Help!

I have been a Catholic all my life, but now am starting to question my faith. Not because God hasn’t answered my prayers or anything like that, but because of my interest in Astronomy and science. I have always been puzzled and troubled that it seemed that there was such tension between religion and science. Perhaps it dates back to the arguments about the big bang vs. creationism. Or the subject of Evolution. Or perhaps it dates back to the church insisting that the Sun revolved around the Earth until 1992 when they finally formally changed their position on Gallileo’s work. In any event, I always figured that God made us curious on purpose and that he wanted us to learn and discover as much as we can about the Earth, the Universe and scientific studies in general. I couldn’t understand why the church and scientists couldn’t work together.

However, I recently I read something in a science book which made the reason for this tension clear:
1) Science is based on theories and the proof of those theories.
2) Faith is based on belief without proof.

So, science and faith are in fact opposed to one another. You can’t have a scientific theory based on faith. Nor can you have faith based on proof. Rats.

So back to my question about faith, how do we know a Christian God actually exists? We certainly can’t prove it. Instead we’re told simply to have faith (which I still have, but it’s decreasing day by day). How can you just force yourself to have faith in something that you’re not really sure you believe in?

In the old days, people worshipped things like a rain god or fire god or god of thunder. Now we just laugh and dismiss those as simplistic religions for people who didn’t understand science and thought that you could pray to a rain god to get more rain. But, 1000 years from now, what if people are laughing at us and saying that in fact Christianity is just a simplistic religion for simple minded people? What if Judaism is the real religion? Or Muslim? Or Hindu? Or Buddhist? Aren’t most of us Catholic simply because our parents were Catholic?

Did God really sit back at the beginning and say to himself, “I have decided that I am going to create the universe including the planet Earth. On Earth there will be people, and about a third of them will properly worship me as Christians whereas two thirds of the people will waste their time celebrating other random and non-relevent relgions. Of those who worship me as Christians, those who truly believe and follow my teachings will be blessed and sent to Heaven and those who don’t will be bannished to Hell.” Does this plan really make sense to anyone? Does this really seem like a plan that a loving God would have for the world?

Please help me understand how you maintain your faith. As I mentioned earlier, my faith continues to decline and I would like to find a way to reverse this trend. Thanks.

When were these “old days”? 1,000 years ago? 2,000? 3,000?

They do it all the time. Gravity and quantum physics comes to mind.

Just because you read it somewhere doesn’t make it true.

And you have offered no proof (other than because you say so) that science and faith are opposed.

There are some misunderstandings in you post. First, there is no reason to think that science is in any way a threat to the truth of Christianity. In fact, some developments in modern physics actually support Christianity, such as scientific evidence for the beginning of the universe and scientific evidence of the fine tuning of the universe for life.
See a book by the Catholic physicist Stephen Barr, Modern Physics and Ancient Faith.

In the shorter term, a good article on the relationship between science and faith can be found here. reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5355

The website is itself a useful one anyway, containing many useful popular level articles on questions like God and science and the existence of God and reasons for faith, including evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, which shows why Christianity is true and not hinduism or other religions you mention.

Sorry, I have to run out, so I can only give you those few links. But in short, my advice is to better inform yourself about what both science and religion actually teach, and start familiarizing yourself with some reasons to accept Christianity.

You do know that a Belgian Priest is the one that proposed the Big Bang Theory? Evolution has not been proven to be the origin of everything that we know. It’s science’s ‘best guess’ with what info we have.

Who says the church and scientists can’t work together? The Catholic Church owns and operates one of the largest telescopes in the world, I believe.

vaticanobservatory.org/

In fact, the monks of ancient days are the reason that we still have science and universities today. They were the original ‘scientists’, trying to figure out how God created everything and how everything worked. They are also the ones that preserved books and information during the worst times, when everything was being destroyed.

There is immense proof that God and Jesus exist and existed. But you cannot just use science to prove this. You need scripture, religion, philosophy, science, the arts. Does science answer WHY we do what we do? Does art answer what gravity is? Does philosophy answer why Tintoretto painted what he did?

I recommend reading some apologetics books like I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Frank Turek and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I’d also recommend watching the Catholicism Series and watching Father Barron’s videos on Youtube. I would also read the Church Fathers, such as St. Augustine.

amazon.com/Dont-Have-Enough-Faith-Atheist/dp/1581345615/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324672523&sr=1-1

amazon.com/Mere-Christianity-C-S-Lewis/dp/0060652888/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324672504&sr=8-1

youtube.com/wordonfirevideo

Do you know that in 1000 years, people won’t be laughing at the Theory of Evolution or the Theory of General Relativity? We are extremely new to many theories and they are still just that, theories, no matter how much evidence there is supporting them. In fact, General Relativity and Quantum Physics aren’t liking each other too much nowadays and many scientists are genuinely disconcerted that Einstein may have been wrong.

Most of us Catholic because of our parents? Maybe. All of us? No way. In fact, on this forum, I have found that the majority aren’t Cradle Catholics at all. There are ex-Muslim, ex-Protestant, ex-Agnostic, ex-Atheist and all other forms as well.

We don’t know how God thinks. Just because someone doesn’t know anything of the One, True Christian God does not mean he will be banished to hell. Hell is God giving someone their wish, to not be with Him. It is not a place where He ‘puts’ people. People put themselves there on their own.

To sum up my side, science has not ‘proven’ God to not exist, nor is it incompatible with the existence of God or the Catholic religion. Just the opposite. The Church embraces science and has stated that it has absolutely no worries about the discoveries that are to come.

The existence of God comes, mainly, from a common sense question: Can something come from nothing? Start from there and work your way down.

Hi Larry,

I am a scientist (a biochemist) and someone who had a crisis of faith a few years ago, so perhaps I know a bit about your dilemma and how you feel. What lead me to a deeper re-embrace of faith was more knowledge of science (cosmology), and also of philosophy (argument from reason). You can read about it here:

home.earthlink.net/~almoritz/cosmological-arguments-god.htm

I also don’t think naturalism is any more ‘scientific’ than belief in God, see:

home.earthlink.net/~almoritz/scientist-belief-god.htm

As far as ‘science and faith in fact being opposed to one another’, this is not true (that book that you read proclaims silly nonsense). Apart from my brief crisis, I never felt any tension between my daily work as a scientist and my faith, and re-thinking my faith has confirmed that there is no tension. I feel completely comfortable with being both a scientist and a believer, and my thinking is one, not torn between either domain. I am so comfortable with it that I have even written an overview of research on the origin of life by natural causes for the leading evolution website Talkorigins.org:

earthfusion.org/faqs/abioprob/originoflife.html

(If you google for origin of life, the article it should pop up on the first page)

If you have more questions we can discuss here or you can PM me. No reason to question your faith based on science. There is a lot of nonsense out there in terms of as an alleged conflict between the two. Study of science can, however, deepen your faith because it can make you realize to a much greater extent how awesome and awe-inspiring God’s creation really is.

As far as faith being based on belief without proof: of course there is no scientific proof of God, but there is no scientific proof for naturalism either (atheists who think otherwise have no clue about philosophy, and they have no clue about the boundaries of science). Yet philosophical arguments from science and from the nature of the human person strongly favor theism, in my view.

Science answers questions for the physical, how it happens. Religion answers questions to the spiritual, why it happens. You don’t have to give up one for the other. Trust science to show us how things happen, but trust your faith to answer “Why am I here?” “Why did God make us?” “What is right or wrong?”

Yes, I strongly recommend that book – by a wide margin the best book that I have read on the science/religion debate. It also contains an incredibly good discussion of certain aspects of human rationality, and why theism is a far superior explanation of these than naturalism. Barr knows the arguments for naturalism in and out, and even plays the devil’s advocate for it over a few pages, only to completely and mercilessly demolish the arguments later on.

This is the very next book that you should get, Larry.

I cannot recommend the arguments for biological Intelligent Design in Turek’s book. I am a die-hard evolutionist. Also, the book appears to bring the ‘Rare Earth’ argument into the fine-tuning debate which is flawed. Again, Barr’s book is much better when it comes to fine-tuning.

No problems with Lewis though, on the contrary.

The first thing that we know about science books is that each of them is out of date in 10 years. The bible is not a science book and we do it no favors if we treat it like one.

Faith, by definition, is without proof, but it is not without evidence.

Science both exists within and accepts man’s own proofs as being the truth. Yet, it does this on faith inn those proofs From advances in knowledge, we see that “truth” changes with each new edition of scientific publications. Faith does not change. Science does.

Have you read Saint Thomas Aquinas’ proofs?

Have you read Dr. Peter Kreeft’s works?

Well spoken.

When I was in the process of returning to my faith, about 7 years ago, I also was having issues with science vs. faith. I have a science background (medical science) and that was a bit of a sticking point for me. So I talked to my brother, who is a deacon and research scientist, and asked him how he resolved his science background with his faith. His answer, which at the time did NOT help but later I figured it out, was that his science background only serves to deepen and strengthen his faith. I really didn’t get it for the longest time. But as I grew in my faith and did more reading and studying, it started to make sense. The light bulb switched on finally. :smiley:
There was one book that really helped me but for the life of me I can’t remember the title exactly. It was something about The Case for Christ or something along that line. But it was written by a guy who started out researching all kinds of stuff about Jesus and Christianity in order to disprove it, and by the time he finished he was a convert - and an enthusiastic one at that.
Keep praying, read everything you can get your hands on to strengthen you faith. Ask God to keep you close, to hold you even tighter as you try to let go. I’ll pray for you as well, that you can find the peace and comfort that coming home has brought me.
God bless you on your journey.

Fair enough. I haven’t read the book in a long time and don’t remember that part at all. I would say that his evidence for the existence and divinity of Jesus are excellent, though. It’s all common sense stuff.

Uh… wow.

I am truly astonished to read those views coming from someone who has been Catholic their entire life. Forgive me, but your understanding of the position of the Catholic Church on such matters is seriously misinformed. Would you consider making an appointment with your priest to discuss your concerns?

The Catholic Church teaches that there is no conflict between science and religion. That is why it does not take a formal position on evolution or the Big Bang: such things are scientific matters and not a matter of divine revelation.

As for Galileo, the Church has not been opposed to the heliocentric theory of the universe. Indeed, Copernicus was the originator of the idea and he was a minor priest, buried with full honor in Frombork Cathedral in Poland. The unfortunate controversy with Galileo was rooted in a personal conflict between him and certain church leaders. And, in part, there was a failure of both sides to recognize the separate spheres of religion and science.

Again, I strongly urge you make an appointment to talk with your local priest. He can answer your questions more thoroughly than we can, and do so with more spontaneity.

Larry,

Do not be ashamed of drifting into a dark period. such things happen, even to the most faithful of us. It sounds as though you have led a rather sheltered life. That is, sheltered from Catholic-Christian thought and philosophy. Do you know who announced the Big-Bang theory to the world? (If you don’t, look it up.)

Anyone who says that:

  1. Science is based on theories and the proof of those theories.
  2. Faith is based on belief without proof.

has an uninformed opinion. With lots of hope, science tries to prove its theories. Unfortunately, it rarely does so. The methodology of science and philosophy is very similar. Both begin with hypotheses. From there some form of demonstration is used. In science, such demonstration is often reproducible laboratory experimentation. Often, it is nothing more than dialectical induction.

Dialectical induction is:

Induction is a passage from particular to universal propositions without going through a middle term. The product of our induction will be a proposition whose subject and predicate are immediately, i.e., without a medium, connected with each other. Since its evidence does not depend on something else, a middle term, for example, the proposition that our induction will establish can be called self-evident. - On Truth, q. 14, a. 1.

continued in next post . . .

continuation from previous . . .

What does this mean. Let’s take an example. the one I like to use is the example of Walter Reed’s search for the causes of the spread of yellow fever. He could have tested everything on Earth to see if each thing might have been the cause. But, instead, he ruled out everything else except for perhaps two conclusion that were worth testing. Now, why rule out everything else? Obviously, he would have still been testing, if he were still alive! So, we can see, by his notes, that he ruled out all other things because if such things as sea shells, trees, clouds, snow, and gasoline fumes, were responsible for its spread, then yellow fever would occur everywhere. That is the pre-inductive phase. then upon deciding on the final hypotheses, all he had to do is perform some inductive experiments. Let’s say that he settled on either, (1) yellow fever is carried from person to person by contact, or, (2) yellow fever was carried from person to person by mosquitoes. The experimental phase to determine which it was, is called a dialectic and the conclusion can be called an induction.

So, for example, how would we know that the earth revolves around the sun, in a solar system, rather than the other way around? By either observation of experimentation, not too unlike Dr. Reed’s. Remember, the only absolutely certain way that we can know that the earth revolves around the sun, is by traveling out into space, beyond the solar system, and observing what occurs. That we didn’t do that but instead used measurement and logic (dialectic) to determine what occurs, is no different from the dialectics and inductions the philosopher uses to arrive at God’s existence. True, it did not occur in a lab, but, so what? Everyone arrives at conclusions for the truth of things that did not get certified by experimentation. That my wife will not be home when I get there tonight is something that I do not require an extensive dialectic to know.

Saint Thomas Aquinas’ five ways are dialectical inductions. They are “proofs” for the existence of God from a priori dialectics that are just as valid as those of the scientist, even though some will decry it. For example, the universe, regardless of its enormity, is finite in magnitude. The universe, regardless of its enormous age, is finite in duration. Anything that is finite has a beginning. If it has a beginning then there was a point when it did not exist. If it did not exist, it could not bring itself into existence. Remember, from nothing comes nothing, and that point at which the universe did not exist precisely defines nothing. (Even the multiverse theories, which are pure hypotheticals, all seem to require a beginning and a transcendent cause.)

That’s good for now. You will no doubt have more than a few questions.

God bless,
jd

Yes, and Galileo did not even prove heliocentrism because the necessary observations of stellar parallax could not be made at the time. A useful link is:

catholic.com/library/Galileo_Controversy.asp

Also interesting this link from the prestigious science journal Nature from a year ago, which shows that the actual observational data available to Galileo at the time did not back his views:

nature.com/news/2010/100305/full/news.2010.105.html

Why do atheists and other critics of the faith always come up with the Galileo story? Because it is the only real ‘conflict’ story available! Too bad that it doesn’t get juicier :rolleyes:

(Giordano Bruno, for example, was condemned for his theological heresies. That he was a ‘martyr for science’ is a myth. Atheism, despite its rationalist pretensions, is full of myths.)

I can’t argue with that.

I’ll take that back. While during my crisis I played for a little while with the thought that science might have made the God concept superfluous (boy, was I wrong), even then I never thought there was a tension between science and faith in the sense that they could not reasonably co-exist or that their different ways of knowing would contradict each other.

While I am a scientist, I never once bought into the silly idea that science offers the only possibly valid manner of knowing about things (scientism). For that I simply knew too much about philosophy.

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