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The future of faith

Here at Cosmic Log, the holiday season is traditionally a time for focusing on the intersection of science and religion - or would that be the boundary between them? Over the past week, we've already explored that intersection quite a bit - ranging from the latest crop of speculations about the historical Jesus, to this week's memorials for one of the world's best-loved skeptics, the late astronomer Carl Sagan. But for this discussion, I'd like to look forward instead of back.

In the wake of court rulings and the midterm elections, the tide seems to be turning on a range of issues where science and religion intersect - such as evolution vs. intelligent design, and human embryonic stem-cell research. What's your view on how those debates might develop over the coming year? Will the coming presidential campaign revive the battle over values?

Looking even farther ahead, what does the future hold for faith? Is religion always going to revolve around a "God of the gaps," filling ever-shrinking blank spots in our understanding of the universe? Or is the push and pull between science and religion a cyclic thing? Will we soon be facing a counterreformation, or even a new breed of holy war?

Could scientific advances even spawn future religions? After all, some of Sagan's meditations took on a quasi-religious tone, focusing on the cosmos rather than a Creator. In centuries to come, might discoveries open the way to new forms of mythmaking, novel perspectives on ethics and some sort of global sci-tech priesthood?

To get yourself in the mood for our fifth annual symposium on science and religion, check out these feedback files:

If you can tear yourself away from the holiday goodies, feel free to add your comments below. And speaking of holiday goodies, be sure to keep an eye on the Santa Tracker for Christmas Eve, brought to you by NORAD and MSNBC, as well as our interactive look at the astronomy behind the Star of Bethlehem.

With that, I'll once again wish all of you a Happy Hanukkah (which is just ending), a Merry Christmas (which is just around the corner), a Peaceful Hajj (over the coming month) and a Fantastic Festivus (for the rest of us).