Religion or Science?
I was born into the Catholic faith. It’s basically your default religion if you’re a Filipino. I was never really a religious person and neither was my dad. But my mom, on the other hand, would use that “Catholic/Filipino guilt trip” if you didn’t wake up early each Sunday morning to go to mass.
During my Sunday school days, I would fall asleep in class because I really didn’t take it seriously. To me, it wasn’t “real” school, so why bother paying attention? It was just something I had to do to keep my mom happy. Whenever there was homework, I would just do it by writing backwards on the paper with a note at the top that said “hold up towards a mirror.”
Fun fact #1: Yes. I can write backwards fluently. How or why? No idea.
Fun fact #2: I thought Mary was Jesus’ wife.
By the time I was a teenager, I would listen more closely to the readings, during mass, and be very confused. I took all the readings very literal and thought, “this does not make any sense.”
Later in my life, I just stopped going to church because what did make more sense was science.
Since childhood, technology has fascinated me. I grew up in the 80s which was the Atari, Nintendo and Sega console generation. The ability to interact with something on the screen was something I couldn’t get enough of.
I was also a big fan of Captain Power.
When the internet first arrived in the mail (and by internet I mean America Online), I became more fascinated with technology. Especially when I learned that I could play online games with my friends and create my own webpage.
It wasn’t until my first year of community college, in an astronomy class, that I started get interested in space exploration. When I learned exactly why the sky is blue but shifts colors during sunrise and sunset, my mind was blown. I instantly wanted to learn more about space, atoms, biology and all the other things that were happening all around me.
Everyday after the Mars rovers Opportunity and Spirit landed, I would check the NASA website for news every morning once I got to work. Because of those missions, I got interested in other missions and was hooked following and reading about them. Missions like the Voyager 1 & 2 spacecraft, the Phoenix lander, and ESAs Rosetta and Philae all captured my imagination.
When I watched the Mars Curiosity mission’s EDL (entry, descent and landing) live, my imagination turned into a realization that changed the way I thought about science and the science community.
The realization happened when witnessed fellow humans:
- land a mobile science lab in 7 minutes on another planet
- have that rover power on and take photos
- send those photos to a satellite above it
- have that satellite send the photos to Earth and into the computers of the NASA team
- then finally have those photos posted on the NASA website for the whole world to enjoy
...all within 30 minutes.
This not only blew my mind, but also made me a bit emotional. I thought about the number of years of hard work it took for some of our smartest humans to make this happen. I also thought about how they all came from all walks of life to make the mission a success. It just seemed so beautiful to me.
It made me think deeply about humanity and our place in everything. This was a whole new perspective in life that I was never taught nor experienced. With this new perspective, it made me think that our main purpose in life is to work together and explore.
Fast forward to the next chapter in my life, I found my then girlfriend (now wife) Jessica. Her family is very religious. Even more religious than my mother. So, it took a bit of getting used to when I was dragged to Sunday mass and tried to keep myself awake each time I went.
Again, I would listen to the readings and take them very literally and get confused. What does this all mean? How can anyone believe these textbooks written by men centuries ago? It never made any sense to me. But I went to mass to show Jessica that I supported her beliefs.
But after mass, I would ask Jessica questions about the day’s sermon and readings asking for a literal translation. Because it all just confused me. But the more questions I asked, the more irritated Jessica would become because I kept challenging every answer she gave me. It wasn’t until 8 years later I would marry Jessica and finally understand what religion meant to her.
Now the meaning of my religion is kindness, patience and love.
All the traditions, rituals and readings that I would participate in are things I don’t take literally anymore. Instead, I think deeper about them and see them as symbolism. Community members breaking bread with other community members. People smiling and shaking hands with each other. People seeking for forgiveness, understanding and help from others. It’s all so beautiful to me.
After orbiting the sun 35 times (and counting) my current perspective about religion and science is why not believe in both? Science can only progress if we all work together and continually be curious. Religion only works if you can be empathetic towards other humans.
On paper, I am a Catholic. But in my heart, I am human that puts his faith in other humans around him. I love everyone who has good intentions and is trying their best to do good deeds for others.