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.