Religious Belief in the Era of Modern Astrophysics

When we look out into the depths of the Universe, what is it that we are looking for? What am I looking for? How does this affect me? How does this affect my faith? My relationship with God?

Physical science, which is ordered towards the exploration of the physical world, can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, who is pure spirit. However, contemplation of the physical Universe can lead people to ask deeper questions about meaning and human existence which can lead them to think deeply about the existence of God and the spiritual life. Contemplation of the Universe can also lead them to develop ideas about God based on their experiences of the physical Universe.

The above idea is highly divisive. Many people believe that modern astrophysical discoveries and ideas about the origin of the Universe exclude the possibility of God. Others cling desperately to a literal interpretation of Genesis and refuse to believe anything of modern science. Somewhere in between is the via media, which embraces both the physical and spiritual realities, which recognizes the distinct, proper contributions, importance and limitations of both.

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The Universe has always beckoned us.
— Decadal Review: New Worlds, New Horizons 2010

“The universe has always beckoned us. Over the course of human civilisation, the night sky has provided a calendar for the farmer, a guide for the sailor, and a home for the gods. Astronomy led the scientific revolution, which continues to this day and has revealed that the sky visible to the naked eye is really just a hint of a vast and complex cosmos, within which our home planet is but a pale blue dot. Astronomers continue to explore the universe, learning its amazing history, discovering the richness of its contents, and understanding the physical processes that take place in its astoundingly diverse environments. Today, astronomy expands knowledge and understanding, inspiring new generations to ask, How did the universe form and the stars first come into being? Is there life beyond Earth? What natural forces control our universal destiny? Because of the remarkable scientific progress in recent decades, in particular the explosion over the last decade of interest in and urgency to understand several key areas in astronomy and astrophysics, scientists are now poised to address these and many other equally profound questions in substantive ways. " [Extract from the Decadal Review: New Worlds, New Horizons, 2010]

 

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