Not quite about religion, maybe about belief

As the title of this post says, this is not about religion, but maybe (actually pretty much) about belief.  However, I will talk about “belief” in a general sense, nothing specific. Additionally, it is not my intention to disrespect any point of view (I know, never a good phrase to start a conversation; brace yourselves).

One thing you need to understand is that I have friends and acquaintances with thoughts on spiritual matters that fall on virtually every position in the whole spectrum of possibilities, from absolute belief, to absolute unbelief. Moreover, all of my friends are nice, respectful thinkers, therefore I do not want to disrespect any of them. I tend to choose my friends very carefully, as I have been burned whenever I have not.

A message to any new readers: Thanks for spending some time looking at my thoughts! You have great taste… (:-)… But seriously, you deserve to know something right away.  I have expressed some of my views about beliefs in other posts, like this one.  Moreover, in a different post, I very clearly state that I will not be bullied by either angry theists or angry atheists

Now, here we go.

Normality is a rather common feature of the universe. Most things go from one extreme to another, with many gradations in between. For example. If you pick 100 people at random and arrange them by height you will get something very similar to this graph, published in 1872 in Popular Science magazine.

image

Credit: http://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Popular_Science_Monthly/Volume_1/May_1872/Quetelet_on_the_Science_of_Man.

These type of curves, by the way, are called Normal Curves (duh moment of the day…). Incidentally, in case anyone had any doubts about my “normality”, my own height falls exactly at the mid-point of the curve (sadly, it is a 1800’s curve; I know for a fact that the current average is shifted to the right.)

(:-/)

IMPORTANT UPDATE: For a WAY better explanation of normal curves, please see this post from a colleague and friend of mine…

As you can see in this normal curve, in a characteristic like height, some people will fall at the extremes (very short or very tall), while most people will tend to gravitate towards the middle, the average if you will. This is true for many human traits. In fact, it is true for biology in general and frankly, it is common sense.

Now, I have said before, and if you know me you know it is true, that sometimes I think about weird things. This is one of those times…

It occurs to me that most of us go back and forth in a normal curve in terms of our spiritual beliefs. This is not a new or even original insight. It is just human nature. Without pretending that I know anything about you, it is safe to assume that at some point or another in your life you have jumped between extremes. I know I have.

My (I think) original thought on this matter is that instead of being a comfortable position, not being quite sure about which stance you want to take in your own life, in other words, being in the middle, is actually harder and more soul-draining. It is hardly cowardice. In my view, even if it is harder it is most rewarding and pretty much the right thing to do (again, my opinion, nothing more, nothing less).

For example, you may want to decide that your life will be ruled by a sacred book like the bible and that **everything** that the bible says is what literally God intends us to do. This would be a rather comfortable position, you are told what to do and you just do it. This chosen belief will correspond with one of the extremes of the normal curve.

Alternatively, you may want to decide that there is absolutely no merit on any faith-based proposition and you live your life accordingly. In this other extreme, you accept no one’s authority, period. That does not mean anything negative, mind you; many atheists live gentle, moral lives just as many theists live violent, deeply immoral lives. What I am trying to say is that your spiritual outlook in life does not absolutely determine the kind of person you are.

It is important to point out that I know of no one who lives by any of the two philosophical extremes, and I’d be **very** surprised if you do. Everyone picks and chooses what they want to follow from a given life philosophy and offer very reasoned arguments for what they want to leave out. It is as simple as that.

Both extreme positions mentioned above are rather, well, static and quite comfortable; you do not need to climb the proverbial slippery slope because you are sure (or want to be sure) that your choice is the correct one, at least for you.

Yours truly? Honestly, I cannot commit. If there is even the tiniest possibility that there is a true “right” thing to do I want to pursue it. Will it be more difficult? Yes indeed. Stressful at times? Absolutely. Anxiety-causing? Oh God, yes. Nonetheless, I want to keep searching, keep reasoning, keep learning from both extremes. To me, this is the right path. I do not want to take the easy way out and “slide down” in one direction or the other.

You see, to me, it takes a lot of work, commitment and guts to stay on the summit of the normal curve of faith.

~~~~

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use…”

-Galileo

image

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

BY THE WAY…

Have I told you that I wrote a book? Don’t worry, it is not about religion, belief or anything like that. It is actually about a topic that I know a thing or two about… Science!

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3 thoughts on “Not quite about religion, maybe about belief

  1. It has often been said that passive agnosticism is the most reasonable position to take on this matter, because it neither assumes anything nor outright dismisses anything. Unfortunately people tend to misunderstand the terminology and feelings get hurt, at which point people stop listening.

    As you know I’ve said several times before, certainty is the mark of a small mind. Any man who is convinced of the infallibility of his own position is a potentially dangerous man. So, to sit between the two extremes, questioning both sides with due skepticism is, in my mind, the most reasonable place to be (even though I reside quite a bit to one side myself). However, is this a reducible concept? Is it more reasonable to stand at the median, or slightly to either side of it?

    We must remember that the spectrum would exist if there weren’t data points to fill out the spread. As such, it seems to me that there is no objectively ‘right’ position, but the issue is not a democratic one. Subjectivity is called for in this instance.

    Well said One, as always.

  2. I’m probably a little arther to the side of the curve than you are. (Both theistic and height curves, actually :) ) I don’t believe in god at all, but since you can’t really disprove one, I could believe if given sufficient proof of his (or theirs) existence. Same goes for aliens, ghosts, and the Loch Ness monster. Instead I get “believe first, and you will have your proof”, and this theological Catch-22 will likely keep me a nonbeliever forever.

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