Civilizations are built on knowledge and a worldview of how it fits together. At some point, a civilization must decide what type of knowledge is going to form its foundation and essence. Chinese-influenced societies opted for scholarly and literary knowledge, while Indian-influenced ones chose religious and spiritual knowledge. Classical Greece concentrated on philosophy, and classical Rome settled on law. Christian societies focused on spiritual knowledge, but then went all out for science during the Renaissance. Later on, some tried to replace God with the individual, money, the state, or 'the party.' Indigenous societies in other lands pursued what was important to them. Muslim societies balanced science and religion, but lost this balance as civilizational decline gave way to colonialism, dependency, and poverty.
Regardless of which path is chosen, all societies understand that everything has to be interrelated for life to make sense. Neither science nor religion can dispute this. Look at life. Without photosynthesis, life could not exist. But who or what caused oxygen, sugars, plants, water, carbon dioxide, soil, air, and sunlight to be interrelated? Look at the universe. It works so perfectly that many of us take it for granted. But why is there such symmetry and asymmetry? Why does everything cooperate? Science tells us how; religion tells us why.
Look at our own spiritual and material lives. Our spirit makes us who we are, yet needs our body to achieve its ultimate purpose: knowledge of and submission to God. If we ignore either our spiritual or material aspect, our life becomes unbalanced. We might opt out by suicide, use 'spirituality' to mask self-interest through 'religiously justified' conflict, pursue extreme spirituality to our own detriment, or become devoted to what is transient'either it will leave us or we will leave it by dying. We might even seek to become a Pharoah instead of a Mejnun, a self-proclaimed deity instead of a lover of God, never asking what happens when life ends.
To restore life's balance, some turn to fundamentalism, an early twentieth-century Christian attempt to maintain Christianity's influence through preaching blind faith and Biblical inerrancy, despite contradictions with modern science. The fact that fundamentalism has become synonymous with resisting modernity and science is illuminating. But if God sent Revelation and told us to learn of Him through science and knowledge, how is such a situation possible? The best way to restore this balance is honest dialogue among agnostics, believers, and atheists; followers of different religious and spiritual traditions and of science; followers of Revelation and of philosophy; and among those at the extremes. Success is vital if all inhabitants of this ever-smaller and interrelated world are to live together in peace.
These and other issues are addressed in this issue. We hope that you find them thought-provoking. But more importantly, we hope that they encourage you to make your own corner of the world a better and more pleasant place in which to live.
The winners of our writing contest are: Dr. Najeeb Khan, Serdar Yoldas, Dr. Mohamed Omar Salem, and Amany Fouad Hassanei, respectively. Each will receive $100. Due to the number of entries received, our board of reviewers felt compelled to modify the rules. We apologize for this. The Fountain staff thanks everyone who took the time to research and submit their papers.
We hope that you enjoy this issue and, as always, look forward to your comments.