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St. Raphael on Science and Religion

This, the first recorded talk given in America by St. Raphael of Brooklyn, was delivered to a gathering of Syrian men in New York on December 17, 1895.

Every true mind cannot but rejoice when it encounters education and knowledge. Every peaceful heart, too, cannot but be reverend when it beholds great philanthropic endeavors which are crowned with a crown of goodness. Therefore, truth becomes evident in the ministry of education; and goodness becomes visible in the works of kindness. It is, then, truth and goodness which promote mental success and literary advancement in every place and every age. For this reason, mental success stirs up within us joy and happiness; and literary advancement excites within us poetic words of thanksgiving.

Having said that, I cannot but convey the great joy which I feel in my heart at the founding of this literary gathering, which is composed of Syrian men who have graciously poured out love for the improvement of their own literacy, education, and knowledge. At the same time, they have spread such virtues to the rest of their un-enlightened brethren. Therefore, I cannot but offer great thanks to the founders of this congregation and all of those who have helped and taken part in its establishment. I ask Him who is of true heart and spirit that He may fill the hearts and minds of the founders of this congregation (whether those who make literary offerings or gifts of money) with the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of knowledge, the spirit of truth, and the spirit of zeal and vision for the future; that they may spread their literary and visionary knowledge to all of their country's descendents throughout all of the ages.

What I behold in this, your first gathering, is your treasured and righteous intention, throughout all of your discussions and resolutions, "not to believe every spirit," but "to examine everything and hold onto what is good." Knowledge cannot be established, even if many attest to its truth and validity, if it is handled with chaos and dissension, doubt and deviance; such limiting factors will soon alienate the knowledgeable and the wise, the poet and the counselor. Nonetheless, today knowledge has been strongly established as truth through the wisdom of our past.

Therefore, if you read or hear that [the findings of ] certain of the sciences contradict religion, it behooves you to understand that such sciences have never been originally founded in truth; indeed, true knowledge and true science is the kin of true religion and true faith. So neither true science nor true faith has the ability to contradict the other. On one hand, true religion is the introduction of what God has revealed to us, with respect to those things that have been termed "the truths of faith and religion." On the other hand, true science is the introduction of what God has sent to us through His creation and His laws, which have been termed "the laws of nature." Having said this, is it possible for a true mind to surrender to the notion that what God revealed to us as "the truths of faith and religion" can be contradictory to what He sent to us as "the laws [or regularities] of nature"? Is it possible that the message of God can contradict what He created? Therefore, religious disbelief among the people [on the grounds of a supposed conflict of science and religion] is an indication of the lack of intellectual balance regarding truth; in addition, religious disbelief among scientists is an indication of the lack of intellectual balance regarding true science.

In conclusion, my beloved and dear sons, "Do not believe every spirit, but examine everything and hold onto what is good," hold fast throughout your scientific discussions what has been forgotten by those who have alienated themselves from true science. Be mindful of how some of the famous scientists of our current age established their beliefs after careful examination and great reflection, determining that the notion that science is contrary to religion is a lie. Therefore, in the midst of the multitude of scientific opinions, remember to preserve and protect your religious and literary ties from the attacks of ignorance, darkness, false truths, and other personal pleasures.

Hand-written in Arabic by St. Raphael of Brooklyn; translated into English by Dr. Sam Cohlmia in 2004.