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  • Lama Jigme Gyatso

When Religion Opposes Science



Many years ago

I moved to a very

inexpensive

little apartment complex

with not one

but two

angry fundamentalists.

One of their spawn

was attending

the local junior high school…

and in an effort

to build rapport

I asked what he thought

of Big Bang Theory.

The warmth

ran away from his face

replaced with all the solemnity

of pseudo-piety…

and in a cold voice

he slowly proclaimed

I do NOT believe in it!

Oh no!

I exclaimed

I was not referring to

the cosmological theory

but to the television sit-com

about nerdy professors

who can NOT seem

to get dates.

Cheated

out of an opportunity

to debate

this dreadful pagan…

his visage softened

and he confessed

that he had NOT seen it.

Why had his

religious teachers

made the opposition

to astrophysics…

a tenant

of faith?

When religion

opposes science

little good

can come of it.

In fifth century Alexandria

the great: mathematician,

astronomer, and Physicist,

Hypatia…

was murdered

by minions of

Archbishop Cyril…

who associated

higher learning

with so called

paganism.

When religion

opposes science

little good

can come of it.

In eleventh century Baghdad,

at that time the center

of the scientific world…

the cleric Al Ghazali

rose to power

who insisted that mathematics

was the work of the devil.

When religion

opposes science

little good

can come of it.

And even last week,

in Virginia…

the Evangelical minister

Bishop Gerald Glenn

sadly died of Covid 19…

after defying

scientists’ warnings

against public gatherings

and insisting…

“…God is larger

than this dreadful

virus…”

When religion

opposes science

little good

can come of it.

Oh how ironic

that more

than two millennia ago…

a Jewish carpenter

is said

to have taught:

“…the truth

shall make you

free.”

The wise

do NOT fear

the rigors

of science…

understanding

that a little

inconvenience…

is much better

than a lot

of suffering.

Who can forget

in Return of the Jedi…

when Luke learned

the profoundly

inconvenient truth…

that his father

was NOT betrayed

by Darth Vader…

as much as he simply

became

Darth Vader.

If Luke

had hardened his heart,

and denied

the truth…

he might have

eventually

slayed Darth Vader…

and taken his place

as the Emperor’s

apprentice.

But he worked

through

his emotions…

and came to terms

with this truth

so thoroughly…

that he was able

to lead his father

back to the light.

Yes,

the truth

really can

set us free.

But do you know

who fears

the findings of science?

Those who value

money, or power, or prestige,

far more than they value

public health.

Like Exxon-Mobil

who first learned of climate change

back in 1977…

and who has spent

more than forty years…

obfuscating the issue

in the name

of quarterly profits.

When moneyed interests

oppose the truth…

and the politicians

they’re in bed with

oppose the truth…

and the religious leaders

they’re in bed with

oppose the truth…

NO good

can come

of it.

Come, let us cultivate

a vulnerable attitude

toward the truth…

be it glorious,

or be it grotesque…

by training

in the Buddha’s

contemplation,

and compassion…

that we

like Luke Skywalker

might meditate

like a Jedi.



Let us conclude

with a simple

call to action


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These spiritual poems are also available on

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