I was educated in Canada in a materialistic world. Man had walked on the moon. Medicine had eradicated, through vaccination, most of the dangerous diseases. Science was the almighty answer to human life. In my secondary education, scientific knowledge had its superiority, and was supposed to reflect the reality of the world in which we lived. All spiritual and religious beliefs ought to be considered through the prism of science, and were often regarded with a grin, if not judged as superstition. What a surprise for my teachers and my classmates when I, who had exceled in science, chose theology as my field of studies at university! They would have expected me to become rather a physicist or a mathematician than a theologian and a clergyman! Then the AIDS virus appeared, and still science had the pretention to manage the situation, believing that through prevention and medication it could be soon eradicated, as had all its predecessors. Still today, many of our contemporaries believe in transhumanism, arguing that physical and intellectual human capacities could be increased or even transcended through technological or scientific progress.
But a year ago, the coronavirus appeared and challenged, if not humbled scientific knowledge. The scientific and medical world sought to face a new, unknown virus, and a very tricky one, and therefore, had no previous experience nor knowledge to dominate and eradicate it. The spread of the coronavirus became very quickly a pandemic, and although pharmaceutical industries are rushing to shout victory in order to impose their own vaccine as the salvation from the pandemic, the scientific and medical world is still facing many challenges and a lack of understanding facing the new virus, which leads to all sorts of contradictory statements and information in the media.
In the past, atheism, which has often spread through enlightenment, has often accused religions to be obscurantist. Alas, facing the spread of the coronavirus, the Christian Churches may have shown, if not some kind of obscurantism, at least some kind of naivety, which has definitely not help reduce the spread of neither the virus nor the conspiracy theories. From the very beginning, in different places in the world, religious communities and their worship gatherings have been pointed as being the source of contamination of the local population. Unfortunately, some ecclesial communities have often shown their reluctance to implement the proper measures helping stopping or slowing down the spread of the virus pretending that there was no need to wear a mask during worship or to change or adapt any of their rituals in the context of the pandemic.
Therefore, if the pandemic of COVID-19 has humiliated man’s arrogance and shown the limits of science, it has also challenged our faith communities. Just as a materialistic vision of the world is not sufficient, a religious belief without knowledge and education could easily drift towards fanaticism or obscurantism. Faith and science should not be considered as opposed, nor should they be in conflict or competition. Religion should never be perceived as a form of obscurantism or as a mental disturbance, neither should it be reduced as merely a belief or an external ritual. Our Christian faith in the incarnation of God and in the resurrection of Christ has underlined the value of both the body and of the soul, of both the material and the spiritual, and calls for their communion. Therefore, it advocates for a harmony between the materialistic and spiritual visions of the world, and this can only be achieved through proper education. The present-day pandemic has revealed the need for a harmonious collaboration between faith and science, hand by hand. We could only properly enter into the “world of after” if we learn the lesson of today.