“Space is big. Really big.”
When I started blogging here, one of the first bloggers I followed was Robin, of Witless Dating After Fifty. Over the years, she’s several times mentioned a great question her dad often posed when discussing religion with someone: “How big is your god?”
Last week my buddy and I were having our weekly beer- and gab-fest and our (typically very meandering) conversation came to touch on the problems with young Earth creationism — the Christian fundamentalist idea that the universe is only thousands of years old.
In fact, there’s a pair of real whopper problems involved!
Despite the title, this post isn’t as strongly related to the previous three as the naming convention suggests. I don’t really have much to say about religious predestination. If anything, my views on spirituality are key to a belief in free will and choice. The religion I was raised in seems (at least to my eye) quite clear that we are allowed to choose our actions.
The connection to those other posts lies in picking up the thread of physical determinism — normally a necessarily atheist point of view — and doing a riff on religion, spirituality and atheism. This is the post I started to write last Sunday when my mind took off in a completely different direction.
This time I’m going to try sticking to the subject!
A while ago, a popular mass-produced beer had some commercials that revolved around the line, “Why ask why?” While most beer commercials seem on the stupid side to me anyway (one brand’s only selling point seems to be “coldness”), those especially bugged me. Actually, as I recall, the commercials were pretty cute; it was the idea that asking Why? is pointless that bugged me.
I believe that asking Why? is a uniquely human trait. Animals accept existence; humans question it. And while there is a certain important Zen-like quality to accepting existence, I believe the questions are also important.
Science is really nothing more than the process of asking Why?
Last week I went a few comment rounds over on the Moment Matters blog under the Breaking Prejudice on Atheists post. The post’s lead topic—that a study showed that atheists are just as caring as theists—doesn’t surprise me at all. Atheists, after all, believe that all meaning in life comes from within and that the universe is a cold, empty, uncaring vastness dotted with little sparks of life here and there.
Now, I’ve always found fanatical atheists to be just as annoying—just as wrong (in my view, obviously)—as fanatical theists. If you are incapable of acknowledging that your worldview is not factually based and therefore could be incorrect, I basically consider you to be… well, insane. That is to say that the reality inside your head does not correlate accurately with the external reality.
But what I wanted to write about today was the idea that agnostics are indecisive. As an agnostic with spiritual leanings, I think that is bullshit.
One of the things that strikes me about the idea of God is how universal that idea is. To the best of my knowledge, every society in every age has had some sort of spiritual core belief.
I used to state this as the assertion that every society believed in some sort of god or gods, but it was pointed out to me that Buddhists don’t actually have a god. They do have some metaphysical entities, and more importantly, Buddhism is certainly a belief in a metaphysical reality that transcends this one.
So the question is: if humans universally find themselves finding God(s), what does this mean?
It would seem to mean one of two things: First, that there is some universal twitch in the human mind that invents the idea of god to account for the nature of existence. Alternately, it could mean that humans apprehend some aspect of reality (as we do justice and equality) that really does exist.
Atheists are quite clear on it being the former. Theists are equally clear on it being the latter.