(important piece) (on the existence of gods)
—“You’re one of my favorite Catholic Atheists”—
Well, thank you.
Although, while a scientist, I am not an atheist. I am just what is called a Naturalist, and not a Supernaturalist. I understand that Gods exist. They exist as numbers exist. If I was an atheist you wouldn’t catch me praying (talking to god) regularly. Which I do. Often. I just have a very esoteric concept of the nature of a god’s existence. And I separate the existence of gods from primitive notions of religion.
I am not sure what the difference is between a supernaturally existential deity, and a worldwide knowledge of socrates, or a regional knowledge of a saint, or a local knowledge of ancestors, and praying to the knowledge of that personality, and those memories, for love, support, advice, and counsel.
For various reasons I am fairly certain prayer ‘works’. I am fairly certain gods ‘work’. I am fairly certain that gods, ritual, and prayer are a competitive advantage. And whether one chooses to explain away all of this scientifically as psychology, or accept it metaphysically, or embody it supernaturally, is merely a function of one’s abilities, biases, and preferences.
As far as I know gods exist as numbers exist, and gods ‘work’ for the same reason numbers work. There are consequences to the existence and use of numbers that transcend human abilities to perceive and conceptualize. If you construct various axioms, the resulting patterns can be rich sources of information – especially when combined with new experiences. If you construct stories of gods, heroes and saints there is no difference. So as far as I know, the study of gods, heroes and saints literally reconstructs them in your mind, and you can ask them questions if you learn how. It is even more useful to do the same with one’s ancestors since you carry not only those ideas but their genes, and the biases and benefits that they passed down to you.
Our ancestors thought in physicality or spirituality because they did not have the concept of INFORMATION that is the model we use today to understand the physical world. And it is INFORMATION that economists, philosophers and behaviorists such as myself use as the model for describing the human world, and not spirituality or physicality.
I have no idea if information in my head, yours, and others, interacts in some quantum fashion. I can’t state it one way or the other. I suspect that if it does it is so subtle that it is only accessible to us in periods of self honesty. But if in fact the information in our heads creates synchronicity when we are subject to similar stimuli then that would produce an equal effect. So either way it is irrelevant. It just works. And group prayer or ritual would construct new axioms and biases and produce similarly synchronous knowledge in all of us.
Now religion – as in a ritualistic group gathering – is something else altogether because the repetition of ritual, the submission to the throng, and the gregariousness we fell to the pack, all of which are present in the church or temple, produces a profound feeling of safety similar to that felt by our animal cousins when running with the herd or pack. It is this feeling we call ‘spiritual’ or ‘submission’: it’s a mild euphoria that spiritualists seek to amplify through practice. And it is one of the most universal and desired feelings of mankind.
Combining this experience of mild euphoria with knowledge of gods, heroes and saints produces a form of honesty within the self that we cannot produce by other means. It is this clarity or honesty that gives religions their power. We can, if we pray, or contemplate, use the mythological structure of information, along without our existing knowledge, to find solutions – too seek and obtain answers as ‘insights’. And at worst we can find comfort in the throng. (Which we now overload with consumption until we realize it is meaningless, and that we have been deceived – if not drugged – by commercial information.)
As yet we do not know how to produce the same effect as religion and prayer by any other means. I suspect I know how to do it. The question is whether it is possible to provide sufficient incentive to train enough people to do it to cause a reformation of the methods by which we teach every generation the Christian Discipline of Love into something more modern. I struggle with this problem and it’s probably the hardest problem I’ve tried to solve.
And that’s saying something…..