Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Reason to Believe

another country heard from, metaphorically speaking, as i am still in the usa, although fairly close to the border with canada. i have followed the previous discussions with great interest, and occasionally the fascination one has with a train wreck. though i am unqualified to formally debate epistemology i do have some opinions. here goes.

Reason, science, and knowledge are not synonyms. i think they have been conflated a bit, not necessarily explicitly, but inferentially. and science is not an antonym to religion. one may have faith (complete confidence) that the scientific method is the most rational approach to the study of the natural world, and one may have faith (belief in supernatural power). knowledge (wikipedia informs me) may be a posteriori (learned) or a priori (from introspection). science leans toward learned knowledge, faith towards introspection. religion, all too often i think, depends on dogma and cultural transmission of someone else's received knowledge. we would all be better off if more people were skeptical of second hand revelations.

i do not believe that there is a personal god, or rather i believe that there is not a personal god, as the only evidence of god seems to be the assurance of other humans. yes, i am discounting our very existence as evidence of a deity. i have had my own experiences of the oneness of existence and was deeply moved and consider those moments important in the development of what little maturity i have. but there was no sense of a god or anything with which i would have a relationship beyond what we mostly agree is physical reality. i do not deny the reality of others' experiences of god's existence but must assume they are misinterpreting such an experience. i do, on the basis of my own subjective experience, suspect that consciousness may be non-local, but i haven't made any decisions based on that suspicion.

so far as religion encourages people to positive virtues such as compassion, truthfulness, and respect for all and enjoins murder, theft, assault, and slander i see it as positive, and i am pleased when religious or spiritual people come to a universalist ethical stance. but the strictures around birth, death, and sex are too often an insult to humanity. i consider the attempt to make birth control unavailable to anyone, for instance, to be immoral. we don't even have to look further than today's news to see the influence of religion in war. all sides claim divine backing. so i see big R Religion as a curse on humanity. our cross to bear, if i may make light here.