The Truth About Physics and Religion

Many people believe that physics and religion are separate entities.
They claim that physics deals only with the objective, material world, while
religion deals only with the world of values. It is obvious, from these, and
from many other comparisons, that conflicts have arisen between physics and
religion. Many are convinced that the two fields completely oppose each other,
and are not related in any ways. Many people, who follow a particular religion,
feel offended by the claims that physicists have made, while physicists believe
that religion has no basis in reality. I will show, however, that these
conflicts are founded on a misunderstanding, and that there is no division
between physics and religion. I will also prove that the misunderstanding lies
in the parables of religion and in the statements made by physicists.
Furthermore, I will show that only physicists can really know the truth of
physics, and only religious followers can know the truth of that religion;
everyone else has to take it on faith.

Many people believe that physics and religion are entirely separate.
They claim that physics is only concerned with discovering what is true or false,
while religion is concerned with what is good or evil. Scientists appear to
agree that “physics is the manner in which we argue about the objective side of
reality.” Religious followers, on the other hand, agree that “religion is the
way we express the subjective decisions that help us choose the standards by
which we live.” Although these definitions seem to be contrasting, an important
element remains absent, an element that must first be considered before religion
and physics can be compared.
Those who think that religion has no basis in reality also believe that
there is an “obvious” separation between the two fields. They think that
religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. Paul Dirac,
a physicist, once said:

The very idea of God is a product of the human
imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive
people, who were so much more exposed to the
overpowering forces of nature than we are today,
should have personified these forces in fear and
trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so
many natural processes, we have no need for such

Dirac, and those who think the same way, however, fails to consider the
essential element that has caused many to misunderstand the relationship between
physics and religion. What they fail to realize is that religion uses language
in quite a different way from science. The language of religion is more closely
related to the language of poetry than to the language of science. The fact
that religions have, throughout the ages, spoken in parables and images, simply
means that there is no other way of understanding the reality to which they
refer. But I strongly believe, however, that religion is a genuine reality.
Neils Bohr once said:

The relationship between critical thought about the
spiritual content of a given religion and action based
on the deliberate acceptance of that content is
complementary. And such acceptance fills the
individual with strength of purpose, helps him to
overcome doubts and, if he has to suffer, provides him
with the kind of solace that only a sense of being
sheltered under an all-embracing roof can grant.

In this sense, religion helps to make social life more harmonious; its most
important task is to remind us, in the language of parables and images, of the
wider picture that we live our lives.

Dirac, like many others who share his thoughts, thinks that religion is
entirely based on faith. But, because of his ignorance to the meaning of the
word “faith”, he has developed many incorrect beliefs and assumptions. Faith is
defined as “the belief in something, with strong conviction and confidence.”
What many fail to realize, however, is that faith is just as essential an
element of physics as it is of religion. The reason why many fail to realize
this, is because of the common misconception that physics is a self-regulating
machine which automatically produces information when the crank of scientific
method is turned. Very little faith would be required, of course, for the
operation of such a machine. But physics, as many of us have experienced
through experiments, is not at all like that. The experimenter usually finds
nothing resembling the smooth, ordered, lawful behavior depicted by the
textbooks. What he finds instead are error-filled and highly questionable
results. William Pollard, a physicist, once wrote:

Scientific research is a tough and unrelenting business.