Science is a branch of knowledge that deals with the material world. On the other hand, religion is concerned with a divine order in the spiritual world. Science depends on reason while religion on intution and inner conviction. The scientist works in the laboratory of the material world. The religious teacher probes into the chambers of the inward mind. The goal of science is material achievement; that of religion is realization.
When the discoveries of science began to pull down the ancient beliefs and theories which had been preached and supported by religion, there was a great cry—religion is in danger. So ensues the conflict between religion and science, the old and the new. So whom should we trust?—dreaming youth looking to the future, or the old folk casting their last, lingering look behind? As time marches on situations change, circumstances differ and man also acts ditferently. Hence, old principles will have to be applied to new conditions, and in this context they may lose their colour but not thier intrinsic value.
The mystery of life and death still baffles a man. In his adversity, in his apony when he is engulfed with a sense of helplessness, he feels the need of turning to somebody for some sort of help and solace. So James Stuart Mill once said, if there is no God, God should be created by man. But true religion is not the brick and mortar of churches or the beauty and grandeur of monques and temples, but to feel the power behind the world or God himself. Thus true religion is not, according to some people, some religious pursuits for the payment of an insurance premium towards happiness in the life to come, but the betterment of this present life. In fact, religion is being and becoming.
There can be comparison between two things only when they both belong to the same category. But when they are entities of two different types, how can there be any comparison between them? The discoveries of science are tangible and spectacular, and can be demonstrated objectively. But the discoveries of religion are to be felt rather than to be demonstrated outwardly. But neverthless the discoveries of religion are as true as those of science. The fundamental basis of science is that it does not recognize any privileged individual or class. If a scientist says that the truth he has found is a sealed book to others, he falls into the class of a magician. In that event there is no difference between a scientist and a magician. Science commands so much confidence, because in science everything is above board. It is the same with religion also. No prophet asks us to take anything granted merely because he believes it to be true, and no other can follow it. He says, “Experiment for yourself and you are sure to reach the same conclusion.” The only difficulty about spiritual truths is that one has to feel them, realize them in one’s heart. Anybody can test them, provided he is ready to undergo the required discipline, as in science.
Of course, there are dishonest persons in every walk of life, but counterfeit coins only indicate that there are genuine ones. In this respect science a has done a great service to the cause of religion. It has mercilessly exposed the hypocrisy and falsity that had entered the field of religion, and is still doing so. In every religion there are some essential things, and around about them grow many things which have no direct bearing on religion. For example, the beauty and strength of Christianity lies in the sermon, not in the theory of creation. And so, even if all these theories are falsified, real Christiaity is safe; the message of Jesus will inspire people all over the world irrespective of colour or creed. It is the same with every other religion with the preachings of the prophets like Buddha, Muhammad, Sri Chaitanya, Sri Ramakrishna, etc.
Science has given another boon to us, It has given what is called the scientific outlook. Nowadays most men will go to doctors rather than to the church fathers when taken ill. Why pray to God and disturb Him for curing your illness when a simple dose of medicine can cure you?
It is idle to think science stands in the way of religion. Real science will never obstruct the progress of true religion, but will check itself from the cause of destruction with the help of religion. In this sense once Einstein said, “Science is lame without religion, religion is blind without science.” Hence science and religion will maintain their parallel courses which, however, will converge someday at some point.