In John Brockman’s collection What is Your Dangerous Idea? the planetary scientist Carolyn C. Porco suggests,
The confrontation between science and formal religion will come to an end when the role played by science in the lives of people is the same as that played by religion today.
And just what is that role?
At the heart of every scientific inquiry is a deep spiritual quest to grasp, to know, to feel connected through an understanding of the secrets of the natural world, to have a sense of one’s part in the greater whole. It is this inchoate desire for connection to something greater and immortal, the need for elucidation of the meaning of the ‘self,’ that motivates the religious to belief in a higher intelligence. It is the allure of a bigger agency – outside the self but also involving, protecting, and celebrating the purpose of the self – that is the great attractor. Every culture has religion. It manifestly satisfies a human need.
Apart from feeling patronised that someone should tell me why I think the way I do, the suggestion completely misses the point.
What Christians celebrate this week is about a person and about a story, it is not a reflection of any ‘inchoate desire’, it is about listening to a story and deciding whether or not one finds the story convincing. In many cases being convinced by the story will lead to a life that runs counter to all individual desires. Being a Christian is about a relationship that may often completely contradict ‘celebrating the purpose of the self’.
If religious belief were merely something that satisfied human need then Christians would quickly have dumped the Passion story for something altogether more attractive; how easy it would be if it were about no more than ‘a deep spiritual quest to grasp, to know, to feel connected through an understanding of the secrets of the natural world’.
Dealing with the story of a person is much more difficult than dealing with a set of propositions.