Endless Curiosity

February 6, 2009

Renditioning Religion

Filed under: God — Alec @ 6:49 am

Yesterday I mentioned watching the movie Rendition, and the mixed emotions it generated in me. As I said, I hate the way that some people use religion as a reason to kill and maim others. There’s always a justification. God hates infidels and wants us to kill them. God hates gays and wants us to kill them. God hates (fill in the group you hate) and wants us to kill them.

What sort of pathetic God do these people believe in? A powerful God doesn’t need us to help Him, thank you very much. It’s a bit like us needing ants to kill other ants, only more so. Any God that can create this Earth doesn’t need us to help Him (or Her, or It).

I did a computation once. Imagine 8 football fields side by side and imagine that each blade of grass represents a star. Walk out to the 4th field and paint one blade of grass yellow. That’s our Sun in our galaxy.

Now imagine the entire Earth covered with grass, oceans included. Paint one blade of grass yellow. That’s our Sun in the Universe.

Any God that can create a Universe that large, with that many stars, doesn’t need our help to do anything at all. Any belief otherwise is monumental hubris.

Ah, but you do believe otherwise, you say. God told you this is what he wants. The fascinating thing is that there is research showing that certainty is just a brain function.

What does it mean to be convinced? This question might sound foolish. You study the evidence, weigh the pros and cons, and make a decision. If the evidence is strong enough, you are convinced there is no other reasonable answer. Your resulting sense of certainty feels like the only logical and justifiable conclusion to a conscious and deliberate line of reasoning.

But modern biology is pointing in a different direction. It is telling us that despite how certainty feels, it is neither a conscious choice nor even a thought process. Certainty and similar states of “knowing what we know” arise out of primary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of rationality or reason. Feeling correct or certain isn’t a deliberate conclusion or conscious choice. It is a mental sensation that happens to us.

This is from an article, The Certainty Epidemic, in Salon. The article is from the book  On Being Certain.

1 Comment »

  1. I am also fascinated by how the mind generates states which appear to be metaphysical, such as floating above your body. Anyone interested in this topic might enjoy The Body has a Mind of Its Own.

    Comment by Jenny — February 6, 2009 @ 8:04 am

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