Was talking with religious friend yesterday about her being an artist. We were comparing notes about the similarities between the flow states she finds herself in when she’s painting to the flow state I find myself in when I’m mountain biking. While we’re doing completely different things when we find ourselves in the moment, the experience of being completely present is exactly the same for all people – time disappears because there is no past or future to give it a start or finish point, the mind is silent, your emotions are at baseline and you are one with the universe. It’s the same thing you get once you get good at meditating.
Human beings are effectively the same. Brilliant pattern storing and matching machines that go about their environment manipulating things trying to figure the best way to get rewards and learn from the things that created suffering. This is how the world actually is but our powerful brains produce an interactive and reflective consciousness that manufactures layers of meaning for what amount to a bunch of nerve impulses.
So we’re going to wonder what happens when we die, where the universe came from and is there a God? People are going to ask these questions because people are curious. If we’re allowed to ask them. It is a mortal sin in Christianity to question the existence of God, which is a shame because it is the very topic that human beings will find very interesting. I understand why some Christians don’t include certain aspects of the religion into their faith, but religion doesn’t work that way. If that is your God, ALL of the rules apply to you. Cherry picking the pleasing aspects of it is a mortal sin and mortal sin is a show stopper.
I’m an atheist so I’m free to consider God and religion and to really figure-out what they are good for. Well, they’re tools to control the way the brain functions. This isn’t evil, or good, it just is. Thoughts are implanted in the brain and they shape the spontaneous thoughts. If someone is always watching you for example, you’re more likely to behave; the psychological studies show this to be true. But the more interesting thing about religion and is the impact that the rituals have on brain functioning and what this reveals about humanity and our common thread.
Spirituality as a topic SHOULD come-up because people feel something when they mediate or pray, getting together with people to rejoice in a shared interest will create feelings of bonding, community and closeness. We are hunters and gatherers and we stabilize when we focus intensely on something, our brain waves adjust and we become different types of thinkers. Mystic experiences can be facilitated and the human brain is prone to them if the right conditions are met. What these natural experiences get attributed to is another story but they are simply just a different way of thinking that is a consequence of a different way of acting.
Given our genetic similarity to all other human beings there are going to be a finite number of paths through life – we have behavioral tendencies that manifest themselves as ways of being. You have one way of being and there are not that many of them. The specific things people do will be different, but the layer of choice that we think is there isn’t. What exists are a bunch of actions to take, most of which have been determined for you already – there are lots of places to work, but you don’t work at all of them; you work at very few of them. You have a lot of stores to shop at, but you don’t really have a lot of things to buy – you buy certain things, over and over and over again. An infinite world of choice disappears because you choose to live somewhere and do something. Doubt this? Go land helicopter or play professional net ball. You are NOT free to do everything and anything. In fact, there are not a lot of things that we are able to do when compared to the number of things that are possible. But the fact that so many people have almost exactly the same experiences in life does not mean anything other than the tendency for human beings to do and experience the same things because they are so similar.
We’re pack animal and as such we don’t do well with the random acts of others. These relatively few ways of being, the invisible grooves that people follow, are there because we need order. Our behavior shouldn’t deviate too much from the norm and outliers are quickly brought back into the pack if their actions are maladaptive and they find themselves leading the pack if their actions are progressive. As pack animals, there is no place for an invisible leader. We’re on the tail of the sheep in front of us, following the groove we’re in. These social conventions exist with all pack animals though, so humanity’s spontaneous creation of behavioral streams and ways of being are not a consequence of God or religion but a consequence to needing others to survive.
Being an atheist I know more about religions than most religious people. Most atheists do, we have to. Most of us have gotten an education, asked the questions of the people who claim to know, asked the questions of the people who claim to know nothing, watched the actions of religious people, watched the action of the non-religious people and watched the actions of the born again people. We’ve seen a lot of the world through clean eyes, pure and free from mind control and without the fear of considering things to be different. We’ve had to. To consciously commit a mortal sin and make the decision to go to hell for eternity is an admirable one. It takes a lot more character to reject an immoral God than it does to continue to allow their atrocities to be committed.
If you want to understand God, you need to understand people, and know the god of the dogs, cats and animals. Liberty from ignorance comes not from understanding religion and theology and not even from understanding WHY there is religion and theology but from realizing how and why it works so effectively on humans and how to fulfill these needs through perceivable, empirical and scientifically demonstrated ways. Most of us feel empty as is the human condition; a feeling needed to push us towards something. Some will cover this hole with God because it does a good job answering the why questions, some will cover it with a baby, a marriage or a relationship just so they do not feel alone. The atheists realize that this feeling is there to push us forward to do things that increase the chances we create children and send our genes into the future. Then we make the decision on whether or not this is what WE want or need, never asking what is written in the scriptures.
A Christian friend once told me that to be an atheist was to put my faith in something, and I suppose they were right. I have faith in my ability to sense and perceive the things that happen in the world, I have faith in my brains ability to assimilate and understand all of the information that it is presented with and I have faith the enough human beings will remain curious about the reasons for things that they will continue to search for tangible and reliable explanations.