Sunday, 26 November 2006

Spirit in the Sky

Well, here I go again with another chapter of my ongoing debate with Wicked Little Critta. This time the topic is spirituality. To recount, I said I don't know what that term refers to; I was answered that "spirituality is a way of living for more than just what lies in front of you". You should read more about it in WLC's original comments, as I will only manage to misrepresent her views if I provide an edited version here.

So, what is my opinion on the subject of spirituality?
I think there can be no clearer answer to this question than the one I'm about to give. In my opinion, there is no such thing as spirituality; it is a mere delusion people tend to create in order to justify their existence and their actions in the face of an imperfect world.
The way I see it, the real problem we face comes down to the us wanting to see a reason, some sort of a justification for why we are here and what it is that we are doing here. When we don't see an answer to that question - and let's face it, such an answer is not written on subway walls - we seem to tend to start inventing such reasons. Religion is one of those attempts, and usually we are told that we are the jewel in god's creation, that "he" put us here for some kind of a plan that he/she/it/they might have, and that if we behave ourselves we're guaranteed an appointment with Elvis after we die.
Regular readers of this blog will know I am not exactly a supporter of such notions. I think along much simpler lines: There is absolutely nothing behind what we have in this world; I mean, maybe there is, but I see no reason to start suspecting that, especially not on the basis of purely made up fables. Some of those are deeply articulated, but they are still fables. If I was to accept such fables, I would be facing a severe problem: which should I believe in? The Jewish Kabala? The Catholic version of heaven with some nine different circles? The Hindu version that says I'll probably come back to this world as a cockroach? Should I stick to the doctrine I was born into just because I was lucky enough to be born into it?
I think the only conclusion I can safely draw without being delusional - that is, without actively inventing the truth or accepting the truths that others have invented for me - is that there is no ulterior reason for living. We are all here simply because we are matter that gained consciousness and is now busy ensuring its survival through the copying of my genes. If there is any superior reason for me to be here it is to bring children to this world; we are sophisticated, feeling, machines and that is all there is to it.

I find it rather strange that people need to resort to hearsay level delusions in order to fill up their world with contents when there is so much to this world that we don't know or ignore.
Why do we need to come up with spirits when we can look up to the sky and see what a marvelously complex world we live in and how we are only a tiny spec in it. It was Carl Sagan who coined the banal sounding phrase "billions and billions", but he's right: there are a hundred billion galaxies out there, with billions of stars in each on average; in such a vast world, so vast that our limited brains are incapable of imagining just how vast it really is, why do we need to invent stuff? Let us marvel in our own world, the one we can feel and touch, first. Let us explore all that we don't know before coming up with made up stories to fill those gaps.

I think I can safely assume that most of those who will read this post will ask something along the lines of "who is this arrogant prick who calls my beliefs delusions and tells me off as if I'm a child".
Needless to say, there is a lot of truth to this questions, because it is important to remember that first and foremost I can be a major idiot quite often, and that when it comes to theological discussions I do transform into the Mr Hyde in me and become an arrogant prick.
But there is more to it than that. I do allow myself to refer to so called spiritual concepts as delusions because they are unfounded beliefs. There has never been any substantial evidence presented on such matters; no peer reviewed tests. No one that came back from the dead, no one that can tell us what the winning lottery numbers are going to be. Everything that has been presented as evidence is as creditable as a headline in The Daily Sports [feel free to replace that with most other Rupert Murdoch newspaper names].
Therefore, without any substantial proof, such beliefs can only qualify as delusions. True, most of us who go for such things are not delusional; they just accept preconceived delusions pumped into them by their elders. But they still accept them without enough questioning.
The scientific approach, which is the materialistic one, has one major advantage which allows it to have a higher morale ground and act in arrogance in the face of delusion: it has its foundations.

The last important issue to discuss is why are we, as in humanity, so susceptible to such delusions. Why do we let them take control over us so easily?
I do not have an answer for that, although from what I've read I tend to suspect there is some anomaly in our brains - perhaps in the r-complex, the bit we share with reptiles where experiments show religious feelings tend to be based - that makes us go for such things. Carl Sagan ponders in one of his books whether a dog's unconditional love for its owner comes from the same bit of the brain (dogs have it, too); that is, whether a dog regards its owner with religious fervor.
I don't know for sure; but we do know that we can use our superior brains to realize when we mess around with delusions and to acknowledge these delusions for what they are, instead of blaming those that tell us the king is naked for acting in a politically incorrect manner and thus making us ashamed of ourselves.

No comments: