Physics, Mysticism, and Flying Spaghetti Monsters

Even though I was born and raised catholic, I went through an experimental phase as an adolescent.  I got dunked in a river by Baptists trying to save my soul; I learned the ways of healthy living from Christian Scientists; I was taught the urgency of the apocalypse by Seventh Day Adventists; I even participated in solstice celebrations with a local Wiccan coven.  I read about Buddhism, Taoism, and Kabbalah.  I learned about Sufis and Swamis, gurus and charlatans, skeptics and believers.  I read about advances in technology and scientific theory, and about a new age return to a life without gizmos and gadgets. 

Having gathered such a wide range of experiences, I am amused by people’s inability to see common threads.  Each person/author/organization I encountered, although genuine, seemed to believe that they had a monopoly on “the truth.”  Scientist clung to their established dogma of empirical, verifiable evidence as tightly as the Baptist clung to their Holy Book.  How do I verify joy?  How do I test for the presence or absence of love?  Can you measure compassion?  Science is excellent at what it does, but its paradigm is not all inclusive of the human experience.

The same could be said for the religions.  Religion is excellent at what it does.  I think the main difference between science and religion is that science is honest about what it does, and religion says one thing and does another.  Science claims to be the objective lens, through which we discover what is true about this world, the universe, and ourselves.  Within a paradigm of Physical Matter Reality (PMR), science does an excellent job of this.

Religion, on the other hand, claims to be the way to unite all people under the direction of “the way.”  Christianity’s many sects all claim to have the truth, which if followed, will lead to everlasting life and peace on earth.  Buddhism claims to have the truth, which if followed, leads to awakening or enlightenment.  Taoism claims to have the truth, which if followed, leads to living in harmony with the Tao, or the direction in which things change.  Wicca, Kabbalah, Islam, Judaism; all claim to be The Way.

What religion is actually good at is helping people find, grow, and maintain faith.  It gives people a paradigm to channel their faith into, a way to hold it in their mind.  The only problem is that the paradigm itself becomes limiting and constrictive, and the religious defend it at all costs as if it were the thing of value.  The true thing of value is the faith inside the paradigm, not the paradigm itself.

The temptation is to become a raging atheist, reducing the idea of Divinity to a Flying Spaghetti Monster in the sky…an imaginary figment that is ridiculous, absurd, and only for the gullible.

Despite this temptation, there are common threads in the paradigms.  Science’s latest theories about the nature of the physical universe sound very much like what mystics have been saying for thousands of years.  Quantum entanglement seems to imply everything is connected.  String theory seems to imply that everything is vibrating energy.  Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle seems to imply that we’re creating our world, or that at least it is affected by our looking at it and our expectations while we’re looking at it. 

So what I’ve finally landed on is a kind of faith filled skepticism.  I believe, but I am skeptical of paradigms that define and contain that belief.  I tend to believe in the commonalities, the similarities, the universal principals that run through the ‘isms’ in our world.  Ironically, many of our ‘isms’ warn against this strategy.  They call it the ultimate evil.  I remember being warned as an adolescent, by a fundamentalist Christian bible study group, against the dangers of “picking and choosing” what I believe in. 

The alternative, being told what to believe, I find unacceptable.

merkaba33  is a contributing writer for projectgroupthink.wordpress.com. Get instant updates for this blog via Twitter: PGTblog.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Physics, Mysticism, and Flying Spaghetti Monsters

  1. KevinKMJr

    Ah, this would be one of Merkaba’s favorite debate subjects; in fact, I knew it would be his story by the title. As far as faith and religion are concerned, they are only connected by man’s need to comune with fellow man. Unfortunately, any time you get a group together with a common thought process and/or goal, they view everyone elses as incorrect.
    The key here is to rotate between seperating and joining Faith and Religion . Faith is the core of what you believe; I believe that there is a supreme being. At it’s essence, Religion was formed as a group of people sat down, discussed their beliefs, and agreed upon a common direction. Unfortunately, as groups grow, their direction tends to be imposed on others.
    My view of how to “find the path” is to sit down and discuss, not argue, beliefs with other people so that your mind is open to concepts that you may not have considered yet.

  2. Po

    Merkaba – I see Science’s latest theories pointing more towards a Buddhist reality than any of the others. Perhaps that’s why it remains one of the only “religions” I’ve ever taken even remotely seriously. Either way, this was a great article. Maybe in the future you could write something up that explores the commonalities between all of the religions you’ve studied. The whole things seems a little too warm and fuzzy to me, but I’d give it an honest read.

    Kevin- I wouldn’t have a problem with organized religion if more of it’s practitioners had as open of a mind as you. I believe if members of other faiths sat down and discussed things with one another they’d definitely develop a broader, more compassionate worldview. However, I doubt that discourse would do anything in terms of discovering a fictitious truth.

  3. KevinKMJr

    I just thought of something and fealt that it fit well here. Religions are like languages.

    If you were to gather a group of people that all speak a different language in a room and hold up a rock, they’ll al say something different. Some languages may refer to a rock as a masculine word, others as a feminine word, and some others as a neutral word. Some may only use one word to say it and others may use a combination of words to say it. When it comes down to it though, they are all trying to say the same thing, ROCK.

  4. Po

    The problem is that God is a concept, not a concrete form (such as a rock) that can be readily observed. To me, getting a bunch of theologians together to discuss God is the intellectual equivalent of bringing together a motley crew of 1st grader to discuss Santa Clause. I do suppose that what you are getting at is the collective examination of “spiritual experiences” that stretch beyond the boundaries of any one particular religion. If there is some truth to these said experiences, then yes, I agree with your proposal. But wouldn’t it then make more sense for the religious community to give up their dogma for a more universal path?

  5. KevinKMJr

    Ah, but if we all gave up our own dogma for one ‘universal’ path, we end up back at the beginning and not exploring other paths. Unless you believe in nothing other than 100% proven (not theoretical) science, then you have a belief system.

    As far as your statement, “getting a bunch of theologians together to discuss God is the intellectual equivalent of bringing together a motley crew of 1st grader to discuss Santa Clause,” is concerned, well I did not expect such a close minded and biased response on this site. I couldn’t help but to re-read the “About PGT” section that ?someone? wrote.

    Note: the above is not meant as an attack, simply a very suprised and honest observation.

  6. Po

    I understand what you’re saying, but sadly religion and free-thinking aren’t synonymous.

    If religious folks sat down to discuss the particulars of their religion they’d never get anything accomplished. There is simply too much discrepancy in say, Christianity vs. Buddhism or Islam. Instead, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on the core universal experiences that are said to be shared amongst all religions? Wouldn’t then religious people be able to find common ground? That’s all I’m saying.

    I presume you’re religious. How close do you follow the doctrine of your faith?

    • KevinKMJr

      I consider myself a Non-Denominational Christian, but my friends try to tell me that I am Unitarian. If I had to choose a denomination’s service to attend, it would be a toss up between Methodist and Presbyterian. The ‘doctrine’ of my faith was written by a group of people that sat down and decided on it long before I ever came around, and I take it under the same advisement that a child takes his/her parents’ words of experience under advisement. The only true way to find a path to inner peace, salvation, nirvana, …etc is by forging one’s own path.

      • merkaba33

        Nicely put Kevin. I like the point of forging one’s own path, and taking the opinions of our “spiritual leaders” under advisement. I like that a lot.

        I don’t think forging a Universal path is really the answer….all paths believe themselves to be universal. All one has to do is believe/agree/obey/meditate/do whatever is required.

        I would have to agree with Po that religions and free thinking are not synonymous. However, I have met a lot of people that affiliate themselves with religion that ARE very open minded. They affiliate themselves with a religion, not because they believe the dogma to the letter, but because in the absence of something better it meets their needs for a spiritual/ethical paradigm.

        I can respect this. Where I have trouble is when the followers crystalize their paradigm, becoming rigid in their beliefs. If you truly believe that *all* answers can be found in one book and in no others, I’m not sure how to have a conversation with you. Do I discount out of hand your book’s value? No. And I hope you’d consider that my books have value as well.

        As far as discovering a fictious truth goes….I’m not sure I would out of hand assume that any truth is fictious. It wasn’t that long ago that all thinking, rational people would have dismissed out of hand that there are invisible rays travelling through the air that you can’t feel, see, smell, or touch, but you can send information on them and relay pictures and sounds with them.

        All I’m saying is the human understanding is at any point finite, and the possibility of their being more unknown data cannot be ignored.

        As far as God being a concept and not a thing like a rock, I’d offer a counter point.

        Replace the word God with Life and things become clearer. The physical universe, our experience of it, and everything included in Life could be a decent definition of God. This of course would require that you are open to the concept that the creator is not separate from the created. Rather that everything in the universe is part of the universe. Everything in life is part of life. Everything in God is part of God. Interesting idea.

        You may find people that are atheist or agnostic….ones that do not believe in God. But is there anyone that doesn’t believe in Life? Anyone that thinks there is no universe, nothing going on here. Maybe. Some teachings say that this is all illusion, but an illusion is still something.

        Sorry for the long rant. I have some difficulty in keeping up with comments during the work week. Thanks for the discussion.

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