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Thursday, August 21, 2008

From my numerous discussions with various people on the subject of existence of God, my conclusion can be best explained by the following analogy:

If we imagine that blind faith is jet black, absolute non-belief is pure white, and all possible inbetweens as a grey scale, then every individual's belief is some shade of grey - his/her own personal equilibrium of rationalism and faith.”

This position is usually not firm - it moves in either direction during various phases of the person's lifetime - but what's funny is that every individual firmly believes that his/her current position on the grey scale is the correct one, and everybody else is either too dogmatic or too rational.

As James
Randi said:

"Inventing a deity greatly simplifies life for the believer, and makes thinking unnecessary. If there's a puzzle — "why am I here? — for example, the "God" card trumps all others, immediately and completely, with no discussion or work needed. No, the invocation of a deity doesn't explain a difficult quandary, but it makes an answer unnecessary, for the believer."

One of the more curious shades of grey is the position that religion may not be true, but it is a necessity nonetheless to keep ignorant masses in line - it's like the traffic light system of life without which navigating the paths of life would be very hazardous. Basically this position discards all the parts of religion that conflict with science (origin, existence, evolution, etc), but accepts the one part of religion that science does not invade - the moral code. People who take this position believe in science, free enquiry, etc, but also believe that absolute morality as mandated by religion is perhaps better than letting people develop their own personal moral codes based on education and life experiences. Richard Dawkins, in a debate with the Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, on the existence of God, labels these people the "know-alls":

"Religious people split into three main groups when faced with science. I shall label them the "know-nothings", the "know-alls", and the "no-contests". The "know-alls" (I unkindly name them that because I find their position patronizing), think religion is good for people, perhaps good for society. Perhaps good because it consoles them in death or bereavement, perhaps because it provides a moral code. Whether or not the actual beliefs of the religion are true doesn't matter. Maybe there isn't a God; we educated people know there is precious little evidence for one, let alone for ideas such as the Virgin birth or the Resurrection, but the uneducated masses need a God to keep them out of mischief or to comfort them in bereavement. The little matter of God's probably non-existence can be brushed to one side in the interest of greater social good."

Assuming that we are smarter than the rest, and thinking that we know what is good or bad for the masses, is a smarter-than-thou snobbish elitist position. Besides, it is also very dangerous territory. As Carl Sagan warns us in his book The Demon Haunted World :

    "We are not wise enough to know which lies, or even which shadings of the facts, can competently serve some higher social purpose - especially in the long run."

I will urge all the "know-alls" to read this book, especially the chapter titled "Newton's Sleep" that ends with the above quote. A well rounded perspective is the only way people will ever co-exist.

Sir Dayvd ( spending way too much time thinking and not working ) of Oxfordshire


  1. I love the gray area analogy. Problem is, too many people use their gray matter to see their gray areas as black or white (right and wrong, good and evil, holy and sin...).

    I agree that religion is a lot like traffic lights; however, from what I've seen, too many people see the "YELLOW = PREPARE TO STOP" and the "RED = STOP" as mere suggestions, not rules.

    We're all on different paths traveling the same path -- how will we all just get along?

    Sir Bowie of Greenbriar

  2. I always found Carl Sagan an interesting and very educated person. I have read, viewed and digested almost everything he had published. I can embrace his Diversity; however, he (if he still can since he didn't believe in a life beyond death) must be willing to embrace mine. I agree with Sir Bowie and Sir Dayvd, too many people use religion to control their environment and others. No doubt, the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages was very guilty of this; however, has the Protestant Reformation done any better? Or, for that matter, the Islamic Fundamentalists? The closest thing I've found to spirituality in its purest form is from those who have nothing to gain by the power that religion offers to wield. Our last Pope, John Paul II, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, the Dali Lama, etc. To be truly spiritual one must be detached. Jesus was a great teacher of this. Speaking for myself, I think people get confused by making "religion" and "spirituality" the same thing. They are not. Religion is man made, and as being man made is subject to corruption. Spirituality is the essence of the Divine, no matter what you call Him, Her, It, and as the pure essence of the Divine is without corruption. This is my believe, one that has proven to be so powerful and correct in my life that I would be a fool to state otherwise. Though I respect all opinions on the argument about if there is a God, I feel a profound sadness for those who can't feel the Divine Presence in their lives. The Divine has worked so powerfully, as well as so softly in my life that I could not live without it, and plan to live with it for eternity. So, I say peace to all seekers and may you find what you're looking for, or at least what you need to make your life meaningful!

    Sir Hook of Warrick

  3. I agree fully that Spirituality is not connected to Religion..

    A lot of people believe that you can't experience wonder without religious faith. The life of a person without supernatural beliefs is thought to be cold, sterile and lifeless.

    If that were the case, [I] would have to sound the alarm. Childhood, after all, is our first and best chance to revel in wonder. If parenting without religion meant parenting without wonder, I might just say to heck with reality.

    Funny, though, how often I've experienced something that seemed an awful lot like wonder. It couldn't have been actual wonder, I'm told, since real wonder is said to come only from contemplation of God and a knowledge that he created all that is.

    Call me Ishmael, but that never did much for me. I always found the biblical version of wonder rather flat and hollow, even as a kid. It never moved me even as metaphor, rendered pale by its own vague hyperbole.

    What if Wonder and spiritiuality was absolutely nothing to do with the Divine?? But just a non-causal existance. What then?

    Now try these on for size:

    If you condense the history of the universe to a single year, humans would appear on December 31st at 10:30 pm.

    99.98% of the history of the universe happened before humans even existed.

    We are star material that knows it exists.

    Through the wonder of DNA, you are literally half your mom and half your dad.

    The faster you go, the slower time moves.

    All life on Earth is directly related by descent. You are a cousin not just of apes, but of the sequoia and the amoeba, of mosses and butterflies and blue whales.....and you are a third Daffodil genetically.

    Now that, my friends, is wonder.

    Sir Dayvd ( stirring the pot ) of Oxfordshire...

  4. I'm not sure who told Sir Dayvd that wonder is something that only comes from God? I disagree, as does Sir Dayvd. Wonder is not exclusive to a religious or spiritual experience. By the same token, wonder often accompanies the above experiences for many people, including myself. For me, when I have wonder associated with a spiritual experience, it is experienced at a deeper and more meaningful level. It is also not necessarily a pleasant experience. It is an experience that is hard for me to describe and harder for most people to understand, so I usually keep them to myself or share them with only a handful of people that I can trust. Call it Visions, Manifestations, etc..I call it more like the spiritual equivalent of the military "Shock and Awe"! As a result of these experiences it is less important for me to try to convince people of God's existence than it is for me to recognize that God's existence has become a living necessity for my life. I also believe that it is very egotistical of us humans to limit what is limitless, something that most organized religions have attempted to do with much success for eons. I truly believe since our time as human beings began that we created God in our own image, not the other way around; however, that doesn't mean that the Divine doesn't exist. Sir Dayvd's list of things for us to wonder about are truly wonderful to behold and contemplate. They are also why I believe that the Divine is part of the equation! My American Indian cousins believe, as do I, that all things are connected in the Spirit world, which makes all things Sacred. Rocks, Trees, Animals, the Sky, Crayons, Beer, Fire, Water, Humans, etc. We are all Star Material! Humans have always had a deep need to either express or suppress religious belief. If it wasn't real, then spirituality and the forms it takes in its expression and the corresponding need for suppression wouldn't matter or exist. But, obviously it does matter and exist, in one way or another, to us all! Keep stirring the pot!

    Sir Hook (adding a few more ingredients to the pot to be stirred) of Warrick