- Category: Deist Living
- Published: Sunday, 20 October 2013 16:42
- Written by Dave Gaddis
- Hits: 685
My biological father was incredibly abusive and twisted. He frequently beat my mother, breaking her ribs and giving her multiple black eyes over the years. It was not until the summer after my third grade year that my mom finally found the courage to divorce him. She maintained that her strength came from her deep belief in Jesus and the support of friends, family, and her church. Whether or not Christianity is true, it had a clear and positive impact on my mom's life. Perhaps that is why I am not as antagonistic of religion as some.
While in college in the early 90's, my mom, repeatedly, implored me to get baptized. At the time she was a Mormon and, if I remember correctly, sent some missionaries to meet with me. Even then, I didn't believe in their message. Out of love for my mother, I ended up being baptized as a Mormon. After attending church a few times, I quit going. I didn't believe their message or in their prophet, Joseph Smith. More importantly, this was the beginning of the end regarding the way I made my determinations about life. Although I always strive to be respectful, I will never again adopt a religious or philosophical viewpoint to make someone else happy. I must evaluate it on my own terms.
Although I still believed in Jesus and the Christian God, I stood apart from the church. Something simply did not sit right with me. I had a bit of an existential crisis in 2002 and really began searching for answers. I was just finishing my tour as an instructor pilot at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas, where I was training future Naval Aviators. I was about to move to San Diego for my next assignment and I had sold my house and was, temporarily, living in a small apartment. The complex was built next to Corpus Christi Bay and had beautiful walkways along the water, flanked on the other side by sprawling grass fields. I spent much of my free time walking along the water contemplating a book I was reading called "A History of God" by Karen Armstrong. Her book explained how humanity's views of God evolved dramatically over time - from God taking human form and wrestling with Abraham to the more distant and powerful God depicted in later parts of the Bible. Karen Armstrong, for me, had effectively dispelled any notion that we had God figured out. In a personal sense, Sam Cooke's song applied so perfectly to me, a change was going to come. Thus, my journey to deism began, although it would be years before I discovered the label.
In my desire to become intensely analytical about what I believed, I lost something. I suffered from analysis paralysis, the inability to take a position because I felt there was not enough data to make a firm conclusion, especially given I was pondering existential issues. However, after 14 years of pondering, I have come to believe, deeply, in five interim concepts and it is time for me to get off the fence. I say interim because I, also, believe we must leave room to adapt our thoughts and ideas to new knowledge and perspectives. Below, I briefly introduce these interim concepts, but over time I will share the research that led me to them.
What I Have Come to Believe
1. There is a God, but it is nothing like the one found in humanity's religious traditions.
I have written a few times about my opinion that Absolute Non-Existence is a logical fallacy. Something has always existed. Further, it logically follows that there cannot be any blank spots in existence, rendering existence eternal and infinite. Whatever it is that has always existed, it has given rise to our universe and to us. I give this eternal, infinite existence the name God, as it is the Source and Structure of all that we know and experience. I see God as a collective, intelligent whole.
2. Consciousness exists outside the body and permeates all of existence. The brain is a receiver/reducer of consciousness.
The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said: "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
In many ways, the scientific establishment has taken on some qualities of the religious establishment, most notably its own dogmatism. Scientists claim to be open-minded, but revolutionary new ideas are frequently ridiculed and violently opposed in the arena of ideas because they run counter to science's established dogmas. Consciousness is an example. The current scientific paradigm is characterized by materialism, which dismisses consciousness as nothing more than an epiphenomenon - a byproduct of chemical reactions in the brain.
Let's pause for a moment and really think about that viewpoint. The materialist would have us believe that non-living, non-sentient energy accidentally assembled itself in such a way as to discover itself. That energy now ponders itself through chance chemical reactions in the brain of an insignificant life form next to an unremarkable star in a far away corner of the universe. It really does sound ridiculous. There is another way to look at this issue, but it requires a paradigm shift.
Max Planck and Paul Davies, for example, assert that consciousness is a fundamental property like space-time. One plausible implication is that there is a vast, incalculable cosmic intelligence. Thus, instead of the brain producing consciousness, the role of the brain is understood to be a receiver and reducer of consciousness. The implications of this simple paradigm shift are enormous, including the very real possibility of life after death as revealed by studies of Near Death Experiences.
Based on my recent studies, I am really excited to discuss this topic in much greater detail in future blogs.
3. The purpose of life is to experience it.
In this context, purpose must be universal and inescapable. From a purely biological perspective, it is clear that living creatures are charged with perpetuating their own species or face extinction. It is a biological imperative. But what about the purpose of sentient life? There is one common thread that makes up the tapestry of life: experience. Short of physical defects or suicide, you will experience life whether you want to or not. If you subscribe to the theory that consciousness is fundamental, then it makes sense that consciousness would want to experience the intangibles that we sometimes take for granted: love, creative expression through music and art, the taste of good food, fear, risk, the triumphant joy of success, etc. Perhaps there is a grand plan behind it all, but that is not yet clear. What is clear is that all sentient beings are bound together by one inescapable fact - we experience life.
4. The meaning of life is up to each of us, individually.
Meaning is much different than purpose. While the purpose of life is universal and inescapable, life's meaning is a personal matter. You are free to leverage your talents and passions to shape the way you experience life. Along with the power to create, our ability to give meaning to our individual existence is, perhaps, one of our greatest gifts from the universe.
5. True compassion would solve much of humanity's woes.
Unfortunately, love is overused and trite in our time. It is often confused with romantic love or, even, lust, instead of the deeper caring for our fellow creatures that it is meant to convey. Therefore, I have chosen the term compassion to convey what I mean. Compassion encompasses empathy, fairness, justice, interdependence, and respect. The deeper our compassion for others, the more enduring it becomes. Compassion applies equally to ourselves, understanding and forgiving ourselves for our mistakes and faults is therapeutic. The next time you go for a walk or think about life, imagine what deep, enduring, healing compassion could do for you and for humanity.
Science will never have all the answers.
"Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve." - Max Planck
At some point, we must examine our own experience and humanity's collective knowledge, filtering it through reason, to make sense of it all for ourselves. I would love to hear your thoughts on these concepts as well as your own. Where are you at in your journey?