Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why Faith Isn't Silly

I write about religion sparingly. But, when I do, I am a defender of spiritual belief. I believe what I believe, but I'm not about foisting that on my audience, so don't run away on that account.

I do, however, get my back up a bit in the face of flippant dismissal of spiritual belief, in general. I think atheism is illogical, just as I believe blind belief is illogical. In a way, though, I think any arrogant and any smirking dismissal of belief in God (in whatever form) is an insult to all that has made us human, since the dawn of life.

Let me lay this out. Since forever, all cultures, in all parts of the world, have either created or (depending on one's viewpoint) subscribed to true beliefs in gods, a Great Spirit, God or spirits of wood and stone. During that time, of course, there have been people who have not believed. It would be silly to pretend that every Greek in ancient Athens expected Pallas Athena to show up one day at the local souvlaki stand. Sure, some didn't believe.

For the most part, though, all cultures, great and small, have been aligned to the idea of a greater power -- or powers. Every culture has explored the mystery of death and has developed its beliefs in what happens after we sleep the longest sleep. There have been any number of variants on Hades, Valhalla, Heaven and the Happy Hunting Grounds.

This can all be seen as merely a quest for understanding. This can all be seen as a desperate reaction to the fear of death -- a fictionalization of Eternal Life. But, can't it also be that the pervasiveness of these beliefs in all cultures is a confirmation of human instinct? -- of some truth buried in the chromosomes? -- a hint that we are internally aware that there is something bigger above us in the Universe?

Whatever it is, it is a thing, this belief, that has been intrinsic to the human experience since before recorded history. To reduce faith to a simple reaction to the fear of death seems silly in that light -- at least to me. It seems, from my vantage, to be something quintessentially human. Could it just be that there is some shred of truth in something so continuously pervasive in every society (no matter how far apart in terms of geography and time) that has ever existed?

Maybe we owe faith in Something Bigger a little reverence, just on that basis. I'm not calling it proof of a white-haired, kindly Grandfather in the sky, but it seems a little more important than your average dismisser of faith seems to deem it.

All of a sudden, because we are so advanced, have we reached a point at which we have definitive proof that there is no afterlife? -- no God? -- no Higher Power? -- no Tao? -- no Great Spirit?

Well, if so, we certainly are at the tip of the point of the most important arrow in history, aren't we? Or, it could be that the deriders of faith have circled the wagons and are yelling loudly and are using the weapon of the theatrics of superiority -- of stating their conclusions with an affectation of inevitability; an air of righteous condescension.

To me, total faith in science is irrational. So is any empty-headed, judgemental and exclusive kind of faith. But, you know, if it all started with a caveman looking up and worshipping the Sun as Gahook, Giver of Life...wasn't he pretty much right?

I think we need to keep perspective, no matter how full of ourselves we get. Some day, to a future generation, we, who think we are so advanced an enlightened, will be seen as quaint and primitive. It's a fact.

If the Universe (or God's creation, depending on your view) is a swimming pool, faith and science are both just small patches of algae growing in separate corners on the bottom. In any case, neither is worthy of any arrogance. Dedication, yes; arrogance, no.

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