The Tragedy of Compromise Pt 2: Torquing the Definition of Religion

Often, the world defines the controversy between Creationism and Evolution as science versus religion. I vehemently disagree. My objection, as I have noted, is that Evolution is clearly religion, not science. To begin to explain why, we need to define religion.

We all use words with varying degrees of specificity and technicality. For example, like a lot of Americans I use the term “torque” as a verb, to indicate that I have tightened a bolt as far as possible. My father, who is in the engineering field, does not typically use the term “torque” this loosely.

Similarly, we often use the term “religion” to refer to organized theistic organizations or as theistic systems of thought. This definition might work for a dinner party, but when we begin comparing systems of thought, it is wholly inadequate. The best definition of religion I can provide is the ultimate nature of reality and man’s proper response to that reality. The first clause (“religion is the ultimate nature of reality”) addresses the philosophical/theological questions of religion. The second clause (“religion is the proper response to reality”) addresses the questions of ethics and practice.

The actual problem is an error made during the “Enlightenment”: many enlightenment era thinkers thought they were replacing religion. What they were actually doing was creating a “new” religion: a religion that is often referred to in various times and sources “Scientism,” “religious naturalism,” and “philosophical naturalism”. In a less technical sense, this religious point of view has also been referred to as “Humanism,” “Atheism,” and most tragically, it has been confused with “Science.”

Religious naturalism is based on the acceptance of David Hume’s argument against miracles. I qualify this argument as an example of the logical error known as “begging the question” – but that is a subject for another day. Naturalists believe that reality is governed solely by natural law. This is something that they take on faith, though they themselves typically lack the intellectual integrity to admit that this is a matter of their faith. Instead, naturalists will play various rhetorical games that amount to dismissing, without examination, any approach to reality that disagrees with theirs. “Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools.”

This is more technical than I usually like to deal with on this particular site. But, technicalities are important to life; we can’t dismiss them because they are inconvenient. We are not finished with discussing a definition of religion, but I want to make sure you understand where we are going with this topic. When it comes to my thoughts about evolution, one thing is very clear: evolution begins with the assumption that the world came into existence through natural processes. Believers in evolution will often state that science (the empirical study of natural law) cannot accept supernatural causes. In a sense, they are correct, but that assumes that science is able to answer the question of origins. Yet, this begs the question of whether science and natural law can explain the origin of the Universe and life. Evolution requires one to begin with the assumption that the earth came into existence by natural process, or to put it another way: evolution requires us to assume religious naturalism.