religion is to protect people from stress-related illnesses. This is similar to the placebo effect that I wrote about in a previous article.

A more detailed picture of the causes andthe prevalence of religions is described in his book “” by Pascal Bouillay, a French evolutionary psychologist, social and cultural anthropologist. He examines in detail each generally accepted (and not only) hypothesis about the need for religion, its appearance and dissemination. If you try to convey the main idea in three words, then religion - more precisely, magical thinking - has accompanied humanity throughout its history. Our brain is supposedly “programmed” to believe in the supernatural and look for simple answers to complex questions.

It’s also important to understand that you can’t just take“Get rid” of religion and religious practices. According to professor at Stanford University neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky, ritual practices, from ceremonies to the sign of the cross, are similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Agree, not such an unexpected comparison.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder - these are unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions),which lead to the appearance of obsessive (compulsive) behavior. OCD sufferers develop rituals, such as constantly washing their hands or shifting things in a specific order.

Robert Sapolsky, neuroscientist, professor at Stanford University

Given the genetic, cultural, and evolutionarythe prerequisites for the emergence and survival of religions throughout the history of mankind, to take and simply cross out religion from society will not work. By the way, the Soviet Union demonstrated this better than others by outlawing religion and the church. The communist ideology and personality cult of Lenin and Stalin were to take the place of religion. However, after the collapse of the USSR, the country seemed to be seized by obscurantism: faith in God (like unbelief) was successfully combined with astrology, magic, and “charged” water from Kashpirovsky’s sessions on TV. What came of this we see today: the union of the church and the state led to the appearance of a law on the protection of the feelings of believers.

This is interesting: Why are women more religious than men?

But what does science contrast with religiousmagical thinking? Given that, using the scientific method, we sent a person to the moon, invented a computer, the Internet, built a real civilization, it might seem that religion really should recede, and in some countries this really happens. Moreover, many scientists and intellectuals are still convinced that the development of society will sooner or later lead all countries to a secular state system. Among them, Stephen Hawking, who believed that "science will triumph because it works"; Sam Harris is convinced that “science must destroy religion”; Steven Weinberg believes that science has weakened religious confidence and many other artists and scientists predict that science will ultimately make religion unnecessary.

The future of science and religion

But why does science and religion conflict? Can't we separate these two concepts and not mix them? After all, objective truth exists regardless of our religious beliefs. You may not “believe” in the theory of evolution, but it still will not change the fact that man descended from a monkey. One way or another, religious beliefs are a very difficult topic, both from the point of view of society, and from the point of view of science, evolutionary biology and brain development.

Finnish education system is the best in the world

I think that each person should decide for himselfwhat and how to believe and whether to believe at all. At the same time, the very right moment is the right to choose: people should know that you can believe in Yahweh, Buddha, Zeus, Odin and even more than 2,000 gods known to mankind, but you can not believe in any of them at all. Maybe you do not need to be afraid of the unknown? Yes, today there are no answers to a huge number of questions, but this does not mean that they do not need to be looked for or replaced with false ones. What do you think about this? Will the world become more religious over time, or vice versa? Share your answer in the comments to this article and join the members of our Telegram chat to discuss this and other equally interesting topics.

Also, the experience of some countries, such as Finland,The Czech Republic and Sweden show that several factors are at once the key to secularization: the education system (Finland has the best education system in the world), access to information, freedom of speech, conscience and religion lead society to prosperity. It is not for nothing that in these countries representatives of various faiths behave themselves very well, attend churches and mosques and live for their pleasure. I think this is largely the result of education - it never occurred to anyone in Finland, the Czech Republic and Sweden to ban the study of the theory of evolution in school. I want to end this article with quotes that reflect different points of view about the “eternal conflict”:

Imagine a world without John Lennonreligion. Imagine: there were no suicide bombers, the September 11 bombing in New York, the July 7 bombing in London, the Crusades, the witch hunt, the “gunpowder plot”, the partition of India, the Israeli-Palestinian wars, the extermination of Serbs, Croats, Muslims; persecution of Jews for “Christ-killing”, North Irish “conflict”, “honor killings”, there are no dressed in sparkling costumes, shaking mane television evangelists, empty pockets of gullible simpletons (“Give everything to the skin to please the Lord”). Imagine: there were no Taliban exploding ancient statues, publicly chopping off the heads of blasphemers, whips stripping female flesh because its narrow strip opened slightly to the eyes of others.

Richard DawkinsGod is like an illusion

We suffer from spiritual and cultural paralysis, we do notable to look into the face of infinity, reconcile with their peripheral position and find their true place in the structure of nature. We treat our planet as if we have somewhere to go. The very occupation of science is already a glimpse of sanity. However, it is not enough for us to accept these ideas with the mind, while we cling to a spiritual ideology that is not only divorced from nature, but also largely despises all that is natural and natural. We can preserve the artfully woven fabric of life by only passing scientific discoveries through the heart.

Karl Sagan, Science in search of God

In the course of the development of natural science, starting withthe famous process against Galileo, the opinion was again and again expressed that natural science truth cannot be brought into harmony with the religious interpretation of the world. But I must say that, although I am convinced of the indisputability of natural science truth in my field, it never seemed to me possible to discard the content of religious thought simply as part of the overcoming level of consciousness of mankind - a part that will still have to be abandoned in the future. So throughout my life I have constantly had to think about the relationship between these two spiritual worlds, for I have never had doubts about the reality of what they point to.

Werner Heisenberg, Professor of Physics at the Universities of Copenhagen, Leipzig and Munich

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