Today’s blog post is just me talking to myself, feel free to eavesdrop and correct my inner monologue.
When talking to religious people, my mind normally jars when they start to talk of “the feeling of the holy spirit”. I am fine up to that point, or near enough.
I remain bewildered that well-read people can, after reading about the big bang, natural selection, and human psychology, still fit a deity in, but it seems pretty harmless amongst the religious liberals I know. Some write that gods came into existence as an explanation for the inexplicable, whether that was lightning or epileptic seizures (is religion all electricity’s fault?). if that was the reason, it seems that explanation does not then extinguish gods.
Some tell me that people believe in the gods because they want an afterlife, but the faithful I talk to seem a bit hazy on that too. For some, it seems there grand vision of an afterlife is hotch potch, not a heaven like A Matter of Life and Death, but a vague existence of possibly some sort of wispy consciousness that might be spread around the cosmos. It is steps away from endless reconfiguring of atoms that were star stuff, that will spend time as part of bodies, rocks, pears, larva and asteroids.
I have realised that recourse to science, evidence and experimental data is pointless when arguing with the devout. This is why so many debates between religious dogmatists and atheists are utterly pointless, they are arguing from different realities. xxxxxxx Reading philosophy in the bath, I find it best to do that as the steam helps the passage of the occasionally impenetrable permeate the brain, or at least irritate the nostrils (oh, if only I knew what my nose knows about ontology), I was drawn to some paragraphs on solipsism. The chapter didn’t come down on the side of solipsism, why would it, what’s the point of writing a book in a world where your mind is the only one you are sure exists, that can lead to very low sales.
“If we can’t establish the reliability of our sense experiences in relation to the external world, there’s no reason to think we can rely on our scientific theories either.” xxxxxxxxx Hmmm xxxxxxxx Though hopefully we can still, as the only mind in the world, check that the scientific theories, that have bubbled into our consciousness, work for us. We may refute the evidence for gravity, but we can try it out ourselves, and see if it is, in the words of Douglas Adams, possible to “throw yourself at the ground and miss”. xxxxxxxxxx Even the most rigid dogmatist has trouble refuting the day to day physical laws that we operate under, and those who do offer end up in splints or boxes. xxxxxxxx Evolutionary theory is easier for them to refute as they can just look away each time any evidence is offered. It is much harder to test the theory of evolution for yourself in your humdrum life. You can have unprotected sex with someone of the opposite sex and hope for a baby. Then look at the baby’s characteristics and map out the physical similarities, but that is a long way off from proof of mutation, heredity and natural selection, and a lot of bother if you didn’t want a child in the first place.
But that has little to do with most of the conversations I have where my mind jars. The religious people I speak to have happily taken on the ideas of science, but have somehow found room for a deity too. The Old Testament becomes myth again, the New Testament less so, though I know plenty of Christians who need no virgin birth and only a hint resurrection. But with all that gone, their god remains. And I’ll just furrow my brow, bite my tongue, and listen incredulously on. When the priests got to the bit about the holy spirit, and I thought, this all sounds a bit mad to me now, I realised there was nothing they could say that would make me nod and say, “oh, I see what you mean”. It was like an elder trying to explain the taste of peas in a dystopian pea-less future. At no point could I think, “oh yes, I understand that taste now, I imagine it would be enhanced by pepper and butter”.
Many experiences that I am told are religious, I can experience too. The view from a mountain, a field of vivid blossoms, the rings of Saturn through a telescope, all create a shiver of the excitement of experience, a pleasant, dizzying sense of excitement – I see that as the remarkable achievements of laws, theories and lots of time, others may put that quiver down to the tickle of god. But that holy spirit feeling, I am not wired to comprehend.
Would the gods survive without indoctrination? Will we ever live in a society where we could discover that?
the one and only London outing of my current tour show is on Wednesday HERE (some tickets available)
And I am off to Chorley, Swindon, Reading, Newcastle, York, Glasgow and a town near you. Current dates HERE