Has Lee Byung-chul found the answer?“How can the existence of God be proven?” “If God loves humans, why does he allow pain, misery and death?” “What is religion, and why do people need belief?” “There are so many churches and believers in Korea, but why are there so many crimes?” “Is the end of the world approaching?”
Late Samsung Group founder Lee Byung-chul had asked 24 questions to a Catholic priest in October 1987, a month before he died of lung cancer. The five-page inquiry is filled with intrinsic questions about life and death, god, science, and religion. On Dec. 17, the JoongAng Ilbo featured the questions along with the responses by Father Cha Dong-yeop, a professor at Incheon Catholic University, after 24 years.
Many readers read the questions and answers thoroughly. Even the wealthiest man in Korea was a vulnerable human being in the end and contemplated existential and fundamental matters before death. The questions posed by Lee represent the ontological anguish that all of us may experience at some point in our lives.
Contemplation and reflection about the primary natural order of humans and the universe always boil down to the matter of God and religion. The questions raised by Lee can be asked by any one of us, but no one has the right answers. Cha has merely offered one set of answers.
Cha said that religion and science are not pitted against each other. In 1916, 40 percent of American scientists responded that they believed in the existence of God. The result remained the same in a similar survey conducted 81 years later in 1997.
In the meantime, modern science and technology have made great progress. Cha answered the questions, “What does it mean that the percentage of the scientists who believe in God has not changed?” In responding, he cited Francis Bacon, who said, “A little science estranges a man from God. A lot of science brings him back.”
Still, many internationally renowned physicists, including Stephen Hawking, support atheism or agnosticism. The European Organization for Nuclear Research came a step closer to unlocking the secret to the birth of the universe when it made a breakthrough in possibly detecting a Higgs boson, a hypothetical massive particle known as the “God particle.”
Is the natural order of humanity and the universe an area of science or religion? Has Lee Byung-chul found an answer?
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok