Imagine you are aboard the ship of Christopher Columbus sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, fixed on reaching the shores of India, yet mystified by the discovery of a land you had never seen before. Imagine you are one of the architects of the Florence cathedral, your vision for one of Italy’s great houses of God being completed before your very eyes. Finally, imagine you are Galileo; you are facing the might of the Catholic Church for your claims of support for the scientific works of Copernicus and you would sacrifice your own freedom for the facts regarding our place in the universe to be revealed to the world.
Throughout history, endeavors of all kinds have taken place and although they have varied greatly in nature and scope, there is a single commonality amongst them; faith. It is the zeal afforded by faith in whatever the goal of one’s endeavor that acts as our principal motivator. Every great journey has required at least an ounce of faith for it to have been completed. But from what source can we derive this faith? We receive faith from within ourselves, in what we believe rather than in what we know, for faith is all about the unknown, unseen, and unknowable.
By now, and from the question raised in the title, you will have understood the connection I am going to make between religious zeal and the need for this in the context of space exploration. But before I dive headfirst into my core message, I must say that scientific zeal is not only alive and very much well but it is one half of the same coin, the other half of which is religious belief. In the present context, scientific zeal is dominant in the field of space exploration. With astronomy as a branch of science, it is no wonder that space exploration is driven by the industry and discipline of science and technology.
Science is taking us so far in the field of space exploration, but it alone will not get us to where we truly could be and are destined to be. The reason for this, as I said, is that scientific interest is just one half of the metaphorical coin. I have found a discreet difference between the way that I see space exploration and the way that astronomers see it. I, as an Astronist, view space through the scope of faith, belief, existential purpose, logic, rationality, identity, and destiny while others see it through the scope of knowledge, experiment, proof, and empiricism. No one type of view is superior over the other, as both perspectives perform different functions and satisfy different parts of ourselves; the Astronist view satisfies the heart while the scientific view satisfies the mind.
I propose that science, coupled with technology, provides the ability to explore outer space, but it does not alone provide the rationale for our discovery of the universe. It tells us a small proportion of what is really out there, but it doesn’t answer why we should want to know about what is out there. For hundreds of years, science and religion have been arrayed against one another, but in the context of Astronism, we see no such divide. Instead, a unity in a single endeavour with both components exploring the same questions, while using different tools. Each side may come up with different answers, but it isn’t the answers that truly matter; it is the effor itself; the search for meaning, for identity, for knowledge, and for understanding is what really counts.
We must not forget that humanity’s exploration of the universe will inevitably reveal to us some truths that will constantly make us question our own existential value and purpose. Space exploration is just as much an exploration of ourselves as it is of the cosmos. We, as individuals and as a species, will change; we will no longer be trapped on a single planet, but we will have the entire galaxy to explore; remember that freedom is simultaneously alleviating and terrifying. It is my belief as an Astronist that we will all require that same religious zeal of the Christians when they were being martyred by the Romans, of the Jews throughout their history of persecution, and of the Muslims when they were being oppressed by the pagans of ancient Mecca. The same passion that came from within them to fight for their cause and to overcome their greatest obstacles is the same type of drive that we will need to employ in the context of space exploration. This zeal will be fueled by an equal balance of religion and science; two vehicles that are powerful, influential, and focused on a grand goal; the former providing purpose and the latter providing practicality.
You may say, “but look at all the terrible things people have done in the name of religion.” You would be right to say this, but you should also balance your point by casting your mind on the wonders in architecture, thought, and philosophy, huge institutions that have stood for hundreds if not thousands of years, diverse forms of culture, and most importantly, our core identities that religion has provided each civilization throughout history. If we are to speak honestly, then we must do so in equal measure so as not to allow the discourse to become negative, as it has in the political arena in recent years. We cannot change the history of religion, but we do have the opportunity to change the future of religion for the next great civilization that is about to begin beyond the Earth. And what a brilliant page in history it could be when the world knows that a benevolent organized philosophy can help to lead humanity on its ultimate cosmic journey.
In conclusion, what I essentially propose is that for the greatest journey of all time to be a success –– the most arduous, terrifying, and extensive of journeys to which there will be no end –– we will no doubt require two kinds of fuel; one that powers the rocket and the other that powers our spirit to press on, even in the face of the most petrifying discoveries that will make us question who we really are.
by Cometan, 28th Dec. 2019
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