Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Egocentric Faith

The theme of my week has been about being egocentric.

For some reason, humans tend to live most of life in a certain egocentric mode.

For example, fear of trying to "chat up" a woman (or man). The thought is often something like "what if they think I'm an asshole or slut". An unreasonable fear, considering the approached person would likely forget the encounter if the answer was "no". And even then, outside of assault, chances are the memory fades quickly from a photographic image to "some guy/gal" in a matter of hours. Any number of usual fears can be used to highlight our general concern of the world revolving around us. A slight wardrobe malfunction, a noxious odor, an accidental remark.

Moving into adulthood, these examples of egocentrism generally become more juvenile. While a healthy adult may have these thoughts and feelings, they do not have to be controlled by them.

Of course, shame, embarrassment, and caring what others think are not inherent evils. After all, such motivations can serve to make us do great things for others. Often, they are nature's way of whispering in our ear "caring about others benefits you." We don't have to look 4 steps ahead to see how charity and manners helps us out, because we know it instinctively.

Today, I went to the doctor for a sport's injury. And on my way, I was thinking, "he's going to think I'm stupid for having bunged myself up." Funny thing, I get into the Doctor's office, and there is another young man there, who ALSO appears to be there for a sports injury. Surprise surprise. Clue, meet Fate. Then, it turns out that the Doctor is actually fairly supportive of my sport, at least on a professional level. Maybe he just has good bedside manner, but in any case I left realizing - that my concerns didn't matter.

Looking at the situation now, I just see it as an extension of so many years of brainwashing. Years of being told that I was giving God's message to the people. We were responsible for preaching the "good news" to the nations! The governments of the Earth "feared our message". Not only that, but I was personally a "representative of God". And in being such, had to "set an example" for "worldly people". I was one of the few chosen special people.

In reality, people that I talked to thought I was a misguided child, or maybe a wacko cult member, or any number of things OTHER than a "representative of God". The line that "they aren't rejecting you, they're rejecting God" was bullshit. Why? Because it'd imply that somehow the hundreds of people out there could see that a teenage boy had a divine stamp of approval in his message. But even the fire and brimstone God of the old testament gave his profits irrefutable miracles. So by our own "good book", the idea that a young boy could so directly represent God without some backing was, well, crap.

It seems I've had a few conversations in the past several weeks where the proof for God was given as "God must exist because I think it so". (Actually, maybe that's been every proof I've heard). And that "think it so" is enough to condemn me to damnation for not choosing to believe in the exact same God as you. The odd thing, is that I'm not of the "no supernatural at all" camp (a subject for a later blog post).

How can we as humans define the universe by what we "know"? To me, there is a large and unbridgeable gap between "we observe this which supports this hypothesis" and "we know this because we know this". I've always been a spiritual person. Still, my experiences and beliefs do not define what objective reality is. And the exact same is true for everyone: the atheist, the deist, the theist, the Christian. The best we can do is recognize beliefs that we commonly can not observe in the world around us and beliefs that appear to be observable in the world around us.

On it's fundamental basis - that's what "Science" is about - a vehicle which we can use to recognize beliefs and separate them out from observation. Unfortunately, dogmas developed in the religious camps that observation spoke against. (I say observation here to avoid the loaded terminology of "Science"). In seeing the failure of dogmas to observation, we lost the ground rules. And the reason, I feel, is egocentrism. The faithful insist upon the world meeting their world-view. The scientist retorts with his or hers. And yet, I wonder how much effort is wasted in the dogma and debate, when we could be doing so much more with our time if we all just accepted that others will have thoughts different than us. A fair response shows fundamentalists forcing their beliefs on others. And so, we must fight.

This all brings to mind a video I once saw, and I think it's appropriate to leave it hear at the end, enjoy!

1 comment:

Le Grand Lapin said...

Best thing I've read all week.

The Hubble Deep Field Image that the video refers to covers an expanse of sky the size of a grain of sand held at arm's length. Truly liberating idea.