last updated 7-26-02

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Critical Thought and Religious Liberty


"We wish to pursue the truth no matter where it leads, but to find the truth we need imagination and skepticism both. We will not be afraid to speculate, but we will be careful to distinguish speculation from fact." –Carl Sagan, Cosmos

"I know not who put me into the world, nor what the world is, nor what I myself am. I am in terrible ignorance of everything. I know not what my body is, nor my senses, nor my soul, not even that part of me which thinks what I say, which reflects on all and on itself, and knows itself no more than the rest. I see those frightful spaces of the universe which surround me, and I find myself tied to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am put in this place rather than another, nor why this short time which is given me to live is assigned to me at this point rather than at another of the whole eternity which was before me or which will come after me. I see nothing but infinities on all sides, which surround me as an atom, and as a shadow which endures only for an instant and returns no more. All I know is that I must die, but what I know least is this very death which I cannot escape." –Blaise Pascal, Pensées (1660).

"Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding; for the gain from it is better than gain from silver and its profit better than gold." – Proverbs 3:13

"There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved." – Charles Darwin, On the Origin (1859).


People throughout the ages, from every point of the earth, have sought answers to why this astonishingly complex world of ours should exist at all. Its overall immensity, and our smallness in comparison to it, stir us profoundly to the core. And when confronted with the universe's exquisite beauty, its many mysteries, and all the elegant structures within, we cannot help but to inquisitively ask: how did it all happen; why are we here; what is our purpose in this life; (and of course that irresistible question) why is there something rather than nothing?

The questions emerge almost involuntarily. And ever since the human species has been capable of pondering such mysteries, explanations, naturally, have been ever numerous and ever diverse. But now a troublesome problem arises. How then do we distinguish the genuine facts of nature, from those we have historically imposed upon it? If answers exist, by what path shall we find these truths? Where may we look for guidance. Are the answers to our deepest questions found amongst the world's religions; mysticism; or the prophets of antiquity? And what of science, can that give us answers? Or maybe they lie waiting somewhere else (or possibly nowhere at all). These tantalizing questions rest at the heart of our present intellectual inquiry.


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