Thursday, 13 November 2008

White flowing beard

The question is, what IS god? If god is just finding that essential Elysium in life, and the beauty that surrounds it as einstein described it then I agree with that. I would rather called it something different to a personal god though, as a matter of fact there is another word for it, it is called Pantheism. But if god is an intelligent being that designed and created life on earth with a purpose then I oppose that concept, on behalf of the whole scientific community and everything it has achieved so far.

I agree that you can’t beat wisdom or love for a satisfied mind, although infinity does have its boundaries for a mortal life form's ability to grasp, being analytical I will always want to know more, and the pleasure comes from trying, understanding and being in awe of the mystery.

In terms of sentience, it depends which way round you look at it, we are all sentient beings, as a result of billions of years of evolution and chemical reactions. This vast amount of time is beyond what most people can even begin to comprehend. If god is exactly that, then it does exist. But I don’t understand how all the planets, galaxies can be made by someone's bare hands (so to speak).

I think alot of the time religious theists just can’t deal with the fact we are here by chance, fear of the unknown, a desire for an authority figure that is as hard wired into human psyche as fight or flight, they lack humility and respect for who and what surrounds us and why it does. By chance includes, the formation of the sun due to hydrogen being squeezed together by gravity, resulting in nuclear fusion, a rogue asteroid hitting the earth, resulting in the dinosaurs dying off and warm blooded mammals dominating the earth, (and not because Noah denied them a place on his creaking wooden ship!) If god made this happen, I’m dying to know exactly how he did it! Because the answer of 'well he just did get over it you non believer' is insulting to my intelligence and analytical way of thinking. The phrase 'prove that god doesn’t exist' is just a shallow way to conveniently avoid the burden of truth.

I don’t doubt people have religious experiences, but I reckon these can be described scientifically quite easily. There is a reason behind our conscious and subconscious mind, and I am afraid it is due to those neurons and synapses working together! You feel a channel of love and warmth from god? Maybe the placebo effect, endorphins, oxytocinare, Vasopressin, dopamine and norepinephrine are the culprits? Yes the feeling is wonderful, and can be quite powerful, maybe to an intensity you have never experienced, and boy id love to experience that too, but there is a physical/chemical reason. The power of individual thought in a relaxed state of mind should never be underestimated. I have spiritual experiences myself, but I also understand the cause which itself gives me even more pleasure.

The ONLY creationist theory I could ever take remotely seriously is if aliens started the life that exists on earth, but this doesn’t really extend to the formation of the sun or the universe. From an agnostic point of view this will always be possible, but highly unlikely when considering the scientific alternative, because it would ask more questions than it solves, for example where did the aliens come from in the first place? Did other aliens make the aliens that made us? If so did another group of aliens make the aliens that made the aliens that made us? The questions leave an ongoing chain.

Some people like to ponder the unknown, and some people are either afraid of it or in denial of it and religion conveniently plugs that gap. If that makes them content with their life then fair enough, but I just cannot do that when my mind is racing towards the mysterious and awe inspiring vastness of space.

The concept of god is so ambiguous it can be interpreted in so many ways ranging from ancient scrolls to Einstein’s theory. To me the phrase 'do you believe in god?' means very little on its own.

Gravity defines our very existence on this tiny little planet, and the existence of the universe as we know it, it is that 'invisible force' which binds everything together, looking it from a spiritual perspective, it can be seen as *the* divine power or god. I for one can picture space-time in my head just from reading Einstein’s description. I can imagine myself inside a craft, obeying Newton's laws of motion. When my craft approaches a large dense object I can imagine in pictures how it would influence my trajectory. Maybe an equivalent mental image of god can be produced in a religious mind, after all, god is only a thought, but at least my images created from rationality.

I would rather connect with the environment and the universe using my senses and mind to perceive it, and from the scientific evidence rather than taking for granted something that has been written in an ancient book, by people who had less knowledge of the stars and science back then (when they thought the world was flat, and the sun literally fell into the sea at dusk etc)

I personally believe that if everyone on earth was agnostic, it would be an awe inspiring place to live, but of course I have to accept this will never happen. I would be proud to be a part of the human race if it did. Instead there are wars, out of control over population, extreme variations in living standards and health, instead of more development into energy from nuclear fusion, space travel, and other ways of having a sustainable population for the benefit of our descendants (idealistic I know but it would be possible).

Don’t get me wrong I am all for a free society, each to their own, but surely we should unite and think properly about what is real and what isn’t rather than just turning a blind eye, or even worse show signs of extreme myopia (so to speak) and not even consider the evidence for and against? From a logical point of view, (and I admit idealistic) what if every single human being had this vision? We would be on the way to the stars by now. Science is answering more and more questions as time goes on and as we learn more, the amount of room 'god' is able to fill gets smaller and smaller. Sadly, everyone is different, and (without intentionally sounding arrogant), some more intelligent and complex than others. I don’t mean to say that more simple minded people are inferior in terms of ability to be human, but my point is that I do accept that idealism and practicality seldom mix.

From science we learn as a species, from religion we stay still and go nowhere as a species. The self-reinforcing delusion is an ancient and as a result, quite powerful human trait, which points towards the theory that maybe we are not that advanced as we like to think we are as a species, from that I mean the subconscious and conscious mind are not yet talking to each other in the same recognisable language. It is only certain minded individuals who have the focus and the courage in themselves that make the steps towards the next advancement, whether it is artistic, technical or scientific. We underestimate the power of the subconscious mind; make false assumptions without proof, which to me is disheartening.

Factual wisdom never plays any part in that which people call their own (view/faith/belief), nor examination. The self reinforcing delusion of mankind's religions is not one based in truth or wisdom, but in comfort, or respect that it is their inheritance of their parents, or some other likewise reason. We will never make great strides inside a comfort zone. Why does a chick hatch out of an egg? Why does a baby leave its mother's womb? Global Secularism at the very least is the only way forward if we want to achieve unity. I don’t need religious guidance to have morals and integrity.

Karl Marx stated that religion is utilised by the ruling classes whereby the masses can shortly relieve their suffering via the act of experiencing positive religious emotions. It is in the interest of the ruling classes to install in the masses the religious conviction that their current suffering will lead to eventual happiness. Therefore as long as the public believes in religion, they will not attempt to make any genuine effort to understand and overcome the real source of their suffering.

From a logical viewpoint, that appears to be correct.

If our ruling emotions are the equivalent to those ruling classes (such as fear, anxiety, emptiness, depression) then it has the same effect. No wonder alot of people follow religion as though it has been ingrained into their psyche, as those apparently positive emotions become hardwired, just as any form of defensive mechanism one creates to stay safe in a given negative situation. Because a whole society/civilisation, generation after generation, has sustained this comfort zone, why change if you believe it is ideal? I think the brain is like a lump of plasticine which gets harder to shape as you get older, but can be manipulated in so many ways at a young age.

It is true we all need something to believe in, and we can. Ourselves and each other. Soul searching combined with intellectual rationality would mean the need for religion could cease to exist. That scares alot of people, hence alot of resistance towards science and the lack of self drive in alot of our society.

Each and every one of us are children on this planet, but we use the child-like traits many different ways. Some are overpowered by fear, others like me are overpowered by a wonder and urge to ask questions. But like children who have their parents to look up to and seek guidence from, what authority figure does the helpless child in an adult's body have to look to for guidence? I concentrate on my wonder of the physical world, and that satisfies me no end. In other words, I am a Pantheist.

Here is a view from Einstein, which I admire, (courtesy of wikipedia):

'Einstein distinguished three styles which are usually intermixed in actual religion. The first is motivated by fear and poor understanding of causality, and hence invents supernatural beings. The second is social and moral, motivated by desire for love and support. Einstein noted that both have an anthropomorphic concept of God. The third style, which Einstein deemed most mature, is motivated by a deep sense of awe and mystery. He said, "The individual feels ... the sublimity and marvellous order which reveal themselves in nature ... and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole." Einstein saw science as an antagonist of the first two styles of religion, but as a partner of the third style.'

The awe and mystery itself is a belief, is it any more valid than the first two? Maybe we will never know, and that scares people due to our relatively short life span of 100 years. Less than a blink of an eye on the cosmic calendar.

a few quotes from Carl Sagan which really hit the spot:

For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.

Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

Adolf Hitler: We Will Fight the Atheistic Movement
We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.
- Adolf Hitler, Speech in Berlin, October 24, 1933

“The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.” - Abraham Lincoln

“The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” - John Adams

“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” - Benjamin Franklin

“Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.” - Thomas Jefferson

“The clergy, by getting themselves established by law and ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil and religious rights of man…” - Thomas Jefferson

A U.S. president who believes in an ancient book of Jewish fairy tales. How reassuring…

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people.

At the end of the day, religion is a belief in a supernatural power recognized as the creator. Faith is a belief in the trustworthiness of a person or philosophy. You can have faith in a number of things, but not only to God, I have faith in string theory :-)

This blog was never meant to be an articulate masterpiece, and I do understand I will probably appear as a bemoaning idealist, but I just had to get my thoughts out in the open.

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