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Science and Religion Must Join if World is to Survive H-Bomb

7 minute read


MAN now can make weapons capable of reducing the world to the primitive conditions of the time of Cain and Abel. He even has, within the range of his grasp, means to completely exterminate the human race. Today, scientists can make a good educated guess as to the number of [bombs] needed for total world catastrophe—to scatter to the four winds, in a matter of seconds, the civilization it has taken man so many centuries to put together. No wonder some ask, “Are we not playing with things that belong to God?” The concerted, atheistic threat against all we hold dear has increased and grown bolder in the ratio that the hydrogen bomb has surpassed the rifle. We, in turn, must remain armed to the teeth to contain that threat.

I believe that God meant us to find the atom. Admittedly, we are wrestling with the greatest alteration in man’s relation with Nature since the upheaval at the time of the Garden of Eden. But his fundamental relation with God has not changed one whit. The same trial that tested the first man in Eden, and every man since, challenges us in the atomic problem. It is the exercise of choice, the dangerous freedom to use God-given power for good or ill. I do not mean for a moment that science is wrong, but only man’s worship of it. Surely, a part of our duty, the effect of the primal urge implanted by our creator, is to discover more and more of the world we live in. But science can give man mastery only over matter. It never reaches ultimates.

I greatly fear one thing. If men will not clothe the bare framework of science with the warm garments of true humanism, they will end up by making machines their god and mathematics their only dogma. The rising paganism of the western world will make our civilization cold as interstellar spaces, ruthless as the atoms which smash each other.

Against our fears, I oppose a great hope. The physical discoveries, which have shaken the spiritual faith of some men, are also shaking the philosophic foundations of materialism. I have noticed a new, extremely encouraging disposition on the part of some leading nonreligious scientists. They are beginning to acknowledge that the concept of divine creation should no longer be dogmatically excluded from rational speculation about the origin of the universe. To my mind, there are today startling possibilities for a religious break-through into the secular mind. The time is ripening for a marriage of religion and science.


The fact is, atomic bombs are dangerous only because some atomic men cannot be trusted. Our crisis today comes from man’s greed and will to power, his refusal to submit to reason. As Christians, we must hope that in the Kremlin’s dictatorial mind there can eventually be sown some small measure of skepticism as to the value of the barren earth which any atomic war would bring. We must pray for that, with our lips and with the example of holy lives.

I have been especially surprised to see that the unbelievers among scientists sometimes seem more concerned for the peace than those of us who believe the peacemakers are blessed. It is not their excess of good will, but rather their sharp knowledge of what nuclear war would do to this planet. Therefore, if one does hope to be blessed as a peacemaker this critical year of 1955, he must grasp the facts of atomic life. The American public cannot “leave it to the experts.” In this cosmic drama, the bald truth is that there are no experts. It is not enough to be merely a technician. For unless the technician in some small way is enamored of the idea of becoming a saint, he will fall short of success. He will not only exemplify the definition given by one learned educator who called the mere technician “a man who understands everything about his job except its ultimate purpose and its ultimate place in the order of the universe.”

No, the essential ingredient to atomic survival is a broad base of informed and interested civilians. It is the only way in which we can cope with the immoral fatalism that considers war “inevitable”—with the folly that professes unconcern over man’s darkest threat. Surely, these ostrich attitudes are like the frivolity of those who deny the reality of hell by refusing to think about it. Perhaps the secrecy with which we have guarded certain especially sensitive areas of atomic information contributes to this apathy. But the extent of this secrecy is greatly exaggerated; it is more an alibi for than an explanation of our abandonment of the normal functioning of public opinion. The fact is, the greatest atomic decisions must come from the heart and the soul, not the skilled brain that comprehends a cyclotron.


We face a problem that calls for a heart-and-soul solution. Here we have a technology and industrial capability that are unsurpassed, a pool of brilliant scientists who could accelerate the development of atomic power. Overseas are “have-not” nations which desperately need that power now, but which may never enjoy it if they must first acquire the technical skills and supporting industries to produce their own reactors. Shall we fail them? Shall we say, “We could have atomic electric power if we wanted it. But, unlike you people, we don’t really need it today, and so its development can wait for economic and financial forces to move it ahead.” Actually, though we are investigating many different reactor types, there is only one operating reactor in the United States today! I very much fear that if we fail to push a broad, vigorous program in this field, we will be accused of following a “dog in the manger” policy. I fear even more to consider the consequences if the U.S.S.R. should win the industrial-power race. Certainly, the price tag for nuclear-power reactors would be very high, with the purchasers surrendering their birthrights and civil liberties as the down payment. What a tragedy if world leadership in reactors fell into Soviet hands by our spiritual default.

I do not mean to speak in tones of careless reassurance as one sometimes does to a child. For all you and I know, it may be the incomprehensible and inscrutable will of God to make the twentieth century “closing time” for the human race.

But we do know from the law He implanted in us that we have a personal obligation to use the normal means to stay alive as long as possible. Our nation and the human race have an inescapable duty to the Almighty to avoid an ending of this civilization until God’s good time. Once, a wise and simple man named Francis was hoeing in his garden. Someone asked, “If an angel appeared to tell you, Francis, that tonight you are to die, what would you do?” And St. Francis very calmly said, “Keep on hoeing in the garden.” With all its tremendous complications, with the very future of the human race at stake, our atomic agony comes down to this. We keep on hoeing and await God’s will.

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