XVII. Why Are We Here?

This is your story- the entire history of your many incarnations- and it is a beautiful story. The details of this story have changed over time, and they will most assuredly change in the future as we learn more and more about ourselves and the Universe around us. But this is the best information we have at the moment, and our observations and calculations seem to say that we are getting remarkably close to a detailed and accurate understanding of All That Is. Here’s what we think we know at this point:

Around 13.7 billion years ago, all matter in the Universe was condensed into pure energy in an immensely hot and dense space smaller than an atom. We’re not exactly sure what came before that or how this energy came to be, but we have ideas, and we are working to find the answers even now (it has even been mathematically proven that something could have, in fact, arisen from nothing, although it depends on your definition of nothing). This tiny, incredibly hot and dense ball of energy suddenly expanded from something smaller than the nucleus of an atom to something the size of a baseball in less than a trillionth of a second. In just under 2 minutes, the Universe has expanded to something the size of our solar system, and it only got bigger from there. It’s still expanding, even today. All of the forces and laws of physics and nature, as well as the first subatomic particles, were created in these first few seconds of Time. Minutes later, the first simple atoms of Hydrogen and Helium formed. The radiation from this expansion is still around and flying straight through your body even now. If you have seen “snow” static on a television screen, then you have seen this radiation, as 1% of that static was due to radiation from the Big Bang.

Between a few thousand years and a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, atoms in the great cloudy mess of Hydrogen and Helium gravitated toward each other in massive amounts and ignited, and the the first stars lit the heavens. For the first time, the Universe produced visible light.

A few hundred million years after the first stars ignited, gravity caused the first galaxies to form from the ocean of newly created matter.

Sometime between 9 billion and 13.6 billion years ago, the matter that makes up your body found itself in the newly formed Milky Way spiral galaxy. The red circle in the rendering of our galaxy below encompasses all of the stars and constellations that we can now see from our home planet with the naked eye.

Stars are formed when hydrogen and helium gravitate together and become so hot that the hydrogen atoms fuse together and become more helium. After the star ignites, this process continues for billions of years. (This nuclear fusion is basically the opposite of the process that humans use to create power in reactors and atomic bombs, which is called fission.) This energy of nuclear fusion, produced in our own Sun even now, is responsible for all of life on Earth. As really big stars get older, they deplete almost all of their hydrogen, and the core becomes so hot that helium and remaining hydrogen fuse together to form lithium. This begins a chain reaction of fusion that causes even bigger and bigger atoms to combine until the heavier elements, like carbon, oxygen and iron are formed. At this point, the star becomes incredibly unstable and collapses in on itself and becomes a supernova, violently exploding and sending all of its guts out into the space around it.

The stars that formed our solar system were supernovae that died and exploded around 5 billion years ago. The molecules of oxygen that these stars sent out into the cosmos are the same molecules that you are breathing in now. The iron that they spewed forth is the very same iron found in metal and in your blood. And mind-blowing as it is, the atoms in your left hand are more than likely from a completely different star than the atoms in your right. The following picture shows the Crab Nebula, which was a supernova star that exploded in the year 1054.

 

The stardust of supernovae form clouds of dust, where hydrogen atoms come together and form helium, and new stars are born all over again. The picture below shows a region of new star growth in the Carina Nebula.

Sometimes, heavier elements in a dust cloud will begin to orbit around a new star. Clouds of gas form, and chunks of debris constantly and violently slam into each other in the dust field and eventually form planets and moons. Our own solar system formed around 4.6 billion years ago.

The earth and its moon formed around this same time. The atoms that would eventually become you ended up on this early molten planet.

Eventually, the Earth began to cool and the constant bombardment of meteorites and comets, as well as processes within the Earth itself brought liquid water to the planet.

Developments in the field of abiogenesis have helped us conceptualize how biological life formed from inorganic matter through natural processes. Experiments in the laboratory have shown that amino acids, nucleotides and saccharides, all the basic building blocks of life, could have formed in Earth’s early conditions. There is also the possibility that these building blocks or something more complex was deposited on Earth via meteorites. Of course, if life did arise on other planets and made its way here, it would have to have either come from another planetary source itself, or it originated independently on its home planet.

All life on Earth evolved from a common ancestor that had a lipid cell wall, the ability to metabolize, and the ability to replicate. These physical components and processes took billions of years to eventually come together in the forms that gave rise to all life. Our very earliest ancestors probably looked something like the picture below.

Natural selection began working on these early organisms, which remained as simple cells for 3.8 billion years. Then, life changed dramatically when one form of life began to photosynthesize carbon dioxide into oxygen (these were the ancestors of today’s plants). Oxygen was toxic to many forms of life at that time, so this resulted in the death of many, many organisms. 3 billion years later, simple cells became more complex, and 2 billion years after that the first multicellular life formed on Earth. 600 million years ago, the first simple animals began to take over the planet. Around 420 million years ago, our early ancestors left the oceans and moved onto land.

The atoms that made up these organisms are still around today, and they are in the computer in front of you and in the hand that holds the mouse. You have atoms in your body right now that were also in the bodies of dinosaurs. You are drinking the same water now that the first forms of life developed in. You are breathing in the very same oxygen that the first plants released into the atmosphere. You are literally the result and recombination of everything that has come before you, going all the way back to the Big Bang. There is no difference between you and me and the rest of the Universe. All cliches aside, we are literally all one. You can never, ever be alone.

Between 85 and 55 million years ago, the first primates evolved. Humans, gorillas and chimps all share a recent common ancestor, and we began evolving independently between 4 and 8 million years ago. After that point, our lineage went through many changes and phases. Our species, Homo sapiens, is only about 250,000 years old.

Between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago, our early ancestors began migrating out of Africa and began to explore and populate the world. At this point, we only had the basic tools that we could carry with us. In the history of the Earth since life began, we have survived 6 major extinctions, 5 major ice ages, and countless natural disasters. It’s simply amazing and awe-inspiring to think about how curious, courageous and resilient our ancestors must have been. We all come from incredibly brave pioneer stock.

Our species has changed the very face of the world remarkably and dramatically ever since then, arguably more than any other species that has ever existed. Just look at how the world looks at night now. From the time we first began to gather together around ancient fires to our modern discovery of electricity, we have been fighting off the darkness for ages.

So, now that we find ourselves at the beginning of the 21st century, what lies ahead? Likely millions and perhaps billions of years of more evolution, even if our particular species is not a part of it. Sometime between 4 and 5 billion years from today, our now middle aged Sun will deplete its hydrogen and swell to 250 times its current size, becoming a red giant that will incinerate and envelop the Earth. Our star is too small to form a supernova, but eventually it will explode and shrink into a white dwarf, which will then slowly fade out over billions of years.

But do not be afraid, and do not worry. There is an entire immense Universe to explore if we can make it off this rock before it burns or we kill ourselves. Thanks to advanced telescopes on Earth and in space, we now know that galaxies are they themselves clumped together into clusters, and these clusters are clumped into superclusters. These superclusters are organized into stringlike structures called filaments. The picture below shows a simulation of this large scale structure of the Universe. The bar of measurement shown is 31.25 megaparsecs in length, meaning that if you were traveling at the speed of light, it would take you 103 million years to get from one end of the bar to the other. It simply boggles the mind.

The following amazing video takes you from the scale of an atom to the grand scale of the Universe. I warn you, it is not for the faint of heart. Enjoy and take in the enormity of what and where you are.

Prev: There Is No Spoon                                                     Next: The Meaning of Life

~ by christhehumanist on February 20, 2012.

78 Responses to “XVII. Why Are We Here?”

  1. I was reading your blog and thought of something. I can’t find or remember anyone saying they’ve been able to create some living form from something non living. It’s like watching plain dirt to try and grow a weed. It won’t work without a seed. If there is proof of this please share. Thanks

    Josh Willis

  2. How do we know it took billions and billions of years? I’ll check out the links. It just seems that the more someone tries to disprove creation it seems to make a stronger case for it.

    Thanks for the friendly conversation.

    • Another good question that brings up many other points. First of all, I should clarify that what I meant was that it took billions of years to go from molten rock to the first multi-cellular organisms. The actual process of organic molecules forming the first life that was able to metabolize and replicate perhaps only took a few hundred million years by some estimates. The fact is that we don’t know for sure yet exactly in what order, where, or how long this entire process took place. We’re working on it, and I think that it’s simply amazing that we know as much as we do. Stardust being able to investigate stardust nearly blows my mind. Most of the evidence we have comes from the sparse fossil records from the early Earth and what we know to be true about biochemistry, as well as advanced computer modeling and studying primitive organisms that still exist today.

      Secondly, no one can “disprove” creation. If someone tells you this I would be wary of their claims. Science cannot disprove something that cannot be tested. There may have been a giant flying spaghetti monster that, after being lonely for so long in the cosmos, reached down and touched the early Earth with a noodled tentacle and created life in 42 and a half days. There is no way to disprove that, but the evidence that we have about how the Universe works seems to suggest otherwise. It is the same argument with God.

      Finally, in science, it is up to the person making the claim to provide evidence for the claim. There is ample evidence that life evolves over long periods of time and can form from non-living material without a creator, but there is little or no evidence (depending on who you talk to) that supports the claim of a designer. Although I can’t prove it wrong, I reject the idea of a creator in favor of the idea with evidence. If the evidence changes in favor of a creator, then science will have to incorporate that into its growing knowledge of the way the Universe works.

      Thank you for your great questions. The fact that two people with seemingly opposing views can have an honest and friendly conversation about them gives me great hope for the future of humanity.

  3. Check out this site
    http://www.angelfire.com/mi/dinosaurs/bigbang.html

    • Thank you very much for the link. Unfortunately, it is full of bad information, including what it says most scientists believe about the Big Bang. Again, I point you to the peer-reviewed and scientifically cited wikipedia article on the Big Bang. There are, however, several excellent questions that your link poses that are again, based on incorrect information or misunderstanding of scientific principles. However they are still valid questions. It would take me far too much time and space to respond to all of them in a comment, so I ask your permission to address them in a future blog post that you have inspired me to write after this initial series of 22 posts is concluded. Many people share these concerns, and unfortunately, this misinformation, so I would be happy to provide more information and discussion on the subject, including my criticisms of the Big Bang theory and modern physics.

  4. Chris,

    Yours is a beautifully illustrated blog, and the pictures in this post are the best.

    I want to simply address one of your comments, that it has been mathematically proven that the universe could have arisen from nothing. This is not at all offensive to people of faith because they, indeed, belive that the universe did come to existence from nothing. It may be a mathematical equation that proves this, but it is evidently not replicable because science has never seen it duplicated. If true, ours is the only observable instance in which a universe has arisen from nothing.

    Yet, the mathematics cannot have been put into action without a cause. Things don’t just arise out of nothing from nothing without cause. What mathematicians may have found is the voice of God, the Prime Mover. At least this is what the Bible says: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11.3). Plato called this voice of God “the Logos”, the Mind of God in action.

    Robert Jastrow, the founding director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in 1967 published a book: Red Giants and White Dwarfs. In his concluding remarks he writes that he had a feeling that scientists are like mountain climbers who have spent decades scaling a mountain. When they get to the top, they find a theologian sitting there waiting for them saying, ” I told you so”.

    • Great comments Carson, and thank you for your warm compliments. I’m glad folks are enjoying it. I loved the Jastrow quote…that’s awesome!

      At this point in the conversation, I really can’t debate any further as to the existence of God, nor do I have a beef with those who believe that there is a non-interfering God outside of our Universe that brought the Universe into being (this was the belief of many of the founders of the Constitution). I highly, highly doubt it, but the fact is, no one knows for sure. There could very well be a Giant Teapot that existed in the Void of No Time and No Space, and was so lonely that it began to pour out it’s Magic Tea into the Nothingness and started the Big Bang. Too bad it had to wait around for billions of years for life to evolve on a tiny little blue planet around a tiny little sun in the middle of nowhere to have someone to talk to. I wonder if the Teapot created the laws of the Universe or if it was a slave to them. If it designed everything, man did it waste a lot of matter, space, and time, and it obviously didn’t mind if its creatures suffered. If it had to follow pre-existing laws of nature, then it is not an all-powerful Teapot.

      And of course, if a God created the Universe, it begs the question of who created God. And if God has always existed, then why can’t the Universe have always existed? I don’t know. Maybe God has a God. These are fun questions to ponder and discuss.

      However, just because we don’t yet know what happened before the Big Bang, that doesn’t prove that there is a God. And if a God did create the Universe, that doesn’t prove that He even knows we exist. And if he is aware of our existence, that doesn’t prove that He cares about us. And if He does care about us, that doesn’t prove that He created Heaven and Hell or souls. And if he did create Heaven and Hell and souls, that doesn’t prove that Jesus is His son and the only way to get into Heaven. I say these things not to be facetious, but because many religious people say, “See! We can’t explain what happened before the Big Bang, so that MUST mean that God exists and Jesus loves us!” Maybe God did cause the Big Bang, but we have no proof. The bottom line and the point of the first half of my blog thus far is that there is absolutely NO excuse to be a part of religions that spread false information, brainwash children, cause people to fight wars against rival faiths, murder non-believers, mutilate babies, oppress women, persecute homosexuals, denounce education, forbid birth control or fly planes into buildings.

      Respectfully,

      ~Chris

      • Here’s the big question. What happens when you die.

      • That is one of the biggest questions that every human faces. I think the key is more about coming to terms with the answer than the answer itself. Again, this is something that no one can ever know for sure, because no one has survived death to tell us about it. But the evidence suggests that when you die, just like all living things from bacteria to dinosaurs to pandas to banana trees, the molecules that make up your body will begin to break down in to simpler forms and will be incorporated into the environment and reused in other life forms, or organic matter, or inorganic matter. I don’t believe that we have a soul or a consciousness that survives death. When you die, that’s it. Game over for that which was you. But I don’t see death as an ending…I just see life as a constant process that we are all a part of. I personally think that the big question is not what happens when you die, but what will you choose to do while you are alive. I believe that is the only question that really matters. I will be addressing this very question among others in my next blog post.

  5. Hi, again, Chris,

    Thank you for the reply. Whatever else you have done with your blog, you have provided me an opportunity for discussion I haven’t had in quite a while. So, thank you for that.

    You may not want to debate the existence of God any further, but the essence of your blog and the conversation you have started is all about God (or his non-existence) and religion. Because you have not only taken an atheistic but also an oppositional stance to faith, you have opened the door to these discussions. Even your newest reader, Josh, has picked up on your slant and has joined the fray in defense of his views of God. So, you are inviting the very debate you are wishing to abandon. We can leave it behind, if you like, and I will leave you alone, but in my opinion the discussion is far from finished.

    So, before I leave and if you don’t mind, I would like to respond to some of your last critiques of God and faith.

    You say that if God created all things for man, he wasted a lot of time, matter and space doing it. Why did it take billions of years for God to get to us if he made everything for us? Well, I don’t know. But, if I am not mistaken, scientists have said that matter can never be wasted; it merely changes forms. Besides, he also said that matter and energy are interchangeable and are never lost. Space cannot be wasted because it is constantly expanding. And, didn’t Einstein say that time is relative? Didn’t he prove that time can slow down and speed up? Therefore, although from God’s perspective it took however long it may have taken him, from ours it will always look like it took a long time, for we slow down and speed up along with the passing of time. In the words of the Bible, “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3.8). So, if time is relative and does not matter then how would it be impossible for God to have always existed? And, as far as the universe having always existed, too, your own evidence says that it has not; it began some 13.7 billion years ago according to your scientific calculations, yes? 13.7 billion years is a lot, but it’s not always.

    As to the immense size of the universe for such small insignificant creatures like us, no matter how large or small God may have made the universe, one could criticize him for not doing it differently. (You only need to become president of a home owners’ association to understand God’s dilemma. No one is ever happy with whatever you do or whichever way you go.)

    As far as you not minding if people believing in a “non-interfering God,” who merely stirred up the Teapot and let it simmer, have you thought about how that sounds? That it’s okay with you for God to exist, if only he does not interfere with us or toy with our sensibilities? If God created the universe, how is it that a small, insignificant creature like you or me, has the power to criticize or even condemn him like you have? That’s pretty big stuff for a small, insignificant creature, wouldn’t you say? Perhaps it’s not the size of our bodies but the size of our minds and (forgive me) souls that matter to God? Perhaps?

    You say that we can’t prove that God knows us or cares about us. That’s not necessary. If he created us, doesn’t that say it all? Why would he go to all the trouble to create such a beautiful universe with such marvelous creatures and not care about them? But, that is a philosophical question.

    Finally, you criticize religion for all its falseness and variety of ridiculous ideas. No doubt. This is because man is largely responsible for religion. Again, religion is the attempt to be reconnected. And, people do odd things in their attempts to reach out and be reconnected to God.

    But, some of the things you criticize about the Bible are simply the result of your own cultural bias. If you lived in another place and another time–perhaps in a culture like the Klingons, the stories of the Bible could appear to be absolutely bland and mild. Circumcision, for example, as a sign to differentiate his early followers (the Jews) from others, may seem brutal, but we can’t know the existing reasons or the sitz im leben of the Jews in the world that made such a radical excision necessary. Who knows? But, the Jews are widely known for their strong family ties and care and education of their young during a time when mothers in other cultures routinely exposed their babies, leaving them crying and hungry out in the open to die alone and abandoned. There were even written laws in these cultures that allowed such infant exposure. Perhaps what the world needed was a shocking symbol of the subjugation of the male to his family rather than the license and brutality against women and children that was so prevalent in cultures who used women and then left them to care for themselves and their children. (Sound familiar?) Perhaps? Perhaps it was a visible repudiation of fertility cultures with their grotesque practices and illness-producing lifestyles. Perhaps?

    As far as Jesus being the Son of God, there are many reasons to believe. There are many evidences, and I would love to share with you some of those. But, still, it is a matter of belief.

    And, that’s where we both are. Belief. Belief in a universe that cares. Or belief in a universe that is cold, hard, unforgiving, unknowing and uncaring. I have visited one of those. I have chosen the other.

    • Wonderful comment Carson. If you don’t have one, you should consider writing your own blog. I would definitely recommend it to all my friends as a well communicated and thought out alternative viewpoint from mine. And whether or not I change anyone’s mind about these things, this conversation has caused me to look more closely at my own beliefs and biases through another’s eyes, and it has trained me to be more clear about my communications. So, to clarify….

      I didn’t mean that I don’t want to debate the existence of God any more or abandon the discussion….I have been having these conversations with people since I was 12 years old, and my friends and I have spent hours up until 4 in the morning pondering these extremely deep subjects. I would gladly keep this going until no one wants to listen anymore (and maybe even then!). I just meant that I have provided my rationale for not believing in God going all the way back to the Big Bang. No one knows what came before that or what is “outside” of our Universe, so any viewpoints beyond that from my perspective are just speculation. Even I can’t definitively say that there isn’t a God that caused the formation of the Universe…I just highly doubt it, and my life philosophy doesn’t require it. But yes, let’s definitely keep the discussion alive. Sorry for not being clear about that.

      Another clarification: when I said that God wasted a lot of matter and space, I just meant that most of the matter in the Universe is dust and stars. The only thing that people claim God is concerned about…namely our souls, our morality here on Earth, and getting to Heaven, has to do with intelligent biological life, which as far as we can tell, is an inconceivably tiny minuscule percentage of all the matter in the Universe. Why not have just one planet, or even one galaxy? Why so much empty space and matter that is not life? And that’s another thing that irks me….if God created the Universe, why did he make it impossible thus far for us to tell if we are the only life in the Universe or not? He put everything so far apart, and matter is racing farther and farther apart! That’s pretty mean and a waste of space if you ask me. And okay, maybe one day to God is a billion gazillion years to us, and maybe one inch to God is a billion gazillion miles to us, but we have no proof of that, and that is not what Einstein meant.

      When a scientist says the Universe was created in the Big Bang, religious people often say, well what created that? Must be God. But if God created the Universe, what created God? Religious people then respond that God has always existed. Science then asks why the Universe can’t have always existed then, perhaps in an eternal cycle of Big Bangs and Big Crunches, for example (which is one hypothesis). Now that is just as perplexing to me as it is to religious folk, but it in no way proves that there is a God. There is a scientific axiom that says “don’t add more deities than is necessary to explain a phenomenon.”

      I liked your comment about a neighborhood association! However, I am not saying that we need to be happy about the way the Universe evolved, I’m just saying that its seems to me that a perfect, all knowing, all powerful, and all loving God would have done a better job, from the inefficient and unnecessary space and matter in the Universe all the way down to the fact that we have an appendix. It all just looks suspiciously like something that was not designed.

      More clarification: Although I do not think that God exists or created anything, the point of this blog is not to convince people that there is not a God outside of our universe, but to help rid the world of religions that do harm, to make religious people think more clearly, to educate those that have been given false information by their religions, and to get everyone on the same page so that we can begin to start addressing problems like human relationships, overpopulation, education, war, etc. without having to think, “Well, what would God want us to do?” People frame their decisions within that context all the time, and it has lead to destruction, gross abuse, and tragedy. It’s not that I’m okay or not okay with God existing, it’s that I don’t have any major issue with someone who is a true Deist. Many of our founding fathers (men like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Paine) were Deists or were influenced by Deist philosophy and did not necessarily believe in a God who cares about or interferes with our daily lives. By interfering, I mean a God who guides evolution, has a plan and moral expectations for us, and who answers our prayers. There is no evidence for that, and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.

      And yes, there are far more violent religions than Christianity. But to this very day, (and I’m sorry to be blunt and graphic but astonishingly many people don’t find this significant) millions of baby boys have the ends of their penises mutilated because their parents believe that their God wishes it. Really? Is the foreskin a mistake on God’s part, or is it perhaps an extra bit that hangs on after the human body has been stamped out at the God Factory that he wants us to remove in post-production, like the plastic film on a new phone’s screen? And there are millions of girls around the world who have their clitoris cut off and/or their vulva sewn shut because their parents believe that THEIR God wishes it. This is the 21st century, and I cannot stand by religions that condone this behavior in these modern times. I find it sick and appalling. That a parent would do these things due only to subjugation to a God baffles me, and it’s called child abuse.

      I’d love to hear more proof of Jesus’ existence and divinity if you want to offer it for discussion. However, if you only offer the Bible as evidence (and I know that you won’t, but most do), I feel that I have shot that full of enough holes at this point. But I’ll gladly reload. (Please find the humor in that statement, I am not a violent person, nor do I go around desecrating other’s Holy Books. I’m just saying that’s a challenge I’ll take on any day.)

      Phew! Good discussion. I’ve typed myself into a rabid hunger, so I’m off to find something to eat. Until next time,

      ~Chris

  6. Chris,

    Thank you for wishing upon me a blog of my own. However, I’m not sure where I would start. Besides, yours has provided the stimulation to think about these things again and a foil against which to parry my beliefs. In another post you recommended me writing for the public. Thank you for that. I was thinking more about a book we could author together based on some of these discussions.

    Ok, here goes.

    How about this dictum for scientists: “Don’t add more speculations, hypotheses, or conjectures than necessary to explain a phenomenon”. An endless reincarnation of big bangs and crunches? Really? I thought scientists based their findings on observable, measurable research, not speculation. We have only one observable universe that, so far, has been shown to be finite as framed by a definite beginning. We have nothing else with which to compare it or measure it. So, scientifically, we cannot know how it was caused. I want scientists to hold to their own rules: if you can’t measure it, observe it, replicate it, test it, don’t create a pulpit from which to preach. Remain silent. If they want to philosophize, then they must play by the rules of philosophy. But, they mustn’t challenge the “speculations” of philosophy or theology with speculations of their own in the name of science in an attempt to retain the veneer of validity simply because it appears “scientific”. So, I hesitate to get into a rebuttal of the endless cycle theory except to say, once again, I want scientists to be as consistent as they claim to be, to wit: as far as I can tell, their Law of Thermodynamics has not been repealed. Is it not true according to this law that everything that exists in the macro-universe moves toward entropy? Hence, a perpetual motion machine is impossible?

    Your observation that if God indeed created the universe, he should have done it with only one planet, not a vast universe or that he surely wasted a lot of stardust if he only cares about us biological creatures on this little ball of dust in this remote corner of an insignificant galaxy, reminds me of another scientific reasoner: Plato. He thought that the ostrich was a cross between a gnat and a giraffe. On another occasion in ancient history there were those who scoffed at Christian teachers because of their belief in a creator God, because, if there was such a god, he should have caused elephants to fly rather than mosquitos because elephants certainly have the ears for it. Maybe that’s where Walt Dusney came up with Dumbo.

    As an apology for the “mistake” God made in creating such a vast universe for such a small species I will offer these thoughts.

    One, the human being is apparently at the mid-point between the two universes we know about: the macro-universe and the micro-universe. We are as small against the celestial universe as we are large against the atomic universe. So, we could argue that God made us exactly the right size. (This feels like a childish debate).

    Two, perhaps our earth is God’s tiny greenhouse. Perhaps God intends us to populate the entire universe and has given us the mind to do it.

    Well, this is all I can do for now.

    • Carson, I would be honored to collaborate with you any time. At the end of the day, we both care about people and their well-being, and I hope that comes across in my writing, even when it can be harsh at times. I’ve even imagined the two of us having a live debate about these subjects in front of an audience or for Youtube, one where we could be polite and shake hands and hug each other warmly, both at the beginning and at the end, as proof that people can have differing opinions without being hateful or having to kill each other.

      I like your suggested dictum. Robert Pirsig, one of my favorite authors, wrote about some criticisms of the scientific method and academia that I really liked in “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, one of them being that there are an infinite number of hypotheses to choose from to explain a particular phenomenon, so how do you choose the right one or know that the one that you chose was the actual correct version?

      You are right that we can’t know or measure what exists outside of our Universe. That is why I was very careful to call the cycle of Big Bangs and Big Crunches a hypothesis and not a theory. A theory has been proven and widely accepted, but every single theory begins as a hypothesis, which is nothing but pure speculation based on what we CAN observe. If it can’t be tested, then that is where it remains. I would include the idea of God as the prime mover behind the Big Bang as a hypothesis as well. Maybe one day it will be proven right. Maybe we’ll never know for sure. But I don’t think it’s beneficial for scientists or religious experts to be silent on these matters, as long as neither group is claiming definitive knowledge of truth that, by definition, can’t be known, or at least not yet.

      The Law of Thermodynamics comes up quite often in these types of discussions, and I will be writing a blog post after this initial series is over discussing the major criticisms of evolution and the Big Bang by religious thinkers and how some of these criticisms hold up and others do not, or are based on misunderstanding or misapplication of theory.

      Until then, here’s a link for you describing ideas about a cyclic universe:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclic_model

      I may be missing or circumventing your point about Plato, but unfortunately, he didn’t have knowledge of biological evolution or cosmological evolution, as we do now. That’s why I made those points. It’s just my opinion that if the Universe were designed, it seems like it could have ben done more efficiently. But maybe inefficiency was part of God’s plan. I don’t know. Maybe it only appears as inefficiency from our limited perspective.

      You make an excellent point about being at the perfect level between atoms and galaxies. I’m sure you’re familiar with the anthropic principle, but here’s a link for anyone who is not:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle

      I believe in the Weak Anthropic Principle, that we exist at this “perfect” level of organization, size and time because it is the most likely arena for intelligent life. If we could exist at other sizes and times, we would see THOSE as the perfect scenario. Although you and I have thankfully maintained the most adult conversation I have ever been able to have about these matters, I do admit that it can feel childish at times talking to some people when it gets down to “my unproven reality is more real than your unproven reality!” Lol.

      I find your idea about Earth being God’s greenhouse as preparation for population the Universe incredibly imaginative and inspiring. I thought about that one sentence for many hours. I don’t believe it myself, but it’s way cool!

      Cheers.

  7. these pictures are fantastic …. beautiful

    a quote for you:

    “although what we think of as God is expressed everywhere in the outer world, this reality of God cannot be realized as an experience by searching for it as anything in the outer world. What God is, may only be known when we direct our attention into ourselves to the extent that we withdraw it completely from all of our outer physical, mental and emotional experiences ”
    Michael Brown

    • Thank you so much Lois. I find that sometimes a picture can express more than words can say, and in searching for the most representative and scientifically accurate pictures, each of these blew my mind.

      That’s a great quote, but I’m curious…if we can’t know God through our physical, mental, or emotional experiences….how can we experience or know it?

  8. when you come to the place of no ego input (no voice in your head) of your mental ..physical..or emotional state …when the ego is set aside and not engaged in using these tools ……..( and do not overlook the fact that Brown says ” all outer” experience he did not say inner experience .)…… when those conditions are just seen as events, and not personalized they have a clarity that cannot come if one personalizes those experiences with physical, mental (opinions) or emotional components.

    that is the value of meditation ….. one does not just sit down and do that with results if the intention is compromised ….. it requires practice just because we are all so full of ourselves…and it requires an open mind that tells us …”hey … this is worth a try” ……

    for myself, we are talking about years …. I have to deal with a “I want it now” ego ….. that is not how it comes about.

    If you are REALLY curious that makes my Heart happy, if it is just another catch phrase applied to anything …. not so much …..:>)

    • Thanks for your elaboration, Lois. I am absolutely curious or I wouldn’t ask. I certainly don’t have all the answers. You and I are actually in complete agreement on this one! I absolutely think that meditation should be a part of everyone’s daily life. I have been trying to be faithful to a 10 minute a day regimen for the last few years, though I’ve been slacking lately. That’s my “you have other things to do and no time to sit still” ego. Workin on it!

      Much love,

      ~Chris

  9. Chris …. I encourage you to stay with it and broaden it …. you will have to make the time, it will not come by itself and the ego is invested in your not doing this.

    I lived for four years in a Buddhist Monastery and that is when I developed the patience to “sit” …..:>)

    We meditated from two to three hours a day in the temple …. then we worked …..I lived in one room and found it very freeing ….. only what was needed and that was enough …… it was a good life.

    I find it harder to practice like that without the structure I had there and I do not feel the need for it …. however ….. my life would be less if I had not had the experience ……I would like to see you build to at least thirty minutes ..morning and evening if you can work it into your schedule …add extra time . slowly, but building to a longer sitting.

    Namaste good Buddy ….. Namaste

    • That is SO friggin cool! And you’re right, since I will be recommending daily meditation in a couple of posts from now, I feel like I need to dedicate more time to it myself, lest I fall into hypocrisy.

  10. YES !

  11. Chris,

    Just to explain.

    My comment about Plato and his belief that the ostrich was a cross between a gnat and a giraffe was meant as a critique of the scientific method. Plato surely knew nothing of what we call modern science. However, science is based on observation and the conclusions deduced from them. To Plato, it was quite logical that the ostrich with its round feathered gnat-like body, its giraffe-like long legs and neck, its inability to fly, but its ability to run swiftly like the giraffe, was related to both the giraffe and the gnat. To me, Plato’s mistake is a symbol of the faulty logic of science. Sometimes what so clearly appears to be true could not be further from it. As the saying goes, “logic is a way to go horribly astray but with great confidence”.

    As to the comment about elephants flying, I later realized what I had meant to say. The ancients criticized Christians for believing in a Creator God saying that if there were a God, elephants should fly because they are so obviously related to mosquitos; they both have long trunks and wings (they thought the elephants ears were useless wings). Again, I intended it to be a comment on your logic-based criticism of God, e.g. he obviously made the universe is too big, there is too much wasted space, etc. Time often makes human logic to look quite absurd. Just a couple of glimpses of old photos from the past (particularly like those from the 1970s) can make look silly what we once took quite seriously.

    On another note, physicists are leading the way, primarily through quantum mechanics, in showing that observing a phenomenon actually changes it. We can see this in something seemingly quite unrelated to science: a reality television show. The presence of the camera and crew make the reality different than it would have been without them. Thus, reality can never truly be observed, because it is different than it would have been without the observation. This may be why God can never be observed. He would not be God if he were observed. Indeed, he is something other than God when observed. It’s very simple:

    [God + x = More-Than-God], hence [God-Too-Much] or [Not-God].

    [God - x = Less-Than-God], hence [God-Too-Little] or [God-Not].

    Therefore,

    [God + nothing = God-Only], hence [God-Enough] or [God-Is].

    [God-Only-Is-Who-He-Is]. Thus from his perspective [I-Am-Who-I-Am].

    • Carson,

      Thanks for elaborating. Here are my thoughts.

      Logic may cause people to come to strange conclusions, but I see that as the improper application of logic and not necessarily a problem of logic itself. Logic isn’t the only way of acquiring knowledge, but it is important, and without it we wouldn’t have such an advanced society.

      Even if time to “God” and time to humans exists on different scales, which we don’t know, it doesn’t explain all of the other observations about the Universe and our existence that point to the fact that we were not designed.

      While it is true that our observations sometimes change what we are observing, that doesn’t lead to the conclusion that God exists. This argument by theists is the only one I can think of where the fact that something cannot be observed somehow lends credence to the fact that it exists. If that’s the case, the Universe must be brimming full of Giant Teapots and Flying Spaghetti Monsters.

      • Chris,

        I think you misunderstood. Mine was not an attempt to prove the existence of God from our inability to observe him. It was offered as an explanation from physics in the form of an ontological argument as to why it would be impossible to observe God if he exists. His name, “I AM THAT I AM,” is a sophisticated concept of self-existence. I was asserting that if we could observe God, his nature as well as the very nature of the universe would be changed or different. So, it makes sense that it would be impossible to observe the God of this universe because that is the way this universe is.

        As far as logic is concerned, I was merely asserting that all logic has a beginning point: the perspective of the reasoner. Any perspective is influenced by the environment of the reasoner and by environment I mean not only geography, but also culture, religion, milieu, and what I will call “accepted givens”. Modern science falls into this last category, and I assert that the very activity of science is biased by its milieu and many of its conclusions may one day seem as quaint as Plato’s ostrich. Therefore, I don’t give absolute credence to science or its methods.

        By the way, none of the above is offered as a proof of God.

      • Here is where you and I differ. You see a Universe where God cannot be observed, but yet still believe in his existence. I see a Universe where God cannot be observed, and I leave it at that. I have no need to believe in a God, and I live in a Universe that can be explained based on what we CAN observe, without the need for a God.

        As far as the logical nature of science, I simply point to EVERYTHING in our modern world that you and I and everyone else relies upon every minute of every day that would not be here if not for the logic of science.

        And as for “accepted givens”, we had never before been to the moon, but in 1969, we used accepted givens of physics to get men there. Amazingly, it worked. This fact is repeated in every other venture of science and technology. I would not be so quick to dismiss it.

  12. Addendum to above as to the Anthropic Principle:

    We exist. How incredible. We exist on a planet that is at the right distance from its star to support life. It is at the right size for its inhabitants. It contains the right elements for their sustenance and reproduction. It is in one of the billions of solar systems in a galaxy that is one of billions of galaxies. And its galaxy is in the only universe that the only sentient beings we are aware of are aware of.

    These sentient beings have calculated the age of this ageless universe back to its beginning which means that their minds are not only sentient but infinitely comprehending. They do not know all, but they are capable of understanding to the ends of their known universe.

    These sentient beings are mortal and are aware of their mortality. This awareness drives them to seek more knowledge and understanding. It also causes them to ponder their own existence and why they arise from nothingness. Why from nothingness do they awake to gradual comprehension? They ponder this, too. This Existential Why leads them to seek the How of their existence. It also prods them to understand why they ask why. And, in the asking of why they ponder the stirrings of their hearts that tug them toward meaning.

    Why do they appreciate beauty? Why do they love? Why do they care in the deepest definition of “care”? And why does it seem that their hearts tell them that the meaning of life is not Why or How, but Who? And, why does it seem that this Who has to do with Existence Itself and all the things that make life meaningful?

    Well, it seems like a miracle. But, it is what it is. We are what we are. Or, more properly, we are who we are. Which means, singularly defined we each can say, I am who I am.

    And, that’s the name God gave to himself.

    • Carson,

      I will be discussing why we ponder our existence and why we search for meaning in my next post. I will be discussing love in the post after that. Until then, I will just briefly say that just because you can ponder something doesn’t mean that it can exist. Humans come up with all kinds of ideas that could never have any basis in reality.

      And if we are all God, and God is every part of the Universe, then “God” is just another name for the Universe. You might as well call the Universe “Lucy” or “Dan”. Call it what you want, that doesn’t mean that it has a singular consciousness that expects us to believe in a 2,000 year old dead Israelite in oder to get to a Heavenly dimension after we die.

      • Chris,

        I did not say we are all God. I was making a play on “it is what it is” to show that the Hebrews’ name for God represents an awareness of pure and personal autonomous existence. But, this is exactly the same thing we claim for ourselves: “I am who I am.”. I just think such a concept of God is a stunning conclusion coming out of a tribal, desert people.

      • Thanks for the clarification. I agree, that is a remarkable and stunning conclusion to have come out of that time and place. I find it even more remarkable and stunning that many people have not moved past that idea of God, given all of the stunning conclusions we have had since then that are far more advanced.

  13. “Harmony without and within

    Man is living as an island, and that’s where all misery arises. Down the centuries man has been trying to live independently from existence–that is not possible in the very nature of things. Man can neither be independent nor dependent. Existence is a state of interdependence: everything depends on everything else. There is no hierarchy, nobody is lower and nobody is higher. Existence is a communion, an eternal love affair.

    But the idea that man has to be higher, superior, special, creates trouble. Man has to be nothing–man has to dissolve into the totality of things. And when we drop all the barriers, communion happens and that communion is a benediction. To be one with the whole is all. That is the very core of religiousness.

    Heraclitus says: It would not be better if things happened to men just as they wish. Unless you expect the unexpected you will never find the truth, for it is hard to discover and hard to attain. Nature loves to hide. The lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither speaks nor conceals–but gives signs.

    Existence has no language… and if you depend on language there can be no communication with existence. Existence is a mystery, you cannot interpret it. If you interpret, you miss. Existence can be lived, but not thought about. It is more like poetry, less like philosophy. It is a sign, it is a door. It shows, but it says nothing.

    Through mind, there is no approach to existence. If you think about it, you can go on thinking and thinking, about and about, but you will never reach it–because it is precisely thinking that is the barrier. Thinking is a private world, it belongs to you–then you are enclosed, encapsulated, imprisoned within yourself. Nonthinking, you are no more; you are enclosed no more. You open, you become porous, existence flows into you and you flow into existence.

    Learn to listen–listening means you are open, vulnerable, receptive, but you are not in any way thinking. Thinking is a positive action. Listening is passivity: you become like a valley and receive; you become like a womb and you receive. If you can listen, then nature speaks–but it is not a language. Nature doesn’t use words. Then what does nature use? Says Heraclitus, it uses signs. A flower is there: what is the sign in it? It is not saying anything–but can you really say it is not saying anything? It is saying much, but it is not using any words–a wordless message.

    To hear the wordless you will have to become wordless, because only the same can hear the same, only the same can relate to the same.

    Sitting by a flower, don’t be a person, be a flower. Sitting by the tree, don’t be a person, be a tree. Taking a bath in a river, don’t be a man, be a river. And then millions of signs are given to you. And it is not a communication–it is a communion. Then nature speaks, speaks in thousands of tongues, but not in language.”

    – OSHO on Communion

    Annabel

  14. “On which side of your umbrella did you leave your shoes?

    Do the small things of life with a relaxed awareness. When you are eating, eat totally–chew totally, taste totally, smell totally. Touch your bread, feel the texture. Smell the bread, smell the flavor. Chew it, let it dissolve into your being, and remain conscious–and you are meditating. And then meditation is not separate from life.

    Whenever meditation is separate from life, something is wrong. It becomes life-negative. Then one starts thinking of going to a monastery or to a Himalayan cave. Then one wants to escape from life, because life seems to be a distraction from meditation.

    Life is not a distraction, life is an occasion for meditation.

    A disciple had come to see Ikkyu, his master. The disciple had been practicing for some time. It was raining, and as he went in, he left his shoes and umbrella outside.

    After he paid his respects, the master asked him on which side of his shoes he had left his umbrella.

    Now, what kind of question…? You don’t expect masters to ask such nonsense questions–you expect them to ask about God, about kundalini rising, chakras opening, lights happening in your head. You ask about such great things–occult, esoteric. But Ikkyu asked a very ordinary question. No Christian saint would have asked it, no Jain monk would have asked it, no Hindu swami would have asked it. It can be done only by one who is really with the Buddha, in the Buddha–who is really a buddha himself.

    The master asked him on which side of his shoes he had left his umbrella. Now, what do shoes and umbrellas have to do with spirituality? If the same question had been asked to you, you would have felt annoyed. What kind of question is this? But there is something immensely valuable in it. Had he asked about God, about your kundalini and chakras, that would have been nonsense, utterly meaningless. But this has meaning. The disciple could not remember–who bothers where you have put your shoes and on which side you have put your umbrella, to the right or to the left. Who bothers? Who pays so much attention to umbrellas? Who thinks of shoes? Who is so careful? But that was enough–the disciple was refused.

    Ikkyu said, ‘Then go and meditate for seven years more.’

    ‘Seven years?’ the disciple said. ‘Just for this small fault?’

    Ikkyu said, ‘This is not a small fault. Faults are not small or big–you are just not yet living meditatively, that’s all. Go back, meditate for seven years more, and come again.’

    This is the essential message:
    Be careful, careful of everything. And don’t make any distinction between things, that this is trivia and that is spiritual. It depends on you. Pay attention, be careful, and everything becomes spiritual. Don’t pay attention, don’t be careful, and everything becomes unspiritual.

    Spirituality is imparted by you, it is your gift to the world. When a master like Ikkyu touches his umbrella, the umbrella is as divine as anything can be. Meditative energy is alchemical. It transforms the base metal into gold; it goes on transforming the baser into the higher.

    At the ultimate peak, everything is divine. This very world is the paradise, and this very body the buddha.”

    — OSHO on Meditation

    Annabel

    • Thanks for those great quotes Annabel. I personally don’t care much for Chandra Mohan Jain (also known as OSHO), and I find the same faults with him that many of his critics do, mainly that he sometimes misinterprets the subject matter he derives many of his insights from, and at times he says A LOT without saying anything of much substance. He is also a guru, and I heavily distrust gurus. However, his ability to communicate difficult concepts in incredibly beautiful language is amazing, and there are many things he has said that I find extremely insightful and useful.

      For instance, you quoted him as recommending that we listen without thinking. Well that is entirely absurd and impossible. However, I do agree that we should listen more while suspending immediate judgement and bias. You quoted him as claiming that existence is a mystery and that we cannot interpret it. Well that is not true at all. We are exploring and interpreting the nature of existence all of the time, and we know a great deal about it. However, I agree, and I think this speaks to Carson’s point, that, because we are observing and interpreting the Universe through a limited human body, we can never fully know the truth of what is outside of our bodies. Anything we claim to know is merely a representative model within our minds of reality. However, based on the increasing accuracy of our predictions, every day we get closer and closer to making that model more like the reality that it is modeling.

      Respectfully,

      ~Chris

      P.S. I LOVED the story about the umbrella. That is an example of OSHO’s teachings that I think is extremely useful, because it teaches us to be more present in the moment, which is a key part of the philosophy that I am proposing.

  15. Interesting, Annabel.

    On the other hand, Jesus never asked where anyone’s shoes were in relation to his umbrella. He asked whose feet have you washed that were once wearing those shoes. Accordingly, inner peace arises from serving others rather than yourself, not in withdrawing into oneself to try to discover spirituality within oneself. Divinity is action in service to the needs of others. God is love.

  16. Ahhhh…Carson…yes. You are right in that Love is not a noun, but an action verb in actuality. Just to say the words, “I love you” is nothing unless there is action in displaying the evidence of love….as with our family first, then in service to others. The works of Jesus very much exemplified love in action. In his miracles the healing did not take place by uttering the word, Love, but through the demonstration of the word love.

    On the other hand, I believe LOVE is the Holy Grail seated at the center of our Soul….at the core of our beingness….where we must drink deeply thereof …. in order to connect with others to serve them well. Selfish, ego-centered, and self-serving personalities can’t be truly loving or serving. That is why we all must endure “soul-searching” …going within….to discover that divinity rooted inside the Holy Grail within us all where our connectedness to Divine exists.

    There is much documented, historical evidence regarding the “lost years of Jesus.” I will not cite all the many references here, but they are available on the Internet. During those eighteen years, it appears that Jesus spent that time seeking “truth” living among earthly teachers in monasteries learning the ways of divinity through inner solace to perform the great services he is so well known for 2000 years later.

    Even though in your beliefs, however, you may be wanting to say to me right now that Jesus, being the only beloved son of God, was born with all the knowledge and abilities being God in flesh. However, I do believe that the Holy Scriptures were tampered with by the Vatican and through all the many translations. However, some Truths do remain, often obscured, in the scriptures. The verse of Jesus’ words telling his disciples that they were to do even more and greater works than he. That leads me to believe that we are all capable and teachable to do just that in the purity of love and service per His instructions.

    Thanks for responding, Carson!

    Annabel

  17. Carson…..an after-thought on Meditation. The Zen Master was attempting to enlighten the disciple by explaining to him that meditation was being totally conscious of life and daily activities….not contemplating one’s navel …my words here not his…..I think he was referencing monasteries as unnecessarily withdrawing from life just to meditate….and that is not the way of true meditation. Therefore, seeing that the disciple seemed self-absorbed rather than outwardly aware, he sent him back to seven more years of being just with himself which suited him better than service to others and living life fully…..my opinion and interpretation.

    Also, during the eighteen years that Jesus was abroad learning from masters, I have no clue as to how much withdrawing and inner contemplation went on. In some accounts, it appears that he was quite active being out and about among peoples of other cultures. Also, since his parents were Essenes, that was a very spiritual and serving culture that Jesus grew up in with his family having their own schools and monasteries…according to some accounts. Again, that is information easily researched on the Internet.

    Warmly,
    Annabel

  18. “authentic meditation is therefore the highest frequency of the inner work that we practice while in this world.

    No activity engaging thought processes accomplishes this intternalization, because thinking causes the mental body to reactivate all it thinks it knows … this outer world.

    Only when we accomplish 100% mental claarity is the mind stilled …. when the mind is not cear on WHY it needs to be stilled, it bucks its thoughts outwardly into the world like an untamed stallion.”

    (Michael Brown)

  19. If you cannot pull this off on your own …. monasterys and teachers and time alone can help you to discipline yourself.

  20. to clarify what I just said I want to make it cear those last words were mine…. not Michaels not everyone who takes time out to live in a monastery goes to live there life out there …. some go for the experience.

  21. Annabel,

    I had never thought about it like that: the Zen master wanting his disciple to be more aware of the world about him rather than spending his time in self-contemplation. It has been said of some Christians that they are so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly good. I suppose that is a similar thought. Thank you for that.

    I don’t know about the “lost years of Jesus,” but, I have no doubt that the religious outlook of both he and John the Baptist were informed by the Qumran community. Jesus’ teachings reflect some of the same ideas that were percolating among that community. The baptism taught by John in preparation for the kingdom was a prevalent practice among that group.

    As to the Qumran community’s influence on Jesus, I have speculated that Mark’s gospel may have intended to report that contact to us. It says in Mark 1.13: “And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him”. This verse comes after Jesus’ baptism at the hands of John the Baptist. By “wilderness” was generally meant the area east and south of Jerusalem. And, the Greek word for “angel” is the same as for “messenger”. It is the same Greek word found in Mark 1.2 and is used in reference to John the Baptist in his work as a prophet. I see no reason to translate the word “messenger” in one place and then “angel” eleven verses later in the same chapter. So, I take it to mean that Jesus went down into the area of the Dead Sea where the Qumran community was and fasted there. The “messengers” who ministered to him, then, I take to mean the Qumran community which was definitely a prophetic, apocalyptic-envisioning community.

    The Qumran community was not only a prophetic but also a priestly community. A priest began his service at the age of thirty (Numbers 4.3). The fact that Jesus did not begin his ministry until the age of thirty leads me to be even more confident that he received at least part of his education at Qumran. Even though he was not of the priestly tribe of Levi, but Judah, as a rabbi he nevertheless would have honored that tradition. John the Baptist, on the other hand, was born of the priestly tribe which may partly explain his ascetic approach to his ministry. Meditation at Qumran would most likely have centered around reading and reflecting on the scriptures. The discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls shows how important the scriptures were in shaping their evolving spiritualization of the Law.

    What I see in both John the Baptist and Jesus is that they are both teachers who emerge from Qumran with a message about the impending advent of God’s kingdom and a radical realignment of the world. John’s approach was to call the people of Jerusalem (and all the cities) into the wilderness as an apocalyptic, Feast of Tabernacles sort of action, a calling-out and back-to-basics act of penance and preparation. Hence John’s approach was as a meditative, prophetic ascetic. Jesus, on the other hand, took his message into Galilee and the very heart of Jerusalem and the temple. For him, the coming kingdom would transform the very nature of religious and national life. The kingdom would be inclusive of both Jew and Gentile. The very nature of worship would be changed, and Judaism itself would be transformed. Hence, there was no need for fasting, asceticism or self-abegnation. The coming of the kingdom would be an occasion for joy, not terror. Therefore his meditative actions during Jesus’ public ministry after Qumran were largely confined to prayer.

    So, I agree with you that Jesus must have had a monastic period which shaped his views and subsequent teachings. His rearing as a carpenter gave him an additional education and perspective in engaging with the world rather than withdrawing from it.

    So, no, I do not believe that Jesus was born with all knowledge. I believe he came to it through education and experience. And, yes, I believe that we are to engage the world and act out or complete his work of love. And, yes, I believe we can do greater works than he. His love in the hearts of his followers has built many hospitals, orphanages, schools, charitable organizations, and has motivated others to make discoveries that have literally changed the world. One of these discoveries, or developments, ironically, is modern science.

    Thank YOU for responding.

  22. Carson,
    Thank you for adding some new insight into the ministries of both John the Baptist and Jesus, and the regional influences on their individual “calling.” Yes, the forty days in the desert makes more sense now.
    Yes, also, to your last statement regarding our progressive greater works out of love and service for humankind. Science is part of that, too.
    Everything ….. everything literally evolves and unfolds. Personally, I believe the lever, the button, the outcome or next phase of evolution depends on CHOICES….personal and planetary. How we as humanity choose to direct Love and Service to family, neighbors and philanthropical avenues determines the direction of evolution. Also, how we choose to use the data of modern science directs the course of humanity and planetary outcomes as well. It’s all about our choices. My favorite quote comes from one of the Harry Potter movies: It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities- Dumbledore.

    Annabel

  23. Chris,
    Thank you for providing such an elaborate forum for us! The magnificant backdrop of these awesome photos on this post is mind-boggling.
    Each time I open to this page and view them, I don’t feel intimidated but exhilarated! Although I am more minuet than even a speck of dust in comparison to this grandeur, I am huge in comparison to a flea. A flea is gigantic in relation to a molecule. The grandeur of the cosmos is no more significant than a molecule. While a blood-sucking flea seems insignifcant to me, it certainly can make its presence known in a big way when it molests my ankle.
    Every time I open to this page of incredible photos, the one quote by Emerson comes to mind: What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

    With Great Appreciation,
    Annabel

  24. Chris,

    I have not dismissed science, as you say. I merely do not trust it or its practitioners implicitly as having discovered the epistemological key that will one day unlock the door to the discovery of the final answer for all things. What I was trying to say above is simply that one day the current point of view that frames modern science may one day seem very quaint.

    Science has given us many wonderful insights and has made many technical advances possible. It has also opened the Pandora’s Box to many frankensteinian possibilities. I see the frailties of human reasoning in combination with reliance on the certainty of science just as dangerous as when combined with reliance on the certainty of religion. A nuclear weapon in the hands of a nihilist scientist is as dangerous as in the hands of a religious fanatic. An apocalypse is an apocalypse.

    You and I are not so different. We just have faith in different things.

    • You made many great points, Carson, and I would like to expand on them.

      I’m glad that you haven’t dismissed science or its accepted givens. After all, we wouldn’t be having this electronic discussion without the science of computers, and we would have died by the age of 25 without the science of medicine. We would be walking or riding horseback to work without the science of engineering, and we would still be thinking that ours was the only galaxy in the universe without the science of astronomy. We wouldn’t have our current wealth without the science of economics, and our history would be void of detail and understanding if not for the science of archeology. And of course we wouldn’t understand how our world works without the sciences of evolution, genetics, biology, geology, oceanography, and meteorology, and many of these advanced concepts could not be accurately modeled or described without the science of mathematics. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. I bring this up over and over because virtually everyone (including even me, at times) takes for granted how much the sciences have given us, and how close we really are to living like animals without knowledge if not for the advances of science.

      Now, that being said, I do not look to science to answer all questions (I will be discussing this more in my next blog post), and any responsible human should always look at each new scientific discovery or conclusion with the same healthy skepticism that they should look at all claims in this world. And of course the job of science is to provide information, not to make decisions or assume responsibility. That is our job as a society. A scientist may discover the power of splitting an atom, but it is up to society to decide if we want to use that energy to build or to destroy, or if it should be used at all. Yes, there are scientists right now working on developing more efficient ways of killing people. I find that horrible. However, I do not see that as a failure of the scientific method, but a failure of society. If we don’t want scientists to work on killing machines, we should draw research funding away from these endeavors and towards discoveries that would better benefit society. There is no need to reject science as a whole, especially in favor of religion. Religion is the old way of looking at the world. Science is the new way. In the future, there may be an even better method of exploring the Universe to find out what is real and what is not.

      As to the “certainty” of science, I see that as a misnomer. Science itself isn’t a tangible thing, it is a concept. Just like there is no such thing as a “society”– there are only individuals living together under a common heading and purpose– there is no such thing as “science”, but rather you have thousands of different people making scientific discoveries in their respective fields. When you view the progression of these discoveries and concepts over time as a whole, you have the history of science. When you view the most current discoveries and concepts minus all of the ones that have been rejected, added to the concepts that have survived over time, you have our current understanding of science.

      You see, the scientific method assumes that its conclusions could be wrong, and it gives itself space to be corrected if and when better information arises. It is built into the system. It could not exist without having the opportunity to be proven wrong. I have been to countless scientific symposiums and forums, and after a researcher presents his or her findings, especially if their study is unique in its field, they almost ALWAYS say something like, “…but this is just one study, and more research is needed to determine if these conclusions are valid.” Then they open up the floor to the audience to allow people to criticize their work or methods, and to ask hard questions and discuss conclusions that could be drawn, as well as what future research could be done to provide further understanding. Then the researcher submits their study to credible publications, who then determine if the scientific methods were done properly. If so, the work is published for peer review, where it is scrutinized by an even wider audience. Many, many studies are rejected at all stages of this peer-review process, which helps with quality control. Some studies are not rejected immediately, but may be rejected later when better research proves the old conclusions wrong. In this way, science itself is very similar to the evolutionary process that has resulted in life on earth over time. We are still evolving, and so is science.

      I think I was being as completely forthright and honest as I could be in the first paragraph of this blog post when I said, “The details of this story have changed over time, and THEY WILL MOST ASSUREDLY CHANGE IN THE FUTURE as we learn more and more about ourselves and the Universe around us. But this is the BEST information we have AT THE MOMENT, and our observations and calculations seem to say that we are getting remarkably close to a detailed and accurate understanding of All That Is. Here’s what we THINK we know AT THIS POINT:” (my emphasis added). The reliability of a scientific theory is measured by its ability to make accurate predictions. Our predictions are getting better and better and more and more detailed with every step, which seems to suggest that we are getting closer to the truth. But that is not a claim of certainty at all.

      Religion, on the other hand, DOES claim certainty of its conclusions, and although it has evolved over time as well, religion as a whole tends to reject new conclusions, and when it is forced to admit its mistakes, it often does so begrudgingly.

      For instance, Christianity claimed that the world was flat. It’s evidence? The Bible. Science proved this wrong. Christianity claimed that the world was the center of the Universe. It’s evidence? The Bible. Science proved this wrong. Christianity claimed that the world was created in 6 days. It’s evidence? The Bible. Science proved this wrong. Christianity claimed that the world is a few thousand years old. It’s evidence? The Bible. Science proved this wrong. Christianity claimed (and many Christians still claim) that all animals that exist today were created in their current forms at the same time. It’s evidence? The Bible. Science proved this wrong. Christianity claimed (and many Christians still claim) that homosexuality is unnatural. It’s evidence? The Bible. Science has proven this wrong.

      Now I will concede that scientists throughout history used to believe things that we now know are not true, but again, scientists see this as a natural part of the learning process. Religions see conclusions that refute the claims of their holy books as a threat. How much further would we be in our understanding of the Universe now if people throughout the centuries hadn’t feared the consequences of heresy for speaking out against the false claims of religion?

      Yes Carson, you and I are not so different. We both expect society to be skeptical and responsible, and blindly following any doctrine or believing that our current views will not change, whether that doctrine is a religion or a science, is detrimental to the growth and prosperity of our species and to the ecosystem as well. However, when it comes to investigation of what is true, I trust science more than religion. I just look at the track record. That is the difference between trust and faith.

      Again, I hesitate to call my trust in science “faith”, since many people will then misinterpret that as science and religion both being equal and accurate methods of investigation, or that believing scientific claims carries no more weight than believing in religious claims. There are two accepted definitions of faith: “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof” and “complete trust or confidence in someone or something”. The latter definition comes close to describing my relationship with science, except for the COMPLETE part. That seems to suggest that I do not look at scientific claims objectively or critically, which is most certainly not true. There are many scientific claims that I don’t agree with or that I believe will change dramatically with better knowledge in the future. The cool part about science is, even many of the researchers that came up with these claims feel the same way, and strive to get better at describing the truth.

      I hope this clears up the matter on science, but I will certainly continue the discussion if you have more objections or questions.

      Thanks for reading,

      ~Chris

      • Chris,

        I think I understand that you like the fact that scientists are open to challenges of their findings, that they are open to new evidence, and that they have the humility to expose their findings to peer review. And, I have told you that I appreciate the blessings that science have brought to the world. I agree that the Bible has often been used to “prove” that which has turned out to be fallacious. I submit to you that this is the fault of the practitioner just as faulty science is not because the facts have changed, but the practitioner has failed to do his job properly. Everyone who has beliefs about what the Bible teaches is not necessarily correct in their conclusions any more than a sincere scientist is necessarily a good one.

        Over the centuries Christianity has developed a science known as theology. It is a science that other religions are generally lacking. Theology is an academic study of religion and things divine. It is where disciplines known as criticism take place. Among those are such as: higher criticism and textual criticism. These two disciplines represent examples of ways in which Christianity is able to reform itself. By reform, I mean that it is able to accept truths discovered outside itself as being equally the truth of God. A theologian is able to objectively study the Bible to examine it from a variety of standpoints: provenance, redaction, history, culture (sitz im leben), linguistics, and a host of other methods. He or she can also accept scientific or archaeological findings that may or may not confirm his or her bias. Just as you, as a scientist, must start with some basic assumptions, so it is with a theologian. Like the scientist, the theologian is concerned with uncovering truth. And, like the scientist, the theologian can be wrong in his conclusions.

        I think a theologian would start with the assumption that the universe cannot be explained without God. Why? Because humans are part of our universe, and belief in God or gods is ubiquitous throughout the human race. From more than 10,000 years there is evidence that humans have believed in the divine. Ancient Egypt, ancient Sumeria, every culture has its belief in God or gods. If you discover a primitive culture, separated from any other culture, you will find a strong belief in a god or gods.

        This does not mean that a theologian will assert that he can “prove” there is a god. It just means that the universe cannot truly be explained without god.

        -Carson

      • Carson, I appreciate your comments about theology. I myself have great respect for the study of theology, and for those who study it. I consider it very enlightened and even courageous to critically look at the Bible and even question the assumptions of Christianity, when many around the world would call such exploration heresy.

        I am comfortable with the fact that virtually all societies have developed a belief in God or Gods or the supernatural. That doesn’t carry any weight with relevance to what is true in my opinion, but it is interesting. At one point virtually all societies believed that the Earth was flat, and they were wrong. I see the belief in God as a natural result of spirituality, which I see as a natural result of the formation of our brain. I see science as the natural result of the evolution of thought, and I see atheism as the natural result of scientific understanding.

        Also, if the very earliest societies believed in Gods, it makes perfect sense that the subsequent societies that developed from these earlier societies would also believe in Gods, just like most children adopt the religion of their parents.

        I also have no problem explaining the universe without God. There are still things we don’t yet know, but I just don’t have the need to answer those unanswered questions with God.

  25. so …. the scientists who once thought the world was flat were ……

    and trusting children who play with matches is …….

    • Exactly, Lois. Thank you.

    • The scientists who once thought the world was flat were…wrong. (Although true scientific inquiry as it is currently defined didn’t begin until sometime after we realized the world and the surrounding planets were round.) The great thing about scientific inquiry is it assumes the possibility that its conclusions could be wrong, and it gives itself space to be corrected with better information. This part of the process is built into the system.

      Trusting children who play with matches is….irresponsible. Which is why it is up to all of humanity to ensure that scientific discoveries that could cause harm are not allowed to be developed by the wrong hands.

  26. We have not done such a good job at “keeping it out of the wrong hands” …have we. A determined being will take it into their own hands and defy anything or anyone to stop them ..(Iran?) and they will justify doing it.

    This is the first time in the history of man that he is capable of destroying the world if he is rich enough and mad (as in deluded) enough to do itl.
    Every other war we knew would end with a winner or a loser ….this is the first tme in history a human being (s) have the ability to utterly destroy this world as we know it.

    thank you Sir Science ….

    . have you ever heard the expression that curiosity killed the cat ……..

    • You’re right, Lois. We have done a bad job. Indeed, we have even sold weapons to foreign countries who have used those same weapons against us a few years later. And why is that?
      You mentioned Iran, and of course there are other similar countries. Why do some extremists in the Middle Eastern countries want to destroy us? It’s due to the 5 sources of evil I discussed in my post on good and evil and because their religious texts demand it. Why do they target the U.S.? Because we are a Christian nation, and that religion directly contradicts theirs. That has nothing to do with science. Saying terrorism is the fault of science is like saying obesity is the fault of the culinary arts. No, once again, we have ancient holy books to blame.
      Thank you, Madam Religion.

  27. Chris,

    The theocratic nations of the Middle East may indeed be our enemy because we are a Christian nation. But, your idea that, if we could just get rid of all religion is a solution that precludes the idea that Christianity might be one of the following: 1) helpful and advantageous, 2) a better religion than Islam, or 3) actually true. At any rate, your faith in the superiority of atheism and the nobility of science has already been tested and found wanting.

    There have been at least two grand experiments on the thesis that, once rid of religion man would rise to his highest potential and would work selflessly to bring about a golden age of peace and prosperity. The thesis included belief in the perfectibility of man: The first of these experiments lasted more than 72 years, and the second 63.

    In 1917, the Bolsheviks of Russia, led by Vladimir Lenin, staged The October Revolution to bring about a socialist state based on the principles of Karl Marx. Marx was an atheist from his childhood, and his theoretical atheism consists of three postulates with which you should be familiar:

    1) metaphysical or dialectical materialism which considers matter as the supreme and unique cause of everything;

    2) historical materialism, according to which the economic factor is the principal and decisive factor, and the economic structure is the carrying structure of all the other structures that compose society;

    3) absolute humanism, which sets man at the summit of the cosmos: man is the supreme being.

    The socio-economic structure which the Bolsheviks imposed on Russia was known as communism. Like the theocracies of the Middle East, atheistic communism found an enemy in the Christian West. According to Karl Marx, religion was “the opiate of the people”. Religion must be abolished so that humanity could reach its evolutionary zenith. Consequently, religion was outlawed in Russia (which soon became known as the Soviet Union). From the end of World War II until 1989, the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a struggle known as the Cold War, so named because both nations possessed huge quantities of nuclear weapons, enough to destroy the world several times over. Since a hot war of such magnitude was unthinkable, the Cold War was basically a military stand-off while each side attempted to undermine the capabilities and influence of the other through covert spy operations and proxy wars.

    A revolution in many ways similar to that of the Bosheviks in Russia occurred in China in 1949 under Mao Tse Dong. China remains a communist nation to this day. The Soviet Union and its Marxist communism collapsed in 1989. It was during the Cold War that President Dwight D. Eisenhower added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance. It was an attempt to show the fundamental differences between our political system and that of Communst Russia.

    Not only did atheistic communism fail in the Soviet Union, it failed spectacularly. Man turned out to be not so perfectible. The ideals of communism held that everyone should contribute his work and talents to the betterment of all. There was even a motto that explained it all: “from each according to his ability to each according to his need”. Thus, atheistic man would selflessly labor take care of the needs of his fellow man. In other words, evil would be a thing of the past.

    All of this is to say, during the Cold War there could have been those who argued that it was our Christianity that should be eliminated, that the basic differences between us and Russia would go away if only we would rid ourselves of our religion. It turns out that the philosophies and structures advocated by Karl Marx and implemented by Vladimir Lenin and, later, Mao Tse Dong were corrupt and based on faulty principles. Among them was atheism as a philosophical basis.

    I submit to you that in our current struggle with the theocracies of the Middle East and the threats they represent it is not religion per se that is the problem, but the corrupt and faulty religious system which is Islam. Just as the problem with Russia was its communism, just so, the problem of the Middle East is Islam.

    Christianity has provided the cultural and political foundation of the west for centuries. It has not been perfect, but everything that the world thinks of as human rights, human equality, political democracy, the separation of church and state, and much more is the gift of Christianity.

    • Well Carson, I was hoping we wouldn’t get to this part of the conversation until after this initial series of posts is over, when I will be discussing possible alternatives to our current forms of government and economy. However, I knew we would reach this point eventually, so I will meet you in the middle.

      You have confronted me with one of the hardest things for any atheist to discuss with believers: the failure of previous regimes that included atheism as part of their philosophy. It’s not that it’s hard to explain why they failed, rather it is the fact that there is such a visceral reaction the the atrocities of these regimes, a reaction that I also share. This is a very emotional topic. Unfortunately, many people directly associate the evils of these past governments with atheism.

      First of all let me thank you for not including Hitler in this discussion, as many do. (Many people don’t know that Hitler was a Catholic, not an atheist, and that he used the traditional Christian persecution of Jews to his advantage.)

      To answer your first points, I do believe that some of the ideas promoted by Christianity can be helpful and advantageous, and as far as violence goes, I will admit that it is better than Islam. However, I think there are other religions that are “better” than Christianity as far as their impacts and intentions, although I believe that ALL religions are wrong and harmful, and of course, not true.

      As far as Marx, Lenin and Mao, let me be blunt. Marx, Lenin and Mao were assholes. They sucked. Most of what they said and did was deplorable, wrong, and not at all representative of my ideas and the ideas of my fellow Humanists. Additionally, although they were atheists and promoted atheism, it was not atheism itself that caused the downfall of these horrible social experiments. I think you and other Christians can respect this notion. Christians have been killing and enslaving people for centuries in the name of Christianity, with the Bible as their justification. But it was not necessarily Christianity itself that directly caused this behavior, but the 5 sources of evil that I described in my earlier post. There IS one important difference though. Atheism is the lack of a belief in God. Nothing more, nothing less. It makes no recommendations, nor does it demand adherence to any doctrines. It certainly doesn’t recommend that anyone kill anyone. In the Old Testament, however, God DOES command his armies to kill thousands of men, women and children who did not believe in Him.

      To briefly clear up a few more points (which I will expand upon in later posts): I do not think that communism or socialism are good ideas. I would never outlaw religion, and I think that religious history, as well as the study of all of the world’s religious texts, should be mandatory in schools. I am a metaphysical materialist, but I am not a historical materialist. I think the idea of social class is outdated bullshit. I do not subscribe to “absolute humanism”, nor do I believe that man is the summit of the cosmos or a supreme being (how egotistical!). I would never kill anyone or want anyone to kill anyone else in the name of atheism, or in the name of anything for that matter.

      Thank you once again, my friend, for this awesome conversation, and for challenging me to the very core and depths of my beliefs.

  28. Why do you want to take away my belief in a Higher Power even when it does not impinge on your belief that I am wrong.

    What do you see in me that is so lacking, and ugly, or harmful to others that you want me to see it your way… how is my way harmful ..why can’t you honor it?

    Why must I see it your way or my life will be less than yours because your way is right and mine is wrong?

    What empowred you to think that you are right and we are wrong?

    Who are you really doing all of this for?

    How will you stop the dangers that science has plumbed ….
    do you think they should be held accountable for their great discoveries that are as deadly as they are good?

    do you think that one can be right …. but not wise?

    do you think that science should be held accountable for the harm their discoveries have done as well as the “good” that could be reaped

    i sometimes wonder if all of this is a secret (even from you) do you hope that we will prove you wrong

    and you know what

    I don’t think that “wrong” or “right” has anything to do with everything …sigh

    • Thank you, Lois, for continuing to challenge me and bring great depth and conviction to the conversation.

      On science. Again, science is not a thing in and of itself, so it can’t be held accountable. But yes, I do believe that all scientists, as well as non-scientists, should be held accountable for all scientific discoveries, both deadly and good, and everything in between. I do think that someone can be “right”, as in correct in their thinking, but not “wise”, as in applying that thinking. Sadly, the United States ranks 17th in the world among developed nations in scientific literacy. If more people were educated and cared about science, more people would be a part of the discussion. Having the discussion about what is ethical in science as a society is where quality control could come in and be improved. Also, if we worked as a society to rid the world of the 5 sources of evil, there would be less people motivated to use scientific discoveries for destructive ends.

      Lois, I do not want to take away your belief in a higher power. I see nothing lacking, ugly, or harmful in you. I honor and respect your belief in a higher power, just as I honor and respect Carson’s belief in Jesus Christ, just as I honor and respect Muslims’ belief in the Prophet Mohammed or Buddhists’ belief in Reincarnation. I would fight for everyone’s right to believe in what they choose. For example, recently there was a controversy regarding Youtube removing hate speech videos by radical Muslims. I was vocal about allowing them to be posted, because I believe that censorship of that kind is much too dangerous. Where does it end and who decides? I believe that in an open marketplace of ideas, bad ideas like hate speech will be ostracized and eventually decline, while good and positive ideas will spread. I was also vocal about how deplorable Rush Limbaugh’s recent comments were, but I fully defend his right to say them, and would not dare silence him. The public will do that by reacting negatively against him if that is how they feel. He will either clean up his language or eventually be ignored. I feel the same way about religion.

      I would never demand the end of religion or the belief in the supernatural or the belief in a higher power. However, I have no problem using my voice to say that I do not believe in those things and to explain to others how I came to these conclusions, and why I believe these ideas are harmful. I believe that your belief in a higher power is harmful because I do not believe that it reflects the truth. However, on my list of things to change about the world, “belief in a higher power” is low on that list. This is the point that I tried to make to Carson earlier. Of the spiritual ideas that I have discussed, I see this as the least harmful. That’s why I didn’t spend much time on it in my blog, but only expanded my views on the subject in the comments section when you, Annabel and Carson brought it up.

      Many people think that this is an anti-religion blog, but that is simply not true. I just wanted to write a blog about how to make the world a better place before we destroy ourselves, and I saw religion as one of the biggest threats to this ideal, so that’s where I started. If we all dropped religion, we would have a lot less to fight about. I have a beef with the belief in God or a Higher Power because, once you start to ask questions about social issues, like “Should we allow gay marriage?” or “Should we fund stem cell research?”, Theists automatically ask, “Well, what would GOD want us to do?” I don’t see how that’s helpful if there is no God or if God’s ideas on the subject as written in holy books are perverse and wrong. Those who believe in a Higher Power say, “Well, let me consult the Higher Power through my Inner Voice.” While looking inward is important, the problem arises when my inner voice tells me something different than your inner voice. This happens because there is no higher consciousness, and your “inner voice” is just one part of your nervous system electrochemically communicating with another part of your nervous system. It comes down to a difference of opinion, and opinion can be improved through education. The belief in a soul is dangerous because it leads people to believe that they have an “out” after this life, or another chance to get things right besides this life, or a guiding influence besides their own brain, or a higher power that is in control of all things that has some sort of plan for what we should be doing. I believe that we can’t truly move forward until we leave these misconceptions behind.

      Again, if you believe in these things, I respect that. But I am willing to have a conversation about it. I don’t really believe that I will change your mind about these things Lois, nor do I believe that I will change Carson’s mind. But there others out there, listening and searching. Our little conversation has been viewed over 6,000 times since I started it just 2 months ago. People are viewing it all across the United States, from coast to coast, north to south. I even found out just last week that our words are being read in New Zealand, Norway, and even Afghanistan. And if you doubt the power of conversation, I have even had warm support from an organized group called Afghan Atheists, a group that is growing day by day, who have been courageously speaking out against the wrongs of Islam. Change is coming. I am working to help make it a change for the better, change toward equality and peace, change towards a greater truth.

      Thank you for being a part of that.

  29. Chris,

    The question of whether atheism was at the heart of Soviet communism or simply a misguided aberration of an otherwise benign and benevolent philosophy has been answered rather conclusively. Alexander Solzhenitsyn had this to say about it:

    “The World has never before known a godlessness as organised, miltarised and tenaciously malevolent as that preached by Marxism. Within the philosophical system of Marx and Lenin and at the heart of their psychology, hatred of God is the principle driving force, more fundamental than all their political and economic pretensions. Militant atheism is not merely incidental or marginal to Communist policy; it is not a side effect, but the central pivot. To achieve its diabolical ends, Communism needs to control a population devoid of religious and national feeling, and this entails a destruction of faith and nationhood. Communists proclaim both of these objectives openly, and just as openly put them into practice.” (“Men Have Forgotten God,”–The Templeton Address).

    And, again, regarding atheism, he wrote:

    “Over a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” (ibid).

    Vissarion Belinsky (1811-1848), a Russian socialist, may have planted the seeds of the revolution as early as 1847 when he argued that Russia was ripe for revolution arguing that the Russian intelligentsia was moving toward atheism, just as France’s atheism had empowered its revolution:

    “Take a closer look and you will see that (Russia) is by nature a profoundly atheistic people. It still retains a good deal of superstition, but not a trace of religiousness. Superstition passes with the advances of civilization, but religiousness often keeps company with them too; we have a living example of this in France, where even today there are many sincere Catholics among enlightened and educated men, and where many people who have rejected Christianity still cling stubbornly to some sort of god.” (Letter to N.V. Gogol, V.G. Belinsky: Selected Philosophical Works Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1948).

    About Belinsky, author Fyodor Dostoyevsky made the observation that Belinsky, “as a socialist had to destroy Christianity in the first place. He knew that revolution must first begin with atheism. As a socialist (Belinsky) was duty bound to destroy the teaching of Christ. For socialism, in Dostoyevsky’s eyes, was by its very nature atheistic, substituting the kingdom of Man for the kingdom of God and the man-God for the God-man, namely Christ.” (“Russian Philosophy,” by Frederick Charles Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Vol. 10, Britain).

    So, although this is by no means an exhaustive look at it, I think one can see that the seeds of Soviet communism were planted, by earlier atheistic revolutionary philosophies than Karl Marx, although Marx’s atheistic writings provided the political structure that informed the revolution, communism.

    The atrocities committed in the name of the Russian Revolution were not separate from the philosophy that gave it birth, because they were necessary to rid Russia of the religious philosophy (Christianity) that stood in opposition to the grand scheme of creating a new social order populated by a new man. This idea is not unrelated to Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1844-1900) idea of the Super man arising after the death of God. “In Nietzsche’s view, recent developments in modern science and the increasing secularization of European society had effectively ‘killed’ the Abrahamic God, who had served as the basis for meaning and value in the West for more than a thousand years”. (Friedrich Nietzsche, Wikipedia). Nietzsche’s concept of the Super man, by the way, became the basis for Nazi Germany’s attempt to create a Master Race which, in turn, led to the mass extermination of millions of Jews and other “lesser” mortals

    Evidently, atheism doesn’t end up just being a nice, liberating, conscience-freeing philosophy. Evidently, it bears more sinister fruits. Once freed of philosophical constraints, where does the mind and conscience of man travel?

    “If there is no God, everything is permitted,”–Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    Baby alligators are cute, but when they grow up they are very dangerous and difficult to control.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    • All good points, Carson. If lack in the belief in God did contribute to the downfalls of these societies, perhaps it is because no one found a respectable and sufficient replacement for God. I put forth that we need a secular description of the Universe, a secular morality and a secular spirituality that are emotionally satisfying as well as socially effective and positive. I’ll get to that if I ever get the chance to write my next few posts. I would also like to say that the future that I envision does not include a society that is controlled from the top down. And again, I reject socialism and communism, which I see as far more responsible for the failures of these social experiments than atheism itself. But maybe society as a whole was not ready for atheism before now. If society does try to rebuild itself as a secular one in the future, we will definitely need to learn from the lessons of the past. Thank you for helping me keep these lessons in mind.

  30. REALITY WILL NOT SUPPORT YOUR FANTASY …… you blew off Casrson’s words as if they had no value ….. “oh sure, well, that …. I can explain how you misinterpret past events and how they could not possiby
    happen when my philosophy is in place ……. one problem …. how do I get it in place …. oh well the Russians weren’t as smart as I am …. oh, I know they started out (at least verbally ) saying it was good for mankind and then something sorta happened …. but that could never happen with my plan”

    I would like to read some of the postings from that 6,000 that you spoke about ….. are they excluded from this discussion?

    I applaud and respect what you say you want to do with declaring God as a neverbeen or dead …. but your reasoning is full of holes …… and I am sorry bout that ….. it is not anything I could ever subscribe to …….

    I also see that you are as sure of your mind set, as I am of mine …..with one difference ….. mine is never ending and yours ends when you do.

    Love ya …….

    • Good afternoon Lois.

      “Reality will not support your fantasy.” You must realize that every atheist feels the exact same way about every person who sits in church on Sunday mornings and everyone who believes in life after death, but I digress. If my ideas are not realistic, then they won’t work. Fair enough. I guess we’ll find that out if they ever get incorporated.

      I’m sorry if I came across as “blowing off Carson’s words as if they had no value.” I spent an hour researching the accuracy of Carson’s facts and another hour developing a thoughtful response that I was satisfied with, which I hardly call blowing off, but whatever. He made points, I made counterpoints, he responded, and I responded. I simply have no more to say about atheist governments at this time. I even thanked him for his points, and they have caused me to think about things differently than I had before. That was the entire point of allowing comments on this blog! How wonderful!

      I would like to point out that this particular post is about the Big Bang, the development of galaxies and planets, the evolution of life on Earth, and the migration of the human species. I have yet to make ANY recommendations about what an atheist society would look like. I didn’t make any claims about God. I didn’t make any claims about religion. I was just trying to tell the story of the Universe so that people could have a greater knowledge and appreciation of where they came from. It’s important to my ideas. The debate about science was certainly on topic, but you and Carson and Annabel started talking in the comments section about God and atheistic governments and spirituality and meditation and the history of Jesus and everything else, which is great, but it’s not really pertinent to what I said in this post. Most moderators of forums and blogs would insist that these comments would best be addressed in other blog posts, but I wanted this blog to flow between all of us like an actual conversation, so I let it go and let it flow.

      And yet now I am being attacked for ideas that I haven’t even had the chance to put forth or explain yet. I promise I will continue to say many things that you all will no doubt wholeheartedly disagree with, and I absolutely welcome all of your comments, let me repeat, I absolutely welcome all of your comments, but perhaps it would be more beneficial to keep the discussion to what I actually address in each post. I promise you will have plenty of chances to shoot me down in further posts regarding each and every one of the valid objections you all have put forth. And I welcome the debate.

      As far as my response to Carson’s post. I merely made the point that I (along with many other people) view the downfalls of those governments as being more due to the governments themselves and not the lack of belief in a god. But I also admitted to Carson that I can see how it could be detrimental to people who give up the idea of God without having a firm spirituality to replace it. I never said that bad things couldn’t happen with my philosophy. I never said that the Russians were not as smart as me. I fully admit that bad things can happen even in governments who promote atheism, and history is an example of that, so we should be even more careful in designing a secular society. Again, I haven’t presented a plan yet, and I have not said that any plan of mine would be flawless.

      About my blog. I have a view counter that is currently at 6,146. This counts total views, and not individuals, so for all I know it could be just 10 people that have each viewed the blog 600 times (although I highly doubt that). My point was that people are interested, and I am honored and humbled by that fact. I really don’t know why more people are not leaving comments. No one, and I repeat NO ONE has EVER been excluded from this discussion. I have never deleted any comments (unless they were spam ads for Viagra). I have talked to some of my friends who read the blog, and some of them didn’t even realize there was a comments section for each post. Many of my atheist friends have blogs of their own, and they are busy with their own writings. Others have said that they don’t like leaving comments lest someone else embarrass or fight them publicly. Some have said that they just don’t like reading anything at all, and still others just don’t care (apathy is a problem that I will be addressing in my final blog post in this initial series coming up soon). I am also having several side discussions on my personal facebook profile that haven’t made it here (that is how I came into contact with the Afghan Atheist group).

      If there are any atheists out there reading this who would like to weigh in, please, by all means, leave a comment. Believe me, I’d welcome the help! Please note: you have to leave your email address so that the blog service knows that you are not a spam-bot, but I do not collect these emails, nor am I trying to sell anything, nor will I ever put you on any kind of register or mailing list.

      And don’t worry, Lois. I would never try to force my views on you or anyone else. I’m simply having a conversation that I hope will inspire other conversations. That is all. I promise.

      Namaste.

  31. Chris,

    I truly admire the risk you have taken in creating this blog. The very act of presenting your controversial ideas is an act of bravery. I’m not sure I would have the energy or talent to tackle such a massive project. Thank you for allowing us to participate and challenge your positions. I regret it if it seems that Lois, Annabel and I have hijacked your blog and taken it in a direction you did not intend. That certainly wasn’t my intention, and it doesn’t seem to me that it was the intention of Lois or Annabel. And I don’t think we did.

    Checking back, this is what I found in the comments section of this post:

    The first mention of God came from you.
    The first mention of Jesus came from you.
    The first mention (attack) on the idea of Jesus as Son of God came from you.
    The first and only attack on religion came from you.
    The invitation for me to write about Jesus came from you.
    The first mention of government came from you (the Constitution).
    “Meditation should be part of everyone’s daily life,” came from you.

    I point these out to simply say that if one follows the trail of discussion in the comments section of this post that it is understandable why they have gone in the direction they have. We have generally been responding to your comments and sharing our various disagreements with them.

    For example, my mention of atheistic communism as a societal failure came in response to your assertion that the current conflict between America and the extremists in Middle Eastern countries is the fault of ancient holy books. (“Thank you, Madame Religion,” was your quote). Your implication was that the world would be safer without religion (or holy books). I examined this thesis and showed that atheism had been tried as a social experiment in Russia and had failed. Indeed, the Cold War between America and atheistic Russia was far more more dangerous than the current conflict, and infinitely more people were extirminated (60,000,000) in atheistic Russia by their own countrymen than have died in the conflict between America and Islamic terrorists. Conclusion: the world was not safer without religion. It was far more dangerous.

    So, again, thank you for allowing us to converse with you courtesy of your blog. We hope it is beneficial to your and all your readers.

    –Carson

    • Fine. Guilty as charged. Excellent homework there, Carson. Time well spent. You are right, I was wrong. Now I think we’re nitpicking.

      No one said anyone “hijacked” anything. I was just suggesting that we steer the conversation back on topic. But whatever.

      • And Lois and Annabel, in light of Carson’s excellent and thorough research into our comment section (you’d make an excellent atheist scientist, Carson), I apologize. When I brought those things up, I was responding to points brought up by you all. For instance Carson, Lois ended her comment with “Thank you Sir Science”, which I thought didn’t portray the entire picture, so when I replied I ended my comment with “Thank you Madam Religion” to be ironic and funny. But again, whatever…if I was the one who got us off track, then I take full responsibility. Please, keep the comments coming and on whatever topic you want. We’ll sort it out. Next time, if I don’t think that a particular comment should be addressed when it is brought up, then I will say so at the outset and address it later. I have actually said that many times, I just admit that I was getting frustrated with this comment thread, because I have been spending so much time responding to comments that I haven’t been able to work on the next blog post. See, there I go whining again. Poor me. Sorry guys. Peace.

  32. And to that point, Carson, I would like to table our discussion of atheist governments for now (although that is just a suggestion, so feel free to keep commenting about it if you wish. I mean, fair’s fair, and I stand by what I said), but I would very much be interested in asking you more about your opinions of why you think a godless society is destructive after I publish my next blog post. I hope to have it done by this weekend. On top of this constant debate you all have been providing, I am also in the middle of moving and I have been working extra hours at the office, so I appreciate your patience. And since I didn’t acknowledge it before, thank you for your compliments about me and my writing. It makes me feel good to know that it’s appreciated, especially by someone with a different viewpoint. Good night.

  33. KONY 2012

  34. Chris,

    My purpose is certainly not to frustrate you or nitpick. It is to engage you in a meaningful conversation in response to your ideas and propositions just as you have engaged us with those ideas.

    This particular blog post is difficult to leave because it seeks to answer the most fundamentally important question: Why Are We Here? This is the universal question. Humanity has pondered it ever since our ancestors first had the capacity to reflect upon themselves and their existence. You want the answer to be completely godless. For you, it cannot be both scientific and created, much less both scientific and Christian.

    Throughout your blog, you have relentlessly attacked religion, primarily the Christian religion. Your very first substantive blog–the second–was a mockery of Jesus Christ. (I’m sorry I can think of no more diplomatic word than “mockery,” for that is what it is). Although I do not, a Christian could take it personal that you had no similar mockery of Mohammad, Buddha, Confuscius, the Dalai Lama or other religios founder.

    Your next two posts were “Why Religion Sucks, Part I” and “Why Religion Sucks, Part II”. Your next three were “What Religion Gets Wrong, Parts I, II, and III”. You have been gracious toward your readers but relentlessly deprecating in your attacks on some of their beliefs. That challenge has stirred within me the desire to offer a different way of looking at it.

    I respect you and consider you a very good friend. But, we very much differ in the answer as to “Why Are We Here”?

    I am glad that you have given us the opportunity to differ. Thank you.

    • Good points Carson. I thought a lot about why I was getting so frustrated. Then I read back through some of my comments, and my blog posts. I really picked some fights didn’t I? (Lol). I appreciate what you’ve said, and since I’ve had some time to reflect, I totally see where you were coming from. And the fact is I brought it all on myself, and what I was getting frustrated about was actually a wonderful thing…the fact that you all are willing to engage me in my claims, even the the ones where I mock religion, the very foundation of some people’s lives. Though I will continue to speak (and sometimes attack) with a tone of sarcasm and make statements that are provocative from time to time, and though I don’t regret anything that I have written thus far, I will keep in mind that I started the conversation. I feel lucky to be having it with you all. Thank YOU.

  35. thank you Kevin Siilkwood ,,,,, KONY 2012

  36. Chris,

    Correction. I should have said “In later posts” rather than “Your next two posts.”

    I do enjoy the conversation and am grateful that you have allowed me to participate.

    Carson

  37. ” Throughout this book I have made the case that one can take science seriously and accept the validity of its empiracle findings without subscribing to scientific materialism. I have argued for the need for and possibility of a world-view grounded in science, yet one that does not deny the richness of human nature and the validity of modes of knowing other than the scientific. I say between one’s conceptural understanding of the world, one’s vision of human existence and its potential , the the ethical values that guide one’s behavior How we view ourselves and the world around us cannot help but affect our attitudes and our relations with our fellow beings and the world we live in. This is in essence a question of ethics.

    Scientists have a special responsibility, a moral responsibility, in ensuring that science serves the interests of humanity in the best possible way. What they do in their specific disciplines has the power to affect the lives of all of us. For whatever historical reasons, scientists have come to enjoy a much higher level of public trust than other professionals. It is true, however, that this trust is no longer an absolute faith. There have been too many tragedies related either directly or indirectly to science and technology for the trust in sceince to remain unconditional. In my own lifetime we need onlythink of Hiroshima, Chernobyl,Three Mile Island or Bhopal in terms of nuclear or chemical disasters and the degarion of the environment… including the depletion of the ozone layer … among ecological crises.

    My plea is that we bring our spirituality, the full richness and simple wholesomness or out basic human values to bear upon the course of sceince and the direction of technology in human society. In essence, science and spirituality, though differeing in their apporaches, share the same end, which is the betterment of humanity. at its best, science is motivated by a quest for understanding to help lead us to greater flourishing and happiness….In Buddhist language…this kind of science can be described as wisdom grounded in and tempered by compasson. Similarly, spirituality is a human journey into our internal resources with the aim of understanding who we are in the deepest sense and of discovering how to live according to the highest possible idea. This too is the union of wisdom and compassion.

    Since the emergence of modern science, humanity has lived through an engagement between spirituality and science as two important sources of knowledge and well-being. sometimes the relaltionship has been a close one … a kind of friendship .. while at other times it has been frosty,with many finding the two to be incompatible. Today, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, science and spirituality have the potential to be closer than ever and to embark upon a collaborative endevor that has far-reaching potential to help humanity meet the challentes before us. We are all in this together. May each of us as a member of the human family, respond to the moral obligations to make this collaboration possible …this is my heartfelt plea”

    The Universe in a Single Atom …The Dali Lama

  38. So as flawed as the Bible and Christianity is …….
    It has its doppelginger in Science ……:>)

  39. Well put, Lois. Thank you.

    Chris, I respect your research and intelligence so much. You have presented so much information in this blog process. I understand your quest and look forward to all your posts.

    Carson, Lois and I, having journeyed on this earth for several years now, have experienced a lot of travails, searching, questioning and pondering. We all seemed to have researched, tested and tried just about everything the world has to offer. Like you, I can see that we are all serious thinkers here.

    The threads of science and spirituality seem to run through every post here.

    I am certainly not an advocate for “religion” in the traditional sense. I, for my own perspective, choose to adhere to “spirituality” in a much broader sense than religion. Regarding science, well….let’s just say that having lived as long as I have….I find science to be absolute necessary, but also very destructive….even now having to fight “science” in my personal journey of a life/death situation.

    Having gone through cancer pretty much alone in the last few years, and still in ongoing cancer recovery, I face this life/death question literally every day of my life. I am faced with a serious dilemma regarding medical science right now.

    “Science” produced a cancer drug a few years ago for women to take for at least five years after the initial cancer surgery and treatment. Now, as with most scientifically developed drugs, there are serious and life threatening issues due to the cancer drug itself. The “scientists” answer to this: give women yet another drug to counteract the harmful effects of the cancer drug……which gives women another set of serious side effects and life threatening conditions to be concerned with.

    Now, being a “spiritually” oriented person, I have always relied on my gut, soul, inner voice for answers after weighing all facts and information in just about everything for most of my life. My gut has won out over facts and scientific data. It’s that inner knowing that comes from “somewhere” other than my brain and science.

    When the doctors wanted me take the cancer med after cancer treatment, my gut said a loud “NO.” They told me how I could die sooner, etc. etc. Having gone through the educational process of the scientific method in my career certainly prepared me and taught me to look closely at all evidence and data before coming to a conclusion. However, having learned the scientific method, I was taught one important principle: just because the data concludes there is a “scientific correlation” does not indicate cause and effect. There are always these “variables and extraneous” proponents dangling around inside the scientific method. Wow, now that’s an important statement to remember….which I have always kept close to my heart all these years

    Back to my personal story with the cancer. I went against my initial gut feeling and got on the cancer drug regimine. Hmmmmm……now, I am in fact, experiencing those nasty life threatening side effects. Naturally, the medical scientists…doctors….are urging me to take yet another drug to counteract those pesky serious effects from the cancer drug. Hmmmm……what does one do…..science or soul intuition. I was right initially knowing in my gut that the cancer med was not a good thing for me….but, went against my intuition…and am now faced with the consequences. Do I get off the drug at this point…or do what the scientists recommend? I grow very weary of sitting in doctors’ offices with them confronting me with all the “scientific data” without them ever considering the reality of the soul’s inner voice which knows the body much better than the scientists profess to know.

    So, I am just giving a personal perspective here between soul and science. I do believe that science and spirituality will have to join forces rather than continue the war to arrive at all the answers you are presenting in your blog. One without the other is fanaticism and tunnel vision making us blind to the real truth whether the topic is evolution or spirituality.

    A fellow sojourner…..
    Annabel

  40. Thanks Annabel and Lois, you are both right on the mark with where I am going with the blog. I won’t comment further here, except to say read my next four blog posts, which will be addressing all of these things. That has been the plan from the beginning. Thanks for sticking with me.

  41. perhaps you shouod have started there

    • Haha. Perhaps Lois. But I wanted to present these ideas in the order that I discovered them, and everything that I have to say in the future will be based on the concepts that I have developed before. This initial series of posts, which will conclude after 4 more posts, is my thesis, so to speak, that I will refer back to for future blog posts.

  42. seems to me that referring back to them ( with the present audience ) will just give you “more of the same” from us.

    • Yes ma’am. Maybe so. But that’s okay. That’s why it’s a conversation. And remember, the “present audience” is growing all the time. We have now been viewed multiple times in Australia, The U.K., Brazil, India, The Philippines and Jamaica. Now, I have no way of knowing if those people found the site by accident or even if they read anything while they were here, but I think that’s pretty cool anyway.

      Remember, I’m not trying to convince you or Carson or Annabel or anyone else who is set in their beliefs. I am just trying to broaden the conversation. I hope that our conversation spawns other conversations. I’m not trying to be any kind of leader of any kind of movement, I’m just trying to express ideas that many don’t talk about due to fear (and some of those that share my beliefs that DO speak out unfortunately do so in anger and disrespect.) Now, I know that I have been sacrilegious at times in this blog, but I hope that I have not been disrespectful. Given the deep and emotional nature of the topics that we are discussing, I think that we have done a pretty fine job of being nice, and I hope that serves as a model for others having the discussion. Thank you for your invaluable contributions to that cause.

  43. Very nice blog. I am an science teacher and really enjoyed reading what you put together. I like the video and may use it in my class. Regarding what happens when you die, an earlier blog post – sorry I didn’t read them all, I just skipped to the end to comment on it. Philosophically, my thinking is this: the essence of being alive can be viewed in metaphoric form as an ocean. The ocean is ubiquitous in the Universe. When we are born, it’s like the ocean crashing onto the beach – droplets spray – each person, each ‘separate’ life form is a droplet. For a brief moment, that droplet is separate from the ocean, but eventually rejoins the ocean. When we die – our aliveness returns to the whole. Just a thought.

    My wife and I have always been able to read each others thoughts – how can this happen if we are not connected on some other level, not just within ear shot or eye contact? This has happened since, literally, we met. I can only conclude that our aliveness is contained in the fabric of our physical being – but it is not bounded by it. Science can not explain everything, it can only explain what the models that science uses allow.

    Thanks for your blog, I really enjoyed it and what it got me thinking about.

    • Hey Dave,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog and leave a comment. And please just let me say, thank you, thank you, thank you for what you have chosen to do with your life. If you read my last post in this series about saving the world, I list education as perhaps the most important thing we can contribute to each other and the next generation. My science teachers were inspirations to me, because they have the ability to instill wonder and appreciation for the universe that we have found ourselves in. I also like your metaphor of droplets in an ocean—that’s really good.

      That’s really cool about you and your wife. I too have had several people that I have shared a seemingly telepathic connection with. Of course I have to remain consistent and say that I can’t call it fact until we’ve figured out the experiment to prove it, but I do have to admit that, just as there are parts of the light spectrum that exist and yet we can’t see them, there may be much going on that we haven’t yet been able to detect. I’ll be posting about this as well as some of the limitations and mistakes of science in a future post, and I would appreciate your thoughts on that, as well as a post I am planning about education and possible reforms.

      I’m glad the video may prove useful. There are some really solid and well produced videos out there. I have a youtube channel under Chris the Humanist that has some of my favorites if you’d like to check it out. http://www.youtube.com/user/ChrisTheHumanist?feature=mhee

      Thanks again and have a great weekend,

      ~Chris

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