It depends on how you define science and religion. There were great astronomers and physicists who thought that the world has a religion. Now, what we generally mean by religion is not very satisfactory. What does the word, religion, really mean? It comes from a Latin word, religare. Ligare means ‘to bind together’. We have become disjoined, disconnected. I am a single person here. You are so many, more than thirteen hundred campers – all separate beings. No, we have to come closer and become one with all. Because, the inner thing, our essential substance, is the same in all. There is no real distinction – whether you are a male person or a female person, a Bengali or a Bihari, it does not matter. Whether you are a Christian or a Hindu or a Muslim, it does not matter. True religion is the realization of this oneness.
In our physical features, our expressions, our behaviour, and the mode of our life, there are distinctions. Two identical things never came into existence. There are some distinctions in everything, in every being. If you take the case of glass manufacturing in a factory, where thousands of glasses are being produced, and closely examine all the glasses produced, you will find there are some distinctions in each product. Exactly the same thing cannot be produced twice, however advanced the technology. So, human beings are somewhat similar, but not exactly the same, in their bodily features, facial expressions, behaviour, etc. But our essence or core is the same. We must understand the unity of mankind. Man is the highest species in the world, because of his power of ratiocination, his power of imagination, which are highly developed. These powers can be developed further by self-effort to attain the summum bonum of human life. Animals cannot do that. So, being a single unit of this species, you must prove that. Understand the meaning of life and make the best use of it. That is the purpose of religion.
Religion is to re-unite us – with what? It may be said in various ways. There are people who believe in so-called religions like Christianity, Hinduism, etc. But that is not real religion. Religion cannot be many. All religions actually have the same essential thing. Their modes of religious practices, their ways of preaching, etc. may be different, but ultimately they all emphasize on the existence of One thing that in India has been called Ātman, Paramātman, or Brahman. From a source of fire sparks go out. A human being is one of the sparks of Paramātman. And going back to and being re-united with Paramātman is what religion can achieve for us. So, this is religare. We came from that source, now we want to go back to that source, not physically, but rather through our inner realization. Being one with the common source, we become one with all.
Science may neglect religion. But even Einstein said, ‘Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.’ That is the relationship between science and religion. They cannot be divorced from each other, because all science will ultimately take us to the science of the non-material. Science, we think, is for material things. But the science of material things has its limitations. It cannot tell us about our inner essence. Religion is also a science: it is for the immaterial thing – the inner essence of man. ‘There are more things in heaven and earth,… than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’ – said Shakespeare in one of his famous plays. Science is not only about chemical analysis or physical laws. There is something else that unites all beings, all things, and particularly human beings. So, science may boast that it can proceed without religion, but really it cannot go very far. Religion, if it is completely in the dark about science, will also not make much progress and may land up in superstitions and bigotry. If we accept science as far as necessary and then from science dip into the region of religion, both science and religion will help every human being.