Christians are increasingly criticized in America for their backward views. On all things from same-sex marriage to contraception, major Christian factions seem to be trapped just a few decades behind the rest of America. While odd social positions may make Christians seem clueless and out of touch, claims that Christians ignore science are even more damning. How can intelligent, successful people subscribe so heavily to a value system based on superstition and myth?
In order to appreciate the nuances of the relationship between Christianity and science, it is first important to recognize the wild diversity in beliefs between groups claiming to be Christian. While some readers might suddenly conjure images of Galileo being persecuted by a powerful and vengeful Roman Catholic Church, they should reflect on the modernized view taken by Catholics and the minority status of Catholics as a Christian body within the United States. Most mainline Protestant denominations now embrace science when examining questions like creation and historical chronology. Even the recalcitrant Catholics have accepted major scientific advances like evolution.
Despite these advances, there are certainly many Christians who do see their faith as incompatible with the claims of modern science. Such people are a minority within the religion, and while their outlandish views may attract an outsized amount of attention, they are hardly reflective of the consensus within the broader Christian community. In his book What’s the Least I Can Believe and Still be a Christian, Martin Thielen cites numerous beliefs (such as the earth being 5000 years old) as blatantly wrong and largely incompatible with a sensible reading of scripture. It is interesting that Thielen, a former pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention, now serves in the United Methodist Church. The SBC represents a group that recalcitrantly avoids the advances of science, while the UMC represents a more progressive mainline body.
The ultimate intersection of religion and science occurs when one asks "Does God Exist?", and in this question, the two fields are in marked agreement. While religion is largely predicated on the idea of the existence of God and attempting to relate to him, science is our effort to quantifiably explain the universe that God has created. While science is increasingly able to explain the machinations through which our universe took on its present form, it is unable to explain what single action created universe from nothing. It is interesting that the particle that caused the Big Bang is named the "God particle."
Perhaps more significantly, science cannot, and does not attempt to, answer the deeper, more pressing questions faced by humanity. Knowing what caused our existence seems like a formality if we cannot answer questions about or purpose, destiny, and relations with others. For these piercing topics, science gives way to religion, and does not even dare to attempt to offer solutions or answers. While religions may differ, they share common threads that pick up where science leaves off. We have purpose, we have value, and we are more than science alone can explain.