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Faith and Science

In relation to faith and science, one can discuss this from two points of view. One is whether there is an interpretation which would increase ones faith and ideals and at the same time be logical. The other is whether all thoughts which science and philosophy inspire, are against faith, hope and optimism? The second aspect is the influence of science upon man on the one hand, and faith on the other. Does science lead man to one thing and faith to something else, opposite to one another? Does science intend to make something else? Does science drag us to one side and faith to another? Are science and faith completely to each other, science forming half and faith the other half accordingly? What does science and faith give us?

Science gives us power and enlightenment, and faith gives love, hope and warmth. Science creates technology and faith creates purpose. Science provides us with momentum and faith with direction. Science is the ability and faith is good-will. Science shows us what there is while faith inspires us as to what to do. Science is the external revolution and faith is the internal one.

Science makes the world humane and faith elevates the human spirit. Science expands man horizontally, and faith promotes him vertically. Science re-shapes nature, and faith molds man. Both science and faith give power to mankind. What science gives to human beings is detached strength, but what faith gives to them is an attached string. Both science and faith are beauty, science being the beauty of wisdom and faith being the beauty of spirit. Science, as well as faith, gives man security against anxieties, loneliness, helplessness, and absurdities. Science harmonizes man with the self.

The human need for faith and science has completely occupied the minds of learned scholars, irrespective of their being religious or irreligious. The scholar, Muhammad Iqbal Lahouri believes:

"Humanity needs three things today: a spiritual interpretation of the universe, spiritual emancipation of the individual, and a set of principles universally upheld which would explain the evolution of human society on a spiritual basis. Modern Europe, has no doubt, built idealistic systems on these lines, but experience shows that truth revealed through pure reason is incapable of bringing that fire of living conviction which personal revelation alone can bring. This is the reason why thought alone has influenced man so little while religion has always elevated individuals, and transformed whole societies. The result is a perverted ego seeking itself through mutually intolerant democracies whose sole function is to exploit the poor in the interest of the rich. Believe me, Europe today is the greatest hindrance in the way of man’s ethical advancement. The Muslim, on the other hand, is in possession of these ultimate ideas resulting from a revelation, which coming from the inmost depths of life, internalizes its own apparent extremity. With him or her, the spiritual basis of life is a matter of conviction for which even the least enlightened person among us can easily lay down his life."

Religious Faith

Man cannot live a good life or achieve anything useful for mankind and human civilization without having beliefs, ideals, and faith. Any individual who lacks ideals and faith will become either a thoroughly selfish person who does not see anything but his own personal interests, or an irresolute, wavering being who does not recognize his duties toward life, or moral and social values. Man constantly confronts moral and social problems and has to respond accordingly. If a person is associated with a school of thought, ideology and faith, his or her position is clear. But, if that person is not disciplined by a school of thought and a religion, he or she will constantly remain irresolute and will occasionally be pulled in many different directions. He or she will become an aimless being.

What must be taken into consideration is that only religious faith can make man a true believer; only faith allows him to overcome selfishness and egotism through faith and ideology and to create a kind of "devoteness" and "conviction" in the individuals, by which they accept fully even the minor issues of their ideology. At the same time a person holds his faith so dear and precious that life without it would become absurd and meaningless. Therefore he will support it with zeal and fidelity.

Strong religious beliefs cause man to struggle against his natural, individual inclinations and man may sacrifice his life and his prestige of his beliefs. This is possible only when man considers his beliefs sacred and gains absolute control of himself. It is only religious power which is able to sanctify beliefs and allow man to be completely ruled by them.

Sometimes, not because of religious faith, but under great psychological pressure, hatred, revenge, or reaction against oppression and cruelty, people sacrifice their lives, their property and their honor, many examples of which can be found around the world.

But the difference between a religious idea and a non-religious idea is that wherever there is a religious belief to sanctify the idea, sacrifices are made quite willingly and naturally. There is a difference between what is done with willingness and faith which is a kind of choice and that which is done under great psychological pressure. Secondly, if man’s outlook is merely a materialistic one exclusively based on perceptive reality, any social and human idealism is contrary to perceptive realities which people observe in their relation with the universe. "What results from a sensory out-look whose logical result is that idea, it will not go beyond illusion, that man has to devise a world separated from the existing realities with his illusion and be happy with this. If idealism originates in religion, it will be based on a kind of out-look whose logical result is following social ideas and ideals. Religious faith is a congenial link between man and the general ideals of the world and result in making an imaginary world for oneself which is in no way supported by the real world."

It is not that religious faith dictates a series of duties contrary to people’s natural inclinations, but is changes the perspective of the world in their eyes. It introduces factors different from the ones perceptible in the world. It changes the bleak, mechanical, materialistic world into a living, animate, conscious world. Religious faith changes their interpretation of the world and creation. William James, the famous American philosopher and psychologist of the early 20th century believes, "The world interpreted religiously is not the materialistic world over again, with an altered expression, a natural constitution different at some point, that which a materialistic world would have."

Apart form this, there is a natural inclination in all men towards certain sacred truths and entities. Man is the center of a series of non-materialistic potential talents and inclinations which can be developed. Man’s inclinations are not inclusively materialistic, and spiritual inclinations are not merely inculcated acquired. This is a fact confirmed by science. William James suggest, "So far as our ideal impulses originate in this region (and most of them do originate in it, for we find them possessing us in a way for which we cannot articulately account)".

Because they exist, these tendencies must be trained and if they are not trained properly and used correctly, they take a wrong course and cause incredible damage, such as the worshipping of idols, of man, nature, and thousands of other objects of idolatry. All this is the effect of deviation from the correct path.

Erich From believes, "There is nobody who is not in need of religion, and does not want regulations for his guidance and a subject for his love and interest. He might not be aware of his religious beliefs as something different from his total beliefs and, on the contrary, he may even think that he has no religion and consider his love and interest for apparently non-religious ends such as power, wealth and happiness only the sign of his interest in practical affairs and in accord with the opportunity. The question is not whether one has or has not any religion, but which religion he practices." What this psychologist means is that man cannot live without the need to sanctify and adore something; for example if an individual does not believe in Almighty God, that person will consider something else as the ultimate truth and will make it the subject of his or her faith and worship.

Since it is inevitable for man to have and ideology and faith and science religious faith is the only faith which can truly influence man and satisfy his natural inclination towards sacred truths and entities, there is no way for him but to embrace religious faith.

The Glorious Qur’an is the first book to consider religious faith as a kind of harmony with the divinity:

Seek they other than the religion of God, when unto Him submit whosoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and unto Him they will be returned.﴿ (3:83)

It also considers religious faith an element of human nature:

So set thy purpose (O Muhammad ) for religion as a man by nature upright - the nature (framed) of God, in which He has created man﴿……(30:30)

The Effects and Benefits of Faith

Although the effects of religious faith have to a certain extent come to light in our discussion so far, in order to fully understand the truly beneficial effects of this valuable property of life and this spiritual possession.

Tolstoy, the Russian thinker believes, "Belief is what people live with."

The philosopher, Nasser Khosrow Alavi says to his son,

"I turned to religion from the world because; To me, without religion, prison and dungeon would be the world. O son, religion is a world in my heart, this one is in no way a destructible world."

Religious faith has tremendous positive effects, from the point of creating joy and happiness, or bettering social relations of decreasing and eliminating difficulties which are inevitable in the world system.

Effects of Religious faiths are in three sections:

First, Joy and Happiness

The first effect of religious faith, from the point of creating joy and happiness is optimism: optimism towards the universe. It represents creation as something which has goals - goals which are blessed, evolutionary and rich - and naturally gives man an optimistic outlook towards the whole of creation and the rules governing it. The position of the believer in the world is like that of an individual living in a country who considers the laws, orders and organizations of that country to be correct and just. He also believes in the good will of the principal leaders of that country. Naturally, he finds the groundwork for progress and promotion available to himself and everybody else. He believes that the only thing that might hinder him would be his own laziness and inexperience of that of the other dutiful and responsible people.

In the view of such a person, the responsibility for any hindrance lies with himself and not with the organizations and systems of the country. He knows that he and his like are also responsible for whatever deficiency results from their not having fulfilled their obligations and responsibility. This naturally inspires him to work optimistically.

But for an unbeliever, the world is like a person living in a country who considers the law and institutions of that country corrupt and cruel, while he has no choice but to accept them. Such an individual is full of contradictions and hatred. He never thinks of reforming the self, but thinks that since the whole universe is incompatible and full of cruelty, tyranny and dishonesty, what can one insignificant honest person like himself do? Such an individual never enjoys his or her life because the world is always a horrible prison. This is why the Holy Qur’an says:

But he who turneth away from remembrance of Me, his will be a narrow life.﴿ (20:124)

Yes, it is the faith of man that broadens the spirituality of his life and saves him from depression. The second effect of religious faith from the point of creating cheerfulness and happiness is enlightenment in the heart. When man, because of religious faith, finds the universe enlightened by the divine rays of truth, such an enlightenment brightens the spirit, acting as a torch lit in one’s conscience. This is contrary to an unbeliever to whom the universe is absurd, dark, incomprehensible and empty of insight and clarity. Because of this, that person is imprisoned in the dark world of his own creation. The third out-come of religious faith, from the point of creating cheerfulness and happiness is "hope" for the good results of good action.

From the materialistic point of view, the universe is indifferent and impartial towards people, regardless of their course of action: Whether they act in the direction of right or wrong, of justice or oppression, of integrity or deceitfulness. The result of their action depends on one thing only and that is the amount of their effort." From the point of view of a believer, though, the universe is not indifferent towards the effort of these two groups. The universe does not react equally towards these two, but the divine system supports the people who struggle for righteousness, truth, integrity, justice and good will.

O ye who believe! If you help God’s cause, He will make your foot-hold firm.﴿(47:7)

For surely God does not waste the reward of those who do good.﴿ (12:90)

The fourth out-come of religious faith, from the point creating joy and happiness is peace of mind. It is in the nature of man to seek happiness for himself. He takes great pleasure in the thought of reaching this state; and the thought of a gloomy, deprived future disturbs him and fills him with anxieties and worry.

The cause of happiness are:

1- Effort.

2- Confidence in circumstantial conditions.

A student’s success depends on two factors: his own effort and hard work, on the one hand, and the school atmosphere, that is the encouragement and the effectiveness of the school authorities, on the other hand. If a studios pupil has no faith in the school that he studies in, if he has no confidence in the teacher who grades him at the end of the academic year and if he anxiously anticipates unjust treatment, throughout the whole year he will be full of anxiety, torment and fear.

The duty of man towards the self is clear. From his own side, he does not worry, because anxiety and fear are caused by uncertainty and doubt. Man has no doubt about what is related to himself. What pulls a person towards uncertainty and doubt is his duty towards the universe which is unclear. Is good work useful? Are honesty and trustworthiness useless? In spite of all efforts and fulfillment of responsibilities, is the final result suffering? This is where anxiety appears in its most horrible form.

Those who have formed a relationship with the universe, through religious faith, are given trust and confidence. Anxiety and fear in dealing with the universe are removed and replaced by comfort and ease. This is why we say that one of the effects of religious faith is peace of mind. Another result of religious faith, from the point of creating happiness, is the benefit from a series of joys which are called spiritual pleasures. Man has two kinds of joy: one belongs to his senses, created by a kind of contact between a sensory perception and an external object, such as the joy which results through the mouth by tasting, and through the sense of touch by physical contact. The other is the kind of joy which is related to the depth of one’s spirit and conscience, and has nothing to do with any specific organs; joys which do not result from contact with any external matter. Joy of this kind is that which man gains from generosity, and helpfulness, or from popularity and respect, as well as from his own and his child’s success. This kind of joy has nothing to do with the senses and is not affected directly by an external factor.

Spiritual joys are not only stronger than materialistic joys, but they last longer too. The joy of worshipping God and the joys of prayer is of this kind. The mystics, whose worship is modest, receive the greatest amount of pleasure from their prayers. In religious terminology they talk about the "sweetness of faith." Faith has a sweetness superior to all others. Spiritual joy is increased when acts such as acquiring knowledge, generosity, helpfulness, success and victory initiate from religious faith, and all are performed for God in the area of ‘worship’.

Second, the Function of Faith in the Betterment of Social Relations

Man, like some other animates, is born instinctively social. An individual is not capable of satisfying his needs alone. Life must be shared with others who participate in all duties and creativity, and a kind of work-distribution should be established among them, as there is among other animals such as bees, with one essential difference. That is, work-distribution among non-human beings is instinctive and compulsory by nature, the possibility of disobedience or violation of being absent, contrary to man who is a being with a free will and should perform work freely, as a "duty and responsibility". In other words, the non-human animate beings are under the influence of innate social instincts. Human needs are social without being governed by instincts. Human social instincts, as a series of "drived", exist in the sub-conscience of man and they must be cultivated through education.

A healthy social life is that in which individuals respect each other's rights, rules and restrictions; consider justice sacred and offer love to each other. They want for others what they do not want for themselves; they want not for others what they do not want for themselves; they believe and trust in each other. The guarantee of their mutual confidence is their spiritual values. Each individual considers himself responsible and under obligation to his society. Every individual shows the same virtue and chastity whether in private or in the open. They help one another without having the slightest sense of greed; they move against oppression and tyranny and do not allow dictators and agents of evil to engage in tyranny and corruption. They hold dear moral values and are allied and united like the members of a single body.

What, more than religious faith respects righteousness, holds justice sacred, softens hearts towards each other, establishes mutual confidence between individuals, causes virtue and chastity to deepen their roots in the conscience of human beings, gives credit to moral values, creates the courage to make a move against cruelty and unites everybody like members of a single body. The glories of mankind, which glitter like stars in the sky of their adventurous history, are those whose source is religious faith.

Third, Relief from Distress

Human life, whether we like it or not, has its pangs, sorrows, failures, losses, bitterness, and disappointments, as it has its joys, sweetness, achievements and successes. Many of life’s sorrows can be either prevented or removed though often with great effort. Obviously, man is obliged to struggle with nature and change the bitterness to sweetness. Some of the events in the world, though, they cannot be prevented or removed, like the advance of old age. Man, at any rate, ages. The candle of his life burns down. The on sequences of old age, such as weakness and physical inadequacy and the like hinder activities. Moreover, the thought of death, leaving life behind, leaving the world of family and friends causes people to suffer in different ways.

Religious faith creates the power to resist in man and turns bitterness to sweetness. A man of faith knows that everything in the world is under a certain law and if he reacts towards bitterness properly, Almighty God will compensate him in one way or another, even if the incident seems in-incompensatable. Because old age does not mean the end of life, and moreover, an individual with faith always occupies himself or herself with intimacy and praying to God, life in old age becomes more delightful than the period of youth for believers. The prospect of death is different in the eyes of a person with faith than in the eyes of an individual without faith. To a believer, death is not mortality but a transfer from a transitory world to a permanent one, from a finite world to an infinite one.

Death is a transfer from the world of action and cultivation to a world of consequence and harvest. This is why such an individual removes his or her fear of death by efforts in doing good or 'Amal-i-Saleh', as it is said in religious terminology.

It is obvious and clear to psychologist’s that most of the mental illnesses which are caused by psychological disorders and bitterness towards life are found among non-religious people. Religious people, depending on the extent of their steadfastness in their religious faith, are protected against such illness. Therefore, one of the consequences of contemporary life, whose source is loss of religious faith, is the increase in psychological and nervous illnesses.

* Mutahhari, Morteza. Man and Faith. Published by Iran University Press. Iran, 1981.

1204 View | 11-03-2011 | 02:58


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