Friday, October 08, 2010

Why I'm not (or at least don't think I am) an atheist

Well the short answer is because life is more interesting that way.

Earlier this week there was a lively discussion on Facebook on the topic and so I've been marinating with my ideas about it. Here's what I've come to believe. I used to be quite the atheist, and when I look back at how I derided the lack of mental prowess of those who follow organized religion, I feel rather embarassed. Only weak-minded people would believe in such poppycock I used to think. I still think there is a lot of truth to the notion that people become religious in order to cope with their inevitable death. But I no longer deride. Everybody is just trying to get through the day like I am, and if following a particular spiritual path is helpful, great. I certainly don't give much respect to those who condemn who I am because of some words some men wrote in a book over a thousand years ago. But the belief in a higher power is A okay in my book now. And here's why.

Throughout the history of mankind, there have always been people with very rigid ideas. I call these the "I've got it all figured out" people. It's comforting, I get it, everything being settled and decided like a cozy warm blanket. It's just not particularly intelligent to have it figured out because a) you don't and no one really does and b) by definition then, you're close-minded. Think about it. Those who mocked the emerging evidence of a round planet is a good starting point. Certainly it was clear to everyone that the Earth was flat. Our eyes don't lie, right? However, time and time again, we have discovered the existence of things that are not discernible with our 5 senses. Things like magnetic energy (which birds can sense) electrical energy, the atom, viruses and the list goes on and on. Certainly our road of discovery has not been conluded. And so first and foremost I try to keep an open mind about things. The natives didn't see Columbus's ship because they didn't believe in the existence of such a thing. I certainly don't want to miss something holy or miraculous because I don't allow for the possiblity of it.

Recently Stephen Hawking came out saying God doesn't exist because gravity explains the existence of everything in the universe. I'm paraphrasing but I thought it was funny because isn't gravity then a kind of god? It certainly rules most of our movements all of our lives. Pretty inescapable too. I spent a week thanking gravity for my existence. Of course then we must ask the where and why and how of gravity, being the nosy, inquisitive beings that we are. We still don't know. Then there is the sun. I love that there is not a molecule in our bodies that wasn't forged in the furnace of the sun. Bam, another entity to thank for my existence. Are gravity and the sun sentient beings? What about "mother" Earth? Who knows but it's fun pondering what if....

And then there is the mystery of life itself. Every single living thing on Earth has a little life code called DNA that rules our existence. It really is not plausible that this biologic computer code of millions of proteins strung together just popped into existence by accident in the primordial soup. It had to have originated elsewhere or with some kind of help. Maybe we owe our existence to scientific aliens. Wouldn't they then by definition be a sort of god?

On the uber rational front, as scientists keep peeling away at the onion of our existence, some bizarre theories are being pointed to. My favorite is the block universe theory which a majority of quantum physicists are leaning toward which essentially says that the past, present and future all exist simultaneously and that all movement is illusory. We are really just living the turning pages of a really big book, each page a moment in time. This would have profound implications on destiny and explains the Oracle's statement in The Matrix when she tells Neo, "You've already made the choice, you just have to understand why." And I love thinking about the possibility then that I chose to ride this particular life, having checked it out in advance before jumping in. I feel like I chose pretty well.

Then there is personal experience. I have seen both a UFO and a spirit. I have told the UFO story here I'm sure but the spirit story is personal and you probably wouldn't believe me anyway. I'm sure I wouldn't have seen her if I didn't believe in the existence or possiblity of such entities.

I feel like the existence of an all powerful, all knowing creator is unlikely, but I feel that there is much more going on than we know now, more powers and forces at work that we cannot detect. I for one am going to keep my eyes and heart open in case I do have a chance at detection. I think I'm going to go rent Big Fish again. I love the message in that movie because it's similar to what I'm putting out there today. Peace.


Rick Bettencourt said...

A very intelligent, well-thought out post. I'm glad your "marinated" the idea. (Love that word by the way.)

Big Fish...I'll have to rent it.

Anonymous said...

I would like to ask Steven Hawking a few questions such as, where did gravity come from? When there was nothing in the Universe where did the first minute particles come from? If the Gravity pull of the Sun is holding the Earth in orbit why isn't it strong enough to pull us all the way in?
There is more than one side to the Bible. Besides the historic side there is the prophetic side. Few churches teach about it but predictions made in the Old Testament have come true and those in the new are coming true every day. Psalm 22 tells of Christ's crucifixion and how they would not break his bones but would cast lots for his clothing. It happened just like that even though the Romans had never read the book of Psalms. It would behoove you to get a book on prophecy if you want to read much more and learn about what will be happening soon. Ted

Blobby said...

First off, I LOVE 'Big Fish'. Good call.

Deep post so early in the morning (for me, not so much you). But Hawking said g-d didn't create the universe, not that there isn't a g-d. This part I believe.

I'm not so big of a believer on the jesus thing though. I believe whales and wheels in the sky before I believe that.

Birdie said...

I too know all the arguments of the atheist because I used to spout them. That faith system has its own fundamentalism; they sure do squawk when it's pointed out.

Although I call myself a Christian, I'm not sure my version will pass muster with the elders. I look at the Bible as an ancient text written from a viewpoint that attempts to explain the unexplainable. Any Christian who's put some thought into it (and not just accepted doctrine as Truth) will have fashioned a faith system unlike anyone else's. And that's fine. I hesitate to write a statement of faith because frankly it's changing all the time. All I know for certain is that I have a rock-solid peace that can't be shaken because of my belief that there is a spiritual entity/presence we call God. Everything past that is sheer guesswork.

Finding cause and effect in the spiritual realm changes with each new discovery in the physical and psychological realms. Those who are troubled by uncertainty will stop looking for new answers and settle into conviction, and all new information will be molded to fit into that certainty. We see it all the time with the fundamentalists of all religions.

I find certainty to be the product of hubris and fear. There is no shame in saying "I don't know" and continuing the search for knowledge. That journey is a delightful one that allows for discovery and new questions which continue to reshape the puzzle that is faith.

Jim said...

I believe the Buddhist 'take' on things. I am not a Buddhist. We all come from the same source.....the ant and the human......a massive energy force that was created at the moment of the Big Bang.
I do not believe in a god of any sort that created 'all of this'. I lean more towards the 'scientific' explanation of things and why and how we get/got here.
In the end we return to that great energy force in the you cannot destroy energy, it returns to the source. I can live with that and the thought of coming back in a totally different form. Now that could be quite interesting.
Some people are probably offended by this view. But since you all have expressed your ideas, I thought I would too.

Lemuel said...

I very much appreciate your position. The concept of being open is essential to those who seek truth and who seek to understand life. It is for me a hallmark of someone who is truly religious.
Far too many who think of themselves as religious are only engaged in religiosity that is as far removed from faith as Colbert's "truthiness" from truth. They seek their religion to confirm, support, and not to shake the foundations of their preconceived notions rather than to "lead them into all truth".
Thank you for your post.

Roxita said...

I've said it before, I worship at the church of John Lennon and rock and roll is my god.
Translation: I believe that there is something greater than me out there. What it is, I have no idea. When you open your heart and your mind to the idea that every single thing is a miracle or sorts, you start to see and feel how amazing life is. Religion/faith is like music. Everyone has their own beat. Note to the Jehovah's Witnesses, I don't knock on your door blaring AC/DC...just sayin'.
*Disclaimer: If this comment makes no sense, please excuse. I've been awake for seven minutes.

Cameron said...

Big Fish is one of my very favorite movies.

Your post is a reminder of how small and insignificant we are, but somehow each of us is special.

The most important thing to me is to appreciate each moment as a gift.

Anonymous said...

I was raised in the Catholic church and since an early age I never believed any of the things I was taught in religion class. I acted like I believed it to stay out of trouble. I do believe in a higher power but I don’t need an organized religion in my life. I can be spiritual in my own way.

Lyvvie said...

I get cranky when religions decide I have to follow their rules. When they put barriers on education. When they make restrictions in law that are only applicable to those who follow their religion upon the whole population.

Most people who have faiths are fine, decent, loving people. They have a few crackpots who ruin everything. Atheists are the same, most are great but with a few know-it-all smugards.

Truth is, no one will know what will happen or have any of the answers until after we die.It's all hypothesis so why worry? Live now, enjoy now, love now. While we can. Just don't tell me how, or with whom and if it'll earn me a one way ticket to Burntown.

If you ever catch me being a smugard though, please let me know. It's so easy to be sardonic.

GayProf said...

Religion has often been used to justify some pretty nasty things in the past (war, burning of heretics, persecution of gays, poor quality wine, etc). Religion, though, has also often encouraged people to become involved in efforts for social justice and commit themselves to working for their fellow humans. For whatever reason the former gets more attention than the latter.

Perplexio said...

I am a Christian-- that is to say I believe a Jewish carpenter found himself nailed to a tree for teaching the revolutionary idea that the world might be a better place if people were nice to one another.

Those that lack tolerance based on religion, are unfortunately misguided. They claim God is infallible and the Bible is the word of God. But another teaching of the Bible is that God granted us all free will and that all humans are sinners-- thus we are all very fallible. The Bible wasn't written by God, it was written by people. Fallible, imperfect humans like you and I. At best the Bible is a human interpretation of God's word.

There is still plenty out there that transcends basic human understanding. So what's to say that more than a few things that made it into the Bible got a bit "lost in translation?" If you will.

I'm not telling you what to believe-- more I hope I'm giving you the ammo to use Christianity to turn rather un-Christian behaviour (such as intolerance) on its head when you encounter it from "Christians" in the future.