Insightful Piece on “Religion” and Science from a Muslim Woman’s Perspective

This piece on Salon.com today is one of the clearest and most cogent bits of writing on the subject of “religious vs science” that I have read in a good many years. Ms. Sana Saeed points out two vital issues in the so-called debate about scientism vs. religion in modern society.

First, she reminds us that “religion” doesn’t mean only the evangelical right wing of Euro-American Christianity. “This segment of the world’s religious topography … does not represent Religion or, in particular, Religion’s relationship with science.”

Second, she instructs us that Islam is far more comfortable with Science and its positions on issues such as Creationism than is Christianity of essentially any variety.

religion-scienceThe author is a woman who grew up with her mind firmly planted in both Islam and Science, a woman who is bewildered that, “here we are today being told that the two are irreconcilable; that religion begets an anti-science crusade and science pushes anti-religion valor. When did this become the only conversation on religion and science that we’re allowed to have?”

Precisely. The answer of course, is that this has not become the case. Only among anti-intellectual, mentally blindered individuals who believe that all knowledge must be subsumed under the umbrella of and completely compatible with a set of ancient teachings that was never intended to take on such an overarching role, is this assumption made. And there is no necessity for any of us who fall outside that limited set of beliefs and prejudices to confine our conversation to the parameters defined by its adherents.

Just as we have mistakenly allowed those who are opposed on religious grounds to granting women the right to choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term or abort it to characterize themselves as “pro-life” (and, by extension, the rest of us as anti-life) rather than what they really are — anti-choice — so we have permitted, by default or by weariness, the Evangelical Right to define “religion” to mean their particular brand of religious teachings. Just as it is time we began to reframe the debate about the right to choose into a disagreement between anti-choice and pro-choice camps, so it is past time to reframe the discussion around religion and science into one of pro-fact vs. anti-fact rather than pro-religion vs anti-religion. Until we so redefine the debate — until we reclaim the labels “religious” and “Christian” from the fundamentalist zealots — we will be destined to engage in a defensive debate we can arguably never “win”.

Comments are closed.