Photo: Ashwin Vaswani

Science As Grace: The Case for Rethinking Religion

Religion is more than a taxonomy of spiritual beliefs. Religious art and community structures around the world make sacred the experience of being. A Pew Research Study shows world religions are shrinking. Yet, another study shows religious adherents live happier lives. QUESTION: Why are people rejecting religion if it’s so useful?

Science as grace

I am not religious, but I am a defender of religion. Atheists call me a believer. Believers call me an atheist. I’m fine with either, because I know, in the end, these labels don’t come with you. Science is my God (and yours). My worship takes the form of research and critical examination. Grace, for me, is the methodologies that reveal distant galaxies, dive deep into microscopic organisms, and create revolutionary vaccines in the time of pandemic.

Looking at spirituality this way, one can conclude that if scientific achievements are all around us, from the eggs I ate this morning (miles away from any farm), to the computer I’m using to type this essay, scientific grace is all around us, too, constantly performing miraculous things that are observable, verifiable and, in my opinion, totally awesome.

Different communities around the world have different ways of describing the experience of grace. Data supports the idea that it’s quite useful, too. No matter the content of a person’s relationship with a religion, the structure that supports its benefits, such as art, community, sanctity, and moral clarity, ultimately lead to a happier life according to a Pew Research Center study.

So, if a framework exists that is proven to be useful and good, why do educated, science-oriented thinkers have so much trouble dealing with the magical beliefs of the religious adherent when there is such a clear, data supported take on their experience?

Actively religious people tend to be happier
Source: Pew Research Center

Stripping away the content of religion and looking instead at the religious adherent as a vessel of Brand-X faith, how do the benefits of keeping an open mind apply to all religious groups? Is not the net-effect of spiritual reflection (AKA, “worship”) and meditation (AKA, “prayer”) for the Christian exactly the same as that of the Buddhist?

The latter, I fear, is protected from the Western intellectual’s scrutiny by exoticism. It’s far away and different and therefore good and no threat to us or our way of thinking. The statistical beliefs and behaviors of local Christian groups, on the other hand, skew towards political ideologies diametrically opposed to local liberal values filling American Instagram feeds by the hour. The American Christian is statistically predisposed to sympathize with the so-called, Pro-Life causes and votes for conservative politicians. I, too, stand in opposition to these things, generally speaking, because I think they are immoral. It’s immoral to deny a woman the right to choose what happens to her body. It’s immoral to support corrupt political ideologies that play to base fears about homosexuality, gender, race, and immigration.

Source: Pew Research Center

My question is, why are we, as supposed intellectuals, forfeiting the benefits of Brand-X religion and its proven path to happiness, to people who, in my opinion, don’t deserve it? Art, music, community, ritual, sacred spaces, redemption, forgiveness, and institutional love—these are deeply useful things, especially, I imagine, when integrated harmoniously with day-to-day life. Why are we giving these things away to people who won’t even protect women?

I argue that we, of the Western intelligentsia, are due for a new way of looking at this thing... What do you think? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.

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Michael Anthony Bradshaw

Michael Anthony Bradshaw

Emmy-nominated, CLIO & PromaxBDA-winning #writer and consultant. Previously @WSJ & @ThomsonReuters. Opinions mine.