Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Religious Awe is the Lazy Man's Awe

I experience just as much (if not more) awe than a religious person does when considering nature, life, the universe, etc. But whereas I know that I can come to a fuller understanding of these things through hard work and diligent study, a religious person more often than not simply says "God did that". To me, this is a lazy man's appreciation of nature. It is the behaviour of a person happy to not understand, or not willing to put in the effort to come to a better understanding of the world.

The other day, I had an idea for a skit, which featured two young boys, one scientifically-minded, and the other not. I imagined the first boy running through a field or forest, excitedly looking at flowers, plants, and insects, and trying to understand the connections between them, and wondering about their origins and evolution. With each object this boy marvelled at, the other little boy would pop into the picture and quickly blurt out "God did that!" Each time, the first boy would answer "Oh" and continue looking at the next object. With each successive "God did that!" and "Oh", the first boy's curiosity would start to wither. Perhaps it would be better to have a religious parent instead of the religious boy. More realistic that way. And sad.


Jonathan said...

Religious people don't know how to marvel at nature. I can't imagine Cauchy, Mendel, or LemaƮtre being religious. Oh wait :-)

Sean O'Hagan said...

You're absolutely right. But this is why I wrote "more often than not". Think of the thousands and thousands of believers who are anti-science, anti-medicine. Think of those who want creationism taught in school. The list goes on and on.

I wanted to restrict myself to the average science-minded Joe, and the average religious Joe.

Geoff said...

I don't know any believers who are anti-science or anti-medicine. But, I have heard lots of people talk about believers using stereotypes based on a few people or a few ideas.

Geoff said...

And, just to be clear, you're one of the aforementioned people I know of, now. You take one little phrase and create an entire way of living out of it and write a post to explain to people your knowledge of religious people. I can be in awe of God's creation in part because of its vast complexity. God put a desire in us to learn and know more and as we learn more about his creation, we learn more about him. Why wouldn't we want to learn more? The fact is, if God is real like I believe He is, then there is nothing that can disprove He exists. And, I will know him better as I learn more about what he has made.

Perhaps you have a lazy man's appreciation of religion. You think religion is dumb so you don't take any time to actually understand it.

As far as your mention of infinite regress in a previous post, are you saying that if there is no creator, then all of the sudden it makes perfect sense where everything came from and how this universe came into existence? Because, your argument against a creator would definitely work against the existence of pretty much anything. Anything in existence had to originate from something in some fashion but then that something had to originate from something else.

I actually do think about science and I ask myself what seems more unlikely, our universe just existing infinitely long into the past with no beginning (even if you think it originated from a big bang, then there was something there that exploded and that had to be there infinitely long into the past) or God existing infinitely long into the past with no beginning. Frankly, it makes more sense that the answer is a being who is not confined to time or space than the answer being time and space itself.

Sean O'Hagan said...

Hi Geoff,

When you dismiss scientific theories out of hand, because your PREFERENCE is to believe in a fairy tale, then I would classify you as anti-science.

There is no evidence of a timeless god, but there is lots of evidence for something like a Big Bang. Scientists don't know enough to say what happened at or before the Big Bang, although there are many conflicting theories. I can come up with my own idea, but it will really be worthless until some evidence appears to back it up.

In the meantime, if s/he existed, your God could solve an infinite number of problems in the world, just by popping his head through the clouds and saying "Hey, I did this!". But he chooses not to.

You accept and talk about God without any evidence which, to me, is totally irresponsible. What do you say to the billions who have differing religious views? Are you arrogant enough to claim that your beliefs are right and theirs are wrong?

People with scientific minds are more skeptical, but also very willing to follow the evidence, regardless of whether or not it smashes previously held conceptions.

I have read plenty about many religions (have you?) and it comes down to only one thing: faith in something without proof. I just can't accept that. There are too many religions which rely on the same idea, which casts doubt on them all.

Regarding infinite regress, I don't think I said any such thing.

And finally, regarding your last paragraph, sometimes reality doesn't make sense. It's not our choice to say: "Oh, this idea seems more understandable or more reasonable, so I will believe this instead of that". Again, quite irresponsible thinking.

Thanks for your comments.

Gaijin Girl said...

Geoff doesn't know any believers who are anti science? Let's start with the state of Texas, where the people in power are fighting to revamp (or should I say devamp?)the education system so that an entire state of children will be taught the myth (lie?) of creationism as "science". So there's a big group of powerful people who are anti science, Geoff. And that's just one example.


Sean O'Hagan said...

I agree. Any religion's creation stories should be taught in a different class, definitely not science class. That should be evidently clear to anyone.

nikolay said...

Not true. Children even the believing ones (In fact all of them are believers in a way) doesn't have the dogma thinking of the adults. They find everything exciting.

For example I've seen so many not religious persons that are not finding anything exciting, just thinking about money or the most materialistic things.

So maybe this is about how the person is accepting the things, does he/she have exploration spirit. Because we can see so many great scientists that are spiritual persons...so it is up to the man made dogma.

"Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen." ;-)

Sean O'Hagan said...

Hi Nikolay,

Sure, children lose their innocence and wonder at nature. But I claim that if you take a "science-minded" person and religious person and compare them, the former will be more excited by the world, the universe, by learning new things, etc. They are still like children in this sense. The scientist is truly like a big child, asking many questions (even dumb ones) and searching for answers.

Think about religion and money for a moment. Most religions and most priests demand money from their followers. In America, you can find megachurches whose leaders are multi-millionaires, and who own several houses and cars. Most science-minded people live simple lives and search for truth, not money.

I still think my points stands. Even a spiritual or religious scientist in the end believes that some god was responsible for creation. This, to me, is an easy way out. These people give up on finding the truth, and instead subscribe to a millenia-old mythology.

Thanks very much for your comments!