I was having a very frank discussion with an old friend last night about “my attitude”. If you are reading this, you probably have been here before, and / or are probably close enough to me to have heard some of my rantings about religion.
I realized last night that I have probably taken for granted that the true nature of my predicament has been understood. For the sake of letting my closest friend and loved ones know of my truest feelings for the things they treasure, I write this. I would never want anyone to mistakenly feel that I scorn them.
I have a dualistic nature. I have a mind and heart that are moved by the rational, compelling explanations of science. The nature of scientific thought resonates with me. I also feel a deep connection to an otherworldly spiritual realm. I’ve felt this way my whole life. These two realms are governed by paradigms that do not agree with each other.
My soul desires unity of though and understanding. I want to know THE TRUTH of all things. I really want to know how things work. Science and religion are two extremely compelling attempts to arrive at the truth. They both move me deeply – and in different, opposing directions.
I am conflicted.
For most of my life, there were essentially deadlines that required me to make up my mind regarding what I thought about these things. This is the first time in my life when I have felt like I truly can sit down on the path of life, and just wait for more information. I don’t feel a sense of urgency to make up my mind about which path is true. If we really are eternal beings, I’ve got all of eternity to get this figured out. I feel compelled to do the best that I know how to do with the truths that I find self evident today. What new truth will I discover tomorrow? I do not know. I’ll follow it when it comes.
I’ve spent so much of my life fervently saying, “I know, with every fiber of my being…”; I’ve spent so much of my life surrounded by people who seem to KNOW all of the answers… I’ve spent so much of my life quietly and privately knowing that I really don’t know…
It has been a wonderful feeling to finally allow myself to say “I DON’T know!”
I am grateful for the bizzare chain of events that have led me to feel free of any pressure to decide that I “KNOW” things. I’m finally okay with not knowing all of the answers to the big questions.
There are times when I seem to lash out at the establishments of organized religion. I think I’m still mourning 30 years of relinquished honest living. Perhaps you are familiar with the various stages of mourning… And another thing perhaps you should know about me. Maybe I don’t have to say this, but I don’t want to take anything for granted. I often think out loud. I enjoy debate – it is my laboratory of thought. I’ll often take a position and argue it for a while with people around me, just to see what holes they can shoot through it. It’s a way for me to test ideas out, to question my own assumptions, and ultimately, my pursuit of truth.
One final thought. I realize that religion serves the emotional needs of a great many people. As I was visiting Ashley’s church with her last week, I watched people react emotionally (even speaking in tongues) to various parts of the service. My inner scientist is, of course, studying the contingencies of reinforcement in this fascinating social landscape, mapping out the behavioral mechanisms that compel people to behave this way. My inner spiritualist, although not even remotely moved by the doctrines and praising being pedaled from the pulpit, realizes – We all have emotional needs. Here is a group of people who have come together to meet one another’s emotional needs. I honor that. I am happy that they can have those needs met. I would NEVER want them to go unmet.
Organized religion happens to not meet my emotional needs. Please do not take this as a lack of spirituality on my part. My spirituality happens profoundly, and in private (such as my recent time in moab).
And when you hear me speaking about religion, please know that I’m simply in my lab, trying to figure it all out.
Here’s what I DO know: “I still cling to hope, and I believe in love, and that’s faith enough for me” – Neil Peart