Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Credo (If I Had One)


God. If such an entity exists, must surely be the one manifest and present in all creation; impersonal, beyond rational analysis and incapable of comprehension by the human intellect – usually termed the God of Spinoza (or the God of Nature), the same one Einstein espoused.


Organised religions are philosophically rationalised, unnecessarily extrapolated (well beyond the reach of Occam’s Razor) interpretations of the founder’s search for a personal relationship with God. This search for a rationalised, personal God reached its apogee in Calvinism, where God is given fully human attributes – which makes him a bit scary to say the least and rather unpalatable (think Margaret Thatcher).


Any deep search for a personal relationship with the infinite would appear to demand a high degree of mysticism, often involving fasting, sleep deprivation, meditation, withdrawal from daily life, intense prayer, drugs or even sex to produce an altered state of mind receptive to the immanent. Some can achieve this rapture or union through communal song, watching the precise timing of the Riverdance finale (I know - I was there) or having been present at a Led Zep or Pink Floyd gig.


Such altered states have generally shown to lead to a conversation with one’s own subconscious, the result being nothing more theologically valid than one’s existing personal prejudices tinged with a fleeting feeling of connection with something greater than oneself – interpreted as ‘the infinite’. The analogy I would use is the good and bad drug ‘trip’. In the words of Meister Eckhart, a 13th and 14th century Dominican mystic: "The Eye with which I see God is the same Eye with which God sees me." 


This feeling of immanence bolsters and buffers the pre-existing beliefs and prejudices of the 'adept', as evidenced by some people doing incredibly evil things under the firm belief they were told to do it by God. Basically, if you’re a bad bugger to start with, glimpsing the infinite will make you infinitely worse; if you’re good, you become infinitely holier-than-thou - and insufferable.


It is not coincidental that Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed and a host of religiously inspired sages prefaced their ministry with the adoption of ascetic practises – fasting in the wilderness for 40 days, periods of intense meditation, spending years living up a pole, etc. Only the Buddha seems to have focused on attaining an egoless state of mind and emptying his head of all thought and longing, which is perhaps why he didn’t see a 'god' in his experience of the ‘infinite’ - just bloke things.


Some seekers simply suffer from schizophrenia and are unable to distinguish their own internal voices from real external ones – reality and fantasy become blurred – a bit like being David Cameron.


All glimpses of the infinite are as valid as any other and to presume your glimpse has any more validity (while natural, due to it being subjective and totally personal) is both presumptuous and hubristic. Therefore the polytheist’s view is as valid as that of the monotheist – they are merely different views of the same psychological phenomenon, mediated through cultural and personal filters. Living in Manchester doesn't bode well for your transcendental experience.


I don’t disbelieve than man is a spiritual entity – I simply believe spirituality is man’s attempt to define his relationship with the infinite universe. Thus atheists can be as spiritual as the theist, if not more so due to the absence of needlessly extrapolated religious dogma based on a foundation of sand through the search for a non-existent personal God and a philosophical focus on the nature and attributes of God, rather than its essence.


It is from a rationalistic search for the nature of God (and utter certainty) that fundamentalism arises – If we assume he’s thus, then God must also have this attribute and think so-and-so. It’s all based on anthropomorphism and an assumption God is entirely like us – heaven forbid!

If God is present in everything (including us), then the laws of nature necessarily flow from God with the consequence that there can be no such phenomena as miracles, prophesy or anything we call the supernatural – they would be against the natural order (or ‘will of God’, if you prefer a theological metaphor, despite Spinoza’s God not having a will).


However, I don’t believe in God – only the incredible beauty and majesty of the universe, the mind-blowing power of quantum mechanics, the enigma of consciousness and the break-up of large banks.


Yesterday my son was told by his physics teacher that it is not possible to create something from nothing. If you're religious, you won't believe this; if you know anything of inflation or quantum fluctuations, you also won't believe this. Physics teachers should surely know about quantum fluctuations and inflation.



7 comments:

  1. Well, speaking as a Calvinist Cow, I think you have us totally wrong.

    But I'm right there with you on these ....

    "The incredible beauty and majesty of the universe, the mind-blowing power of quantum mechanics, the enigma of consciousness and the break-up of large banks."

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  2. Ermintrude - you're not the sainted Margaret, are you?

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    1. One is not worthy!

      She, by the way, wasn't a Calvinist.

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  3. "Thus atheists can be as spiritual as the theist, if not more so due to the absence of needlessly extrapolated religious dogma..."

    You make big presumptions here about theism. Be careful with your needlessly extrapolated non-religious dogma. :)

    "It is from a rationalistic search for the nature of God (and utter certainty) that fundamentalism arises"

    Your parenthetical is the point here - it is from a rationalistic search for utter certainty that fundamentalism arises. Theists most definitely do not have a corner on fundamentalism!

    There's much to like in this rant, but you really need to meet a more diverse crowd of theists and people of such ilk - I suspect the media lens is selling you are distorted perspective on contemporary belief.

    *waves*

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  4. Chris: I should has said "religious fundamentalism", rather than merely "fundamentalism".

    You can't deny that the less a religion says about the nature of God, the less it engages in the nasty side of fundamentalism. The extreme is Buddhism, which says nothing at all about God.

    All Abrahamic religions seem to have gone through a phase of mysticism, but then dumped it in favour of a search for a personal God.

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  5. Wise words oh atheist master;

    If you ask 1000 theists what theism means you'll get 1000 different answers; amusingly they think this means something other than theism is completely man-made? I'm still waiting to meet the theist who says "yeah it's a lot of superstitious solipsism but it makes me feel good" - that would be an honest person.

    The other mistake they usually make is thinking that atheists simply "don't understand religion", the fact is that most atheists were raised as theists of one kind or another, they know precisely what it's like to be a theist and have rejected it even so.

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    1. I'm still waiting to meet the theist who says "yeah it's a lot of superstitious solipsism but it makes me feel good" - that would be an honest person.

      Not really - it would simply mean that they were not a theist.

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