Saturday, 13 March 2010

Rationalising Religion…

Think of the Christian God not as the entity presented to you in Church but as a 2000 year-old allegory or anthropomorphisation based on a well-used concept that was many thousands of years old by the time Christianity cropped up. If you think of God as an unsophisticated explanation for the things that happen, and religion as giving that idea a form and function and a story to follow (though evermore complicated as we’ve become more sophisticated as a species).

Mankind is innately drawn to patterns. We invariably look to make these patterns make sense from a somewhat egocentric, human standpoint. Apophenia (seeing patterns in meaninglessness) causes us to see human faces in clouds, on pieces of toast, or in the topology of the moon - it's also what's caused us to see a humanesque intelligence behind inscrutable acts of random in the universe.

Mankind loves stories - our ability to speak, communicate and impart information both directly and indirectly is part of our evolutionary rise.

Give an unsophisticated mind a "plausible" reason and a captivating story and you've got their heart and their mind - then get them to indoctrinate their young from birth and you've got their minds, too, for the same level of effort. Then explain the apparently inexplicable fact of prayers not being answered or tragedies happening and it's God's will (and is our failure to understand God's will so far different from our inability to understand the acts of another human, especially one of the opposite gender?).

Think of spirituality in the same way – we try and find humanistic patterns and stories to help us explain our experiences to ourselves.

To my way of thinking a non-theistic belief system that is elastic enough to accept change and still maintain a credible ‘story’ about us and our place in the universe is science. Science is a way of telling ourselves stories using observable fact or logical deduction.

The language of science is generally not that of a storyteller in the traditional sense, but of maths and abstraction, but there are people out there, Carl Sagan being one of them (RIP), Terry Pratchett (and recent collaborators) being another, that can talk about science beautifully, poetically and in a humanistic way.

I believe it’s this ability in humanity to tell true stories (fact dressed as fiction rather than the prevailing fiction dressed as fact of the last 2000 years) that is the next stage in our mental (and spiritual) evolution.

The universe is more awesome when there isn’t some little guy behind the curtain pushing the smoke, mirror, or bullshit buttons.

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