When I started this blog back in 2011, it was always my intention to write about the Yin and Yang of our physical reality and a putative metaphysical one. Call it programming if you wish, but I have a life-long commitment to the perceived reality of the latter. I have a faith, deliberately irrational though it be.
I also have a life-long commitment to science and the physical world, and I’ve never had much trouble reconciling the two. That’s the thing I’ve been wanting to write about; how a spiritual life is not contrary or exclusive to a scientific one.
In fact, I believe they are the Yin-Yang of a complete person.
To be honest, I feel sorry for staunch atheists. I see them as partial and incomplete. I think they’re missing out.
For one thing, nearly all good music comes from believers of one stripe or another. I do wonder if there’s a connection between having music in one’s heart and having spirituality in that heart. Is it a coincidence that really good music is sometimes called “soulful” — full of soul?
I’ve written posts about this before, but it’s been a while, so let me introduce and declare myself.
As I’ve mentioned before, my father was a Lutheran minister (mom was the choir director) and his brother, my favorite uncle, taught theology at a Lutheran seminary. Their father was also a pastor, so talking about God runs in the family. (My mother’s side includes many teachers, extending down to my sister, so my family tree is filled with preachers and teachers.)
So I was brought up in the Lutheran church — probably the most utterly white bread and boring (and therefore sane) of the Christian religions. Not just brought up, but brought into and behind the scenes in virtue of having parents for whom the church was their work.
So my religious views included something of an insider look. For me the church was both a sacred concept and a building whose nooks and crannies I thoroughly explored and knew. (Churches can have interesting architecture and lots of surprising and interesting places to investigate. True, actually, of most institutional buildings.)
In high school, part of growing away from parents, I went through an aggressively atheist phase. (Some of that was just being defiant to my parents, but I did reject the notion of faith for a while back then.)
Ultimately the pendulum found a center: a vaguely defined agnosticism with strong spiritual suspicions, deist leanings, and occasional forays into theism (I’ve had some personal experiences that have given me pause).
The bottom line for me is that, it could be a godless universe that just happened and nothing intrinsically means anything, but that’s boring. And kinda pointless. Until, and unless, science can prove that (and how could it?), I’m free to believe — irrationally, if you like — that there’s more to the picture.
And I do.
Those who know me know I’m a critical person and that I have high expectations of myself and of the world. I have “old fashioned” ideas and ideals (which leads to considerable Weltschmerz).
I’m not the nurturing mother who applauds your every effort. I’m more the stern father — no less loving, mind you — who tries to help make you better, who wants to see your reach exceed your grasp.
As someone with an Engineering Mind, I want to make things better. That is always and ever the goal.
In any event, I like to dedicate one day a week to the better, or at least “off duty,” side of life. A day to relax the reins and kick back with Mom (aka Nature aka The Earth) enjoying the family (of humanity). A day to reflect on the greater whole and our part in it. A day to unplug from normal life — whatever “normal” may be — and look at things from a different angle.
I’m not alone in this, nor did I invent the idea. Cultures throughout the world observe some form of Sabbath. I think it’s good, even if not for spiritual reasons, to have one day a week that’s different, that breaks and bookends the week.
Call it a weekly Mental Health day.
The term, “Sunday Christian,” applies to those who faithfully go to church every Sunday and go through the proper motions, but their lives the other six days do not seem to reflect their espoused beliefs.
Religions sometimes have parables about the show of faith versus its genuine practice. Some even have parables about the ostentatious practice of genuine faith. (Hint: It’s bad. I’ll return to this when I discuss Pascal’s Wager.)
[I’m a bit conflicted about sports figures who make a show of prayer, on camera, just before a game. Some baseball pitchers, for example, walk all the way from the bullpen to the mound and only then make a prayer before they start. On the one hand, some religions ask their members to “not hide your light” and to “spread the word.” On the other hand, such a blatant public display tugs at my sense of religious appropriateness. To me, prayer (and religion) is a private affair.]
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that believers and atheists come in two distinct groups. There are those that were brought up atheist or believer and who still follow those beliefs. In contrast, there are those brought up one way, but who have switched beliefs, often in some sort of reaction to their upbringing.
For example, the former devout believer whose faith has been shattered by injustice, loss, or the human bullshit that goes along with any institution. On the other hand are those who discover a faith later in life (again, often due to injustice, loss, or human bullshit).
I’m rambling a bit here, but I’m thinking that’s going to be the mode for these posts — just rambling about the topic.
In future posts I’d like to explore the idea of spiritual dualism, the difference between deism and theism, Pascal’s Wager, Spinoza’s God (physics), and other metaphysical topics. Also quantum mechanics and The Good Place. And George Floyd. (Think he ever imagined he’d have a Wiki page?)
I’ll say now that I’m not particularly interested in debating the topic, although I’m more than willing to discuss and explore it. Whether it’s all true or not isn’t the issue here. There’s no proof either way, and — along the lines of Pascal’s Wager — in this context the underlying truth is taken as axiomatic.
That isn’t to say I’m pushing religion of any kind. I walked away from the Lutheran church long ago, and Christianity, as such, really isn’t a part of my spiritual picture. I see it as merely one way up a mountain I think worth climbing.
The key (for me anyway) is a personal spiritual relationship with “God” — something that can no more be accurately expressed in words than can be quantum mechanics. (Unfortunately, there’s no math to help us with spirituality.)
But it is, as I said up top, a deliberately irrational act.
Being personal, and being the target of derision, it can be hard to talk about, and I’ll probably need some practice getting it right. This is just a start.
This time, initially faced with a blank page and uncertainty of content, I arrive at the bottom of the post having barely scratched the surface of the few notes I had for this first one.
I don’t know how many will join me on here (I appreciate that many won’t), and we’ll see how it goes. I’m still a little emotionally “hung over” from the Inauguration and change of government — still basking in a warm glow of relief, which makes it hard to focus.
Stay spiritual, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.