Nature and religion
How nature arose is beyond our comprehension. Perhaps mankind will not survive long enough in order to find out. The cosmos is vast and constantly expanding, sweeping us all along with it. Unless we somehow manage to wrench ourselves from the kiss of death of our benefactor and possible genitor the sun, it seems we are doomed to be transformed into cosmic dust sometime en route.
Could it have been a random combination of matter and energy interacting in the cosmos that resulted in the creation of life? If so can we break the code? Can mankind as a particular link in the chain of those combinations unravel the process that resulted in the creation of life? That remains a question of conjecture. Research in abiogenesis, the study of how biological life arises from inorganic matter, has barely commenced. It dates from 1952 with the Miller-Urey experiment simulating what were thought to be the reigning conditions on earth when life first appeared. According to astrophysicists we have 500 million years to try to break the code. After that, all life on earth will have disappeared due to excessive heat from the sun. In 7.5 billion years, it seems the earth itself will have disappeared completely.
The problem is not to invent the process. It is to discover it.
The laws of nature produce whatever order is most efficient. This may be deemed its goal or purpose. It has nothing to do with human characteristics and attributes such as emotions, desires, will, beliefs, ideals, ethics or morality.
In the realm of nature, whatever order is the most efficient may be considered to be the most just. Justice is the natural order.
The human characteristics and attributes exist in the natural order because they are efficient for the existence of mankind. So it is that human beings developed sensorial faculties and emotions such as affection and fear, pleasure and pain.
By application of the same principle of efficiency of nature, it is not difficult to imagine that the physiological evolution which favoured the development of superior intellectual capacities in human beings to all other living species was accompanied by the development of religious belief and a conscience.
Law and religion
On a more practical level, as nature patiently continued to fashion its masterpiece of efficiency, we gradually devised a set of laws and regulations largely inspired by those imposed on us by nature, completed by others founded in religious belief or which were simply the fruit of our developing conscience based on humanitarian considerations. A hallmark of such laws and regulations for most of western civilisation is the Moses code which, according to Christian tradition, is thought to have been compiled about three and a half thousand years ago. In what language it was chiselled on the stone tablet appears to be something of a mystery. There is no evidence that Hebrew existed as a written language at the time.
A thousand and a half years later, just fifty years after the birth of Jesus, Paul of Tarsus, who appears to have been the principal promoter, perhaps the founder of Christianity (Jesus and his parents were Jews), following a vision of the resurrected Jesus whom he never met, exercised a determining influence on the religious belief and philosophy of which we still find trace in modern, man-made law, today (known under its technical term of "positive law"), alongside traditional Mosaic law and Noahide code.
In addition to promoting the Judaic "moral code" with the exception of its ritual and dietary obligations, and the Seven Laws of Noah or so-called Noahide code, Paul was also an adamant proponent of the doctrine of sola fide whereby guilty sinners are purported to be granted judicial pardon "by faith alone".
It is amusing to note in this respect that so-called modern day laic societies which boast of a secular constitution proclaiming the strict separation of church and state seem to ignore the fact that a good deal of their statute law has been derived from religious code. They point to nations of Islamic tradition where the Sharia has official status as statute law and is applied by Islamic judges or qadis. Some mistakenly imagine that Israel is in a similar situation as regards Talmudic law whereas it is, in fact, a parliamentary democracy with an independent judiciary, closer to the British common law tradition. The difference is not as important as they somewhat naively consider it to be, at least so far as the application of the principle of the "separation of church and state" is concerned.
The political regimes of European countries such as England, Denmark, Greece and Finland make no provision for the separation of church and state. In the UK, religious courts are allowed to function within their communities. This has long been the case of rabbinical courts in respect of the Jewish community and, more recently, Islamic Sharia courts have been authorised for the Islamic community.
Rodney Crisp intends to develop this article in later ones.
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