atheism

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.