Taking Our Inheritance for Granted
Many scientists, born into Christian or Jewish families, have remained religiously inclined to the ends of their lives. One such example was Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) who, a regular churchgoer, was a religious man in every sense of the word. But he, like his scientific confreres, was known to the world as a scientist, and not as a man of religion.
Why is it that science should take precedence over religion in the composite image projected to the public? The main reason is that religion, being an inheritance from the ancestral past, tends to be taken for granted and, therefore, pushed into the background. Science, on the other hand, tends to come to the fore because it is a matter of great attainment after prolonged and intensive effort – a matter of making great and important discoveries one after another. A man’s inherited religion tends to mean ritual performance, whereas science is a matter of questing, of broadening the intellectual horizons and of making forays into the unknown. It means delving into mysteries and then sharing the results with the entire world. It is difficult to develop any great enthusiasm for something which comes to one as a matter of inheritance, but something which is a matter of discovery, on the other hand, can become one’s most cherished possession.
Today there are millions of people who regard themselves as religious, without religion playing any active part in their lives; it is simply not the focal point in their thinking or their actions. It is not, therefore, possible for them to become zealous proponents of religion. They are not even in the same class as scientists, who are constantly seeking after knowledge. They are simply people who have allowed themselves to stagnate in religious matters because they have received their religion as a legacy, and not as a result of their own personal discovery. They are like so many “Newtons” who ostensibly believe in one religion or the other, while devoting their energies and enthusiasm to anything but religion.