Friday, 29 October 2010

Wisdom and Beliefs

This week I received a chain mail urging me to pass it on or I would miss out on getting some money. I chose to pass it on partly in support of the friend who sent it, but partly because one never knows, or as I put it, I wanted to hedge my bets. I normally don't do that with chain mail as I vehemently disagree with them precisely because they prey on people's vulnerabilities. So why did I this time? It was a bit of fun. I don't really think it will alter my life at all. However, it started me thinking about what people do believe in and why.

One of the things that irritate me about some highly talented and respected scientists including David Attenborough and Richard Dawkins is their dismissals and criticism of religion. It angers me because, for many people all they've got left to keep them going is a faith as that's how hard and lonely life can be for them. I still admire the work of these people but cannot condone their stance to eradicate what for many is their only lifeline.

Moving in cycles
Charles Darwin's book 'The Origin of the Species' introduced the concept of Evolution. It did not negate the existence of God and cannot. One of the quirks of science is that one theory is rubbished in favour of a better one. However, its habit is to return to the original theory from a different angle, which then marries with the new theory, which in turn develops into a new theory.

Newton's theory on Gravity did not fit with Einstein's Theory of Relativity until they did this and Einstein's theory was itself brought into question when people started exploring quantum physics. So who knows, maybe the God of Creation will be the entity responsible for the Big Bang, String Theory, Membrane Universes etc.

Religions evolve too and it is wrong to think that they don't. "If all were of the same religious opinion, there would be no religion. No sooner does a religion start than it breaks into pieces. The process is for the religion to go on dividing until each man has his own religion, until each man has thought out his own thoughts and carved out for himself his own religion." Swami Vivekananda. Within each religion there is variation.

On the radio this week was a programme about Salman Rushdie's 'Satanic Verses' and how it led to books being burnt, rioting, death threats and people being killed. Extremes are, by their nature, dangerous because they are obsessive and inflexible. I know of no religion that hasn't got its extremist version where leaders dictate and shun those who don't follow their edicts.

Yet scriptures from all religions are written by mere mortals... and what do we know about mortals? They have been known to corrupt and distort things for their own benefit and to sell the ideas they are passionate about, among other things. Humans are imperfect, so therefore any interpretation of God is likely to be inadequate in some way.

What is uncanny though is the fact that all human communities from the dawn of time have come up with the concept of God (or Gods), and they all have evolved to produce a code of ethics which in turn has formed the foundation stones for the myriad of nations and societies that we have today. The interpretation varies on both, but there is a core of moral values that are shared by all societies.

In counselling it was pointed out to me that people believe what they want to suit their own purpose. In other words, we buy into religions and spiritual ideologies that speak to us, that help explain things, comfort us or help us to walk a moral path that ties in with what we already want to feel. Science itself can be seen as a form of religion as it too has its own belief structure based on accepted knowledge just as religion does. Yet as I've already highlighted even science is not infallible and is constantly adapting to new theories.

We also buy into beliefs (including gossip) about others to suit our own needs and wants. We end up laughing at someone because we want to feel a common bond with others. It doesn't mean it's based on fact, and rarely is when it comes to gossip. We criticise others for the same faults we have ourselves if we would but look.

Devout atheists are devout on the grounds that Evolution doesn't explain the God of Ethics and Morals. For myself, I'll continue to hedge my bets. Thank you Tom Stoppard for highlighting this point in your play 'Jumpers' all those years ago. This is an extract where a philosopher is trying to prepare a talk about the subject of God.

"Is God? And then again, I sometimes wonder if the question ought not be, 'Are God?' Because it is to account for two quite unconnected mysteries that the human mind looks beyond humanity and it is two of him that philosophy obligingly provides. There is, first, the God of Creation to account for existence, and second, the God of Goodness to account for moral values." Tom Stoppard.

Final thoughts
Personally I can't see why God cannot be an energy force, for how could He/She/It/They be 'omnipresent' and 'almighty' otherwise? If that were so, God would suddenly tie in with science. That personal interpretation then opens my mind to all sorts of other possibilities so that Reiki, Acupuncture, Feng Shui, Homeopathy and Astrology might have something right about them, even if I cannot understand what. Most of those belief structures can be traced back further than modern science or current mainstream religions. Scientists find it difficult to define/prove what green is as it's all down to perception.

Religion and belief is always a good thing if it brings comfort and encourages kindness, compassion and consideration and is invariably harmful whenever and wherever it tries to bully, dictate and be unforgiving. Rather like democracy, if it is imposed it becomes tyranny.

As Dave Allen always used to say at the end of his comedy sketch shows "May your God go with you."


  1. ereligion is the opium of the people

  2. Religion is the opium of the people - Karl Marx

  3. Just about any interest can be viewed as a religion I think.


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