[ExI] No gods, no meaning?

Jason Resch jasonresch at gmail.com
Fri Apr 24 23:13:41 UTC 2020

On Fri, Apr 24, 2020 at 1:03 PM Ben Zaiboc via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> On 24/04/2020 18:16, Jason Resch wrote:
> Various things.
> The problem is, the very nature of religion is about control, not figuring
> things out.

I would say that depends on the religion. What about Bahai Faith
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bah%C3%A1%CA%BC%C3%AD_Faith#Summary>, Unitarian
Universalism <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Universalism>,
the Universal Life
Church <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Life_Church>, and countless

> Religions are about prescriptions and proscriptions. You have to do this,
> you can't do that. You must believe this, you can't question that. That's
> one problem, rather. Another one is that science is about *finding out*.
> Religion is about *believing*.

In my view, both religion and science are about believing. You can say
religion is the set of beliefs one holds. Science is a tool by which we can
refine, deepen and correct errors in our beliefs.

> In science, evidence is king. In religion, evidence is the enemy.

Again, this is highly dependent on the particular religion. Take these
words, from the son of the founder of the Bahai Faith:

"If religion were contrary to logical reason then it would cease to be a
religion and be merely a tradition. Religion and science are the two wings
upon which man's intelligence can soar into the heights, with which the
human soul can progress. It is not possible to fly with one wing alone!
Should a man try to fly with the wing of religion alone he would quickly
fall into the quagmire of superstition, whilst on the other hand, with the
wing of science alone he would also make no progress, but fall into the
despairing slough of materialism."

According to Carl Sagan,

"[Science] works. It is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a tool.
But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing,
applicable to everything. It has two rules. First: there are no sacred
truths; all assumptions must be critically examined; arguments from
authority are worthless. Second: whatever is inconsistent with the facts
must be discarded or revised. We must understand the Cosmos as it is and
not confuse how it is with how we wish it to be. The obvious is sometimes
false; the unexpected is sometimes true."

Could we say that Carl Sagan's belief in science his "religion"? Why or why
not? What elements of belief are necessary for something to be labeled a
religion in your view?

How does it square with what these scientists have said about the nature of
the relation between religion and science?

"Science and religion are both still close to their beginnings, with no
ends in sight. Science and religion are both destined to grow and change in
the millennia that lie ahead of us, perhaps solving some old mysteries,
certainly discovering new mysteries of which we yet have no inkling."
-- Freeman Dyson

"Science can now offer precisely the consolations in facing death that
religion once offered. Religion is now part of science." -- Frank Tippler

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." --
Albert Einstein

> You can say that the word 'god' can mean a lot of different things. Fine.
> Sell that to the religious folks, see how far you get.

I don't need to. All of those examples of different concepts of God I
provided are core elements of existing religions. Creator, Truth, Reality,
and Consciousness, are the most common descriptions of God across most of
the major religions today.  For example, just sticking to God as Truth, you

*Judaism/Christianity:* “Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O
LORD, the God of truth.” -- Psalm 31:5
The mathematician Hilda Phoebe Hudson said “To all of us who hold the
Christian belief that God is truth, anything that is true is a fact about
God, and mathematics is a branch of theology.”

*Islam*: "Al-Ḥaqq (The Truth, The Real)" -- One of the 99 names of God
given in the Koran
The Muslim polymath Ibn al-Haytham described his theology saying, “I
constantly sought knowledge and truth, and it became my belief that for
gaining access to the effulgence and closeness to God, there is no better
way than that of searching for truth and knowledge.”

*Hinduism*: "Parabrahmana (The Supreme Absolute Truth)" -- One of the 108
names of Krishna
“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, whose effulgence is the source of
the nondifferentiated Brahman mentioned in the Upanishads, being
differentiated from the infinity of glories of the mundane universe appears
as the indivisible, infinite, limitless, truth.” -- Hymn to the Absolute
Truth in the Brahma Saṁhitā
Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi said "If it is possible for the human tongue to
give the fullest description of God, I have come to the conclusion that God
is Truth.”

*Sikhism*: “There is one creator, whose name is truth" -- The Mul Mantar
(Root Mantra)

These religions account for about half the world's population.  It shows
that when you get past the fables and mythology, and into the theology of
various religions, the concepts of God become much more nuanced. If you
want more examples, such as the idea of God as a Creator or God as
Consciousness, I can provide those as well.

> All the things you mention might (or might not) be reasonable, but none of
> them are any reason to worship, obey a set of commandments, or otherwise
> bow down and accept unquestioningly what some priest or ancient book tells
> you. And *that* is what religion is about.

That perhaps is what it is about to you and perhaps others. But it doesn't
have to be that way. There are sets of beliefs compatible with science, and
there are ways of believing that incorporate scientific understanding to
evolve one's beliefs over time.

I agree with you that a static belief system is not as good as one that can
adapt in response to new evidence and understanding. I am not arguing for a
static belief system, only pointing out that there are frameworks of belief
(what you might call religious systems) that transcend the definition of
religion that you provide.

Interesting thought: Is Sagan's definition of science itself a static
belief? How could it ever change?

> If you, or anyone else, wants to start a religion that's not about power
> and control, doesn't assert that magic (the supernatural) is real,

To presume the supernatural is not real is to assume we currently possesses
a complete understanding of nature, which I am sure we don't have.

> that doesn't care who you have sex with or what you eat or wear, and
> doesn't tell you that you must believe certain things without question,
> great. Go ahead. I might even join it (of course, I'm already a member, on
> account of being an Omnitheist :D ). But I'd have to ask, what makes it a
> 'religion'?

A religion, in my definition, is just a set of beliefs. Perhaps more
specifically, a set of basic or fundamental beliefs about reality.

> PS Please don't CC your replies to the list, to my email address. There's
> no need, and it's annoying. Thanks.

My apologies.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.extropy.org/pipermail/extropy-chat/attachments/20200424/188daf9a/attachment.htm>

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list