Religion and Science(John Gray reviews Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions) via The Daily Dish)
The truth of the matter is that religion and science are not
competitors, but fundamentally different responses to the human
situation. Religion begins where science leaves off. Theories of how
humanity or the universe came about are strictly beside the point.
Claiming to have a better explanation of the natural world than
orthodox science - as creationists do - does nothing to advance the
cause of faith.
Religion expresses the human need for meaning, not a demand for
explanation. For those who have it, faith entails understanding the
limits of the human mind and an acceptance of mystery. Even if all the
problems of science are some day solved, humans will still be
searching for purpose in their lives, and for that reason alone they
will need religion.
On the Problem of Evil, and Heaven.
Heaven, one of the tenderest verses in the Bible has it, is where God will wipe away all tears from our faces. In her novel "Gilead," Marilynne Robinson adds, in a line just as tender, if a little sterner, "It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required." Robinson, herself a devout Protestant, means that the immense surge of human suffering in the world will need, and deserves, a great deal of heavenly love and repair; it is as close as her novel comes to righteous complaint. But one could also say, more skeptically, that Christianity needs the concept of Heaven simply to make sense of all the world's suffering—that, theologically speaking, Heaven is "exactly what will be required." In the end, Heaven, it seems, is the only tenable response to the problem of evil. It is where God's mysterious plan will be revealed; it is where the poor and the downtrodden, the sick and the tortured, will be healed; it is where everything that we went through on earth will suddenly seem "worth it." [...]But Heaven is also a problem for theodicists who take the freedom to choose between good and evil as paramount. For Heaven must be a place where either our freedom to sin has been abolished or we have been so transfigured that we no longer want to sin: in Heaven, our will miraculously coincides with God's will. And here the free-will defense unravels, and is unravelled by the very idea of Heaven. If Heaven obviates the great human freedom to sin, why was it ever such a momentous ideal on earth, "worth" all that pain and suffering? The difficulty can be recast in terms of the continuity of the self. If we will be so differently constituted in Heaven as to be strangers to sin, then no meaningful connection will exist between the person who suffers here and the exalted soul who will enjoy the great system of rewards and promises and tears wiped from faces: our faces there will not be the faces we have here. And, if there were to be real continuity between our earthly selves and our heavenly ones, then Heaven might dangerously begin to resemble earth.
A passage from James Wood's review of Bart D. Ehrman's God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer. [via The Daily Dish]