I read a lot of Carl Sagan. I have read "The Varities of Scientific Experience - A Personal View of the Search for God". This is a book made from transcriptions of his visit to The Gifford Lectures. He tells his audience that when people speak about God, the first thing you have to sort out is what exactly they mean by God. Here is a quote that is related to what I read in the book:
When people ask me after one of my lectures, “Do you believe in God?” I frequently reply by asking what the questioner means by “God.” The term means a lot of different things in a lot of different religions. For some, it’s an outsized, light-skinned male with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere up there in the sky, busily tallying the fall of every sparrow. To others — for example, Baruch, Spinoza, and Albert Einstein — God is essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe. I can’t imagine anyone denying the existence of the laws of nature, but I don’t know of any compelling evidence for the old man in the sky.
In the cosmic context, the very scale of the universe — more than one hundred billion galaxies, each containing more than one hundred billion stars — speaks to us of the inconsequentiality of human events. We see a universe simultaneously very beautiful and very violent. We see a universe that does not exclude a traditional Western or Eastern god, but that does not require either.
If there really is a not a God, then when a "riled up" religious person calls anyone "Godless", they are also speaking about themselves. If there truly is a God, then calling someone else Godless is a lie and a denial of one's own belief. For if a God exists, being Godless is impossible, whether you like it or not.
I see so many people justify bad behavior because of their faith. Yet I have seen other people who acheive heights of character when inspired to behave like the royal heritage they feel their faith reveals to them.
If you are going to start ignoring the beatitudes, then by all means, cling to your faith. That still won't entitle anyone to repress anyone else for their religion.
Sometimes goodness becomes corrupted. When you begin to demand kindness and try to enforce courtesy the point has been missed.
Sometimes I am sure religious people feel I have been placed here to test their faith. I have such insight into their perspectives as I struggled to believe for many years. It is so difficult to even come to common terms. Neither of us, the believers nor the non-believers, was placed here by anything. We are the outgrowth of complex and amazing processes that should be elevated in their significance for what they truly are.
I would be pleased to acknowledge God. The root word of "acknowledge" is "Knowledge" or in Latin "Scientia". I must have the science, the research, the evidence. The irony is that if there is a God, Science is nothing less than the ordered study of creation. If there is not a God, Science is the study of all that is.
Just the word "Creation" burns the ears. The constant preaching and repetition of things that are not known. So it is written. Many things are written. It is simply nothing less than ignorance to put over presumptions, hopes, dreams and interpretations of ancient unlearned men's dreams as knowledge. It is a deep tragedy that many who purport to desire great familiarity with the divine can allow themselves to know so little about the Universe they live in and are a part of.
Like I always concede, scientists can be religious, and internally they may feel they can sort and balance their knowledge with their faith. It is just barley bearable misery to see the other kind of religious people, the blowhards, latch so readily upon ignorance and offer it up as if it were the flawless truth. What a dangerous thing rampant credulity can be.
Maybe my old religious sensibility now just promotes the virtues of the Mac. At least my claims can be tested and the purported results can be obtained and evaluated independently.
I was watching House this week, which might as well be "Non-believer-revival" (or say Heathen Fireside). There was a character who was an African American mormon intern, given away to House by his BYU class ring. They needed to conduct a liver test without generating a lab record as a favor to a woman who wanted to get into the Airforce. The team decided they could use tequila to run the test. They needed a "control" group to observe Heavy, Occassional and Non-drinker responses compared to the patient response to consuming a shot every few minutes. House asked the mormon character to drink as the "Non-drinker" control for the experiment. He refused, citing his religious beliefs were more important than the woman's career choices. House argued that the test could also save her life as well as her career. The intern doctor agreed to participate. House asked him later why he allowed his belief to be supercede by House's will. "You made a rational argument", said the religious character. House said, (and I paraphrase) if rational arguments always worked on religious people there wouldn't be any anymore.
I know I make a post relating to this subject every few weeks, though I continue to have this conversation with the world and within.