Knowledge of God (epistemological ranting)

It occurs to me that standards for qualifying something as a “religious experience” are way higher than they used to be (say, hundreds of years ago). Like, super stringent. We are so wired nowadays to not count something as real unless it is externally verifiable or just flat out grabs us and shakes us to our core. Even something that leaves us merely dumbfounded is susceptible to skeptical scrutiny. I bet if Modern Day Mo Schmoses happened to see a burning bush on the way to work one day and then “heard” a silent command interrupt his quotidian thoughts, he would probably shrug it off as kids playing with matches and having had too much coffee that morning.

It’s like we dare God to make us believe in It.

Problem is that that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, as well as it being simply self-centered to insist that something isn’t real or personally relevant unless it significantly intervenes in one’s default consciousness. As far as the former goes, epistemologists have already shown how basically unworkable “greedy reductionism” is. If you want to take doubt that far, a thinker can find an infinite number of reasons to declare a proposition baseless. A pure skeptic will never find grounds to believe in supernatural forces, or even in the reality of their own existence for that matter.

But say that science does one day explain everything. Does that mean there is no Big Something Else? Science relies on analysis and analysis means breaking complex propositions down into simpler and simpler ones. At some point, you can’t see the forest for the C55 H72 O5 N4 Mg molecules.

Said another way, dissect a human heart and what you end up with is a dead human.

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Knowledge of God (epistemological ranting)

  1. I’ve heard the Mandelbot set described by physicists as the fingerprint of god. They are coming around.

    Quantum physics or fractal geometry or string theory will eventually prove god. Just you watch. It will never be the theologians, who prefer to study faith. But one day there will be a great unifying of (seeming) opposites…and then the cosmos will implode.

  2. This feels like a terribly cheesy reference, but the only thing I remember from ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ is the author proposing that modern western society is not, in fact, as skeptical about religion as it fancies itself. Rather, science has supplanted religion as the object of faith and devotion. What are the laws of math and physics but faith systems? These things are absolutely so because we are told they are absolutely so, and we believe they are and have always been so, despite constant barrages of evidence that don’t support our faith. Surely we hold our knowledge that gravity causes objects to fall and parallel lines never intersect as firmly as Native Americans held theirs that failure to respect the gods would result in a poor hunt. The mere fact that there is more than one kind of math, more than one set of geometric laws, means that these things are abstract, intangible constructs which we use to give our world some definition… And that’s all religion is.

  3. I’ve already concluded that nothing that God can do will make me believe in her. As in your example with the burning bush, any demonstration of God given can have another explanation, from my own delirium, to a prankster, to the intervention of aliens or other beings with “god-like” abilities. Any “higher power” does not preclude the existence of less high powers.

    So, proof, for me, is impossible. Miracles showing the grace of God, for me, are impossible. God, in a factual sense, may or may not exist: the universe may have no higher functionality, it may be nothing but cold, harsh, intermediate vector bozos. This leaves me to struggle with my own morality and mortality. But this isn’t a problem, because that is where the struggle always is.

    The times of spirit, of spirituality, are the feelings of peace, contentment, joy, and connection with the Earth, and sharing that peace, contentment, joy, and connection with a person or group of people. I can easily remember times when those feelings were strongest, like on a mild autumn day, standing on a beach with the moist and salty ocean wind blowing in my face. Or another time, walking through the forest, stopping and noticing the quiet, then noticing the very small sounds, like the movement of a Steller’s Jay and the Aspen leaves in the wind. If I accepted miracles as showing the grace of God, that would be proof enough for me.

  4. C55 H72 O5 N4 Mg

    alpha chlorophyll.. one of my favs..

    Never has there been more proof of god than C55 H72 O5 N4 Mg
    I mean dear gawd.. it’s implicit in it’s divine structure!! It is clearly a
    sign of a benevolent super being. And, if I may say so, should grab
    everyone and shake them to the core. If not, then these un-shaken core people are simply mindless automatons.

  5. PALMER
    It’s an old story. I grew up in South Boston, more or less on the streets. By the time I was thirteen I’d tried my first hit of heroin, by fifteen I’d stopped using but I was dealing full-time. By the time I was nineteen I decided I didn’t want to live any more, at least not in a world like that. One day I got on a bus; I got as far as Ohio before my money ran out, and after that I just kept walking. Didn’t eat, didn’t sleep… just walked. I ended up collapsing in a wheat field. There was a storm… I woke up. That’s about as far as words’ll go.

    ELLIE
    Can you try?

    PALMER
    I had… an experience. Of belonging. Of unconditional love. And for the first time in my life I wasn’t terrified, and I wasn’t alone.

    ELLIE
    And there’s no chance you had this experience simply because some part of you needed to have it?

    PALMER
    Look, I’m a reasonable person, and reasonably intelligent. But this experience went beyond both. For the first time I had to consider the possibility that intellect, as wonderful as it is, is not the only way of comprehending the universe. That it was too small and inadequate a tool to deal with what it was faced with.

    ELLIE
    you may not believe this… but there’s a part of me that wants more than anything to believe in your God. To believe that we’re all here for a purpose, that all this… means something. But it’s because that part of me wants it so badly that I’m so stubborn about making sure it isn’t just self-delusion. Of course I want to know God if there is one… but it has to be real. Unless I have proof how can I be sure?

    PALMER
    Do you love your parents?

    ELLIE
    (startled)
    I never knew my mother. My father died when I was nine.

    PALMER
    Did you love him?

    ELLIE
    Yes. Very much.

    PALMER
    Prove it.

    • One of my favorite scenes. It captures so elegantly the very transformation and questions that I’ve gone through. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched the movie now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s