The Relationship Between Man and Religion on the Example of Reasoning About Creation vs Evolution
The age old question of religion versus science has sparked up debate for as long as man could argue. Many religious followers argue that the scientific discoveries of the Theory of Evolution should be disregarded as it does not coincide with the beliefs of their religion. Specifically in the religion of Protestantism, one of the three main branches of Christianity, followers believe that man descended from Adam, who according to the Bible, is the first man that God created. This directly contradicts the basis of the Theory of Evolution, which states that humans evolved from one common ancestor: the ape. Because of this stark contradiction, many believers of religion and science each claim that the other is wrong.
It is important to understand where both sides are coming from if a common ground is wanting to be reached. Both religion and science have their own forms of evidence to support their claims that they are right and the other side is wrong. In order to develop some insight onto religions that were not of my own, I read many books and articles on the religious views of Protestantism and of TIbetan Buddhism. I chose these two religions as they are quite different from each other.
The common beliefs of the origins of man for Protestantism are that all of man was produced from Adam and Eve, the first man and woman that God created. However common Tibetan Buddhist beliefs are that the earth has no beginning or end and that the question of how man came to be is not important to the teachings of Buddhism. Though they have such different belief systems, both religions have one thing in common: they do not concur with the basic ideas of the Theory of Evolution.
This leads me to my question: To what extent did the studies of human evolution and the theory of evolution impact the studies and beliefs of Protestantism and Tibetan Buddhism? I am going to analyze the belief systems of both religions and analyze the impact, if any, on the religions. This study falls under the topic of World Religion and. It is also important to lead an unbiased investigation and to not write an opinionated piece. Remaining unbiased will help me come to my conclusion much easier as it will be easier to provide insight if I accept the ways of thinking of both religions and of science.
The relationship between man and religion has developed an unbreakable bond over the course of many centuries of practice. It is crucial to examine and understand this bond in order to better grasp the reasons why people keep believing in religion decade after decade. Religious practices have aided their followers in their development of consciousness and in their organization of emotional reactions. Most often, a child will be taught the same religion that their parents believe, and will most likely continue believing and will teach their offspring the same ideals. The dependent on religion is largely for educational purposes, as some adult men almost never find religious values in their own experiences.
As for the individual, the individual often finds that religion is largely an affair of institutions and sums up society’s past experiences. Much of religion provides the individual with set guidelines for the individual to follow; it is up to the individual to decide whether to live by this set guideline or to have it be a foundation of principles for which the individual lives by. Some may even argue that the church is a handicap to an individual’s growth. If the church acts as a handicap to individual growth, why do people still follow it?
Many follow because it offers stability, comfort, and a sense of community. Religion offers an explanation for life and a person’s existence on earth. The comfort that religion brings mainly comes from a sense of moral guidance and a life after death. The existence of a being is a cognitive concept. People only find life worth living if there is meaning, but the meaning is up to the person to develop. This meaning can be derived internally, or in this case, externally. Many who were not raised in a religious household often find a meaning of life through religious activities.
Though religion helps an individual find meaning in life, one’s own experiences can help see the moral limitations of modern civilization. Modern civilization can be characterized as a complex society such as that of the 21st Century, whose inhabitants are a part of an exponentially large group of free thinkers. Religion must impress the mind of the modern man with essential plausibility in order to convert him and civilization for the years coming. The future of religion and civilization alike are hung on the same balance and depend on each other. The future of religion depends on the ethical reconstruction of society. Without the reconstruction and society and religion, it is difficult for either to survive. With it, there will be a means to a moral end as civilization itself ends.
Moral weaknesses have emerged in the modern church and can be traced directly to the naivete of Protestantism and in dealing with unexpected and inexplicable change of the human nature. Many can argue that the individuals who do not believe in God and his miracles can be blamed on modern civilization robbing them of their faith and moral integrity. Religious people often hold themselves on a moral pedestal and consider themselves morally superior to those who do not believe in the same religion and in the same god.
It is easier to argue for religion than it is to argue against as to challenge a religion is to challenge the meaning of the existence of a being. This is something that becomes a very personal argument. This is why religion has been able to last for such a long time and was able to influence such a large audience, it is impossible to attack religion without attacking an individual. Such individuals hold onto their belief systems so dearly and are not willing to let this sense of security and identity go. Similarly, it is easier for religion to challenge the concept of an impersonal universe than it would be to change an impersonal civilization.
One of the larger subdivisions of Christianity, Protestantism makes up over 30% of all Christian followers. Protestants believe that the Bible is the sole source of infallible truth. The Bible states that God created earth and its inhabitants over the duration of six days. The first day God created light and time; the second was the creation of sky and water; the third, dry ground, plants, and bodies of water; the fourth day brought the planets, sun, stars, and moon; the fifth was fish and birds; the sixth and final day brought the creation of land animals and human beings.
The common belief amongst Protestants is that humans are saved by God’s forgiving grace since sin has completely obliterated the trust that God had with humans and vice versa. God himself chooses who is allowed salvation and therefore granted entrance to heaven and who is condemned to hell. This destiny/fate is predetermined by God for every person before they are born. Humans were created with the holy characteristics of God: moral integrity, spiritual life, freedom, and rationality. Protestantism began around Northern Europe in the 16th century with the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant reformation was initiated in 1517 by a German Augustinian monk named Martin Luther and created an upheaval in Catholic Europe that would turn violent. They believed that the the sole source of spiritual authority should be of the Bible and not of tradition.
The movement was later dubbed the reformation, and the people would soon become Protestants. Even in the more modern era, the religious group is being divided. Two distinct groups that have emerged of from the modern age are the modernists and the fundamentalists. The fundamentalists did not agree with the modernists as the modernists were more accepting of some scientific elements and had began to find new and different ways to interpret the Christian doctrine. The fundamentalists opposed science so much so that they began a legal battle called the Scopes Trial of 1925.
The Scopes Trial, also known as the Scopes Monkey Trial or the Scopes Evolution Trial, took place when high school substitute teacher John Thomas Scopes was accused of violating the Butler act by teaching evolution in his classes. The fundamentalists won the case, Scopes as found guilty, and evolution was removed from textbooks in Tennessee for a couple of years. However, though the fundamentalists won the trial, they faced public humiliation and were mocked for their ant-scientific views.
With over 400 million members, Buddhism is a largely followed religion. Buddhists, specifically Tibetan Buddhists, was developed around the teachings of Vajrayana and Tantric Buddhism. Unlike Protestantism, Tibetan Buddhists do not believe in God, but rather they believe in multiple deities. Deities are divine beings that portray aspects of what Buddhists believe to be enlightened qualities. Some deities include Namkhai Nyingpo, who is often associated with wisdom; Opame, associated with gentleness and purity; and Namnang, associated with the sun. Buddha says that earth was not created just once many years ago, but that it is being created millions of times every second and will not stop recreating until the ultimate end.
Though, the beginning and the end of the world is inconceivable. There is no meaning to speculate the origins of the earth, these notions hold no truth. Tibetan Buddhists believe in Samsara, the repeated cycle of death and rebirth. They believe that the earth goes through this process as well. They also believe that there are 31 planes of existence: four states of unhappiness, one of human existence, six heavenly realms, sixteen realms of fine material forms, and four formless realms. Though the existence of these planes/realms is not scientifically proven or confirmed, it is not impossible that there are other forms of life in the universe. The Tibetan Buddhist version of heaven or hell is not like the traditional one of Protestantism.
Buddhist teachings provide that the heaven and hell is of the world itself and is not necessarily beyond this world. Buddha believes that hell is wherever a person is suffering, often associated to the suffering of worry, death, lust, physical or mental pain, grief, hatred, and sickness. Similarly, wherever there is happiness or pleasure, that is the person’s heaven. This heaven and hell varies from person to person as for some there is more happiness than suffering, and for others there is more suffering than happiness. And unlike Protestantism, heaven and hell are not permanent. Another key concept of Tibetan Buddhism is that of rebirth and reincarnation.
Death is merely another portal to rebirth which is followed by growth, decay, and ultimately another death; the process is then repeated, another aspect of Samsara. People can be rebirthed into one of many forms of life. However, this process is only repeated due to unsatisfied desire. Only when all unsatisfied desire is obliterated will this process of rebirth cease. This truth is not subject to changes, and remains the same while time and space is changing.
Tibetan Buddhism and Protestantism couldn’t be more different, but they both share one challenger that has gone head to head with them for centuries; the Theory of Evolution. The Theory of Evolution by natural selection as proposed by Charles Darwin, an English geologist, naturalist, and biologist, proposes that an organism’s composition will change in accordance to the environment that will help it and future generations better adapt.