Long time back I visited the Bahai (Lotus) Temple in New Delhi. Needless to say that the structure is an architectural wonder. The temple has an impressive prayer hall where only tranquility and peace prevails. At the entry to the temple the motto of Bahai faith is inscribed in stone. The motto talks of One World, One Sect, Universal Brotherhood and so on. But one line which caught my attention is still in my memory. It is “To move forward in step with Science”. This is a very strong positive statement. Such statements are usually not associated with religions.
Bahai faith was founded by Bahaullah in 19th century and emphasizes spiritual unity of the mankind. One of the central tenets of this faith is harmony between science and religion. It rejects the popular notion that science and religion are in conflict in recognition of the fact that there is only one truth and hence true science and true religion have got to be in harmony. Abdul Baha, one of the central figures of Bahai faith, has said that if religion is contrary to reason it would cease to be a religion and would become merely a tradition. Science and religion are two wings upon which the human intelligence can soar to great heights. Any conflict is solely due to some wrong understanding of religious principles or scientific facts.
Bahai writings underscore this point very explicitly. “Science without religion would lead to man becoming totally materialistic. On the other hand, religion without science would lead to superstitious practices”. As already stated such clear cut philosophy is rarely to be found in religious scriptures.
Albert Einstein was one of the greatest scientists of all times. At the same time he was equally great as a human being. He expresses similar sentiments in a very elegant manner in these words: “Science without religion is lame; Religion without science is blind”.
In today’s context the foregoing may not mean much. However it is very meaningful in a historical perspective. Religion has often proved to be hurdle for scientific progress. An excellent account of the history of religion and science can be had from the book “Religion and Science” by Sir Bertrand Russell. The book traces the development of science over the last five to six centuries and the role of religion, mainly Christianity. The book ends with a message “A life devoted to science is a happy life …”. A highly recommended reading. (The book is downloadable from the net. It is available as audio book from Youtube)