Science as Religion


Science as Religion

Excerpted from Man & the Universe, an Islamic Perspective by Mostafa al-Badawi

“Man cannot live without some kind of religion: even those who hold that there is no such thing as religion merely substitute one set of beliefs for another.

Religion consists of a doctrine which explains what man is, his position within the universe, and his relationship with the Absolute. It offers a law which regulates man’s transactions with his environment, and beyond that, it offers a method of spiritual ascent. It should always be remembered that the memory of the lost paradise lingers on within men as does the feeling of the upward pull of the spirit. When Christianity lost its credibility and hence its powers to explain, it was simply replaced by the more materialistic alternatives on offer. Thus instead of seeking to reach the real paradise, people busied themselves with obtaining as much pleasure from the only paradise left to them–that of immediate enjoyment in this life. And instead of striving along the path of spiritual ascent, they chose the cruder and more materialistic alternative to satisfy this need, which was to reach for the moon. The explanations of religion were replaced by scientific theories, with mere conjecture being presented as fact and held unto as tenaciously as any religious belief ever was. The most notorious example is, of course, the theory of evolution. Despite the large number of people who have attempted to demonstrate that the scientific community was equally divided between supporters and foes, popular mythology accepts it as a proven fact, and scientists from other disciplines readily use the concept as categorically as they use directly observable data. Belief in science is currently perceived as conferring the right to be sceptical of everything, including science, and as release from obligation to strive for the truth.

Dr Albert Ellis, an American psychologist who originated a reasonable successful form of psychotherapy that he labelled ‘Rational Emotive Therapy’, writes,

The idea that certain people are bad or wicked springs from the ancient theological doctrine of free will, which assumes that every person has the freedom to act ‘rightly’ or ‘wrongly’ in relation to some absolute standard of truth and justice ordained by ‘God’ or the ‘natural law’; and that if anyone uses his ‘free will’ to behave ‘wrongly’ he is a wicked sinner. This doctrine has no scientific foundation because its key terms–including ‘absolute truth’, ‘God’, ‘free will’, and ‘natural law’–are purely definitional and can neither be proven nor disproven in empirical scientific terms.

This kind of argument if fairly widespread in the West and reveals the contradictions inherent in such pseudo-objectivity. Denying the Absolute must surely also mean denying oneself the right to speak in such absolute terms. To think of proof as only possible in purely scientific terms is to attribute to science a competence far exceeding its quite limited territory. It is to be so hypnotized by science that sight is lost of the fact that it is valid only in what pertains to the material level, and that also in a very relative way. It would have been more ‘rational’ to think that proof should be adequate to the level of what needs to be proved. Intelligible things require intelligible proof and spiritual things require spiritual proof. The fact that the West has lost the ability to accept spiritual proof neither renders the spiritual dimension non-existent nor does it affect the validity of such proof at its own level. That they cannot prove God scientifically merely proves that He is not material enough to be measured; to conclude that He therefore does not exist is patently absurd. Now what if He did? What if those millions of people who lived throughout the centuries believing in a life to come were not so naïve and backward after all? What of the inertia and complacency of those who do not even wish to find out? Pleasure seeking and the wish to achieve are basic human traits; however, the West has substituted immediate and lowly pleasures for those of Paradise and the spirit, and the achievement in terms of income and social status for spiritual growth.

There are a few people in the West who are aware that theirs is indeed a precarious situation and who have some degree of sincerity in wishing to find a way out. They will first of all have to disentangle themselves from the current myths which shape their mentality, and they will then be faced with the myriad of pseudo-religions which abound in the West today, and nowhere more so than in America. Some of these are parodies of true religions, others are invented from moment to moment as the situation requires, and there are even some which are based on science fiction. Very few indeed are those who are able to see through such mirages and keep their feet firmly on the ground.”


[Dr. Mostafa al-Badawi was born in Cairo in 1948. He graduated from Cairo University Medical School in 1971 and thereafter completed his postgraduate training in the United Kingdom in 1985. He has been practicing as a consultant psychiatrist since then. Dr. al-Badawi has authored several books in English, including Man and the Universe: An Islamic Perspective, The Prophetic Invocations, and Sufi Sage of Arabia: Biography of Imam al-Haddad. He has also authored several books in Arabic. In addition, Dr. al-Badawi has translated from the original Arabic into English several of Imam Abdallah ibn Alawi al-Haddad’s works, including The Book of Assistance, The Lives of Man, Gifts for the Seeker, Wisdom and Knowledge, Good Manners, and Mutual Reminding. He also translated into English Habib Ahmad al-Haddad’s Key to the Garden as well as Shaykh Abd al-Khaliq ash-Shabrawi’s Degrees of the Soul.]


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