The Dogma of Science

Although I have no statistical data to prove this, it would be a safe bet to assume that the idea of “science” is one of the zeitgeists of the 21st century. In many pockets of particularly the West, it has replaced traditional religious beliefs as the primary ideas and systems in which many of us put our faith in. We have placed our trust in scientists and the work that they do in the hopes that it will give us complete knowledge of reality and eventually deliver to us a paradise not indifferent to the heavens that religions have offered in the past (albeit grounded in this world rather than another).

Many who have placed their faith (defined in this post more as trust, than any notion of blind faith) in science will scoff at this characterisation as inaccurate. True that there aren’t really any practices of science’s followers that could be considered rituals in the same sense as their religious counterparts. But it is really the attitudes towards science where the similarities lie.

Take the faith in the promises that science offers if everyone simply accepts a scientific worldview. We would all become enlightened intellectuals, guided by reason and evidence, ultimately leading to a peaceful utopia where all our desires would be at our fingertips. Cures for all ailments, all of our desires satisfied without the consequences of excess, endless sources of fascination to keep us occupied, liberation of all the mundane aspects of life and the uplifting of suffering, and perhaps even immortality. We can achieve a complete knowledge of the universe with all of its mysteries finally understood. We just need to believe in science and one day all of the answers to life will be provided. To me, this sounds very much like the promises of religion in a new guise.

Or, look at how scientists and their work are treated in the media and amongst society more broadly. The latest “scientific” study bombastically proclaims red wine is a cure for cancer and it will often just be believed because of the word science.  There is the archetypical scientist, which seems to be the prevailing assumption of who they are – ethically outstanding people who are only guided by their reason in a suitably dispassionate and sceptical manner, following their noble, selfless pursuits based on the principle of attaining the truth, regardless of how it affects them as individuals. There is an air of authority around anyone who is known as a scientist. They can speak with conviction on any matter and people will listen, even when it isn’t their area of expertise or even a scientific matter at all. Scientists are taken more seriously on matters of religion than theologians and scholars of religion themselves! Think of Richard Dawkins and Neil DeGrasse Tyson who have less than a layman’s understanding of religion, yet their opinions have such authority to them. Scientists today are akin the priesthood of the Middle Ages – mostly unquestioned by the masses and with an institutional authority that ensures a steady stream of funding from the governments of the world.

And this is not to entirely bash science. Of course it’s done wonders for the world. There’s a reason why a scientific understanding has come to dominate the West. It simply works. The knowledge of the universe we have attained from the scientific approach is immeasurable. And on the whole, scientists have done a pretty good job at remaining dedicated to the pursuit of science.

science

However, science like religion has its flaws, and it comes in the shape of its followers, not so much in the concept itself. Just like how the ideas of Christianity are beautiful, but often, some of the practitioners may give it a bad name. Followers of science have always had nefarious purposes, the killing devices we have created that have the power to destroy cities, nations and even the world would not have been possible without science. Mass surveillance, as being seen in China right now for example, couldn’t be possible without the scientific theoretical basis. As a side-note,  I recommend looking into the Chinese government’s moral surveillance system being gradually implemented, it’s eerily like the Black Mirror episode, Nosedive. Science, like religion, has been used and continues to be used for harmful purposes.

Many in the priesthood of science are far from the ideal as well. And I think most aren’t doing this intentionally, but simply because they have such strong faith in the path they have dedicated themselves to, and as a result, may have fallen prey to confirmation bias in their work. Others want to retain the status quo, perhaps because of funding, perhaps because of reputation and prestige, and perhaps because they have dedicated their entire lives to a particular theory. Scientists are just as human as us everyday folk, a myriad of reasons, often selfish, often unconscious guide their ways.

And among scientists and in the realm of science more generally, the dogma of materialism is possibly the greatest obstacle to further advances, at least how I see it. The adamant refusal to recognise that anything beyond the physical universe exists and consequently, a failure to take anything that explores non-material phenomena seriously could be one of science’s greatest contemporary hindrances to progress. Conceivably real phenomena worthy of being explored such as the existence of a universal consciousness, paranormal and parapsychological activities, and alternatives to modern medicine are ridiculed and dismissed without being taken seriously in a truly dispassionate and scientific manner. The inquisitive mind of the ideal scientist is being bogged down in the refusal to even acknowledge the possibility that the philosophy of materialism may be flawed or even wrong.

The growing dogmatism in science, I would argue, is in know small part why there is an emerging (and woefully so in my opinion) anti-science trend, rejecting conventional science almost entirely, and whose methods genuinely can be considered pseudo-science. Anti-vaccination crowds, extreme climate denialists, people taking creation myths as scientific fact and lots of other things, may have risen partially as a result of scientists failing to take particular, rather unknown and under-explored phenomena with a more open mind. People may be less inclined to reject science as a whole, if what they believe in isn’t automatically thrown away as garbage by scientists. Of course, materialism could end up the truth, but this doesn’t mean exploring all other possibilities should be closed off, silenced and ridiculed because it doesn’t fit the conventional materialist narrative. To me, doing this is the antithesis of science.

I don’t want the institution of science to gradually corrode from the inside like the Catholic Church did in the in the Middle Ages, which led to its dismemberment. But if it becomes more closed off and centres itself around a series of certain unquestionable dogma, this might happen, particularly as it becomes more and more powerful, financially and institutionally. Stagnation is a killer.

So on a related but slightly different note, I would like to conclude this piece with a summation of the Ten Dogmas of Science that the scientist Rupert Sheldrake has noted in his excellent, though controversial book The Science Delusion. These dogmas, in the author’s and increasingly in my mind, threaten the pursuit of science and could damagingly bunker it down in self-imposed limitations. They will certainly give some food for thought on the purely materialist posturing that science has taken. (Note that I have written the ten core beliefs word for word from the book).

  1. Everything is essentially mechanical. Dogs, for example are complex mechanisms, rather than living organism with goals of their own. Even people are machines, ‘lumbering robots’, in Richard Dawkins’s vivid phrase, with brains that are like genetically programmed computers.
  2. All matter is unconscious. It has no inner life or subjectivity or point of view. Even human consciousness is an illusion produced by the material activities of brains.
  3. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same (with the exception of the Big Bang, when all the matter and energy of the universe suddenly appeared).
  4. The laws of nature are fixed. They are the same today as they were at the beginning, and they will stay the same for ever.
  5. Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction.
  6. All biological inheritance is material, carried in the genetic material, DNA, and in other material structures.
  7. Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains. When you look at a tree, the image of a tree you are seeing is not ‘out there’, where it seems to be, but inside your brain.
  8. Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death.
  9. Unexplained phenomena like telepathy are illusory.
  10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.
Advertisements

I Miss Nature: The Separation of Humanity and Life

Living in an industrial city in the northeast of China can be difficult at times for someone who has basically lived their entire life either within nature or in very close proximity to it. Harbin is a nice city in its own ways. It has a unique Russian-Chinese hybrid culture with numerous orthodox churches and areas with quite beautiful European architecture. There are also some beautiful Buddhist, Confucianist and Daoist temples around. Winter is an experience on its own, reaching temperatures that aren’t found in many places in the world – I believe it’s the coldest city in the world with a population over one million. The food here, is absolutely amazing, a unique style of Chinese cuisine that is found in the northeast part of the country. And there’s also plenty of Russian food with it. There’s an authentic ‘grittiness’ to the city that has been lost in other much more developed and ‘sanitised’ cities around the world, although it still has many of the amenities and conveniences that prosperous cities have.

IMG20180501142322

But at the end of the day, I only remain here for one reason – my future wife, Jill. I would’ve left after a year if it wasn’t for her.

Apart from missing family and friends back home, the biggest reason why I have troubles here is the absolute lack of nature, especially of a more wild kind. Sure, there are a number of quite beautiful parks around the place, particularly now as spring has finally arrived and the local city flower, the dingxiang, is in full blossom across the entire city. We have quite a lot of plants in our house and watching them grow has been quite an amazing thing to behold. But apart from this, I don’t get much. Most of the city is filled with enormous tower complexes sheltering thousands of people, because of this, parts of the city hardly even get sunshine.

IMG20180503073418

There’s something quite tragic, to me at least, having so many people, millions if not billions across the country, and across the world who have spent their entire lives in giant concrete jungles, living mostly inside towering apartment blocks often grey or of a rather drab colour. The only immediate access to the beauty of nature being a park where you’re not even allowed to sit on the grass (somewhat understandable though), instead you have to make do with concrete pavements. The incomparable beauty of nature has been replaced by the conveniences provided by modernity.

I think so many of us across the world are still so separated from nature, not just physically but psychologically, seeing ourselves as completely different from it, and not as part of it. A few centuries of industrialisation and the rise of cities and megacities has done this to us. The change of seasons from a scorching summer to a bitter winter have little effect on us anymore as we now have heating and air-conditioning. Forests have been destroyed to make way for farmland to feed the populations, and the trees that remain in the city are pruned, disfigured or simply removed for our convenience. Living here, it’s strange that even seeing insects is almost a special experience, not many seem to be around anymore apart from tiny little flies. Many of us might not care at all, perhaps even dislike nature, but losing something that our most ancient ancestors were so intimately connected with, is something that does not suggest an evolution in humanity.

IMG20180507092918

To get to even remotely wild nature, one has to travel on a bus for two hours out of the city, which is what I did yesterday with a group of friends. Beautiful forested Siberian hills, with a few Daoist temples dotted throughout reminded me once again how much I miss nature. I saw bugs, birds, and even several squirrels and chipmunks – the latter particularly being an absolute novelty for me (there are none in Australia). The track followed a trickling creek and hopping along rocks dotting it was an experience long overdue. Clean, fresh air brought much needed to my lungs and simply seeing more green than grey invigorated my soul. I take the abundance of nature for granted in Australia, I think many of us do in countries that are relatively untouched.

I guess, there’s always a silver lining. Living in grey concrete has made me appreciate nature even more than I did before. It makes me think of Daoist and Buddhist philosophy that states that you can’t know what something is unless you experience it’s opposite. Very limited life in a city apart from people has made me take notice every day of the trees and plants I see around slowly coming to life after the long winter. The buds of leaves and flowers spontaneously emerging as if from nothing. Day by day growing and growing until they bloom into life. In our (relatively) new apartment, we have a big tree right next to it that we see from our bedroom window. Sparrows will sing there in the morning. It’s euphoric to listen to them, knowing that something in this city apart from people live.

So although I’ve probably been more separate now than ever before from natural life, in some ways, it’s made me closer – but that certainly doesn’t mean I want to live in a megacity forever!

The Philosophy of Kratos from “God of War”

*Light spoilers ahead*

The latest Playstation 4 exclusive game, God of War, is one of the most well-crafted games I’ve come across in a long time, which I couldn’t recommend any more to those who have interest. Given it’s almost perfect rating from dozens if not hundreds of review outlets, this statement shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has one toe dipped into the world of video gaming.

It’s the fourth major title in the series and it continues the story of Kratos, a Spartan warrior who fought the gods of the Greek pantheon, killing virtually all of them in the process out of pure vengeance, eventually even becoming a god himself. It’s a bloody and brutal game which makes you question whether you’re really in control of the “good guy” if there even is one at all. The earlier games in the main series (and in several spin-offs) are all based on Greek mythology and filled with gods like Zeus and Hades, titans such as Gaia and Atlas and monsters like the hydra in one of the most epic gaming experiences ever to grace the Playstation console.

Philosophically and thematically the early games are rather shallow despite being fantastic, almost entirely centred around the main protagonist violently and gorily seeking revenge on those who wronged him. Though with that being said the lore of the game is quite rich, weaving and creating a beautiful interpretation of the world of Greek mythology.

The latest instalment has made a marked shift from this approach – specifically the simplistic narrative and shallow character development – and has become a much deeper game as a result.

Set quite a while after the events of the previous games, the new God of War sees Kratos as a much more human character who struggles with his horrific past while raising a son, Atreus. This time set in the nine realms of Norse mythology (which coexist in the same universe as other pantheons of the world), and the main story of the game is fulfilling the final wish of the boy’s mother, as well as raising Atreus on his own. As they embark on their quest, the Norse gods get word of Kratos’s existence and try and hunt him down, becoming rightfully worried about what he could potentially do to them. Throughout the father and son journey, an incredible character dynamic develops as Kratos attempts to avoid his old murderous ways while he also seeks to prevent his own son from going down a similar path.

As a result, the game slowly reveals a somewhat cohesive philosophy that Kratos holds which is sometimes even profound with some lessons even applicable outside of the world of Thor, Odin, the World Serpent and all sorts of other fantastical creatures.

A reasonable chunk of the game is spent exploring the world on a boat, and as can be expected, conversation emerges between the two characters as they slowly bond more and more with one another. Atreus frequently asks his father for stories which at first Kratos reluctantly provides.

God-Of-War-boat

The first story is the classic tortoise and the hare, which is told in a comically blunt and non-evocative manner. The lesson drawn, which is explicitly told is that the hare was overconfident but the turtle was diligent and determined thereby leading him to win the race. As you play the game, Kratos basically embodies the turtle in this sense and continues to remind his son to behave in this way, who often acts more like the hare, many times leading to the brink of disaster.

The next story he told was about a horse who sought vengeance against a stag and do to so he enlisted the help of a hunter. The hunter agrees but in return he must be allowed to ride the horse. Together they kill the stag but the hunter refused to let the horse go afterwards. The fable works as a reflection of Kratos’s own story of revenge, how he became a slave to it, losing his freedom by having it completely consume his life. Atreus wonders at the end whether it was all worth it, which Kratos bluntly states, “it was not”.

The third story was about a frog and his son who came across a mysterious well. The son wanted to explore it, whereas the father refused to allow him and they continued on their way. When telling the story, Atreus protested that this was a boring solution and not even a story, so Kratos elaborates telling him that they go down it and get stuck in the well and die. The lesson for his son here was to avoid jumping completely into the unknown, without any care or vigilance, and the importance of listening to those with more wisdom and experience.

The final story (that I remember at least) was about a thief who was out of control and eventually bit off the ear of the one who loved him the most, his mother. It was a warning against too much kindness and love that isn’t balanced with discipline. This rung quite true for me, especially working with many kids in my job and seeing those who are overly coddled by their parent but end up being little unrestrained nightmares to teach.

These four stories act as moralistic fables that inform the general outlook of Kratos throughout the game. Values of hard work and focus, discipline of the emotions and being a wise, sensible role model for his son are his guide stones. It is a rather stoic philosophy of the warrior that one might find in characters such as Eddard Stark in Game of Thrones or many other warrior-father characters in stories.

kratos and atreus

His philosophy is expanded further as the consequence of emotional and physical events in the game, many coming in reaction to a mistake or complaint made by his son. Key to understanding the philosophy is that Kratos’s primary motive, aside from achieving the final request of the mother, is simply to survive in harsh and unforgiving conditions. When the necessity to kill arises, he therefore implores his son to close his heart against those who are against him, even though he recognises that many are beings as desperate as they are to survive.

Constant vigilance is consequently an admirable value in this world. He tells Atreus to always expect the worst, assume nothing and always be ready for an attack, which is inevitably just around the corner. Though he does forewarn not to become fearful, paranoid of shadows and the future. Keeping one’s mind in the present, yet remaining vigilant, rather in the realm of possibilities is key. Thus, he also adds to keep expectations low and you’ll never be disappointed. A wise approach for the circumstances the characters find themselves in, but as Atreus quips, it’s not a fun way to live.

No longer is Kratos the rage filled murder machine of the previous games, now he kills out of necessity and defence, not for indulgence. As part of the father resides obviously in Atreus, the boy is quick to anger often dangerously losing control at critical moments. Several times this happens, Kratos teaches and warns him that although anger shouldn’t be suppressed, it must be controlled and utilised to benefit their survival.

Perhaps, however, the most profound philosophical statement, to me at least, which Kratos utters at one of the more emotional heights of the game, is that “true power comes from the heart, but it is tempered by the mind with discipline”. In other words, striking the balance between one’s emotions and reason is key to survival and good living. I find this is a lesson we can apply in our everyday lives. Often, we stray too far towards either pole, destructively following our passions and emotions on one end, or becoming hyper-rational on the other, depriving ourselves too much of the richness and purpose that the heart provides. We must instead follow our hearts but have it reined in by the mind so that we can survive long enough to see our passions fulfilled.

So in sum, the philosophy of the protagonist Kratos in God of War is tough, no doubt about it. At times it’s almost an extreme stoicism, achieving conventional happiness playing no role whatsoever. Yet it is also rich with practical advice for living, especially when it comes to achieving one’s goals, facing adversity and even some decent parenting advice! I feel as though this short piece hasn’t given the philosophy found in this game proper justice, as I play through it more, maybe I can revisit and elaborate.

Day Trip to Shenyang, China and Blog Update

Yesterday, my fiance and I took a day trip to the capital of Liaoning province in Northeast China. She had a medical conference of sorts and I took the opportunity to have a little explore. It’s a nice city, to me it was like a more developed and “Chinese” version of Harbin and it contains some great gems. Shenyang used to be the capital city of the Qing Dynasty, the last of China, until it moved the capital to Beijing in the mid-1600s. So there’s some great historical locations including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. I decided to write this blog to share some of these pictures and also to give a heads up about the near future for my blog as a whole.

I’ve been producing new pieces at a much slower rate in recent months, now it’s down to only about once a week, from a peak of about three times. This is largely because my focus has changed, not out of any declining love for writing short pieces on things I’m passionate about. I’m currently working on a new novel with eight chapters of the first draft finished. If anybody is interested in receiving a sample chapter, I’d be happy to email to you and would very much appreciate any constructive feedback. Although thematically there are some underlying similarities that are being developed which correspond with that found in this blog, I should warn that it is quite dark, a bit bloody and contains coarse language. So just a heads up about that.

Anyway, enough of all this, here’s some Shenyang pictures!

Here are some from modern Shenyang:

 

A few from the old Mukden Imperial Palace:

 

And finally a couple from Beiling Park:

IMG20180423154525IMG20180423154206

 

Thanks guys and all the best!

A Brief Sketch of What I Believe

I’m quite confident in saying that every single one of us believes in something, some sort of truth to the universe we have found ourselves living in. Some of our beliefs about the way the world is may be more heavily founded in logic, reason and evidence than others. And many of our beliefs are based on our own personal experience, perhaps a divine encounter, a mystical experience, or even no sort of experience like that at all, which has led us to believe the way we do. From the militant atheist, to the post-modernist, to the New Ager, to the Hindu, Christian and the folklore superstitious, we all believe in something, at the very least a set of axioms, even if we may not claim to.

Most of us will change our beliefs over time due to a myriad of reasons and I’m no exception. Some of these are radical, paradigm changing new ways to look at and experience the world, others are gradual evolutions that build up on older beliefs. Some of us reach a certain point, and fail to develop any further than that, which I find a little bit disheartening. I find it curious why long-term consistency in, say, a politician’s opinions or beliefs remain exactly the same over several decades and how this is often applauded (though it probably has something to do with antipathy towards the person who just changes his view to whatever is popular at the time). But I digress.

My own belief evolution began with a radical change from atheism to some form of theism and has evolved since then as I’ve learnt more. And the other day, I had a moment of insight that allowed me to articulate my current beliefs and understanding of the world to myself a little bit better than usual, at least in spiritual and theological terms. So I thought I would share a little bit about that today.

I should say that I’ve delved into virtually all of the major religions, some more than others, directly practicing some, researching others, and have always found each one to contain so many benefits and truths within them. Each one, I think, has something profound to say about the human experience and the nature of that which lies beyond the material universe, God, let’s just call it for simplicity’s sake. This love of all of the religions is a blessing and a curse, because it prevents me from going down the path of any single one, which to me entails a rejection of so much of the other paths.

But on the other hand, in my studies of religion, and also in the study of mysticism, I’ve developed an outlook, which has enriched my experience of life and which I’d like to summarise now.

My core belief is that there is a non-material, infinite reality out there (God) beyond the universe, that manifested material existence. This ultimate reality is also not separated from creation but is found within everything from me, you, my phone and my coffee mug. Everything has the divine essence within it. If you want to read a bit more, take a look at my earlier blog post here. I guess this understanding of the divine conforms most closely with the Hindu conception of Brahman.

divine-revelation2

Throughout history and across virtually every culture there have been prophets, mystics, shamans and the like (even laymen) who have had glimpses of God, of this ultimate, ineffable reality. Some direct interactions with the divine have been more profound, revelatory and life-changing than others. All have a glimpse of the Truth of the universe, some will change the way they live their life entirely in an attempt to manifest that truth in the material world, and some will even go on to found the religions and other spiritual traditions of the world. Buddha, Mohammad, Jesus, the ancient seers of India all had that life altering encounter with the divine and went on to convey what they had gained to the wider population. This to me accounts for, at least on a theological level, so many of the similarities found across the world’s religious and mystical traditions.

But, as the traditions of the world have always maintained, the infinite divine reality is utterly incomprehensible to our normal everyday minds. So after any revelation that one of these figures has had, the message that they then go on to spread is immediately distorted the moment it has been uttered out of the mouth. Such are the limitations of language. Think how difficult it is to describe the most simple of our emotions, and how we almost instinctively fall back on metaphor to convey it. Let alone trying to describe the Infinite! The original Truth is therefore lost, to an extent, though some of the original message remains, layered beneath the language employed and the cultural/historical context that it was issued in.

The message that is conveyed is often quite similar across the world and it usually has something to do with making oneself more holy and closer to God, as well as an emphasis on reducing their suffering in life, and those around them. The message tends to generally be aimed at two audiences, regular people and the Called, so to speak. Though it should be said that these two audiences are two poles of what could be considered a spectrum.

For your average person who doesn’t want to wholly commit their lives to seeking the divine, there is a path to follow, a message to take from the prophets. This is for those who want to improve their lot in this life and the next, wherever or whatever that is. This path brings a greater contentedness and equips those to manage their suffering better, and is also intended to help them to become a greater reflection of the ultimate reality that resides within them and underlies the cosmos. This is the path for the majority of people in the world who want to pursue at least a somewhat spiritual life. It could be called the Layman’s Path.

The other aspect of the message is for those who want a complete transformation of their being. It is for those who want to experience and become one with the ultimate reality in the here and now. It is the deeper message of the revelations of prophets. It looks at the symbolic meanings behind the texts of the religious traditions, for example, that point to the higher, intuitive Truth that can’t be articulated in language and regular thought. It is the path of the Buddhist and Christian monks, the Sufis, the Hindu Sannyasa and many others. It is the shedding of the individual human ego to realise that you, God and the universe are all one and the same. Laced in the poetic language of the mystics, it is the realisation that Atman and Brahman are one, divine union, Nirvana. These are the ones who are drawn to a complete and total life of God, the Called.

As mentioned, the original Truth and message is always distorted the moment it comes from the mouth of the prophet, mystic or whoever. The paths of the laymen and the called within each religion, although quite similar in many ways, is still incredibly different from tradition to tradition, even within religions themselves. This is why, that despite their similarities, an incredible diversity of rituals, texts, symbolisms, practices, theologies, and even moral customs has emerged.

pathstoheaven

But stripped down of these centuries of built up tradition, the absolute core message tends to be the same: there is something greater, incomprehensible that is beyond the material universe, and to know it, either in this life or the next, we must become more holy. This usually means, expanding oneself to become infinite, become selfless. It means do unto others what you would have done to you – The Golden Rule found in each religion. Be virtuous in whatever pursuit you have followed or found yourself in. Since there are different standards and limitations for the countless number of paths one can walk down in this life, one must strive to be exemplary in that path. If you pursue the mystical path, seek the complete annihilation of the self, so that you can merge with God. If you are soldier, be honourable. You may have to kill, but do it with as little suffering inflicted on others as possible. If you’re a nurse, strive to be as compassionate and understanding as you can to your patients. If you’re a scientist, one needs to be as rational, honest and inquisitive without stretching the boundaries of ethics. Don’t let agendas or your own preconceived theories cloud whatever you find. If you’re a businessmen, seek profit, but with as little harm to those with less, or less able as possible. Minimise ruthlessness. In essence, (and it sounds vague and cliche) just be a decent human being to others and to life around you. This is the message found in the Bhagavad Gita, in the Bible, in the Qur’an, in the Tao Te Ching – follow the way of the divine, revere it and reduce the suffering in yourself and in the world.

This is why I believe there is a truth contained within all religions. Despite radical differences in time, place, culture, practices and beliefs, they all radiate the same message from their core. Their is a unity in their diversity, just like their is in us, our environment, and the universe. Everything is ultimately one and to me, that is evidence that there is something greater than what we immediately see, smell, hear, taste and touch.

 

 

Images taken from:

https://regenerationandrepentance.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/the-audacious-claims-regarding-the-verbal-plenary-inspiration-of-scripture-and-its-holy-unwavering-defense/

http://phi2010.blogspot.hk/2012/10/on-advantage-of-religious-pluralism.html

 

Think for Yourself, Question Authority

I first came across this saying probably around twelve years ago when I thought I was a young edgy teen by listening to the progressive metal band Tool. It was near the beginning of the live version of their song “Third Eye” where they sample a talk by Timothy Leary, the psychologist who was an early advocate of the use of hallucinogenic drugs for therapeutic purposes. Great band, by the way!

The quote that is the title of this blog piece has become somewhat of a mantra of the conspiracy theory community, and by my own experience online, it is thrown around almost as an insult to so-called “sheeple” and has been used by many of them for the two-fold purpose of actually getting people to question the actions and intentions of governments, but also as a defence mechanism for their own views on the world, similar in purpose to saying “do your own research!”

So what does this quote mean? In the original context of Timothy Leary’s recording, it means the questioning of government and other power structures such as religion. Basically, don’t blindly accept whatever you’re told. Question things, never stop questioning. Don’t take things at face value. Don’t blindly accept dogma. Learn to think critically. It’s a brilliant statement, which I’ve continued to hold throughout these years.

Not only should it be the mantra of conspiracy theorists, but also that of a scientist and any seeker of truth and a free mind. The questioning of authority is perhaps one reason that I don’t adhere to any particular religion, even though I’m very fond of them. And why I don’t like to identify myself strongly politically, left or right.

However, I do find one problem with how the quote has been implemented by people over the years. Among many people who adhere to this mantra, I believe the notion of “questioning authority” has been conflated with the idea of outright rejecting authority altogether. Anything that the government, a religion, the mainstream scientific establishment or any other type of authority isn’t so much as questioned, as much as ignored and rejected, this is particularly prominent amongst conspiracy theorists, certain New Ages groups and fundamentalists within religions.

It is problematic because many forget the “think for yourself” side of the quote, and will latch onto whatever people or set of ideas that are opposed to the authority they now reject. Essentially, they replace one authority with a more appealing one, intellectually, emotionally, for a whole host of reasons. The psychology for this rejection is quite fascinating, and perhaps the focus of a future blog post. For now, click here for a short summary from Wikipedia.

think-for-yourself

Among conspiracy theorists, and this is a broad generalisation of course, the authority of the government has been replaced by the authority of YouTube videos, websites and blogs that give an alternate explanation vis-a-vis theories of the Illuminati, reptilian overlords, or whatever, and their malicious activities in the world: chemtrails, FEMA camps, Red Flag operations and the like. For those who reject religion – perhaps they are within the New Age movement, or atheists – this authority is simply replaced by a more conducive one to them, and once it has been accepted, it is rarely questioned. Many people who believe in crystal healing, tarot cards, indigo children and the like will scoff at the traditional religious person who believes in Jesus as the messiah for being ignorant. And a lot of atheists will do the same without taking any time to question possible holes in the philosophical materialist worldview. And those who question mainstream science and medicine, for whatever reason, are happy to accept alternate explanations without questioning, hence the rise of pseudoscientific movements like anti-vaccination and anti-GMO groups, flat-earthers, Biblical Creationists and a whole range of others.

It’s good to question authority, as I mentioned, even to reject it at times. But it needs a deeper investigation, rather than just an uncritical replacement with some other theory. Discernment, the critical measuring of the value and quality of any given thing is the better path.

So I personally would prefer the mantra to instead be “think for yourself, question everything, even yourself, be discerning”. Question our own belief structures, ask why we believe this, reject that. Is it really because alternate explanations to those given by mainstream authorities are better with more valid evidence? Or do I just like them more for any given reason? Like it makes me feel I’m “in the know” of some secret knowledge, giving me a sense of superiority over the ignorant masses.

It’s tough work, to question oneself constantly, let alone questioning what others say. From experience, it can be quite depressing, and confusing even. Especially when we question our deepest held beliefs. Sometimes we lose them if questioned too much, but sometimes they’re strengthened. We don’t need to reject our authority or the authority of others, we just need to know that our views and beliefs all have their weaknesses. Nobody’s worldview is immune from criticism, there is no perfect perspective. The objective Truth is out there, I believe, but not a single one of us grasps it in its entirety. Instead, we all have little snippets of truth, glimpses of it. Our minds are limited after all, even collectively, so we should be humble and continue questioning. Ultimately, when we settle on a set of ideas or a belief, we must realise that we’re always going to be taking a leap of faith in these matters, and if we’re after truth, we have to keep questioning that belief regardless.

Authority has its role in the world, including our own individually. It shouldn’t be immediately rejected just because it is authority. The government might have something useful to say. It might be telling the truth. Of course, it shouldn’t be treated as some benign omniscient entity, it should be questioned. Governments, religions, scientific institutions are still made up of human beings, in all our frailty, with our agendas, ambitions, animosities and the like. But humans aren’t completely corrupted, of course, and these same people will often have benign motives. Many just want the best for society and want to pursue the truth in their own right. But we must still question authority, some things that will be uttered by it will be falsehoods. Not all of it though, that is why we must question authority, think ourselves, not just reject authority and blindly take on another. Discernment is the key to true critical thinking. Question everything, be discerning.

Ancients versus Moderns: Are We Better than Them?

I’m currently reading an absolutely fascinating book that explores the history of modern Western culture over the past five hundred years titled From Dawn To Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life. It’s a mammoth of a book, coming in at just over 800 pages, and I’m quite proud of the progress I’ve made through it.

In this book, it frequently looks at figures in the West who have made an impact on science, art, philosophy and politics and one subject that appears, particularly early on in the book, is the idea of whether modern people are essentially better than our forebears. The contrasts and comparisons between ancient and modern people has been around since Petrarch articulated it in the fourteenth century and has popped up here and there ever since.

During the Renaissance, this was debated heavily amongst the intellectual giants, many of whom thought they were perpetually in the shadow of the Ancient Greeks and Romans such as Aristotle and Cicero. But slowly, the concept took hold, which continues to this day, that humanity is on a march of progress, and is ultimately perfectible. As a result, the idea that we are superior to those who came before us seems to have become ingrained in our current way of thinking.

renaissance-art-lead

A lot of us look at the behaviour of our ancestors and judge them harshly for their barbarism and mock them for their ignorance. On our smartphones and laptops, lying in our warm, heated houses, many of us condemn the acts of slavery, of killing non-believers, the treatment of women, and we generally ridicule their world-views. And for those who are a bit more sympathetic, we look down upon the people living hundreds, even thousands of years ago, condescendingly saying like a parent justifying the behaviour of a misbehaving, ignorant child, that “oh, they don’t know any better, they thought they were doing the right thing.”

Both approaches to those who came before us come from a position of moral and intellectual superiority, from the idea that we have progressed this far and now we are better than them. But what does better mean? How and why are we necessarily superior to those who came before us?

Better in this sense seems to have a two-fold definition. We are better than our ancestors because we have more knowledge about the world. We can predict earthquakes and know that they are natural phenomena, not the product of an angry god. We know and can treat many mental illnesses, and don’t call the sufferer simply possessed by demons. As a consequence of our knowledge, we have developed technology far more advanced than anything that has come before us. So perhaps yes, we can conclude that we are better than our ancestors in this regard.

The other side of the definition is in the moral dimension. We look at the horrors committed across history, from the burning of heretics, to enslaving Africans and other peoples, to some of the cruel and unusual punishments found in the world’s holy texts like the Old Testament and the Qur’an. Most of us don’t do this anymore and so we sit on our high horse, with a smug self-righteousness and either condemn or patronise our ancestors.

ancient_and_classical_worlds_2018_900x250

But does this all necessarily mean we are still better than our predecessors? I don’t necessarily think so. As far as knowledge goes, what we have today, was built on by the efforts of our forebears. We can’t separate ourselves from history, and we ourselves are part of the process. And on an individual level, I have as much knowledge of the workings of the device that I’m typing on than somebody living a hundred years ago, if the person was given it too. I know how to use my laptop, but even a small child can do that. I can’t even fathom the science, technology and resources needed to make this computer function. Only a few people in the scheme of things really knows how it is made and works, but then many of these people would only have the vaguest idea of something I might know quite a bit about. Most of us only know very specialised things, and even the most brilliant of us, still don’t know everything about their area of expertise.

With that in mind, we have likely lost a lot of the knowledge our ancestors had. Our dependence on technology has taken away our abilities to do things a lot of ancient people took for granted. Feudal peasants, arguably, had a far greater understanding of how to grow crops and raise animals in a completely natural way, that modern farmers simply wouldn’t be able to do without the help of fertilisers and machinery. Our prehistoric ancestors, remnants of whom can be seen in some continuing hunter-gatherer societies in the Amazon, Australia and Africa, were far more knowledgeable about the practicalities of living off the land, and being in tune with nature than we are. Try dropping your average urbanite in the middle of a jungle and see how long he lasts! But our loss in knowledge is also the case with many professions and crafts that were traditionally done by hand or with rudimentary tools. Stonemasonry, carpentry, blacksmithing and metalwork just to name a few. So although we have gained a lot of knowledge, we have lost a lot too in the modern world.

modern paris

Morally speaking, you often hear someone say the rather ridiculous statement, “it’s [insert current year]” to deplore someone about their attitudes or behaviour, as though we have become so much better than someone living in the previous year, decade, century, or millennia. We live in the times of Islamic State, perhaps the most brutal interpretation of Islam in history. Only two decades ago was the Rwandan genocide, and the twentieth century was the most bloody and violent by a long shot in all of history. Slave owners in the American South or superstitious villagers in Imperial China didn’t send millions of Jews to the gas chamber, or launch a reign of terror killing millions in Soviet Russia. It was modern man. Though I refuse to take a side in the abortion debate, I’m certain our ancestors would see the millions of potential children being terminated every year as a horrific crime against humanity. And the destruction of the environment and the waste of resources and food doesn’t look too good on our part either. And the return of tribalism in our identities, and the othering and hatred for those that disagree with us is just another sign that we may not have come as far, morally speaking as we like to think we have.

Also, different contexts demand different standards of judgement. When death is a far more present spectre haunting the lives of people, there is going to be a different approach to the ideas of life and death and what constitutes moral and immoral conduct. When food is scarce among all, theft is going to be dealt with more brutally as a way of deterring people from harming others. When there is no social safety net, it is more excusable to have multiple spouses, especially when women and men have been raised for specific roles in society. And simply when there hasn’t been previous experience relating to the consequences of behaviours on a societal level, one can’t use hindsight as a way of condemning those who came before us. In some ways, one can condemn the conquerors of the Americas, even people in their own time did. But calling them horrible people because of the spread of disease they may have known nothing about, or at least the effect it would have on the native population, is probably going a little bit too far.

It is true that on the whole, our violence has been restrained and our tolerance of others has increased. Though whether this is because we have genuinely changed as people, or we have been socially conditioned and had our governments restrain our behaviour, is definitely a matter of debate.

So to conclude, perhaps the idea that we are better is not as simple as we initially thought. We can be seen as better than our ancestors in some ways, worse in others, in areas of both knowledge and morality. A better way (ha!) of looking at things might be that we’re different, without any positive or negative judgement, but I would say we are still a lot more like our predecessors than we would like to admit. And it’s for these reasons I don’t think we should be so hasty in rejecting the wisdom from the ancients. Their philosophies and religions still have something to say about how we should conduct our lives and what the world is like. Even though they may not have lived in giant buildings with cars and the internet, and have gotten a few things wrong scientifically, we still grapple with the same issues as they did: suffering, love, death, security and meaning.

 

Images taken from:

http://www.italymagazine.com/featured-story/renaissance-part-5-art

https://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/course/ancient-and-classical-worlds-summer-programme

http://daxushequ.com/modern.html

 

In the Name of Love

Like most lucky girls in this world, I have two very special men enriching my little Jill world – My husband-to-be and My father. They are from opposite poles, having opposite personalities, cultural backgrounds and views of value, which led to their own individual ways of loving me.

songsong 1Dad was born three years before the start of the China cultural revolution (May 1966 – October 1976). But fortunately, apart from marching in huge red parades and reading books about the “indisputable” supremacy of Mao, he didn’t really experience the pain and struggle brought by it, as the poor village ultra-conservative family which my dad grew up in sheltered him from all the political changes and national poverty. And most importantly, dad was given the opportunity of education. Because of all this, he became the only one who went to university in that village and he worked as hard as he possibly could to become the man in Song family as a way to repay his family. Slowly he was being sculpted into a man with great responsibility and a steady personality.

Then there’s my fiancée, who was born in the 90s in the West, a golden era, and was brought up by a surprisingly democratic and open-minded family. He has never tasted the bitterness of true poverty, and instead of rigid political brainwashing books, he grew up reading world famous novels, historical texts and spiritual books. As a result, he developed a free spirit. He travels, he writes, he expresses, he experiences, and he never plans too far ahead to stress himself out.

songsong 2

Naturally, as a girl who was brought up in a rather rigid and strict family, I am greatly attracted to this man with his over-casual dress style, worn-out wallet, and most importantly his passion for adventure, with him my future has become dynamic, unknowing excites me, drives me and pushes me ahead.

On the other hand, my dad always brings me a sense of responsibility to make sure I always forward with a backup plan. I love how my dad knits his brows and swallows his judgement whenever I bring up a “crazy” plan, and I love how he learns to accept it and tries to tidies my plan up.

In the name of love, my fiancée pushed me out of my prescheduled box and my dad makes sure I go out with sufficient supplies. My future is opening up in front of me, and I am never braver with these two gentlemen standing on both of my sides.

Was Jesus a Mystic?

Most people like Jesus as a person, whether they are religious or not. He said some pretty great things, did some pretty great things, and was way ahead of his times, bringing a message that many of us still don’t fully comprehend. As a result of the general popularity of Jesus, people often like to think Jesus would be on their side in any given discussion. One example I stumbled across recently was a TIME magazine article that said Jesus was gay. And it’s my inkling that this was to promote a bit of an LGBT agenda. Ultraconservative Christians of the more ruthless and hate filled type like to see Jesus as more of a harsh judgmental figure, and overly liberal progressives tend to view him as a completely open minded, accepting of everything kind of guy. These are caricatures of perspectives of course, but my point is people tend to see Jesus how they want to see him.

And I’m a bit guilty of this too. For a while, I was utterly convinced that Jesus was a mystic and many Christians throughout history were grossly misinterpreting his sayings and deeds. I became a bit of a sucker for New Age conceptions of Jesus, which was reinforced by his saying “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you”. I still hold this view to a degree, but it has become a bit more tamed, and I’d like to say nuanced, as I’ve read more about Jesus and listened to the perspectives of theologians from varying walks.

mystic jesus

So to answer the question I posed in the title, first, I should define what a mystic is for the purpose of this post. I’ll take the rather simple and broad definition of a mystic as a person who is on a path towards self-realisation or union with ultimate reality (i.e. God). Or I may also mean it as a person who has already achieved this goal. This isn’t an all encompassing understanding of what a mystic is, there are those who could be considered a mystic if they’ve undergone a spontaneous mystical experience without any preparation beforehand, for example.

So with this in mind, let’s have a brief look at why Jesus may not be a mystic. Firstly, the “Kingdom of Heaven is within you” quote may have been misunderstood or even mistranslated from the original Greek. The term for ‘within’ or entos in Greek has other potential translations, like “among” or “in the midst of”. Because mystics across religions have frequently said that the path to union or realisation comes from within each individual – the experiential recognition that the divine and the soul are one – it’s important to note that Jesus’ quote may not have been a statement on the mystical nature of his teachings. Instead, the quote might be referring to the ministry of Christ and that those who believe in Jesus will have the Kingdom of Heaven manifest among them and through them.

Moreover, scholars and theologians argue, and it is evident in scripture, that Jesus was a thoroughly orthodox Jew in many ways, stressing the importance of maintaining many traditions as well as upholding the teachings of the Old Testament. There’s a particular image of Jesus (among New Age proponests claiming he was a mystic) that he was above and beyond his times, utterly detached from his historical and cultural context. Some even go as far as claiming that Jesus became a mystic during the “missing years” of his life when he supposedly went to India and learnt the ways of Buddhism and Hinduism. But this goes contrary to virtually all evidence.

However, even if Jesus was a rather orthodox Jew, which seems quite likely, this does not denigrate the possibility of him also being a mystic. Mysticism isn’t a spiritual practice devoid of it’s religious context, even though some New Age thinkers would like to suggest this. Historically, even though mystics have often been marginalised, they are still very much within their tradition. Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Jewish and other mystical traditions are very much expressed within the context of the larger religion. And the sayings of their adherents reflect the language used in the wider community. Sufi scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, for example, goes as far as saying that a Sufi cannot pursue the path towards ultimate reality without the religion of Islam and shariah. And this goes for every mystical tradition. The wider religion offers a pathway that narrows the mystic’s pursuit, giving it a direction (albeit one that ultimately needs to be transcended). So basically, Jesus being a religious Jew doesn’t denigrate the possibility that he may have been a mystic.

cosmic_christ

It’s hard to pin down exactly who Jesus was, but by recorded quotations, one can see there is a mystical element to his teachings (along with many other themes), regardless of the validity of the “kingdom within you” saying. I would say Jesus’ key message was love of God and love of one another. To me this implies a oneness of humanity and perhaps through developing a relationship with God, even a oneness with God. Given that there have been countless Christian mystics throughout history as seen through the desert fathers, monastic traditions and other movements regardless of whether they are Protestant, Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, there certainly seems to be grounds to suggest that Jesus may have been a mystic along with being a healer, a teacher and an apocalyptic preacher.

I’d like to briefly mention the controversial position of the Gospel of Thomas. It’s an ancient compilation of sayings of Jesus, many of which are in line with a mystical interpretation of the man. It’s different from the canonical gospels in the sense that it is not a narrative of Jesus’ life. However, it’s origins are disputed. Some scholars think it was written in the second century by Gnostics, who were a religious movement that took many influences from the Near Eastern and Mediterranean world, which had some parallels with mystical traditions. On the other hand, some scholars have suggested that it is as old as the canonical gospels. If the latter historians are correct, the Gospel of Thomas may shed further information on who Jesus was, or at the very least, what early Christians believed. Regardless, it’s an interesting read with some profound insights that I find can enrich our perspective on Christianity.

I should mention that if Jesus is God incarnate, then he may not necessarily qualify as a mystic in a normal sense, since is he God in the flesh. Instead, Jesus is really what Christian mystics (and general followers), aspire to, becoming the perfect human – it’s the imitation of Christ, so to speak. Though with that being said, many mystics have a panentheistic conception of the universe, basically meaning that all is within God and we are one with God, and the purpose of life is to realise this and to live that truth. Jesus, as a result, was the ultimate mystic and a guide for the rest of the world to achieve this same state through his teachings and example.

But with all that being said, mine is just another interpretation of Jesus that could be just as wrong as anybody else. I’m much less educated than many others of differing conception. But nevertheless, it’s hard to tell these things when, in the scheme of things, there isn’t all too much written about perhaps the most famous person in history.

 

References:

The Gospel of Thomas – http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/thomas.htm

http://reasonsforjesus.com/the-kingdom-of-god-is-within-you-was-jesus-a-mystic/

 

Images taken from:

http://www.mysticsofthechurch.com/2015/06/novena-to-sacred-heart-of-jesus.html

http://www.free-online-bible-study.org/end-of-the-world.html

Evidence! Evidence! Evidence! – A Rant against Arrogant Atheists

This post may come off as a little bit more of a rant than usual, and perhaps a little bit unfair towards many of the lovely atheists out there, some of who are my best friends. So apologies in advance for generalisations. It might come as a surprise, considering I write usually in a more coolheaded, less aggressive tone.

Before I begin though I have to stress that when I’m using the label “atheist” in the coming one thousand or so words, I am referring to the militant atheists, the Dawkins types, who degrade any religious idea, and blindly accept an uncompromising atheism just as blindly as the most fundamentalist Christians.

This rant emerges from a blog I wrote about a month or so ago, which discussed the idea that religion is not necessarily at odds with science, and that the either/or proposition that one must choose science or religion is quite false. See here if interested in reading that piece.

Occasionally, I post my blogs on Reddit to expose my writings to a wider audience, some are received much better than my expectations suggested, and others go by a lot worse than I hoped. In this case, I thought my attempt at debunking the “science vs. religion” theory would go by rather well (regarding it quite uncontroversial actually) but a few atheists out there seemed to take offence at the idea that religion has not historically clashed with science as much as is popularly thought.

On the whole, the main poster who went against my position raised some interesting points, but as with many atheists, his understanding of religion and God was very limited, which resulted in straw-man caricatures and the need for unfathomably high levels of evidence to even begin discussing the existence of God in earnest.

I think this is my main problem with atheists whenever I discuss something of the matter with them. Many will act on a level of intellectual superiority to any theist, and can simply deflect any argument you make with “that’s not evidence”. It’s an arrogance that suggests, “this ignorant little boy isn’t worthy of my time”. I point to the fine tuning of the universe argument, the cosmological argument, the “spark of life” argument, even the objective morality argument (I can’t remember the formal titles of these arguments). Often, instead of engaging with the argument, all that is reciprocated is “that’s not evidence. Science will explain these things in the future, if they haven’t sufficiently done so already”. And I do admit, there are counterarguments to the above, but because of this, propositions like the “fine-tuning” one aren’t taken seriously. Every position in a debate no matter what topic has a counterargument. It doesn’t mean you should automatically say one position is simply wrong and stop there.

I might be countered now by saying, high standards of evidence are perfectly fine. It suggests a critical mind. To that I say, well there is strong evidence that religious institutions aren’t entirely bad and have a much more complex role in society, both positive and negative that varies across time. But many atheists who want irrefutable evidence of God, wilfully ignore evidence of religions’ positive effects, instead bunkering down in the idea that it is a parasite on society. See Christopher Hitchens book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything as case in point.

My feeling is that the only evidence an atheist would accept is if God literally parted the clouds, and announced his existence to the world. But even then, the more staunch atheists would probably call it a weather phenomenon!

I’ve made that the claim “there is no God” is in itself a faith statement, and they deny it, usually because they have created their own definition of what faith means (simply a belief without evidence, which few theists would agree with). Faith, I would say, is more closely related to the word “trust”. We trust our society won’t fall apart tomorrow, because we have experiential evidence for it. We trust the sun will rise because it rose yesterday. Many of these things we have some evidence for, but certainty only exists for a select few things. If the evidence and experience appear sufficient, one can take by trust that thing exists or does not exist. This is the difference between a belief in God or an idea (like democracy perhaps) instead of a belief in unicorns or the flying spaghetti monster. There are different thresholds of evidence, and given that much more intelligent people than I have been developing a vast body of literature dealing with evidence of God – it doesn’t really require as much of a “blind belief” than atheists would like us to think.

Which leads me to a bit of a sticking point of mine. A big mistake of atheists is that they have convinced themselves that God should be measurable, like any other material phenomenon in the world. To me, this is ridiculous as it equates God with other forces of nature, and it is simply something that no serious theist, I’m tempted to say in history, has ever claimed. It’s ridiculous to suggest, and it shows a serious ignorance of theology in any religion, that God is something that can be understood and measured by the sciences. It would essentially mean that God is no different to how we see anything else in front of our eyes. It’s a problem with the belief in scientism, that science will one day explain everything and guide everything in our life.

One of the most difficult things when discussing with an atheist is that they refuse to give any validity to the arguments of a theist. I find that at least most serious intellectual theists give atheists their due credit (except for their extreme religious counterparts, the fundamentalists). Atheism is a very easy position to hold, perhaps easier than any idea. All you need to do is to look in front of you, see that there’s no immediately apprehensible God, and conclude “yep, he mustn’t exist then”. There are no moral consequences to your actions as an atheist except by what society defines. And I should state that atheists can certainly be good people, but the atheist worldview logically points towards permissiveness if not outright nihilism. It’s nice being able to do anything you want if you take atheism to its logical conclusion. A sense of morality is merely opinion, a social construct, thereby unreal. So atheists have got the most common sense position, I would argue, in many ways. For that, there seems to be an assumption of superiority, as though every theist is pleading their case in front of a judge, attempting to prove his or her innocence unsuccessfully.

The militant atheists simply seem to have an inbuilt dismissiveness, no matter how eloquent and logical the theists position may be (not saying that I’m particularly good at it myself by the way!) And I think this stems from a general anti-religion attitude that has been cultivated by most atheists over the years, particularly since the rise of the New Atheists. Having a long-held disdain for religion, even a vehemence towards it, they take away all validity towards it, without giving it a moments chance. Religion is seen as a toxic, archaic parasite on society, that if removed, would make humanity so much more enlightened. This perception is so dominant among particularly the more militant atheists, that it has blinded them to all contrary evidence and opinion.

Despite how critical and open-minded many claim to be, I think years of saying “religion has no worth”, “where’s the evidence” has blinded them to these tropes, and prevents them from truly engaging philosophically. And so their own worldview isn’t shattered or even altered, they hold begrudgingly onto a worldview that suggests science and religion are at odds. They fail to listen to more up-to-date arguments of theists, and lack the nuance in their thinking to even recognise that there are valid arguments, scientifically and philosophically for God, whether or not they accept it.

They fail to simply say, “that’s an alright argument, let’s discuss it further” – instead they bash it, and fall back on to the safe “no evidence” claim – which I think should be added to the list of fallacies in logic when one uses it to an almost abusive extent.

But we as people tend to do this with a lot of things. Conservatives fail to acknowledge any value in progressive ideas, and it goes for exactly the same the other way round. No matter what our beliefs, we tend to lean onto black-and-white conceptions of the world. “Of course my position is correct and every other position is wrong, because I see the world truthfully” Most of us implicitly say.

Rant over, apologies again to the less rigid and dogmatic atheists out there who I actually have enjoyable conversations with! And apologies if this rant is a little bit all over the place and nonsensical!