When the discovery of the planet Kepler 452-b, a close cousin to earth, was made last week, one headline read, “Earth 2.0: Bad News for God.”[i] I get it. I don’t agree with it, but I get it. Religion and astronomy have had a complicated relationship over the years.
Celestial bodies have been both deified and demonized. While ancient Egyptian cultures worshipped the sun god Ra, ancient Aztec cultures feared Tezcatlipoca who ruled the night sky.
Greek philosopher Anaxagoras (~510-428 BCE) has the distinction of being the first person in recorded history to be arrested by religious authorities for “impiety” for declaring that the sun was not a god but a fiery stone.
As scientific study advanced in the Middle Ages, more scientists found themselves at odds with religious bodies. Galileo Galilei was tried and found guilty of heresy by none other than the Roman Inquisition for his insistence that the earth revolves around the sun. Biblical passages such as Psalm 93:1 (“The Lord…has established the world; it shall never be moved.”) and Ecclesiastes 1:5 (“The sun rises and the sun goes down…”) were used to “prove” Galileo’s error.
So the author’s position that discovery of a new inhabitable planet, and the indication that there may be billions of others, means the end of belief in God is perhaps understandable if one believes (as many have over the years) that the Bible is meant to be read as history or as science.
I don’t read the Bible as a book of history or science. I read the Bible as a book of faith. It’s about God and God’s desire for relationship with God’s people and the cosmos (billions of planets or not). The Bible depicts a God who delights in all of creation – and I think God delights in these new discoveries of physicists and astronomers.
This has been a banner week for scientists with stunning pictures of Pluto and the discovery of a new planet.
A week like this happens once in a blue moon….and guess what? Today just happens to be a blue moon!