Science vs. Religion – I’m not venturing there; I don’t think they’ll ever kiss and makeup. The Internet and religion however: now I think they can be good friends.
I’m going to be deviating from my usual rule of not discussing religion.
Don’t be afraid, I’m not going to make a habit of it!
Last month Carl wrote a great, perceptive piece called The Rise of Atheism about how the Internet is facilitating a renaissance in popular atheism: religion – or lack thereof – is cool again. Of course it goes the other way with people “finding out about fundamentalism and how much fun it can be”, but does it go laterally? Is the widespread dissemination of information about different religions converting people, or are the religious majority stuck in a rut of belief about their ‘one true religion’?
Then, two weeks ago, Scott Young wrote an interesting article about Creating Your Own Religion . This resonated with me, as since Carl’s post I was also set on a thought path (or ‘internal conflict’) about my own religion that had been going on inside my mind for a couple of years: I was having a Crisis of Faith.
I wondered whether it was really possible to be relaxed with your religion and use it more as a philosophy on how to run your life rather than a mantra that dictates it? Can we convert not to or from religion, but into a new religion – or philosophical mindset – of our own devices? As Scott advocates, can I really experiment with my belief system, straying from the idealised, trodden path laid out by others, even if it is in direct contradiction with some definitive doctrine of it?
I believe so. We can modify our beliefs, straying from the accepted definition(s) or assumptions of religion without having internal conflict… of our religious, philosophical or scientific minds.
Many aren’t interested in categorising themselves as being in a certain faith’s organization however, and as such it’s the ‘core values’ that really matter to people, giving a ‘life meaning’ and some moral direction in which to live it. For others, having the definitive ‘direction’ that comes with categorisation is important and lends a helping hand. But then, of course, the bigger questions are important too (such as the afterlife: heaven/hell vs. reincarnation vs. endless nothingness) as they can dictate an actual real-life religious affiliation for those that want that guidance.
I’m sure all but the most ‘devout’ atheists have considered why they are here and what the ‘meaning of life’ is, even if for a fleeting second. This isn’t exactly important for the daily running of our lives, but finding answers to these questions in any given faith/philosophy allows us to find guidance on how to best live our lives and what the payoff of doing it in a certain way is (heaven in a religious sense, money and power for capitalist existentialist atheists (joke… sort of), or the moral high-ground from an Aristotelian viewpoint). Values and principles will guide our lives, whether we get them from interpreting a religious text, a philosophy book or from within ourselves. But finding them, interpreting them and living by them is an essential, important aspect of our lives. Without them, why would you live your life like you do?
To me, evolution is fact, and the Big Bang is practically undeniable; before this point, there was neither space nor time. Richard Dawkins is an intelligent man and Stephen Hawking is arguably more so. Yet while one refutes religion whole-heartedly, another allows space for belief in his scientific mentality and vehemently denies accusations that he is atheist (A Brief History of Time discusses God many times, at one point stating that it is wholly possible that a God initiated creation). Terry Eagleton said that “while faith, rather like love, must involve factual knowledge, it is not reducible to it”. I am a scientist in confusion, just attempting to collate my beliefs: as simple as that.
One question remains though. Does this make me religious, or am I now just an Agnostic with a moral philosophy?
Apologies if this post is written very eclectically and indiscriminately - my own confusion is compounding this when writing in a free-flow way; just typing the ideas that come to mind.
If you want me to define something, or if I’ve written something confusing, please comment and I’ll try and write a cohesive reply!