Religious interpretations of the Big Bang theory

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

Since the emergence of the Big Bang theory as the most widely promoted physical cosmological paradigm, there have been a variety of reactions by members of different religious groups regarding its implications for religious cosmologies. Some accept the Big Bang theory at face value, some seek to harmonize the Big Bang with their religious tenets, and some reject, ignore the evidence for, or argue the evidence against, the Big Bang theory.[1]


The Big Bang itself is a scientific theory, and as such stands or falls by its agreement with observations.[2] As a scientific theory which seeks to address the nature of the universe since its earliest discernible existence, the Big Bang carries possible theological implications regarding the concept of creation out of nothing.[3][4][5] Many atheist philosophers have argued against the idea of the Universe having a beginning - the Universe might simply have existed for all eternity, but with the emerging evidence of the Big Bang theory, many theologians and physicists have viewed it as implicating theism;[6][7] a popular philosophical argument for the existence of God known as the Kalām cosmological argument rests in the concepts of the Big Bang.[8][9] In the 1920s and 1930s almost every major cosmologist preferred an eternal steady state Universe, and several complained that the beginning of time implied by the Big Bang imported religious concepts into physics; this objection was later repeated by supporters of the steady state theory,[10] who rejected the implication that the universe had a beginning.[11][12]


Further information: Catholic Church and science

Pope Pius XII declared, at the November 22, 1951, opening meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, that the Big Bang theory does not conflict with the Catholic concept of creation.[13][14] Some Conservative Protestant Christian denominations have also welcomed the Big Bang theory as supporting a historical interpretation of the doctrine of creation;[15] however adherents of Young Earth Creationism, who advocate a very literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis, reject the theory.


The view from the Hindu Puranas is that of an eternal universe cosmology, in which time has no absolute beginning, but rather is infinite and cyclic, rather than a universe which originated from a Big Bang.[16][17] However, the Encyclopædia of Hinduism, referencing Katha Upanishad 2:20, states that the Big Bang theory reminds humanity that everything came from the Brahman which is "subtler than the atom, greater than the greatest."[18] It consists of several "Big Bangs" and "Big Crunches" following each other in a cyclical manner.[19][20][21]

The Nasadiya Sukta, the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda (10:129) mentions the world beginning from a point or bindu, through the power of heat.[22][23] This can be seen as corresponding to the Big Bang theory.

Several prominent modern scientists have remarked that Hinduism is the only religion (or civilization) in all of recorded history, that has timescales and theories in astronomy (cosmology), that appear to correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology, e.g. Carl Sagan,[24] Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg,[25][26][27] Robert Oppenheimer,[28] George Sudarshan,[29] Fritjof Capra[30] etc.


Writing for the Kyoto Bulletin of Islamic Area Studies, Haslin Hasan and Ab. Hafiz Mat Tuah wrote that modern scientific ideas on cosmology are creating new ideas on how to interpret the Quran's cosmogonical terms.[31]

Mirza Tahir Ahmad, head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, asserted in his book Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth that the Big Bang theory was foretold in the Quran. He referenced the verse 30 of the Sūrat al-Anbiyāʼ, which ostensibly mentions the initial singularity:[32][33]

Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a joined entity, and We separated them and made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?

— Quran 21:30

This view that the Qu'ran references the initial singularity of the Big Bang is also accepted by many Muslim scholars outside of the Ahmadiyya community such as Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, who is a Sufi scholar, and Muhammad Asad, who was a nondenominational Muslim scholar.[34][35] Further, some scholars such as Faheem Ashraf of the Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc. and Sheikh Omar Suleiman of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research argue that the scientific theory of an expanding universe is described in Sūrat adh-Dhāriyāt:[34][36]

And the heaven We constructed with strength, and indeed, We are [its] expander.

— Quran 51:47

Bahá’í Faith

Further information: Bahá'í Faith and science

Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, has taught that the universe has "neither beginning nor ending".[37] In the Tablet of Wisdom ("Lawh-i-Hikmat", written 1873–1874). Bahá'u'lláh states: “That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today. The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different.” The terminology used here refers to ancient Greek and Islamic philosophy (al-Kindi, Avicenna, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi and Shaykh Ahmad).[38][39] In an early text, Bahá’u’lláh describes the successive creation of the four natures heat and cold (the active force), dryness and moisture (the recipients), and the four elements fire, air, water and earth.[38] About the phrase "That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today," 'Abdu'l-Bahá has stated that it means that the universe is evolving.[38] He also states that "the substance and primary matter of contingent beings is the ethereal power, which is invisible and only known through its effects... Ethereal matter is itself both the active force and the recipient... it is the sign of the Primal Will in the phenomenal world... The ethereal matter is, therefore, the cause, since light, heat, and electricity appear from it. It is also the effect, for as vibrations take place in it, they become visible...".[38]

Jean-Marc Lepain, Robin Mihrshahi, Dale E. Lehman and Julio Savi suggest a possible relation of this statement with the Big Bang theory.[40][41][42][43]


  1. Wright, E.L (24 May 2009). "Cosmology and Religion". Ned Wright's Cosmology Tutorial. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  2. Kragh, Helge (1996). Cosmology and Controversy. Princeton University Press. p. [page needed]. ISBN 0-691-00546-X. 
  3. George F R Ellis (2007-08-08). "Issues in the philosophy of cosmology". Philosophy of Physics: 1183–1285. ISBN 9780444515605. doi:10.1016/B978-044451560-5/50014-2. 
  4. Alexander, Vilenkin (1982-11-04). "Creation of universes from nothing". Physics Letters B. 117 (1–2): 25–28. ISSN 0370-2693. doi:10.1016/0370-2693(82)90866-8. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  5. Manson, N.A. (1993). God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-26344-3. The Big Bang theory strikes many people as having theological implications, as shown by those who do not welcome those implications. 
  6. Harris, J.F. (2002). Analytic Philosophy of Religion. Springer Press. ISBN 978-1-4020-0530-5. Both theists and physicists have seen the big bang theory as leaving open such an opportunity for a theistic explanation. 
  7. Eric J. Lerner (2010-12-15). The Big Bang Never Happened: A Startling Refutation of the Dominant Theory of the Origin of the Universe. Vintage Books. ISBN 9780307773548. Retrieved 2012-03-16. From theologians to physicists to novelists, it is widely believed that the Big Bang theory supports Christian concepts of a creator. In February 1989, for example, the front-page article of the New York Times Book Review argued that scientists argued that scientists and novelists were returning to God, in large part through the influence of the Big Bang. 
  8. James Franklin Harris (2002). Analytic Philosophy of Religion. Springer Science. ISBN 9781402005305. THE KALAM COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT Perhaps the best known and most clearly formulated version of the cosmological argument that incorporates the fundamental concepts of big bang theory is found in the work of William Lane Craig. 
  9. McGrath, A.E. (2011). Science and Religion. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-4443-5808-7. It will be clear that this type of argument relates directly to modern cosmological research, particularly the "big bang" theory of the origins of the cosmos. This is also true of the kalam version of the cosmological argument, to which we now turn. 
  10. Kragh, H. (1996). Cosmology and Controversy. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02623-8. 
  11. Harrison, P. (2010). The Cambridge Companion to Science and Religion. Cambridge University Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-521-71251-4. One reason for initial resistance to the Big Bang theory was that, unlike the rival Steady-State hypothesis, it proposed that the universe has a beginning – a proposition that for some had unwelcome religious implications. 
  12. Kragh, H. (2008). Entropic Creation. Ashgate Publishing. p. 226. ISBN 978-0-7546-6414-7. Andrei Zhdanov, Stalin's notorious chief ideologue, said in a speech of 1947 that Lemaître and his kindred spirits were 'Falsifiers of science [who] wanted to revive the fairy tale of the origin of the world from nothing ... Another failure of the 'theory' in question consists in the fact that it brings us to the idealistic attitude of assuming the world to be finite.' 
  13. Ferris, T. (1988). Coming of age in the Milky Way. Morrow. pp. 274, 438. ISBN 978-0-688-05889-0. , citing Berger, A. (1984). The Big bang and Georges Lemaître: proceedings of a symposium in honour of G. Lemaître fifty years after his initiation of big-bang cosmology, Louvainla-Neuve, Belgium, 10–13 October 1983. D. Reidel. p. 387. ISBN 978-90-277-1848-8. 
  14. Pope Pius XII (1951-11-02). "Ai soci della Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze, 22 novembre 1951 – Pio XII, Discorsi" (in Italian). Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana. Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  15. Russell, R.J. (2008). Cosmology: From Alpha to Omega. Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-6273-8. Conservative Protestant circles have also welcomed Big Bang cosmology as supporting a historical interpretation of the doctrine of creation. 
  16. Sushil Mittal; G. R. Thursby (2004). The Hindu World. Psychology Press. In the Vedic cosmogonies, the question of what caused the primordial desire does not arise; like the Big Bang of modern cosmology, the primal impulse is beyond all time and causation, so it makes no sense to ask what preceded it or what caused it. However, in the Hindu cosmology which we find in the Puranas and other non-Vedic Sanskrit texts, time has no absolute beginning; it is infinite and cyclic and so is kama. 
  17. John R. Hinnells (2010). The Routledge companion to the study of religion. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0415473284. There are also other cosmological models of the universe besides the Big bang model, including eternal universe theories – views more in keeping with Hindu cosmologies than with traditional theistic concepts of the cosmos. 
  18. Sunil Sehgal (1999). Encyclopædia of Hinduism: T–Z, Volume 5. Sarup & Sons. ISBN 8176250643. The theory is known as the 'Big Bang theory' and it reminds us of the Hindu idea that everything came from the Brahman which is "subtler than the atom, greater than the greatest" (Kathopanishad-2-20). 
  19. Moring, G. (1999). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Einstein. DK Publishing. p. 341. ISBN 9780786542659. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  20. "Hinduism: Where Science and Spirituality Intersect | Gadadhara Pandit Dasa". 2011-09-20. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  21. "Are Eastern Religions More Science-Friendly? | Philip Goldberg". 2010-07-05. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  22. Kenneth, Kramer (1986). World scriptures: an introduction to comparative religions. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-8091-2781-8 
  23. Swami Ranganathananda (1991). Human Being in Depth: A Scientific Approach to Religion. SUNY Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-7914-0679-2. 
  24. "Quote by Carl Sagan: "The Hindu religion is the only one of the world..."". Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  25. Hammer, O. (2003). Claiming Knowledge: Strategies of Epistemology from Theosophy to the New Age. Brill. p. 283. ISBN 9789004136380. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  26. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. p. 60. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  27. Diem-Lane, A. Spooky Physics. MSAC Philosophy Group. p. 42. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  28. Thorpe, C. (2008). Oppenheimer: The Tragic Intellect. University of Chicago Press. p. 54. ISBN 9780226798486. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  29. Narayanan, Anand (2013-01-24). "‘All I know is how to do physics’ - The Hindu". Chennai, India: Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  31. Hasan, Haslin; Mat Tuah, Ab. Hafiz (2014). "Quranic Cosmogony: Impact of Contemporary Cosmology on the Interpretation of Quranic Passages Relating to the Origin of the Universe" (PDF). Kyoto Bulletin of Islamic Area Studies: 122–140. Retrieved October 28, 2016. Our study shows that modern scientific findings do indeed influence modern Muslims’ understanding of the Quran’s cosmogonical terms, concepts and narratives by modifying the older Tafsir sources, even deviating from them altogether and offering fresh ideas. 
  32. Ahmad, Mirza Tahir. "The Quran and Cosmology". Al Islam. Retrieved 7 April 2017. 
  33. "Big Bang Theory and Religion by Ron Kurtus - Succeed in Understanding Religion: School for Champions". Retrieved 2017-01-06. 
  34. 34.0 34.1 Ashraf, Faheem. "Islamic Concept of Creation of Universe Big Bang and Science-Religion Interaction". Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  35. Asad, Muhammad (1984). The Message of the Qu'rán (PDF). Gibraltar, Spain: Dar al-Andalus Limited. p. 676. ISBN 1904510000. 
  36. Guessoum, Nidhal (Oct 30, 2010). Islam's Quantum Question: Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science (PDF). I.B.Tauris. p. 351. ISBN 9780857730756. Retrieved 3 March 2017. 
  37. Esslemont, J.E. (1980). Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era (5th ed.). Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-160-4. 
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 38.3 Rafati, Vahid. Lawh-i-Hikmat: The Two Agents and the Two Patients. `Andalib, vol. 5, no. 19, pp. 29-38.
  39. Taherzadeh, A. (1987). The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume 4: Mazra'ih & Bahji 1877-92. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. p. 42. ISBN 0-85398-270-8. 
  40. Lepain, Jean-Marc (2015) [2002]. The Archeology of the Kingdom of God.
  41. Mihrshahi, Robin (2002). "Ether, Quantum Physics and the Bahá'í Writings". Australian Bahá'í Studies Journal. 4: 3–20. 
  42. Lehman, Dale E. (2005). Cosmology and the Bahá'í Writings.
  43. Julio, Savi (1989). The Eternal Quest for God: An Introduction to the Divine Philosophy of `Abdu'l-Bahá (PDF). Oxford, UK: George Ronald. p. 134. ISBN 0-85398-295-3. 

Further reading

  • Leeming, David Adams, and Margaret Adams Leeming, A Dictionary of Creation Myths. Oxford University Press (1995), ISBN 0-19-510275-4.
  • Pius XII (1952), "Modern Science and the Existence of God," The Catholic Mind 49:182–192.
  • Ahmad, Mirza Tahir, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth Islam International Publications Ltd (1987), ISBN 1-85372-640-0. The Quran and Cosmology
  • Wickman, Leslie, "God of the Big Bang: How Modern Science Affirms the Creator," Worthy Publishing (2015), ISBN 978-1617954252.

External links