Accepting Reality

For most of the history of mankind, gods or God, explained reality.  God made us, the plants and animals.  Any event in nature, whether good or bad, was caused by gods or God.  Then science came along and explained rain, thunderstorms, earthquakes, eclipses, droughts, stars, planets, and so on.  When science explained the origin of animals and people, some religious people rebelled.

We now have people that reject science because they want to keep God.  They feel science is explaining away God.  I’m afraid they are right.  But instead of accepting reality and letting God fade away, like the gods before monotheism, they are rejecting reality.  When I was very young I rejected God and accepted science mainly because of the size of reality.  Reality seemed too immense to have been created by one being, especially one in our image.  Take a look at this video to see what I mean.

God was a great concept when our awareness of reality was small but once you realize the size of reality, age and scope, even at the limits of what we know now, that knowledge changes everything philosophically.  Humans can’t be the crown of creation.  We can’t be the center of the universe and the focus of God’s attention.  We can’t be special if we’re so small and insignificant.

So what is our place in the reality?  Years ago I would have asked, what is our place in the universe, but it appears our universe might be one of an infinity of universes, and this round of 13.7 billion years since the Big Bang, only a single bubble in a foam of universes.  Science now talk of the multiverse, but I prefer the term reality to encompass it all.

Humans are here in this vast reality by an accident of randomness.  We won’t always be here.  Reality existed before us, and it will exist after us.  Being here is the biggest miracle we’ve yet discovered.  It’s a miracle that outshines any miracle ever recorded in all of the religions of the world.

I think its time we reject the theory of God and start accepting reality for what it is.  Start asking questions about what existing in this vast reality means.  Becoming self-aware in this immense reality is a great opportunity.  Instead of destroying the Earth and committing species suicide we need to think about what we could become.  Don’t ask what is our purpose.  Under religion our purpose was to obey God.  Reality doesn’t work that way.  We each have to find our own purpose if we want one, but reality expects nothing of us.  We can’t have a personal relationship with reality.  Each of us is an awareness of reality, but most of us pretend we’re not here.

Erase all the past thoughts of religion and philosophy.  You just woke up in an unknown place.  Take stock in your surroundings.  You know that old saying, think global but act local – do the same for reality.  Our philosophy should be based on our best picture of reality.  Start with cosmology and work your way down.  Most people define reality by their very small personal delusions.  I say, any philosophy that doesn’t account for the size of reality dooms itself to a cockroach mentality.  A cockroach scurries about satisfying its personal urges unaware of its environment.  A cockroach does not know it’s in your kitchen because it doesn’t see the big picture.

There is only one human endeavor that tells us about reality, and that’s science.  I suggest starting at the top, and work down.  NOVA presented a wonderful four part series called The Fabric of the Cosmos hosted by Brian Greene based on his book of the same name.

Fabric of the Cosmos 1: What is Space?

Fabric of the Cosmos 2: The Illusion of Time

Fabric of the Cosmos 3: Quantum Leap

Fabric of the Cosmos 4:  University or Multiverse

Maybe there’s still room for religion in reality, I don’t know.  But any religion that ignores what we know about reality is delusional.

JWH – 2/11/12

God, An Imaginary Friend For Adults

There are no atheists in foxholes” is an assumption by the faithful who feel in times of stress all people will turn to God.  When I’m sick I want to talk to God too.  The older I get the stronger my atheism gets, the more I feel like I’m just talking.  I don’t expect a reply.  When we’re alone, fearful or in pain, we realize how powerless we are.  So it’s quite natural to think, “God, get me out of this!”

Who are we talking to?  Ourselves, of course.  But we’d like to think that someone is listening.  That’s why people believe in a personal God – to have a listener, to not be alone.  Lonely kids make up imaginary friends, well adults make up God.   We don’t like to be alone in the universe.  Nor do we like to be helpless.  The desire for an all-powerful, caring, father figure is completely understandable.  Even if he’s going to let us suffer and die, we want someone to talk to.

On the other hand, are we really alone in our heads?  We tend to think of our thoughts as ourselves, but if you observe closely, they aren’t.  Descartes, “Cogito ergo sum” or “I think therefore I am” is another illusion.  Pay close attention to your thoughts and you’ll realize the quality you feel as Me is actually listening to your thoughts.  The Me observer is so close to the thoughts that it thinks its doing the thinking.  Stare at something and not think, and then watch when a thought arises.  There is a separation.  In other words, you aren’t alone.  It’s you and your thoughts.  The observer and thinker.

Animals are observers like us, but without thoughts, or a thinker.

Now here’s the kicker.  It’s the thinker that needs to talk. It’s the thinker that needs to communicate with God.  If you just BE and turn off your thoughts you’re just an observer, there is no God, or even desire.  It’s the thinker that wants, that desires, that creates God, and all the other stuff, like mathematics, history, philosophy, justice, love, etc.  It’s the observer who is aware, who is conscious, and who dies.

So, why does the thinker want to create God?  Why does the thinker need this imaginary friend?  Before awareness in animals there was no observers of reality.  Hydrogen became stars without notice.  Animals perceive reality through an infinity of senses.  Animals can feel the warmth of the sun without knowing what it is, because they don’t have language to think.

Then we came along and started thinking.  Thoughts see things that don’t exist in reality.  Thoughts see other thoughts.

Why? 

Our thinking minds are quite creative.  It’s my thinking mind writing this now.  And my Me-ness observes that.

Children create imaginary beings to have someone to talk to.  We create God to have someone to talk to. 

What we really want is another thinker to talk to.

thoughts

JWH – 1/21/12

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels is both fascinating and tedious.  Who Jesus was has been argued by billions for thousands of years, so why should anyone assume we can solve an unsolvable puzzle?  Before the Catholic Church became the monolithic institution that defined Christianity for centuries, there were a few centuries after Christ’s death where many different Christian beliefs flourished, and among those were the Gnostics.  Gnosticism wasn’t limited to Christian thinking, but Christian Gnosticism in various forms were large enough movement that early orthodox leaders wrote books teaching against Gnostic thinking.  Gnostics were heretics early orthodox Christians hated even more than the Romans.  The orthodox did everything it could to wipe out the heretics and burn all their books.  In 1945 we found 52 texts at Nag Hammadi, Egypt.

gnostic-gospels

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels is a short overview of alternate Christian beliefs before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.  Now here’s the rub.  You have many Christian philosophies before 325 AD, then hundreds of years of the Catholic Church, and many Christian philosophies after the Protestant Reformation in 1517.  The Catholic Church spent centuries hammering out who Christ was and what his teachings meant, but there are always other people believing he taught something different.  Gnostics had very radical ideas about Christ that sound just as good or better.  Who is the real Jesus?

How Christianity evolved is a fascinating historical mystery.  I’ve been watching Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication, A Great Course lecture by Bart D. Ehrman.  I got The Gnostic Gospels as a supplement.  The Gnostics are intriguing because they claim to have secret knowledge of Jesus based on his mystical teachings, like Eastern religions.  Some Gnostics thought the virgin birth and bodily resurrection were silly stories the orthodox Christians believed in and claim to know the real truth.  They said Jesus taught that the Kingdom of Heaven was within and had already arrived and with the right practices and secret knowledge it would be revealed here on Earth.  It wasn’t faith, but direct experience.

While studying these early Christians I got a strange idea.  History is full of religious charlatans and con men.  What if Jesus had been a con man gathering his flock with a promise of secret knowledge.  Then he gets killed, and after that all his followers taught something different about his “secret knowledge” creating endless religions never knowing they had been conned.  Most people like to assume that one view of Christ is the right one.  But what if they are all wrong?

The more I study the history of Christianity the more its obvious that every Christian see a different Jesus and it’s impossible to know the real Jesus.  Reading The Gnostic Gospels only made me feel more conclusively that Jesus and his teachings are unknowable – and all we can know is an endless series of imaginary Christs created by people who have their on unique beliefs.

JWH 1/4/12

Is Science Fiction a Modern Substitute for Religion?

Most people will think I’m nuts for suggesting that science fiction is a modern substitute for religion, but look at this comparison chart.

 

Religion Science Fiction
God Super advanced alien, AI
Greek gods, Hindu gods Superheroes, aliens
God knows what you are thinking Mind reading
God can be everywhere Teleportation
God’s touch Telekinesis
All knowing Super AI
God creates world L5 space colony
God destroys world Death Star, space opera spaceships, atomic war, etc.
God creates land, sea, animals Terraforming
Prayer ESP
Heaven Other planets, cyber worlds
Hell Other planets
Devine realms Multiverse, other dimensions
Immortal Soul Life extension, immortality
Flying Airplanes, rockets, anti-gravity, jetpacks, superheroes
Angels Aliens
Devils Aliens
God creates man Man creates robots, AI, artificial life
Noah’s ark Generation ship, space colonies
Virgin birth Cloning, genetic engineering
Healing powers ESP, Super science medicine
Prophets Precognition
Wine to water Atomic alchemy
Walking on water Levitation, anti-gravity
Resurrecting the dead, rebirth Brain downloading, cloning, Homo sapiens 2.0

Hubris knows know bounds.  If you study the history of religions and myths you will see people have always wanted God-like powers.  Science fiction appears to say:  If God won’t give us these powers we’ll get them ourselves, or from aliens.

How long have people wanted to be more than what they are?  How long have people wanted reality to be different?

On the other hand, how often do people find acceptance in what is?

JWH – 10/24/11

You Are An Atheist

If there are a thousand different gods most people would be an atheist to 999 or 1,000 of them.  People only hate atheists who disbelieve in their god, and they never think about themselves being an atheist to other people’s gods.

Which leads me to believe that the dislike of atheists is not about disbelieving in a god, but hating people who don’t agree with you.  Most people who are insecure in their beliefs join groups of like minded people.  This reinforces their beliefs and makes them feel more secure.  The most insecure people will spend all their time trying to convert other people to believe the same way they do because it strengthens their view on reality.  It’s a mechanism for maintain sanity.

For these insecure folk encountering people who disbelieve what they believe hurts their confidence and insults them personally.  But they do not think about how their own disbeliefs hurts other people.  People who are riled the most by meeting an atheist, are often just as riled at meeting someone from a different political party, or even meeting a fan of another football team.

Few people are happy to believe what they believe and not be bothered at all by what other people believe.

Among Jews, Christians and Muslims who claim to worship the same exact god, there is no agreement and a lot of lethal animosity.  Which again makes me think it’s not about the deity but the sensitivity of believers.  If you asked the followers of the god of Abraham about the gods of Greece, Rome, Persia, India, China, or all the religions of the Americas and Africa what they think of those gods and they will flatly reject them all as superstitious nonsense in the same way as Dawkins or Hitchens dismiss their god.  They think nothing of being atheists to other people’s god, yet they puff themselves up about their own hatred of atheists.

What we really hate are people who disagree with us.  The trouble is some people hate this more than others.  Some people want to wipe out everyone who disagrees with their beliefs, or at least seek to convert the unbelievers.  It’s like that Paster Mike Stahl who wanted to create a national registry for atheists patterned on the registry for sex offenders.  Of course even that isn’t as severe as in some Muslim countries where they just kill the atheists or anyone that they think insults their god or prophet.

Why do they feel the need to do this?  If their god is all powerful can’t he handle unbelievers in his own way?  Like I said, it has nothing to do with gods.  It’s all about hating people who challenge your beliefs, no matter what they are.  In some cultures disrespect is a reason to fight or kill.

For the faithful, the strength of hating unbelievers is directly proportional to their own insecurities.

The problem is we don’t all think alike, and on some level we’re all atheists to other people’s beliefs.  We need a system to protect everyone from this war of beliefs.  That’s why the founders of the United States created the concept of separation of church and state.  And it’s why we don’t want Rick Perry and other political evangelicals leading a New Apostolic Reformation in the 2012 Presidential campaign.

These apostolic and prophetic folk are so insecure in their beliefs that they want to take dominion over the government of the United States, and if you disagree with them you’re an atheist.  This is pretty scary.  It’s just as scary to me if absolute atheists wanted to take over the government and outlaw religion.  Not all atheists are alike, and neither are all religious folk.  Us people in the middle have to always fear the extremes at both ends.

Citizens in the middle feel everyone should have their own beliefs and keep religion out of politics, whether we’re religious or not.  The trouble is if one extreme or the other tries to take control it will force everyone to take sides in a civil war of beliefs.  Do you really want that?  Even if you’re very religious, will you believe in the same way as the New Apostolic Reformation believers?

Like I said, atheism isn’t always about god, and sometimes believers in god will become atheists to other believers.

The solution to the problem is simple.  Never vote for anyone who campaigns on a religious agenda.  No matter how religious you are, you actually do want the government to be impartial and atheistic to all religions, otherwise it can’t maintain the concept of freedom of religion.

JWH – 9/5/11

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