Tuesday, November 10, 2009

BIG QUESTIONS- The Meaning of Life (part 1 in a series)

I think I’m in love.

Oh yes, definitely I have fallen in love. She’s funny, smart, uncompromising, and very nice to look at. I admit, she’s picking the low hanging fruit. But even the staunchest Christian has to admit that there’s nothing more tempting than an attractive woman picking fruit. And I have always had a soft spot for smart asses.

As I’ve said previously, I frequent the HairyFishNuts blog, mostly because the writer is often knee slapping funny. But over the years I’ve watched him fight a tireless battle against religion. I admire his stamina, but watching the non-believers who wander into the site from time to time and often following them home to their blogs I’ve come to believe that he is, as the bible would say, kicking against the pricks. (works on so many levels;-) Of course, he isn’t alone. The Internet is full of people like him- K-rina in the Youtube.com video above, endless Fark.com flame wars, it seems that every time religion is mentioned the same types show up to offer the same arguments that Voltaire and Thomas Aquinas voiced centuries ago and said far better.

I also reflect on my own personal discussions concerning things like science and evolution with believers. And my conclusion is that the problems isn’t so much that members of the two sides have been convinced by differing information and might change their minds if they came to understand the other side of the argument, it’s that the people on the two sides of the divide have fundamentally different ways of looking at reality and are completely intransigent. I think that a lot of these debates are held for the benefit of the people who are debating- to sure up their own thinking- and the only people who might be swayed are the spectators who haven’t made up their minds yet.

When I look back on my life I’ve got to admit that I’ve always been of a scientific mindset. Not only in the case of being fascinated by science and learning all I can about the world, but also as a matter of intrinsic philosophy. I can’t remember a time when, even as a little child, I didn’t question things and discard ideas when convinced that they were erroneous. Long before I had been taught the scientific method in school I was already a devout practitioner. I question everything, especially my own conclusions. And I'm a firm believer that Voltaire was right when he said that you can tell more about a man from his questions than his answers.

But, having said that, I also can’t remember a time, even as a small child, when I wasn’t fascinated by religion. I was a born seeker, looking for answers, and religion claimed to have them. I’ve explored a great number of religions. And practiced a number of them to ‘try them on’ as it were. I feel that I can see both sides of the debate. But I can’t help being logical and questioning. I understand the need to feel like part of something grander than yourself, and I deeply feel that connecting with other people is part of being human. As far as we can tell, humanity is the only creature on the planet that can feel empathy. And that's the basis of religion- feeling for others. Jesus called it loving your brother as you love yourself.

So for the next few posts I’m going to retrace the steps that I’ve taken to come to my (tenitive) conclusions. Perhaps an even handed exploration by someone who isn’t antagonistic to either side is a good idea. There seems to be far too much acrimony in the debate. Both sides show their worst sides as they contend with each other. It's time for a dispassionate look at the question from the middle.

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