The world needs a new religion. The ones we have are outdated. Every major religion -- Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism -- dates from prescientific days.
Apple comes up with a new and improved iPhone every year or so. Why should we be content with ancient forms of spirituality concocted by people who didn't even know that the Earth revolves around the Sun, much less about quantum theory, relativity, the big bang, and evolution?
Our old religions are deeply problematic. A short piece from the National Academy of Sciences on "Compatibility of Science and Religion" pinpoints the problem.
Science and religion are based on different aspects of human experience. In science, explanations must be based on evidence drawn from examining the natural world. Scientifically based observations or experiments that conflict with an explanation eventually must lead to modification or even abandonment of that explanation.
Religious faith, in contrast, does not depend only on empirical evidence, is not necessarily modified in the face of conflicting evidence, and typically involves supernatural forces or entities. Because they are not a part of nature, supernatural entities cannot be investigated by science.
I don't find much to disagree with here, though I have a quibble with the phrase "only on empirical evidence."
This implies that religious faith is founded largely, or at least a lot, on empirical evidence. Huh? Most religious people consider that a leap of faith requires leaving behind solid factual ground and trusting in the reality of things unknown.
It's the end of the National Academy of Sciences piece that bothers me the most.
In this sense, science and religion are separate and address aspects of human understanding in different ways. Attempts to pit science and religion against each other create controversy where none needs to exist.
Well, that's an idealistic attitude. Unfortunately, religion doesn't restrict itself to supernatural entities. Other-worldly forces such as God, spirit, the Devil, karma, and such are believed to affect this physical universe.
So science and religion inevitably will butt heads when believers in the supernatural claim that they know more than scientists do about some physical phenomenon, yet can't prove this divine knowledge is true because it isn't based on empirical evidence.
Hey, religion: you can't have it both ways!
Feel free to play around with the supernatural, claiming that religiosity offers an enhanced faith-based perspective on reality. But if you want to venture onto the ground of science, be prepared to bring some demonstrable evidence to back up your claims.
That scientific ground is, of course, this world. It's where each of us is born, lives, and dies. It's where we breathe, eat, work, love, explore, theorize, laugh, cry, create, talk, walk.
I'm very much open to the possibility that there's more to reality than materiality, this universe. However, in my current churchless state of mind I'm no longer willing to surrender the reality of this world for a promise of a supernatural realm. I want my religion (if I ever find a suitable one) to be completely compatible with modern science.
Perhaps I'll have to create my own religion. As the above quote noted, science continually grows, expands, and changes as more is learned about the natural world. Religions, though, mostly stay stuck on the theological foundations established by their founders (Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha, etc.).
Today, through science, we know that...
The universe came into being about 14 billion years ago; life on Earth got started around 3.5 billion years ago; humans evolved from primitive life forms, so we are related to every currently living entity, even bacteria; the brain is a "meat computer" without which bodily consciousness is impossible; there are several hundred billion galaxies, each containing on average hundreds of billions of stars.
...and so much more.
Is there room for the supernatural in a scientific view of the world and ourselves? Sure. But a modern religion can't ignore facts about the natural side of reality.
Remaining true to science while embracing some form of supernaturalism is difficult.
I know, because I've tried (and am still trying) to come up with a scientifically-compatible conception of the cosmos that offers some of the reassuring cool belief-stuff that traditional religions provide: assurance of life after death, objective meaning, continuation of consciousness without a physical brain.
There's a good reason why religions were born in pre-scientific times: it's damn hard, perhaps impossible, to believe in supernatural dogmas which seem to be ruled out by solid findings of modern science.
Like I said, it's possible that a new religion could say Yes! to all of science while also affirming the truth of a non-material realm of reality. I await the revelation.