Religious Philosophy 4/28/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

A friend of mine initiated a discussion on religion, God and the afterlife. I always enjoy these discussions when they are with somebody who respects my opinion. She was taken by my house smudging ceremony (the smoke of which I can still smell as I write this), saying that for someone with a scientific mind like mine (my readers should recall I have a doctorate in chemistry) it was surprising that I was so open to the concept.

I thought she knew me better than that, or maybe she just forgot, but yes, I am actually a very spiritual person, just not religious. The difference is that organized religions, by necessity, are a business and survive by recruitment. Don’t get me wrong; I have no particular problem with this because they often do some very good work (a few are just evil), and this good work would not be possible without money. If you’re going to give money there are often worse choices, and the recruitment is how they make sure they are in business for the “long haul”. This is why so many people belong to the church of their parents without ever questioning why.

As for me, I’ve just never found God in a church. I think there are just too many voices telling me what to do and why I’m wrong (even when I don’t speak). As such, I turned away from church when I was a young adult, officially when the religion to which I belonged decided to “de-frock” three ministers for overseeing same-gender marriages. This just struck me as too intolerant and hypocritical for an organization that was supposed to be about acceptance and love.

Although I’m not religions, I’m still very spiritual. I know that God is real and my relationship with her is very strong. And I’m certain there is more than this life, but not belonging to a religion does take a certain amount of courage. I accept that I will never understand the nature of God, and I try very hard not to speculate on this, but not understanding God’s nature is not the same as not believing. Neither do I know or understand what the afterlife holds, but we, all of us, are part of a larger truth. Even if I don’t understand it, I have faith that whatever happens will be as it should be. And that’s okay. After all, there’s nothing I can do about it anyway, so it’s good.

The conversation turned towards the various religious faiths. As it turns out, like me, she enjoys reading the various religious philosophies around the world, as do I. One thing I’ve noticed is that, while the stories and names differ, the meaning seem almost the same throughout. Tolerance, love they neighbor, and all power belongs to God. I mentioned this to a Hindu friend of mine many years ago when I was in graduate school. He responded that truth is like a pyramid. It might look different depending on the direction from which you approach it, but once you’ve reached the top you can see how they all fit together.

Religious teachings attempt to explain the unexplainable, the nature of God, and what happens in the afterlife. It seems unlikely to me that we, as humans, even have the capacity to understand the nature of God. As far as afterlife philosophies, I find myself drawn to the Hindu concept of reincarnation. What attracts me to it is not that we come back so much as it gives the purpose of life to be the development of the soul. Each reincarnation, you come back in either a higher form to learn the next lesson, or lower because you have failed to learn the previous lessons adequately.

But, although I’m drawn to this philosophy, I’m not ready to declare my belief. I’m comfortable that I don’t know what will happen even as I know there will be an afterlife. I guess my beliefs are shaped not by my upbringing so much as the lifestyle I’ve chosen to lead. I’ve been in education pretty much my entire life, so the concept that life is a learning process, the development for the soul, just as education is about development of the mind. As far as believing that we are part of a larger universal process, or set of laws (even if we don’t understand these laws) probably comes from the fact that I’m a thermodynamicist. I’ve spent my life learning about the laws that drive the universe, so I suppose it makes sense that I’m comfortable in my personal belief that these laws simply extend beyond our understanding.

To be fair, I’m not sure what the point to this post is. I’m not trying to shake or question the faith of my readers. This would be too arrogant of me. I guess I’m just letting my mind wander a bit.

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