Thursday, November 17, 2011

Questioning Everything

It's something every good philosopher must do. They must do this, or they are not truly a philosopher, but a talker and maybe an occasional thinker (from time to time). A true philosopher can discover nothing if they begin from their assumptions, because they will always end in the same place (or at least similar places). If you begin your assumptions believing there is a god, you will wind up in one place. If you begin your assumptions believing there could not be a god, you will wind up in a specific place. And if you begin your assumptions not caring less about the question and ignoring it completely, you will wind up somewhere else[s] entirely.

I have always begun with the belief that, whether or not there was a god, I wanted there to be one. I determined early on that there was in fact, a god, and it wasn't until much later on that I decided I didn't care if there was a god or not, I wanted to believe in one anyway. After all, it never hurt anyone to believe in something like god, right?

Of course many have and do argue that believing in god actually has done people ill, and they are only partially correct in this. Generally speaking, it is the religion that people put their faith in, the ones providing them with their god, that brings ill to people's lives. Rarely does one witness a belief in god outside of religion that in and of itself causes harm. Even in the cases of the insane who believe things about god or believe in a god that causes them to harm themselves or others, it really is the psychological illness, not the idea of god, that is the poison. They could just have easily believed in the CIA or FBI or republicans or suburban moms and done the same thing.

So why is god such a big deal? Why are people so willing to fight and hurt each other over the arguments for or against the existence of god? Why will people smear each other's morals, intelligence, and ability based on this one belief that they hold (or don't)? We don't kill each other over our beliefs about how long we should date before we marry, or how old we should be to bear children, or what kinds of shoes are the most comfortable (unless, of course, one is absolutely and legitimately crazy). What is it about this belief that seems to bring out all of the worst things in people?

I suppose that religion's history might have something to do with it. If one is religious, one sees a history that has mistakes, yes, but has brought much comfort and goodness to the lives of many, bringing much needed direction and support for communities. If one is non-religious (especially if one has a belief in the non-existence of a deity) then one tends to see all of the wars, the violence, the corporal punishment, and the nitpicking over religious ideals that has gone on and does go on. And these are both legitimate points of view.

Of course this also begs the question, why do religious people bicker among themselves about the smallest details of religious and theological belief and practice.

So far the only answer I know of is, because everyone else is arguing about it. We've grown up in a world where the idea of god is still a powerful one, for good or bad, for a lot of people. I was raised to believe that not believing in god was the worst possible thing for anyone's life, so of course the idea of not believing in god still terrifies the shit out of me, no matter how rationally I try to approach the issue. And the thing is, even if I do eventually decide to believe in the existence of a god, if I can't stop believing long enough to really think it over, than am I really believing or just being coerced out of fear into saying something that I know I'm supposed to believe? I think that the latter is true, and has been true pretty much my whole life. This isn't to say that I didn't genuinely believe, but I think that faith that is not got at genuinely, that is not genuinely chosen from an informed and coercion-free state of mind, is not real faith. It's brainwashing. So even if there is a god, and this god has the power to make my life infinitely better if I will just have faith in this god, I don't think I will be able to access this mystical spiritual power if my faith is little more than powerful psychological conditioning.

And then comes the question, if there is a god, what the hell would a god be like? The problem with the current model of god held by most religious people in the U.S. is that it is so damn outdated. If you take a look at what most Christians (to pick a religion I'm familiar with) think and believe about god, you will find that it matches up best with Greek ideas of the perfect being (and, quite frankly, the Greeks were off about a helluva lot of things; like who constituted a citizen and what kinds of sex were and weren't acceptable--their standards on anal sex and when it was and wasn't okay are frankly disturbing).

Then there is the issue of a person-god. I mean, how arrogant is it to anthropomorphise everything we see and make it like us? We talk about our pets like their people, and animals in general, we tend to assume other people think like us, and even god has been made out to be a person like us. We talk about god's hands, arms, face, and then there are god's myriad emotions; god is sad, angry, disappointed, happy, rejoicing, grieved, jealous, and quite frankly very fickle in most of the bible.

Plus there is the undeniable fact that every, and I mean every ancient culture that I have ever read about had some theological or magical/mystical way of explaining everyday events around them. We know for a fact that they were wrong about almost everything else that comprised their understanding of the world around them. They didn't understand sex, procreation, illness, healing, proper food preparation or storage, psychology, anatomy, the earth, the stars, the moon, the sun, the universe, the weather, or pretty much any of the stuff that (we think) we understand now.

As we evolve I would expect at the very least that if god was a real concept with a real application, whatever that might be, our understanding of god would and should evolve along with our understanding of everything else that make up our world around us.

Honestly, there is no way of believing in god that does not seem kooky, bizarre, weird, out there, crazy, insane, and absurd. I have at least come to terms with that fact. What really bothers me, though, is the fact that there is no way for us to understand our universe and the world around us that is not absolutely nuts. We currently have zero, and I mean zero theories for where our world came from and how we got here that make any sense at all (if you don't believe me, just take a philosophy course; preferably not at a religious institution though, they tend to be very, very heavily biased). There are theories that we came from something tiny, an atom or a sea of goop, or something; but then, where did that come from? And where did the thing before that come from? You see? So either this universe has simply always existed, or something that created the universe always existed, or it came from nothing whatsoever. And quite frankly, the idea that the universe came from an atom that always existed is no more absurd or logical than the idea that the universe came from a god or deity or life force that always existed, or that it came out of nothing. This universe, quite frankly, has stumped us all.

I have no idea what I believe, and sometimes I wish I could just be a kid again and not think about it. Ever. But I'm not a kid and these are the kinds of questions that haunt me, questions I will likely never find a concrete answer to. I wouldn't be surprised if no one ever did. And in the end, it takes just as much faith to believe the universe came from nothing as it does to believe it came from an atom, or from an unseen life force, or just always was. It is all equally absurd.

Welcome to the madness.

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