Saturday, July 29, 2006

Willing to believe something else

Sometimes I review my youth and how it came to be that I was sure science worked and that religion didn’t. Then as a young adult I came to appreciate how science couldn’t know where there wasn’t data, and how science-minded people assumed that my experiences of God must be deranged. I would have made some people happy if I had agreed that God can’t be real, but what did they know? They certainly didn’t know God.

In my later years, I see all sorts of people convinced that their view is the only one that can be true, from political conservatives with simplistic slogans to religious conservatives who find ancient beliefs to be perfectly true, beliefs from people who couldn’t even see far enough into the world to know moonlight was reflected sunlight. I see liberals who like to believe that all religions are true. I see atheists who are sure that science has proven there is no God. I see mystics who are sure no knowledge is certain, but have great hope in poor experimenters who say God can be found in neurophysiology.

People who just live for money and pleasure – now that I understand. It’s not for me, but at least they don’t confuse me. It’s not like so many others that make me wonder why they are stuck on beliefs that don’t work for me at all. They must get what they need out of them, that sense that everything will be OK, even if those other people are making such trouble right now, not us, no, we’re right, everyone else is wrong, even stupid and wrong.

I have my science to explain the physical world. I have my spiritual experiences to tell me that there is more than just things physical, not that I can detail them in any way, but I have met God. The Spirit lives in me. Some get upset at this dualism, saying their ideas show God in everything, which is obviously better than whatever elitist nonsense I’m saying. Hey, knock yourself out. Sell your books. Chat your chats. Turn your back on everything else. Lots of people do.

It’s hard to be so philosophical sometimes. Some beliefs look like they could just use a little kick to get them over the fence into something that actually works. All one has to do is put together one good, well-detailed argument to open someone’s eyes, whether it’s the eyes of a fundamentalist denying science or a liberal denying that some religions make no sense at all. Isn’t that right? No, it’s not. Something that’s impressed me are atheist websites where someone has compiled every argument against the Bible being right that anyone has found, every self-contradiction, every contradiction with the observable world. Yet every Bible-believing Christian says the Bible wins those arguments, not just 899-1, but 900-0. Wow, and I might score it 800-100 against the Bible. We’re not seeing the same fight here.

Tell me something I don’t know, and I’ll show you how willing I am to believe something other than what I know now. That’s easy for hard science. The accelerating expansion of the universe means there are more physical forces than the 20th century quartet I learned (gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces). That’s something fundamentally new, but it’s empiricism. It’s objective.

I’m flexible about other things, too. I was writing something else to post here today, about the uncertainty beyond science in cosmology and consciousness. The Spirit found it boring. OK, I’ll write something else, something more personal. She likes that. She likes being mentioned, too. How do I know? Within my consciousness, it’s obvious, either in words or certain purring-like feelings. It’s not objective to anyone else unfortunately, but I am flexible. I don’t know how to get across to people how compelling both of these things are, that the accelerating expansion of the universe was shown in at least two studies and is certainly true. It also certainly requires a change in a fundamental part of physics. The presence of the Spirit is just as compelling for me, being the person in whom the Spirit lives. Is that odd?

It may be. I would argue that both are empirical, the first based on facts all can agree on and the second based on an experience that only I can report, but still empirical in deciding whether one can trust the data and what the result means. Others argue differently. Atheists argue that either I’m completely nuts or more nicely, that a higher part of myself has become God to fill this God-shaped void we all have, with our need for power, knowledge, love and goodness. Of course, the Spirit speaks to me either way, and if this a natural phenomenon, not God, wow it’s still amazing and easily worth the price I paid to get it.

So I’m willing to go either way with this, but atheists aren’t. Neither are theists regarding whether my Spirit is the Spirit and not a demon, something like that. They’re stuck with just one way, whatever it is. That’s not entirely fair. My God doesn’t mind me labeling our relationship one of several different ways. I don’t even know that He knows which way is right. But others signed up with a God who is not at all flexible or no God at all, which is just as rigid a position.

I’d say it might have been my desire for flexibility that gave me a flexible God, but that’s not true. I remember. Whichever God showed up in the sunlight 17 years was the God I would follow, unless He gave me a good reason not to, like never showing up again. But He did show up again.

Something like that makes it easy to be willing to believe in something else. I thought that describing my experiences, not just the drama, but how useful the whole thing was later, but help other be willing, too, but that’s not the case. It’s hard to be absolute about that, of course. My experiences were triggered by just a little prayer. Might anyone else hear something from me now and be helped to try a little prayer years from now when he or she needs to? Maybe, maybe not, for some reason I keep having exchanges that are something like, “You should try this. It’s helped me.” “Not even over my dead body!” “OK, so that’s a maybe, is it?”

It might be a maybe. Everyone speaks so rigidly, but on a really bad day, lots of people know there might be something else to believe in, and it takes so little, with no one else watching, just to try a little prayer. And if nothing happens, at least someone was willing, which is better than living one’s whole life sure that one’s religion or lack of it or one’s father’s religion or lack of it is certainly right.

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