Becoming a Preacher

So I gave a couple of lectures last week called "The Problem with Atheism'. It was pretty enlightening. I feel like I'm accidentally becoming some kind of advocate of religion. Some kind of weird, modern preacher. But not of any particular religion. Just not atheism. Because "religiousness" helped me come back from a very dark place. And now I see religion very differently to how I used to. It's a lot more complicated than I used to think. I don't care if God exists. I'm interested in it from a psychological perspective. In my experience religion is very good for you psychologically, irrespective of whether you believe in God. 

One of the lectures was in the Cotswolds and the other one was in Shoreditch. Very different crowds. But it showed that people everywhere, of all ages, are still really grappling with the whole God/religion/faith/science/atheism thing. We don't seem to get anywhere with it. But people feel very passionately about it.

I don't care if people are atheists. I can understand why they would be. I used to be one myself at some point I think. But what I'm trying to say in the lectures is that people don't look deeply enough at what religion is or why it exists. They over-simplify it and look at it through a filter and miss so much. It's not one thing. It's lots of things. And one of the things religions are are guide books of how to reach heaven. And heaven isn't one thing. It's lots of things. And one of the the things it is is a psychological state that you can reach right here on earth. I know because I've been there a couple of times. It's mind-blowingly amazing, and it's very hard to get to. It takes constant conscious effort and rigorous action, so most people don't bother. I don't bother most of the time. You don't really need to. You kind of have to have a reason to want to get there. Or sometimes you get there by accident. It's very hard to get there if you're an atheist because your mind is closed to the possibility. That's the problem with atheism: It's a belief structure that limits the psychological places you can reach. 

You have to have beliefs to operate in the world. But it's helpful to understand that while they are essential, beliefs are also a trap. A mental one. All beliefs in some sense constrain you because they are part of a system of beliefs, and systems constrain. In believing something you have to not believe other things and in doing that you can shut yourself off from psychological experiences.

I took my nephew to see an immersive theatre version of Alice in Wonderland the other day. It reminded me how much bigger, more magical and more exciting the world is when you're a kid because you haven't fixed your beliefs in place yet; your mind is open. But you can't be a child forever. You have to build a system of beliefs. But once you've got your shit together mentally, as an adult, and even if you haven't, you should spend the rest of your life trying to tear down the structures in your mind that are constraining your experience of the world. Get back some of the magical mental state of being a child. Not too much. But enough. You'll like it. You can go to new places.

You know roughly what I'm talking about if you've ever described yourself as being in a "good mood".  What do you mean when you say that? You're not in the same world when you're in a good mood as when you're in a bad mood. You don't just feel good. The whole world feels good. That's what I'm talking about. That's one of the things religion can do - get you to that place more frequently and consistently by instructing you how to live a more selfless, noble, honest life. But you have to have some kind of faith for it to work. It's harder if you're an atheist. Almost impossible. I feel sorry of atheists. They're missing out on reaching heaven on Earth. Bummer.

If you want to learn about the power of religion to change our brains I'd recommend you go watch Jordan Peterson's series of lectures on the Psychological Significance of Biblical Stories. They are pretty awesome.

The Problem with Atheists

So I think about God quite a lot these days. God is a complicated idea. People don't generally like complicated ideas. And it doesn't get much more complicated than God.

I think a good distinction to make is between God, as a thing, and the idea of God, like just the idea of the thing. I'm more into thinking about the idea of God. Like, why do so many people believe in God? That's a more interesting question whether or not there is a God. Whether or not God exists doesn't have much bearing on anything. It doesn't change anything. It's not the point. 

It's weird listening to people argue about whether God exists. It's usually some scientifically minded atheist like Richard Dawkins saying something along the lines of "why can't you silly people understand that there is no God and we don't need one because science can answer everything". I think what he's really saying is "why can't everyone see the world like I do, I don't like it when people don't think what I think it makes me feel weird". Then a very religious person says something like "science can't even understand the kind of stuff that God deals with, God is about faith, not science". And then they argue until one of them gets tired and goes to bed.

What's important to know about those two types of people is that it's not like those people just disagree. It's not like one is right and eventually the other one will see that the other one is right and say "oh yeah, I see now, you were right and I was wrong". That will never happen, because those people don't even live in the same universe. We don't live in an objective, material world. We live in a psychological world. We live inside our interpretation of the material world. We live inside our consciousness. And there's not just material in it. There's ideas. Beliefs. There's all kinds of weird stuff. We have no idea what consciousness is really. It's very very complicated. It's probably way outside of the realm of the word "complicated" because it can't be interpreted by our limited human concepts like words. But we live in our consciousness. So our world is psychological. And our individual psychological worlds are very similar to other people's psychological worlds in some ways and very different in others. Hardcore religious people and atheists don't live in the same world. It's not two people disagreeing on whether there is a God. It's two people from different worlds talking a completely different language in different dimensions. 

Even if we proved, beyond doubt, whether there was or wasn't a God, what difference would it make? Not much I don't think. If we proved there was no God the atheist would say "Ha, see, there is no God!". Then what? "Are you going to stop believing in God now?". "No". "Why?!". "I don't want to". "You have to". "No I don't". "You have too!! Look at the evidence!". "I don't care about the evidence". Etc etc. People are complicated. We like order. We like cooperating. But sometimes we like chaos and disagreeing with everything. If you believe too hard in one thing you find it difficult when people don't believe in the same thing because it messes with your beliefs that you hold so dear. It's better to hold beliefs lightly. To know that you're wrong about almost everything. 

That's the problem with some atheists. They believe too hard that there's no God. They're obsessed. They try to convert other people to their atheist ways. They want other people to believe in nothing with them.

I like science. It does amazing things. But is doesn't tell you anything about how to live. Who to be. That's one of the things that the idea of God is: An attempt to work out how to be. Who to be. How to live. What to do. It's not better or worse than science, it's a different tool altogether. 

I don't know what God is. But I'm much more into investigating what it is than joining those mad atheists in knowing for certain that it isn't something. They're too fundamentalist for me.