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Wherein another comment gets its own post 21 May 2009

Posted by splait in Uncategorized.

So, from my last post, I got a reply that engendered a long response. So, as I have done once before (in my previous blog), I will reprint the comment here, then my response.

    Helioprogenus wrote:

“When you said “also, I believe in spirituality,” I thought how can Phil Plait’s brother be spiritual. Then I remembered that my siblings are not atheists like myself, and I suppose can self referentially identify as spiritual. It’s funny how you can catch yourself reacting hypocritically before actually reasoning through a subject. Part of that I suppose is human nature, and our subsequent reactionary responses.”

    My response is:

An interesting observation.

Another – even an atheist can be spiritual. Spirituality, although the root of the word is “spirit”, is a way of being, and doesn’t necessarily mean that the person believes in God or spirits. It can be just about being at peace with myself and loving and or appreciating nature (not “Mother nature”).

And that is not to say that I do or do not believe in God or spirits. Nor am I saying I am an atheist.

I certainly do not believe that organized religion is good for anyone (in general). I heard a minister Sunday morning saying to his “flock” that evolution is the work of the Devil. Actually, I believe he said “Satan”.


I get real tired of people who purport to be religious leaders preaching hate.

I have many ideas on the subject of God, but here’s the main one – whether or not I believe in a holy being, isn’t it possible that religion and science can and do work together?

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that there is a creator of the universe. Isn’t it possible, if the creator is (from our standpoint) all powerful and omniscient, that s/he/it (I am not Southern, so don’t read it out loud – it means what it looks like, not how it sounds) created the rules of the universe, maybe so that humans would have a purpose and a way to explore our own curiosity? Maybe our job is to figure it all out, and the ultimate rules are so well hidden that it will take us until we are a mature species to determine what “God” hath wrought.

Then again, maybe not.

But why does it all have to divide us?

Arthur C. Clarke, a great writer and lover of science, wrote, “The Nine Billion Names of God”, wherein a pair of computer techs are sent to a country abroad (from the US) to maintain the computer a religious people are using to calculate all the names of God. They believe that that is Humanity’s purpose, and they use a special alphabet to generate the names.

I will not spoil the ending of this wonderful story (it’s short) by giving the ending, but I certainly don’t know our purpose, and I suspect none of us do. There are shaman out there in all religions who say they know, but I have serious doubts about all of them.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the root of the word “sham” comes from “shaman”. (Actually, it’s probably the other way around.)

Anyway, I am a strong proponent of all of us getting along. My online nom de plume is “The Barber of Civility”, and I’ll shave the heads of all who don’t believe as I do! (No, wait, that’s not right.)

And yeah, I find myself thinking non-critically sometimes, reacting to some hidden prejudice, but thank the Mighty Flying Spaghetti Monster (and here, too!) that I usually catch myself before saying anything too foolish.



1. Helioprogenus - 28 May 2009

I did respond back on May 9th. Basically explaining my philosophy of not having to necessarily agree with someone to respect their position.

May 9th

I agree with you on a certain level, but I don’t think that all human beings should be in complete agreement and cerebral harmony with each other. There are certain viewpoints that we can both agree are toxic. I think it’s safe to say that organized religion is detrimental towards rational thought and scientific growth. They are influential mind viruses that hijack our irrational tendencies and feed off of a need for authority, security, and tradition. In addition, they perpetuate through ignorance and our naive tendencies.

Having understood that, I believe the difference between organized religion, and some light supernatural belief is of magnitudes. I acknowledge that spirituality can mean something other than a supernatural belief. It can mean a feeling of attachment to the universe. Perhaps upon listening to Bach, or seeing a sunrise, or even feeling a cool summer breeze on your body, even an abject atheist can have something akin to a “spritual” experience.

It must be understood that we can have topics and issues that divide us. As long as our platform is based at least on some rational thought, there’s nothing wrong in disagreeing. I believe that science and religion are irreconcilable. They attempt to address the universe from two completely different platforms. Once is faith based, the other, evidence based. With that in mind, I also find that science and spirituality are equally irreconcilable. Since the difference between religion and spirituality is magnitudes, it ultimately comes down to having only one proven way to correctly investigate the universe, and spiritual faith plays no role in seeking the truth. One can dance around the word faith, and say, “but what about the faith in your own convictions that evidence is the only way to investigate the universe?” Placing one’s convictions on rational, empirical, and evidence-based modes of analysis is far from untethered faith.

You also mention purpose, as though it’s a possible given aspect of our existence. Purpose can be what you make of the lucky happenstance of your improbably existence. Considering all the likely ways an individual human can not have existed in the random, apathetic, and chaotic universe of ours, the fact that each one of us is a sentient creature, capable of reasoning and higher awareness (excluding the religious fanatics i guess) and exists with tools that can probe the universe around us is amazing and fascinating in itself. Why introduce an artificial need for fulfillment when we can achieve the same without needing a predetermined purpose. We must also realize that although causality is an established element in our lives, it need not be an aspect of whatever existed before the Big Bang. Therefore, there’s no need to interject some deity, or supreme spirit, or even some unexplicable supernatural force. I can understand why people have an inherent need, whether it’s personal reasoning, or a byproduct of our evolutionary development, but recognizing that does not bring me closer to agreement.

As you can see, we can have civil disagreements, even to the point of irreconcilable differences, whilst also attempting to empathize with counter-opinions. This lively debate can be had on many topics, including gun control, abortion, socialism, increased market regulation in a laissez faire economy, etc. I would argue that disagreement makes life more interesting. We can’t reconcile everything together. Yet, we can discard idiotic arguments that do not contribute much to the topic. If you disagree with abortion because it says so in your holy book, then there is no grounds for rational debate. Yet, if you do the same from the perspective of ethics, that might be for interesting dialogue.

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