Traditional religions shouldn't claim any direct contribution in the advancement of empirical knowledge a la creation science and all the rest. It's not really fair to demand that of religion and at the same time lambaste it for involving itself in matters beyond its ken.
Scientific and technological developments depend on the cooperation of people not only within cultures but across generations. If cooperation didn't feel good, we wouldn't have done it. Religion helps facilitate that sense of cooperation. Other ways might have been developed, but they weren't. And I don't mind so much. I've never been comfortable with the idea of "non overlapping magisteria". To my mind they overlap constantly - within each of us. The struggle to reconcile one with the other has resulted with some of the greatest accomplishments and failures of the human race.
As someone who has little understanding or use for mathematics I find it interesting that mathematical infinity is described as something other than real numbers but nevertheless is useful in calculation. At the same time, the concept of god is considered infinite but is expressed in emotional terms and is useful in understanding our motives, as are most of the concepts of religious faith. Certainly heaven and hell are considered emotional states continued into infinity. Isn't it interesting that the concept of infinity finds its way so easily into both our understanding of the world and our understanding of ourselves?
In mathematics, "infinity" is often treated as if it were a number (i.e., it counts or measures things: "an infinite number of terms" but it is not the same sort of number as the real numbers. In number systems incorporating infinitesimals, the reciprocal of an infinitesimal is an infinite number, i.e. a number greater than any real number. Georg Cantor formalized many ideas related to infinity and infinite sets during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the theory he developed, there are infinite sets of different sizes (called cardinalities). For example, the set of integers is countably infinite, while the set of real numbers is uncountably infinite.
Attributes of God
1 John 4:16 says "God is Love." D. A. Carson speaks of the "difficult doctrine of the love of God," since "when informed Christians talk about the love of God they mean something very different from what is meant in the surrounding culture." Carson distinguishes between the love the Father has for the Son, God's general love for his creation, God's "salvific stance towards his fallen world," his "particular, effectual, selecting love toward his elect," and love that is conditioned on obedience.
The infinity of God includes both his eternity and his immensity. Isaiah 40:28 says that "Yahweh is the everlasting God," while Solomon acknowledges in 1 Kings 8:27 that "the heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you". Infinity permeates all other attributes of God: His love is infinite, his powers are infinite...
The development of linear perspective is one of the hallmarks of the Renaissance. It is a visual representation of infinity and evidence of an outward looking into the world after hundreds of years of emotional introspection and mysticism in Mideivel Europe. The need for order, balance, clarity and harmony was an expected response to the difficulties experienced with sectarian wars and increasing population density and mobility that brought with them appalling living conditions and inconveniences like Bubonic plague.
In about 1413 a contemporary of Ghiberti, Filippo Brunelleschi, demonstrated the geometrical method of perspective, used today by artists, by painting the outlines of various Florentine buildings onto a mirror. When the building's outline was continued, he noticed that all of the lines converged on the horizon line. According to Vasari, he then set up a demonstration of his painting of the Baptistery in the incomplete doorway of the Duomo. He had the viewer look through a small hole on the back of the painting, facing the Baptistery. He would then set up a mirror, facing the viewer, which reflected his painting. To the viewer, the painting of the Baptistery and the Baptistery itself were nearly indistinguishable.
[font color="grey" size="number" face="fontname"] Pietro Perugino's usage of perspective in this fresco at the Sistine Chapel (148182) helped bring the Renaissance to Rome.[/font]
The need for accuracy in perception of the world around us is obvious in the development of linear perspective. But the introspective metaphor of using a mirror to view the works of our creation as we peer through a hole behind them so that we may better understand the world around us is difficult to escape in Brunelleschi's demonstration.
Prior to the development of linear perspective imagery was rendered flat as an object in itself and was the hallmark of medieval art. This is not because the artists of the time had no notion of perspective, they just had no use for it. They were using imagery to express something other than an empirical understanding of the outside world. The art of the time was used to investigate and express a spirituality that we today cannot possibly imagine. In fact, that lack of spirituality may be one of the more troubling aspects of the human experience in modern times. The cultural tools we have traditionally used to investigate our inner selves have become little more than ideology factories more interested in market share than introspection. Certainly, much of what troubles our modern lifestyle is a sense of anomie that permeates our relationships with others.
It seems that the change from representational to iconic imagery has been cyclical, much like humanity's search for some sort of balance between what we know outside and what we feel inside. From the development of contrapposto in Greek sculpture to the image of Christ in the chapel of San Marco's Basilica which, I can attest from personal experience, still works. As I turned for one last look in the chapel before I left I saw the image of Christ looking down on me exactly as it had for hundreds of years and it gave me, an unrepentant iconoclast, chills.
It seems to me that cycle continues today. Compare this image from the twelfth century with a work by the modernist painter Frank Stella from 1959. Both are objects rather than a window into another space. If the first is an object to be used to prompt an emotional response in tune with the prevailing spirituality of the time, could a stereotypically modernist painting be understood as an object to prompt the same emotional relationship to spirituality?
[font color="grey" size="number" face="fontname"]Mary Magdalen announcing the Resurrection to the Apostles, St Albans Psalter, English, 1120-1145.[/font]
[font color="grey" size="number" face="fontname"]Frank Stella, Enamel on canvas, 84 x 109 in. / 213.3 x 276.8 cm., 1959[/font]
The Stella, much like the Psalter before it, was produced at the height of the zeitgeist of its time. It too was designed as an expression and a glorification of that spiritual paradigm. Medieval cathedrals were built to be an expression of heaven on earth and modern architecture seems to be designed to perform the same spiritual function. The nature of that spirituality, to me, is troubling. It is a barren and forbidding sense of being that is becoming increasingly untenable given the environmental problems we have created through the ill considered use of technology.
To my mind religion, as a systematized expression of faith, is just a tool designed to do certain things. One might say we can have faith in a deity or in a process and the practice of expressing that faith results in consequences that can be a blessing or a disaster. Sometimes I think that the only difference between the two is how long we cling to one or the other far beyond its utility until it becomes a liability.