This I believe, I think!
The ground under me is flat and solid. I see the sun and moon rise and set and travel across the sky.
Astronomy and physics and chemistry tell us about the world. Tho their conclusions can always be challenged and revised and updated, their theorems must be proved to be widely accepted. Peer review includes experiment to challenge new ideas. I trust science. I believe that the moon revolves around the earth and the earth revolves around the sun and the sun revolves around the Milky Way Galaxy. I believe that the acceleration of a body falling to earth is 32 feet per second per second. I believe that wood is solid and water is wet. I find it hard to believe that glass is liquid. But I have seen the drips at the bottom of Victorian windows. It is easy to verify the science of Galileo and Newton.
I cannot verify atomic physics in my office. I can measure the voltage and current my computer and monitor use. I accept the explanation of electrons moving in conductors and not in insulators. Which leads me to believe in atoms that are composed of electrons and nuclei and space between them. Which leads me to question if solids really are solid.
So, I believe in contradictions: space in atoms and solids under my solid feet.
My belief in science depends on proof, verifiable proof, experiments that can be repeated with the same results. If a new explanation can be proved and repeated I’ll change my beliefs as the pre-Newtonians changed their belief about the heavens.
I don’t believe that science is finished. I expect a unified field theory that will better explain quantum physics. Maybe there will be a proof that there are more than three or four dimensions. Maybe time is not a one way street moving toward the future with no way back to the past.
My spiritual beliefs are different. I can’t weigh my soul. I have no spirit meter that measures spiritual energy. I can’t see or touch God. I have experiences that seem to be outside the realm of science. When my Auntie Kate said goodbye to me in January of 1963 I knew she meant it for the last time. She died a week before I was to visit her again in March. I sensed death in a trip across the country in November of 1971 and prepared my papers. A few days before the trip my sister died and I moved the trip up to attend her funeral. I felt compelled to get out of bed one Sunday morning in August, 1968, and walk across LaSalle Street in Chicago where I met a person I hadn’t seen since October, 1967, in Washington, DC. I wanted my wife to wait to call me one morning until after I made my plane reservations. (She was to call at about 9). I made my reservations and went to lunch at 11:30. She called at 11:35. All of these experiences could have been chance. I cannot repeat them or similar experiences, but they feel like some power beyond our current view of science.
I had 16 years of catholic school. I was brought up believing in God and an afterlife, heaven and hell. I was told that the bible was the word of God and was “true.” I was taught that other cultures had creation “myths” but we knew “the truth!” Science has pretty much debunked most creation myths including that the world is built on the back of a giant turtle who is on top of another turtle on top of another all the way down, or that the world was created in 7 days.
Zeus and Venus and Diana and Mercury and Mars and Wotan and Fricka and Brünnhilde and Ganesh and Krishna, Shiva, Lakshmi and Kali, etc., etc., all have nice stories but Christian or Muslim or Jewish folk don’t believe in any of them. They believe in Jesus or Adonai or Allah. Jonah was swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it. Joshua blew down the walls of Jericho. Lots’ wife was turned into a block of salt. Jesus walked on water. God and the devil wagered over the loyalty of Job much to the dismay of Job. I lump all of these stories into allegory or metaphor. They are nice stories that teach lessons of morality (or immorality). We can learn from them. They can teach lessons that can be used to lead happy or successful lives. They work.
Korsybski distinguishes between the map and the territory. The map has a structure that represents the territory. It is not the territory. You can use a topographical map to plan a hike but it is not much use to plan a road trip. You can use a road map to plan a road trip but it is not much use to plan a cross county hike. A weather map will help you pack for the trip but it won’t help you get where you’re going. Each map has its uses and its limitations. Science laws, religious principles, world views are like maps. They are abstractions built on something more complex. The map is not the territory. You can’t blow out the picture of a candle.
I believe in God. I believe that there is a personal God who cares about me. I believe that when I talk to God, God listens to me. I believe that God talks back to me. I believe God talks to me whenever I listen to God. I silently talk to myself. I am never sure whether I’m hearing my “self talk” or “God talk.” God rarely answers my questions directly.
In 1976 I was unemployed and broke. I was responsible for my kids and a mortgage. I went on a back pack trip to the mountains. I took along a list of existential questions I hoped to have answered by the time I came back. I can’t say I got any answers. This was before I had the faith that I could talk to God. I was in a very agnostic phase. I didn’t expect God to talk to me. As I started back to civilization I had a sense that life was going to work out alright. I felt comfortable, I didn’t have to fight. I just had to go with the flow. As I reached the top of the first hill back to my car a hummingbird flew up in front of me and stopped. It was only a few feet in front of me. It paused. I paused. We paused for a longtime. When it flew off I had the sense that it was a sign to me that my experience that everything was going to turn out alright was true. I felt a sense of peace. There was no path to follow down the mountain to the car. There were dense patches of Manzanita. I chose to test my new sense of peace. I would go down the hill and not think of which way to turn except to go down the hill. When I got to a point where I couldn’t go forward, I turned right or left without thought. I never had to back track. The next day, as I was backing out of my driveway, a neighbor stopped me and offered me a job. Now, when I think about that experience, I feel like I was being held lovingly in the hands of God.
I take my dog to the veterinarian. The vet gives shots or takes blood samples and palpates the tender spots. Sometimes it hurts. The dog doesn’t understand or like it. Neither the vet nor I intend to hurt the dog. We do what we do in the best interests of the dog, whether she understands it or not. I believe that God loves me more than I love my dog. I believe that God takes care of me. Sometimes God’s loving care may cause me pain.
I believe that pain is God’s way of reminding me that I am still alive, so I say thank You. I believe that the world is turning out just as God intended whether I understand or not. I don’t understand the suffering of the poor, the sick, or the war-torn. I do what I can to relieve suffering and leave the rest to God.
Ken Keyes said “You add suffering to the world as much when you take insult a when you give it.” I believe that you add suffering to the world when you don’t trust in the loving kindness of God. There should only be two prayers: “Thy will be done.” and “Thank You.”
I don’t know what happens when we die. I suspect that when it’s over, it’s over. I don’t believe in Hell. I have kids. They have done things that I didn’t like. I punished them from time to time. My punishment was meant to teach them lessons they needed to learn. I cannot imagine anything any one of them could have done that would have motivated me to hold their hand over a candle or to burn them with a cigarette. They could never insult me more than I could understand or love them. I do not believe that I am more understanding, forgiving or loving than God. I cannot believe that God would condemn anyone to “burn in hell forever.”
I wouldn’t go to war over or be willing to die to defend the weight of the electron or the distance between the earth and the sun. My belief in God is like that. I hold it lightly. It is a map that works for me. It helps me navigate my life. I think it represents what is beyond my comprehension. And I might be wrong. I hope I am open to new information, new theories, new maps.
I trust the gurus of science, the wise men and women who have run the experiments, read the papers, repeated the experiments, refined the theories and have given us the science we have. When 90 or 98 percent of the experts in a field agree on something it is not unreasonable the believe them.
Forty years ago I saw a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle to the effect “Man will never travel to another solar system.” This was attributed to a “Scientist.” This guy joins the ranks of those who said “The earth is flat,” “The Sun revolves around the earth,” “Man will never fly.” True scientists know that you can’t prove a negative and that you may embarrass yourself if you try.
I do not have the same confidence in the religious leaders. There may be a high degree of agreement between Catholics and Catholics or between Shiites and Shiites or between Methodist and Methodists, but there is such wide disagreement about the nature of God, the afterlife, the scriptures, what constitutes sin and salvation they just don’t generate in me the same level of respect and confidence. If Jews and Christians and Hindus and Muslims, etc. have such great differences in belief some, maybe most, if not all, of them must be wrong. To the extent that each of them insists that they are right and the others are categorically wrong seriously damages my respect for them.
Recently I heard someone describe the difference between science and religion as this: Religious people try to prove themselves right and opposing opinions wrong. Scientists define experiments to prove themselves wrong. And if they can’t, they call it a theorem.
Both prophets and psychotics hear voices that they take as real. I don’t know how to tell them apart.