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Belief | Ian Guthridge.com
Ian Guthridge.com

Belief

by Ian on Apr.11, 2009, under Rants

“How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed.’ Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’”

-Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision Of The Human Future In Space

I apologize in advance for the often tangental nature of my ranting.

I have come to the sad realization that I would not struggle with my acceptance of Christianity if it was not for other “Christians”.  (This is really about religion and beliefs in general, I just specify Christianity because that is the belief set I most closely associate myself with.)

I have always felt that one’s beliefs were a personal issue and one should not attempt to impose them on others.  This behavior has often caused people who do not know me well to assume that I hold some set of beliefs, or lack thereof, often attributed to a group I belong to.  This is prejudice.  When one makes an judgement purely on past experience without acquiring new, more accurate data; that person is a bigot.  I make this assertion not to claim that I have ever been discriminated against, but to merely state that people often make biased judgements of other people without even realizing it.  In short, my omission of my beliefs does not mean that I do not have them, just that I do not feel that you need to know them.

I say this because I am tired of people telling me that I am going to hell because I support some scientific theory X.  I am tired of people accusing me of being closed minded, or not considering the possibility of something because I want evidence.  I am tired of people claiming something is “only a theory”, that X is true “only as far as we know”, or that “scientists could be wrong”.  Yes, science is not absolute.  Yes, science does change.  Yes, scientists often are wrong.  No, I do not believe I know everything.  I believe I have a reasonable layman’s understanding  (I can make it through a fairly technical paper on most subjects given enough time) of currently accepted scientific theory (and the corresponding evidence) and can therefore make fairly confident assertions that the science is correct unless overwhelming evidence to the contrary is presented.  Why?  Because science consists of long term experiments that produce striking results.  Because science repeatedly tests concepts that are “common knowledge”, and these “silly” experiments sometimes demonstrate a massive misconception about the world.  THAT is why I place “faith” in the scientific process.  THAT is why I am “close minded”. THAT is why I believe that God created a universe that relies on underlying, immutable physical laws and that modern scientific theory is our best approximation of those laws.  I DO accept that there is a LOT science has yet to explain.  Based on all my observations thus far, it is far more likely that an unexplained event has a physical explanation rather than a paranormal one.  The physical explanation may be very counter-intuitive and unconventional, but I believe it exists and any explanation that does not account for known physical laws is. complete. bullcrap.  

Science is NOT a structure for deriving morality, and it never will be .  Science is a framework for collecting and hopefully understanding data about the world we live in. It is about questioning everything and coming to the conclusion that is best supported by the evidence. It is not contradictory to my religious beliefs because I believe that religion is for morality and is NOT for developing an understanding the world. I have not yet come across a situation in my life that I have needed an all powerful entity to explain.  (Some things, such as the existence of the universe, I do attribute to God, but this is purely a matter of personal belief, and I can understand that people can hold other beliefs about the necessity of God, or other entities.  These beliefs are no less correct than my own because they are beliefs, not facts.)   

So what are my beliefs?  I believe that the first thing I should turn to when I am overwhelmed is my friends and family.  It is amazing what they are willing to do for me if I just ask.  Only once I have exhausted that support network, do I feel the need to turn to God.  I feel this way because if we assume that God has some sort of plan to our lives, he should have supplied us with everything we need to execute said plan, either in our own strengths or the strengths of others.  I believe that everything is worth questioning.  I believe that everyone is amoral, hypocritical, and has prejudices.  I believe that people try to be good within their own amoral framework. I believe that there are no taboo words.  I believe that any restriction of content is censorship.  I believe that it is the responsibility of parents, not television, government, or complete strangers to educate children on what is right and wrong.  I believe that people shouldn’t press their beliefs on others, but also shouldn’t be afraid to share their beliefs.  I believe that there should be no religious references of any kind in the public school system, but private schools should be allowed to preach whatever they want, as long as their preachings do not spread hate towards other groups.  I believe that the you should strive to be friendly to everybody.  I believe that a person’s freedom to believe and act a certain way ends as soon as it causes any form of harm to another person.  I believe gays have the right to legally marry each other, but churches have to right to refuse to host the ceremony.  I believe that women have the right to choose to have an abortion or not, but that a zygote is as much of a life as a fetus. Lastly, I believe that no-one can provide you with absolute truth and you must figure out what you believe to be true on your own. (That isn’t to say that people such as pastors aren’t excellent guides for finding truth, just that they are as human as you are and are therefore subject to the same sorts of biases and faults.) 

Now, that I have drifted sufficiently from my initial cause for typing up this post I can address it.  I stated that “Christians” interfere with my acceptance of Christianity.  By this, I mean people who claim to be pious and moral because they attend some arbitrary religious ceremony, but then condemn anyone who does not share their exact beliefs to eternal torment and at the same time participate in behaviors said beliefs call immoral, or people that blindly believe in something and spout of propaganda, yet have not done any research or even read their own holy book.  I am tired of people that refuse to question what their religion tells them, and that seem to see scince as evil.  I am angry at any person who has interfered with another person getting medical attention because of religious or pseudoscientific beliefs. 

 I know many people I consider true Christians and I wish I had half the strength of character that they do.  They know they don’t have all the answers and are actively studying their religion, at least one person I know has even gone so far as to study the original Hebrew texts.  Most importantly, they show their conviction in their beliefs not through hollow words but through actions.  But they are hard to find because they are often quite about their beliefs, though they will patiently discuss any issues have with their beliefs.  

I hope that someday more people will strive to understand science, and question religion.  Questioning does not mean falsifying.  As long as you are completely honest in your assessment, you can question your beliefs and come to the conclusion that they are right.  And no-one has the right to persecute you for them as long as you aren’t hurting anyone.  Lastly, I would like to stress that demystifying  nature does not detract from its wonder.  The shear scale of our universe is mind blowing, our minds are insanely complex yet surprisingly simple, and quantum mechanics is just intense. 

Thanks for reading!   Now that I am done ranting I can get back to homework!

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