Tag Archives: science

From the Ground Up

I was recently reading a Buddhist book about mindfulness when I began pondering why people flock to religion. Of course, there are several reasons. It comforts people to believe that someone (God) is looking out for them. It gives people structure; those who flourish when guided by rules and regulations enjoy following laws regarding morality. Simply, it makes people feel good; the spiritual aspect of religion is what, in my opinion, keeps it thriving in the modern world. 

The book, titled Mindfulness, by Joseph Goldstein, is filled with tidbits on how to live a life full of peace and happiness for not only oneself but also for other people. Just reading it put me at ease. Although Goldstein does reference the Buddha and other Buddhist adepts and their teachings, dogma is almost completely absent. The threats of eternal damnation are not there. The commands to worship are not there. The demand to believe in something beyond one’s five senses is not there. It is merely a guide to how to live a fulfilling life, and an insightful one at that. 

Everyone can use such advice. We all seek better ways to live. But usually, the advice we follow has strings attached; namely, faith. In Christianity, you must believe that Jesus is literally the Son of God in order to make it to Heaven. You could live a life filled with good deeds and still spend eternity in Hell simply because you did not believe the alleged words of a man who supposedly lived 2 millennia ago. 

But what purpose does faith serve? Why can’t one live a spiritually enriching life while helping others to do the same without a belief in the divinity of an ancient rabbi? 

It seems that adding a godly figure to the equation tends to qualify one’s moral code or spiritual life as legitimate. People think they need one in order to have the other. Some go to extreme lengths to justify or prove the existence of God. I have spent most of my time on this blog trying to argue that there is no good reason to believe in God. But in the past few months, I have become rather disenchanted with trying to do so. And it has finally occurred to me why: because there’s no reason to.

We have many reasons to try and live a rich and fulfilling life and we have many ways in which we can do so. We have one reason to have faith in an unprovable god: fear. More specifically, fear of death. We have created God in order to explain that which cannot be known because we naturally fear what we can’t understand. But I am arguing that we do not need to search for a god who is impossible to prove. We can – and in my opinion, should – share ideas about how to live a good life openly and without the restrictive boundaries of a dogma or religion. Religion presents a picture of justice and morality that is immutable. Wouldn’t we be better off having open, healthy discussions about morality and spirituality rather than fighting over the legitimacy of a holy book that claims absolute superiority? Ask yourself: what is the point of this?

 Consider a math problem. Are you going to settle your uncertainty about the problem by establishing an answer before you’ve worked through the process of solving it? Or are you going to approach the problem openly using the tools that you have at your disposal? If you establish an answer that you cannot possibly know, without trying to solve the problem rationally to the best of your ability, you will not experience any of the rewards of the natural learning process. Similarly, if we assume the existence of a god who we simply cannot prove, we are going to miss out on the important lessons that come with honest moral and spiritual growth, and in the end, we’re simply being dishonest with ourselves.

This is precisely where I disagree with people who say that religion and science do not overlap. According to Christianity, God is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question. There is no reason to wonder why or how any of this happened because we already know that the answer is God. Science can highlight God’s brilliance, but there is no questioning who is responsible. To science, nothing is set in stone. Nothing is certain. The whys and hows are constantly being sought after and we are constantly being rewarded with new truths and discoveries. The ultimate answer remains open-ended. We continue to discover, to learn, and to experience, but with the mystifying realization that the answer to existence will probably never be solved. And trust me, there is something deeply awe-inspiring about accepting one’s ignorance and understanding that our knowledge and wisdom can grow beyond the ceiling that religion has built. 

One might argue that healthy discussion is good, but there is no reason religion should not be part of the discussion. I agree that any wisdom or truth that can be gleaned from religion is wonderful. But consider the real motive of religion. Consider why we think we need God in order to lead a good life. Consider what purpose it actually serves. And then ask yourself if you could make the lives of yourself and others better if you abandoned dogma, religion and God and used good sense and open conversation in order to live happily and peacefully. I’ll finish with a humble word of advice: live not from the top down; that is, by placing your faith in something beyond the current life and living by pre-determined rules and regulations established from on high. Rather, live from the ground up; by looking for the truth and meaning around you and allowing yourself to grow naturally and learn freely based on your own personal experiences. I contend that you will find much more truth and fulfillment that way. 


Naturally Magnificent

Imprisoned within our own meager brains, it is difficult at times not to feel trapped within our thoughts, disconnected from our wider, incomprehensibly large surroundings.

At some point during the rather brief time period that the human race has existed (200,000 years, tentatively), it developed religion, likely as an evolutionary mechanism to temper the fear of death. But easing the unimaginable realization that, one day, one was to no longer exist, has not been the only role of this centuries-long social construction. For many, religion assumes a role possibly even larger than fueling the illusion of immortality. An inescapable problem we all face is the perpetual sense of isolation within our own minds. To truly believe one is part of a grander scheme orchestrated by a divine dictator can be the comforting remedy for this unfortunate human condition.

But I have argued in this blog that religion is outdated and unnecessary for modern people. But is it the best source of this feeling of losing oneself in a cause far greater than any individual?

I think certainly not. Aside from the dangerous dogma that religion espouses, it has quite the effect of limiting one’s sense of magnificence and awe that is more than evident when one explores the humbling wonders that are teeming throughout every corner of the ever-growing field of science. How can one be appropriately shocked at the marvels of Nature if he believes that humankind was the highest and most precious creation of an omniscient god, and that the nature of this god should be glorious enough as to not need the stunning nature of the universe? How can one open his mind to the boundless, unknowable mystique of Nature and human experience, while embracing the beautifully mysterious sense of his own smallness and insignificance, when he believes that he is the centerpiece of God’s creation, a god that deserves all of “the power and the glory forever,” leaving little adoration for the achievements of Nature itself? It is far more wonderful and inspiring to embrace the pursuit of natural truths that present themselves ever so subtly and magnificently and stunningly thorough the endeavors of science. In other words, the truth, beauty, and wisdom we all seek is found in the comprehension of one’s minuteness among an unknowable universe and in the gradual but consistent revelation of the details of that universe.

I would not do justice to the wonders of science if I attempted to explain any of them in any detail – I have not the credentials nor knowledge to do so with any elegance or authenticity. But I am confident that if one embarks on his own personal attempt at understanding the world around him, he will find himself basking in a uniquely comforting mysteriousness that gently exudes itself in each step of the journey.

The mentally claustrophobic sensation that one is prone to get as a human being is something that we have been trying to cope with for centuries and will continue to be a challenge for centuries to come. But I believe that a simple acceptance of one’s natural ignorance and insignificance, as contradictory as that may initially seem, can help one attain an enduring and ever-growing sense of freedom from the mind’s detainment. Is there a need for an almighty, attention-seeking creator, who is continuously forced to modify his image in the face of the consistent progression of science, in the scheme of our lives? At witnessing countless people, finding, and experiencing myself, extraordinary beauties and wisdoms and truths without him, I think the obvious answer is no.


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