This article about the interaction between science and religion will appear in a book celebrating the 10th anniversary of the ``Vatican Observatory Summer School for Observational Astronomy and Astrophysics''. The school is held every two years in the Papal Palace in Castel Gandolfo near Rome. Three senior scientists plus the Observatory staff teach roughly 25 students from many different countries for one month.
When writing about the Vatican Observatory Summer School, one would think the central theme would be ``science and religion''. Well, it is not. Even though we were studying in the heart of the papal palace in Castel Gandolfo, and even though we were surrounded by Jesuits, religion was apparently not an issue. However, in retrospect I think that the concept of this Summer School achieved something remarkable. When 25 students from almost as many different countries, work together, play together, talk together for one month in this setting, it may not have led to instant conversions, but it taught us something about how a community of so different talents, nationalities, and interests can work together in peace and harmony -- most of the time. So, without the gospel of peace being preached, it was put into action, and it was experienced at work.
Just the presence of the Vatican Observatory and its Jesuit staff, however, was a constant reminder of the fact that science is just one part of the world. And when you realize that this staff had been actively involved in reopening the case against Galileo, you know that you are standing on historical ground. Indeed, the interaction between science and religion has a long history in which every scientist will have a part on one side or the other. I consider myself fortunate that, as a protestant/evangelical Christian and an astronomer, I find myself on both sides of the aisle. Hence, I want to take the opportunity to describe in this paper, why I believe religion has a lot to give to science and especially to astronomy. There are two points I want to elaborate (three points would make a sermon). First, I want to suggest that the driving forces for both, astronomy and religion, are the same: fascination for the infinite and the incomprehensible and the quest to know where we belong to. Secondly, I want to warn that science without religion, although celebrated as a liberation by some, has its dangers, especially when science claims to have the monopoly on truth.