Big Bang Theory and Religion
by Ron Kurtus (revised 3 May 2013)
Various religions have ideas about when and how the world was created. A scientific theory about this is called the Big Bang Theory. This concept also has religious implications.
The Big Bang Theory is a scientific concept that says that the Universe was created about 13.7 billion years ago when a concentration of mass exploded. The material slowly collected into stars and galaxies as it spread. Observations by astronomers show that the stars and galaxies are spreading apart and that the Universe is expanding.
This theory has great religious implications. Some religions accept the Big Bang theory, while others are opposed to it.
Questions you may have include:
- What are the religious implications of the Big Bang Theory?
- What religions accept the Big Bang Theory of creation?
- Which religions oppose the theory?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Note: This is an educational website. We are not promoting any one religion.
Big Bang Theory implications
The Big Bang Theory came about after astronomers observed that the galaxies in the Universe seem to be moving outward.
By measuring their directions and velocities, they were able to determine that the galaxies were moving outward from a distinct region in space. Using the measured velocities and distances to this center point, they calculated that about 13.7 billion years ago, all of the stars of the galaxies seemed to have emanated from that point in space.
The theory was proposed that all the matter in the Universe was concentrated in a sphere that exploded to form the various stars, galaxies and other objects in space. That explosion was the beginning of time and is called the Big Bang.
Although there is agreement that the galaxies are moving outward from a given area, there is dispute on whether it all started with a Big Bang or if the motion is just a phase of an oscillating Universe.
This idea of the Universe being created at a specific time, years ago, has religious implications. It points to the idea that God or some Supreme Being created the Universe and our Earth at that time. A number of religions allude to such a situation in their Holy Books.
Since many religions have a similar view how the Universe and world started, you could wonder if there any tie between these religions, even if their other beliefs are different.
On the other hand, if evidence shows that the Universe did not to start at a specific time, then the concept of God creating the Universe years ago takes a hit and may seem doubtful.
Religions accepting theory
A number of religions accept the Big Bang theory as within the realm of possibilities and not contrary to their religious beliefs.
Christian and Jewish
The Biblical story of the creation of the world shared by both Christian and Jewish religions says that God created the Heavens and Earth in six days. However, the interpretation considers the question, "How long is a day to God?" This would allow the possibility of 13.7 billion years in formation.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Pius XII was a proponent of the Big Bang Theory and the Church follows the idea that creation from nothing stated in Genesis is consistent with the Big Bang.
These religions do not take the creation story in the Bible literally, but instead consider it more of a metaphysical tale.
The account of the creation in the Islamic Qu'ran states, "Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one unit of creation, before We clove them asunder?" (Ch:21, Ver:30). Later, the Qu'ran describes an expanding universe: "The heaven, We have built it with power. And verily, We are expanding it." (Ch:51, Ver:47).
These accounts lead some followers of Islam to accept the Big Bang explanation of the beginning of the Universe.
A verse in the Qu'ran implies that after the Universe was created, it may continue in an oscillating manner. The Qu'ran states, "On the day when We will roll up the heavens like the rolling up of the scroll for writings, as We originated the first creation, (so) We shall reproduce it; a promise (binding on Us); surely We will bring it about." (Ch:21, Ver:104).
The Buddhist scripture called "Agganchcha Suttra" states that the universe has a beginning and an end. The explanation implies the Big Bang, but it is in a cyclical fashion, with repeated Big Bangs.
The scripture states that after a universe is created, it gradually evolves into a state where it can host life. It goes on until, at some point, the universe will die. All its beings will move into a special state until a new universe is created.
This cycle of creations (Big Bangs) and deaths goes on forever. This total life time of the universe is called "Kalpa".
The Vaishnavism branch of Hinduism describes the creation of the Universe with an event similar to the Big Bang. This is explained in the third Holy Book of the Bhagavata Purana in chapters 10 and 26, which describe a primordial state which bursts forth as the Great Vishnu watches over it. The Universe then transforms into the active state of matter and life.
Religions rejecting theory
There are several religions that reject the possibility of the Big Bang Theory, because it goes against their religious beliefs. Interestingly enough, some atheists also dispute the theory on anti-religious grounds.
Fundamentalist Christian religions
Many Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christian religions believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. They believe that the Bible is fact, word-for-word, and that the Earth and Universe were created by God in six 24-hour days.
The concept of the Universe being billions of years old is also contrary to their belief that the Earth is less than 7000 years old.
Some believers of Buddhism disagree with the idea of the Big Bang, but others may accept it, as well as the oscillating Universe theory.
One interpretation of Buddhism is the concept of universes that have no initial creation event, but instead go through infinitely repeated cycles of expansion, stability, destruction and dormancy. To a degree, this is a view of an oscillating universe.
Most forms of Hinduism believe that the Universe has existed—and will exist—forever, without a beginning or end.
Many atheist scientists reject the Big Bang theory on anti-religious grounds. They see the Big Bang as implying a creation by a Supreme Being. Instead, they prefer to think of the universe as always having existed. These scientists prefer the oscillating model of the universe, as a way to explain the observed measurements of a presently expanding universe and to avoid religious implications.
The Big Bang Theory is a scientific concept that says that the Universe was created about 13.7 billion years ago when a concentration of mass exploded. This theory has great religious implications of a Supreme Being creating the Universe. Many Christian, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist and Hindu religions or sects accept the Big Bang concept. Other religions, such as Fundamental Christians, some Buddhist and Hindu sects, as well as some atheist scientists, are opposed to it.
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Resources and references
Religious interpretations of the Big Bang theory - Wikipedia
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Big Bang Theory and Religion