Let’s talk about science and the religious idea of faith. Many assume I’m an atheist, although most atheists might question that, given my stance on spirituality. I’m often told, “you’ve gone from one extreme to the other,” since I don’t believe in a deity. But religious faith is the only extreme. Belief in Santa is extreme; not believing in Santa is just baseline. I’m atheist regarding Santa, but that’s not a statement on what I believe. Atheism is, in the broadest sense, the absence of belief in the existence of deities. This word says nothing about what one actually believes. You can still be very spiritual, even believe in other beings and realms. Historically, atheism was a derogatory word developed by the religion.
The task of faith is to believe things based on bad or no evidence. That’s the deity’s test for making it into heaven or hell, the divine game. Believe in spite of the evidence, and you make it! I am atheist with regard to any type of god or faith claims that a religious system is beyond scientific understanding or reason. Science constantly erodes religion and religious claims once thought to be beyond the reach of science. Religion wants to play the role of science in making claims about morality and then say, “You can’t argue with me because I’m not subject to reason like you are.” I think nothing is ultimately beyond reason, for all of reality is reasonable in some sense, though our tools may not be advanced enough to comprehend it. Science makes claims about reality and purpose, just like religion. That’s why science and religion have a long history of opposition: they are ideologically opposite. People rarely go from science to religion, but often from religion to science. This is historically a one-way street.
The two are usually opposed, for religion is based on its vision of faith, which by definition is not verifiable. Science is based on humility and intellectual honesty; we speak with confidence of what we know and we welcome being proven wrong. Religious faith is about accepting things not attached to reason, although sometimes reason may incidentally coexist with faith claims. It’s dangerous to believe things without any reason (“divine authority” = I believe it because someone said so) and make decisions based on them. You can’t say I believe this car can drive on water because my parents told me so without having some unfortunate consequences. Yet religion ends up doing this kind of thing because it holds to beliefs without reference to reason. Science is why we can bet our cars will run and airplanes will fly. It’s not some kind of “other dogma.” It’s the opposite of dogma; it’s open to progress and change and welcomes them both. Sure, people who love science can be dogmatic, but that’s not because of science. Science is like math; it’s not an invention of Western modernism, it’s a universal phenomenon, a discovery. We can be radically committed to a scientific, rational approach that guides our radical commitment to spirituality and mysticism, for ultimately science and spirituality describe the same reality.
Spirituality is a different enterprise from religion. They couldn’t be more different, though it is still possible to experience spirituality within religion. Spirituality NEVER contradicts religion or makes ultimate claims about reality that can’t be shown wrong by evidence. If a spiritual claim is shown to be nonfactual, then it must be retracted. Spirituality is more about experience and meaning and purpose, not dogma and blind adherence. There’s a wonderful and fantastical universe to be embraced and explored through science and spirituality, and it does not require you to leave your heart or your head behind.
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