Monday, June 23, 2014

Reflection #3 - Defending Theism

It is equally likely that you appreciate my writing style as it is that you find it tedious.  I would apologize, however, I write the way I write and at this point we are stuck with it.  I tend to make one or two salient points per post and in my defense, I try to keep them relatively short (given the gravity of the subject matter).  However, I do wonder off on tangents, stray thoughts and the occasional rant in each post and if that scares you off, I am truly sorry.  Not sorry that I wrote and published the material, but sorry that I scared you off.

One of the most widely used methods for discussing alternative points of view of the Universe is for the writer to attempt to defend opinions counter to their actual belief or thesis.  I employ this method throughout my life and my writings, so hopefully, if you're keeping up, I won't have to mention this again.

I completely understand why religion exists.  I truly do!  In fact it may be this strong, empathic, yet confident belief that I understand the why of it, that makes me an Atheist.  

It is understandable why people created religion.  While I believe that a god is not necessary, fate is too unsettling of an idea for many people to grapple with.  God can be man's ultimate coping mechanism and eternal scape goat.  With a god in the picture, all things are truly and in fact possible.  Beauty, hatred, art, science, lies, theft, immortality, non-existence, decay, rebirth, war, famine, disease, pleasure, abundance, suffering, winning, losing - ALL of the exact same things that fate, luck, randomness or chance can bring us, may also exist in a Universe created, directed or influenced by a god.  A god just makes it all so much easier to understand and deal with.

The existence of a god gives us an explanation free from the confines of consistency and logic and therefore a god is indeed all powerful since the answers are all neatly packaged and available to us through the revelation of his will, or word or commandments. 

I think that all we really need to do to cope is to accept "because" or "it is what it is", but that is a very difficult ask.  It has taken a long time and a lot of soul searching (ironically) for me to get there and so I try very hard not to look down on anyone who wishes to believe in a different explanation. 

May people (many that I love and respect, in fact) opt to explain things as "the will of God" or a "mystery that will be revealed one day".  A magic hand that starts it all and guides it forward.

So, my defense of theism is an empathetic walk in the theist's shoes.  I totally get it.  Belief and Faith are comforting, they are a way to cope and there are even times when our brains respond to the glory of it all.  I know THAT feeling.  I was "saved" once.  I was committed to Jesus and baptized "after receiving the holy spirit".  I strongly desired to believe in what everyone around me believed.  All of those feelings are real and formidable.  You can get a rush from faith.

Unfortunately, I discovered that those beliefs and feelings are ungrounded and ill founded.  What is worse, history tells us that religion is sometimes used to manipulate the masses, pawn off blame and escape accountability.  It can truly be said that belief in an untestable, unknowable dogma is just ANOTHER way to divide us and allow the privileged few to dominate the underprivileged many.

So while the existence of Spirituality seems to be a common aspect of the human mind and some argue that ritualistic or spiritual practices are harmless and even helpful for some people in some circumstances, religion and the requirement to not only believe in a deity, but to give yourself over to other people's interpretations of that deity's will is not only dangerous and destructive to the individual (you are evil, you are nothing, you are an instrument, you are not worthy), but possibly destructive to our species.  I do not think that I have to illuminate the impact of theism on the course of human history.  It is pervasive and dominate, especially during times of war and crisis, if not a contributor to war and crisis.

I often wonder how we would handle our problems (big and small, family and global), if we all suddenly grasp that fact that we have one life to live, one planet to live it on and that the clock is ticking.  I find that even my life and my behavior have not changed as much as I'd like after coming to that understanding and firmly planting it into my mind.  I think that it will take generations of understanding to undo what has been done over the last several thousand years of theistic dominance.

I believe that there is a VERY fine line between atheists and theists.  Both systems see the Universe in almost the exact same way.  It can all be boiled down to Cause and Effect.  It is vividly clear (to humans who evolved survival mechanisms predicated on grasping the concept of cause and effect) that this is how the Universe must operate.  A steady flow of cause and effect, eternally increasing entropy, our minds and senses colluding to create the illusion of time, etc.. are all the by products of our evolution.  The only difference is that one mental map chooses to employ a deity to explain the origin of things, phenomena that we have not yet figured out (or may never figure out) and to explain things that are illogical, seemingly inconsistent or mystical to our limited sensory powers.  The other mental map chooses to work methodically and slowly to explain these things or admit that they are simply unknown or unknowable.  No god needed, but cause and effect, real or imagined, are still in play.

Simply put, you can hold a fridge magnet close to the fridge and FEEL the tug of the magnetic field that is trying to pull the fridge toward the magnet and the magnet toward the fridge.  You can even let go of the magnet and it will appear to "fly" toward the fridge, seemingly defying that other invisible force that you are familiar with that makes things drop to the ground.  You can choose to call this phenomena magic or the will of god or electromagnetism.  Frankly, there isn't much more known about magnetism than there is about the will of god, however a really smart person named James Maxwell was able to describe how this invisible field behaves, using mathematics.  I have yet to see someone put the will of god into a mathematical equation that is reliable, testable and which can be used to expand human understanding and be a launching point for further discoveries.  Without this descriptive understanding (we still don't fully comprehend what fields are or how they come into being, just how they work and relate to other invisible phenomena) this posting would not be possible, nor would your microwave or your cell phone or any of your favorite gadgets. There is no theistic revelation or religious text that I am familiar with that discusses field theory.  Why?  Because it wasn't yet discovered when most of the more popular religious texts and "revelations" were written.

So maybe a true test of  the "revealed word of god" (any god, you pick one) should first include something testable and tangible about the Universe that hasn't already been thought of or discovered.  Each text that I have read clearly redefines and refines that thoughts of the day and the age in which the text was written.  While some interesting twists and new philosophical ideas may be presented, nothing truly new, in the way of understanding, exists in these religious texts.  I find that odd.

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