Sunday, February 5, 2012

Coming to a conclusion

Anyone who has taken time to read anything on this blog will know that it is critical of the atheist books of Dawkins and the like. But I am beginning to understand that I really have nothing to worry about.

Am I 'a believer'? I would say 'no'. I have done many hard yards reading, reflecting and debating religious and philosophical ideas, and I consider the types of religious ideas I favour to be rational, although they do also point to something beyond the limits of discursive thought.  But - consider this asymmetry in the case of the argument of atheism v religious beliefs. If atheism is correct, ultimately it means nothing - because nothing means anything. If atheist beliefs are correct, and humans are the accidental by-product of a purely physical phenomenon, then, at death, it is all over, and our life has counted for whatever those around us, and those who remember us, have said it does. The memory will go on, for as long as the memory lasts in the minds of other people, but ultimately it will count for nothing. And that is all.

I have a perfect statement of this from one of the diehard atheists I debated on the Philosophy Forum:

'life' is a specific emergent level of molecular-structured thermodynamic complexity that "happened" insofar as -- "because" -- there weren't conditions which prevented it. Same reason snowflakes "happen". In other words, the universe consists in entropy-driven transformations wherein complex phenomena like (terrestrial) "life" arises & goes extinct along a segment of the slope down from minimal entropy (order) to maximal entropy (disorder); the universe is always-already "dead" but becomes a little less-so ever-so-momentarily at different stages of its (cosmic) decomposition.
 'Always already dead'. How could you live with that idea hanging over your head your whole life?

If, on the other hand, human life is sacred, and the human spirit is an expression of the spirit of the Universe, then such an idea provides a framework within which the narratives of religion are indeed meaningful. And, finally, it means that the idea of eternal life has meaning - there is a way to understand the meaning of this idea, which science itself can never offer, as distinct from the idea of 'eternal death'  above.

So it is a very unequal contest. On the one side, we have those who say that humans are something that scientists can definitively understand, analyze and predict. On the other side, we have those who say that humans are the expression of the intelligence that underlies the whole of creation: an unfathomable mystery, a source of endless creativity and amazement, and completely beyond the fathoming of scientific expertise. The game of life is a matter of coming to realize what amazing beings we actually are - which is a profound, difficult and demanding endeavour, but one worth embarking on, one which gives meaning to everything.

Tell me - which vision do you prefer?

I have debated this argument for three years on public forums, and I have not encountered any arguments which make me believe my fundamental approach is in error. It seems that if my case is true, then the subject ought to be treated with the seriousness that it deserves. And to do that, is the practice of the spiritual path, which this blog is a reflection on.

No comments: