You say that European philosophers with their dark views of humanity devoid of a transcendent order to keep them in check display more courage than their contemporaries who don’t emphasize that view of things. Maybe, who knows? But a realistic, existentialist view of humanity need not fall into the nervous “fear and trembling” that is displayed by those who need the big “parent in the sky” to guide and reassure them. Many existentialists who were atheistic did not fall into that kind of cowardly despair.
Let me use the analogy of human high jumping. Although the height that human high jumpers have achieved has risen dramatically in recent decades (now over 8 feet), there is a limit (a physical limit to how high a human can jump). So possibilities of yet higher jumps remain. But the book is not wide open on these possibilities, as long as we’re talking about human physiology. You won’t see anyone ever high jumping 50 feet! But maybe someone will someday achieve a jump of 9-10 feet. The same thinking applies to the limits and possibilities of scientific knowledge. Yes, scientific knowledge is not a completed story. Yes, more remains to be told (discovered). But what remains, when it is disclosed, will come under the category of nature as we now know it. There is no reason for claiming that among those possibilities not yet disclosed are supernatural realities (the sort you yearn for). That would be like claiming that because human high jumpers are still setting new records, one will eventually jump over a 100 foot barrier unaided!
A favorite argument for the existence of God(s) from the ancient Greeks up to 1859 was the argument from design. The incredible design of the human eye, the bird’s wing, the human brain and all the harmony in nature could not have happened by chance. Where there is design, there must be a designer. After all, what are the odds of all this design happening by chance? It’s like believing that scraps of metal could be randomly thrown together to create a 747. God was truly everywhere.
Is the idea of an intelligible universe provided by theistic religions? ..Yes, in part it is true that “the religious tradition …inspired our quest for truth and spiritual values.” But that quest for intelligibility and ‘truth’ is much older than the “religious tradition.”
A first glance at the issue may indicate that there is no conflict between science and religion. They work in different areas of human reality, and do not infringe on each other. But as is often the case, a first glance does not tell the whole story. To tell the whole story, we have to take a closer look at the activities of scientists and the claims of religious people. When we do, we shall find reason for rejecting the claim that there is no conflict between two areas of human activity.
A few centuries ago, physical evidence for an all-powerful God seemed everywhere in the Western world. After all, how else could one explain the existence of our bountiful Earth at the center of an awe-inspiring cosmos, with planets and stars circling Earth in perfect God-like circles? . . Then came modern science and over the last 400 years essentially all of the “proofs” for God’s existence turned out either to be false or to have quite natural explanations. All of the relevant scientific evidence—from astrophysics, to our evolution, to the biochemistry of life, strongly supported the thesis that there never were any gods in the first place, . .
Even though the scientific revolution has invaded our lives at almost every level and has discredited many sacred dogmas and religious myths, religions still flourished. Religious loyalties still persist.
The Scientific Method has turned out to be the most powerful and widely used method of inquiry humans have ever discovered for understanding how our bodies, our world and our universe work—not the way we might want things to work, not the way we believe things should work, but the way things actually seem to work. It’s a way of discovering which hypotheses among many possible explanations are wrong, thus homing in on the right ones. Correct explanations open doors to ever deeper and more profound discoveries; wrong explanations lead to blind alleys.