At a time when the anti-science movement is growing and when religion is being defined by its most extreme adherents, there is some very good news that might make a difference in how we approach some of our largest problems, problems that are ecological, economic, and health-related, as well as simply associated with our basic humanity.
The fact is that clergy members from all parts of the United States and from around the globe have come together to offer a better way to look at the world. They have come together to demonstrate that religion, in its best form, requires us to care for one another and for the planet on which we live. They recognize that the process of scientific investigation and the information it yields, trumps opinion, and can provide insight into a host of critical issues, from dealing with pandemics to climate change, from understanding that racism makes no sense given our shared humanity, to appreciating the complexities associated with sexual and gender identity.
And, perhaps most importantly, these forward-looking clergy members know that religion and science need not be in conflict, that the two can work together productively to help create a greener, more equitable and more harmonious environment for all.
The clergy members I’m referencing are the thousands of members of The Clergy Letter Project, a grass-roots organization originally created to promote the teaching of evolution in public school science classrooms and laboratories. In an attempt to spread their message of the compatibility of religion and science, for the past 17 years they’ve sponsored Evolution Weekend, an opportunity to raise the quality of the dialogue on this important topic. For these 17 years, on the weekend closest to the birth of Charles Darwin (12 February 1809), clergy members have delivered sermons, hosted panel discussions, led children’s classes, participated in book groups, and done much more to influence the way people understand the relationship between religion and science. Over these 17 years, participating clergy members have reached well over one million people in their churches, temples, and mosques.
But this year, recognizing that more needs to be done, members of The Clergy Letter Project, voted to transform Evolution Weekend into something larger, more vibrant, and even more relevant to the problems we are currently facing.
They’ve voted to change Evolution Weekend into Religion and Science Weekend. This change, while continuing to acknowledge the centrality of evolution to science, demonstrates the myriad ways in which religion and science can interact productively in service of us all.
This year they selected an exciting theme for Religion and Science Weekend: “Mystery, Awe and Wonder in Religion and Science.”
This theme demonstrates not only the concordance of religion and science but also the excitement that can arise when we gain a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Both religion and science can lead us to this place and when we arrive, we are able to reach beyond ourselves to others and help create a more welcoming environment. This is a large part of what both religion and science are all about. Both recognize that the world is filled with mysteries, mysteries that we might untangle if we explore carefully and creatively, and both recognize that we might be appropriately awed as we make our discoveries. Both religion and science entail a journey – a journey joyfully taken by the congregations who have opted to participate.
Take a moment to explore our page of participating congregations. I hope you find one near you and that you opt to join us on this incredibly important journey. If your local congregation is not yet listed, ask your clergy member to join our effort reform public opinion about both religion and science. Together we can make a difference.