Martin Luther King, Jr. On Science And Religion

IN a sermon titled “A tough mind and a tender heart,” Martin Luther King extols the need for a “tough mind,” which he says is defined by “incisive thinking, realistic appraisal, and decisive judgment.” The modern world, he said, has far too much “soft-mindedness” of ”unbelievable gullibility.”

“Soft-mindedness often invades religion,” he said. “This is why religion has sometimes rejected new truth with a dogmatic passion.”

“There may be a conflict between soft-minded religionists and tough-minded scientists,” he said. “But not between science and religion. Their respective worlds are different and their methods are dissimilar. Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary.”

“Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism,” he said. “Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.”

“Tough-mindedness without tender-heartedness is cold and detached,” he wrote. “What is more tragic than to see a person who has risen to the disciplined heights of tough-mindedness but has at the same time sunk to the passionless depths of hardheartedness?”

In his sermon entitled “Keep Moving From This Mountain,” King embraced this idea even further.

“Through our scientific genius we made of the world a neighborhood, but we failed through moral commitment to make of it a brotherhood, and so we’ve ended up with guided missiles and misguided men,” he said. “And the great challenge is to move out of the mountain of practical materialism and move on to another and higher mountain which recognizes somehow that we must live by and toward the basic ends of life. We must move on to that mountain which says in substance, ‘What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world of means — airplanes, televisions, electric lights — and lose the end: the soul?’”


3 thoughts on “Martin Luther King, Jr. On Science And Religion

  1. Wise words. This reminds me of the two Pillars of the Temple. Both are needed, one without the other – the Temple collapses.


    • Whether the temple collapses would depend upon how it’s constructed, Strewth, and what ‘materials’ are used.

      While the ‘sermon’ sounds ‘nice’ and good, it’s really only another attempt to bestow credit upon something incredible by presumptuously attaching it to something ‘materially’ demonstrable and undeniable.

      A general example of the whole assertion:- “Science investigates; religion interprets.” is a false premise, since religion doesn’t “interpret”: it invents. (Though it could be said to interpret religion: a whole circular industry built on imaginary parameters – or ‘pillars’.)
      While ‘morality’ may be a useful element of human life, it’s no less a human invention than is a lightglobe ~ if more ethereal. Ditto (if less usefully) the ‘soul’. Ditto the suggestion that the ‘ends’ of life is anything other than ‘death’ ~ or that we have any option BUT to head towards that ‘basic end’.

      Also stirring ~ but false ~ is the fundamental assertion that ‘tough-mindedness’ and ‘tender-heartedness’ are at odds with each other, or somehow mutually-exclusive. I can show you any number of dogs, for example, who possess and display both qualities to extreme degrees.
      …and, in fact, the Jesus character consistently displays both those qualities to similar extreme degrees, does he not?

      And as for the idea that ” religion gives man wisdom which is control.” , one need look no further than the history of the jews…and christians…and moslems….. (not to mention buddhist monks, etc.) all of which seek control, but display precious little ‘wisdom’. …… or even compassion. 😉
      Isn’t the very basis of ‘wisdom’ a willingness to learn ~ without restrictions or limits or preconceptions or timelines?

      Indeed!….. ” ‘What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world of means — airplanes, televisions, electric lights —” and food and water and clothing and shelter and modern medicines and the machinery to produce and transport all those things, etc. etc. etc.??
      In light of constant complaints about billions of poverty-stricken people and dying children around the world I’d say that question was a no-brainer.

      For all the speechifying, if Martin hadn’t been shot he’d probably have died from illness arising from obesity ~ having made (at least) abundant use of the fruits of materialism.
      Talk’s cheap.


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