Today I’d like to talk a little about religion. This is going to be kind of a personal post.  Comments and discussion are always welcome, provided everyone remains respectful.

While researching last week’s Sciency Words post on exotheology, C.S. Lewis’s name came up a lot.  I didn’t mention this because Sciency Words is mainly about the etymology of scientific or science-related terms, and Lewis does not get credit for coining the term exotheology.  As far as I can tell, he never used the term at all in his writings.

However, one of Lewis’s essays is referenced so frequently in exotheological discussions that you might almost call it a founding document for the subject.  It was published in February of 1963 in response to Russian cosmonauts who, upon returning to Earth from space, reported that they had not seen any God up there in the heavens. And, well, I guess that was supposed to settle the matter.  The cosmonauts didn’t see God; therefore, God doesn’t exist. Q.E.D.

Lewis’s response was originally titled “Onward, Christian Spaceman” and was later re-titled “The Seeing Eye.”  For anyone who’s interested, I found this video on YouTube that presents the essay with some nice, hand drawn illustrations:

But the crux of Lewis’s argument can be summed up well by this quote from that essay:

To some, God is discoverable everywhere; to others, nowhere.  Those who do not find Him on earth are unlikely to find Him in space.

That line struck a curious chord with me. Some of you have been Internet friends with me long enough to remember that I was, at one time, a pretty devout church-going Christian.  But in recent years, I’ve become disillusioned with the church and with the whole concept of organized religion.

Why?  Well, there are several reasons.  One of the big ones is that I love space, and I love science, and for what seems to be a growing number of religious people, it’s not okay to love those things.  Apparently. It’s also not okay to love certain people, apparently, but that’s a different story.  I know not all religious people are like that, but enough of them are that I became very uncomfortable going to church, and so I stopped going.

To my surprise, I don’t really miss it. I’ve found other ways to pursue my spiritual growth.  One of my favorites involves dark, cloudless nights and my trusty old telescope.  Because weirdly enough, and in apparent contradiction to what C.S. Lewis had to say on the subject, I have a much easier time finding God (or the divine, or the sublime, or whatever you might prefer to call it) up there in space than I do down here on Earth.

14 responses »

  1. Steve Morris says:

    I read CS Lewis’s space trilogy a few years back. Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. You might well enjoy them. It became clear to me from reading them that Lewis held a rather low opinion of scientists, and the modern world in general. But they are still interesting works.

    Liked by 2 people

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I really only knew Lewis for his Narnia books, and a few theological works that they made me read in school. I didn’t know, until I started reading up about exotheology, that he’d done any science fiction work or had anything to say about space exploration. I can’t say I agree with everything he has to say, but it’s been an interesting discovery.

      Like

  2. bkellysky says:

    I, too, find God in the heavens. Maybe we belong to the church of John Dobson (“The exterior decorator does good work!”).

    If I may be presumptuous, perhaps the key to being engaged in organized religion is to look within yourself to see what you believe and what you want in how a religion understands God. Then find the organization that matches those needs. I don’t think it’s a matter of ‘shopping’ for a church that matches our political views, since they can and should be changed by our encounters with God and God’s people. I’m Roman Catholic. Despite the failings of the Church, I believe Jesus is really there in the bread and wine, a true physical change despite the fact that I can’t observe any change in the bread and the wine. If God can’t do that miracle, one we see in faith, well, how can God do other things, visible and invisible? So, it is hard for me to be anything but Catholic. I say this by way of example, not to evangelize for a place for you.
    So, what do you believe? Where is God calling you to be? (Rhetorical questions!!!) Take some time away to discern this. When you know something of what you believe and don’t believe, find a home that is God for you. Even if some of those people have different ideas on what is a sin, stay if they love their neighbor, with no exceptions, as best us fallible humans can.
    May you be blessed on every road you choose!

    P.S. Camille M. Carlisle wrote a wonderful piece on religion and astronomy for the back page of a Sky and Telescope issue a couple of years ago. I’ll see if I can link to it. They took some heat for publishing that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      Thank you for your kind words. I very much appreciate them. At the moment, I can’t really say which way my spiritual life is leading me, but I do believe that so long as I follow my heart and remain true to myself, then things will work out as they should.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. dtkrippene says:

    It isn’t so much a disillusionment of God, it’s more about dogma, and the human touch that creates the supposed “rules” of engagement. I have family members who are very devout, and often puzzled why I don’t attend church anymore. I tell them it isn’t the faith, it’s the institution. That said, as a college science grad, the last forty years have revealed more of the universe we belong than ever before. If I was to summarize to those who feel I’ve become agnostic, I simply point to a night sky and suggest perhaps our understanding of a greater omnipotence can no longer be defined simply as “the image of man” that comes with humanities weaknesses.

    If you feel a spiritualism in your heart, no one has the right to say you’re not a spiritual person.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. CareSA says:

    I follow your blog because one: I like your writing style and two I have an interest in sciency stuff, (not that I understand the little details at all) Science is fascinating and astonishing !
    My main interest though is theology, and on my journey I have found that the sciences dovetail with theology – beautifully. The God of the Bible is the God of science too ! He created all – the stars, the planets the earth the people – even the Church ! If we are to be seekers of God we must look to Him and not the Church or its people. Perhaps that’s the reason why so many are leaving the Church these days. But at best its all a spiritual journey anyway.
    I have been reading the Bible for near on thirty years and recently begun to read it as a story – ‘His Story’ from before creation to what is to come after this life as we know it. I have discovered aspects of Him and His works (which include the basic principles of life and science) and am blown away by His magnificent mind, and of course His amazing love for me, through Jesus.
    God is worth searching for – He is a pearl of great price, and a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
    Thank you, a very interesting and thought provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      Thank you for commenting! It’s really great to hear that! Throughout my adult life, I’ve found that the more I learn about science the stronger my faith would grow. And the handful of professional scientists I’ve known over the years generally seem to share that sentiment. We shouldn’t have to choose between science and religion. The two can go together quite well.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. bkellysky says:

    This just in: https://www.ncronline.org/news/environment/dartmouth-physicist-known-doubting-skeptics-wins-2019-templeton-prize . Story about a scientist who is agnostic, but looks for mysticism in science.
    In his words, from his acceptance video: “My mission is to bring back to science, and to the people that are interested in science, this attachment to the mysterious, to make people understand that science is just one other way for us to engage with the mystery of who we are.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. CareSA says:

    On further thought, I would like to share this quote by Martin Luther King, Jr with you which struck a cord with me :
    “Science investigates, Religion interprets, Science gives man knowledge, which is power, Religion gives man wisdom which is control,
    Science deals mainly with facts; Religion deals mainly with values.
    The two are not rivals.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      Good quote! When people tell me religion just makes the world worse, and cite a bunch of religious wars to prove their point, MLK is my go-to counter example. I’m really not sure that man could have done what he did without his faith.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. zuludelta45 says:

    Great Post! I like to say “They” might be able to excommunicate you from the church, but they can’t excommunicate you from God. Lewis seems to pop up in the most interesting places.

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.S. Pailly says:

      Indeed he does. Excommunication is a strange thing to me. If the church is supposed to save people from their sins, then cutting people off from the church because of their sins seems counterproductive.

      Like

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