Does Science Obviate Religion?

A debate last week provided strong opinions, but no final answer

Last Monday at New York's Pierre Hotel, outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens and physicist/theologian Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete met to tackle the question of whether or not science makes belief in God obsolete.

According to the forum's hosts, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham and Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn, religion riles its vilifiers when it makes truth claims without evidence -- at least evidence that would hold up in a court of science. The conflict seems to stem from a difference in understanding as to what evidence and truth truly are.

This discrepancy of perspective was clear in a statement made by Monsignor Albacete: "Religion is a different form of knowledge that has its own evidence."

"The credibility of the gospels is crucial," he said. "Faith without evidence: I don't know what that is."

When rattling off his gripes with religion during the question-and-answer session, Hitchens argued that believers seem to love God out of a requirement, not out of freedom. "The compulsory love of someone you must fear is something of a celestial North Korea," said Hitchens.

But Monsignor Albacete discovers truth in religion's ability to connect with his daily life. "If I can't relate doctrine to why I care about what I care, then it is all just theoretical matter and you can substitute the Great Lizard for Christ for all I care."

Humans have always tried to find patterns and explanations for why things are the way they are. And religion can provide a relevant avenue for doing so, just as science does.