Zero: it never fails to astound me that this is the sum total of genuine religious knowledge accumulated throughout human history. There have been so many worshippers, so many devotees, so many seekers of divinity.
And the demonstrable metaphysical facts that have been accumulated from all of this effort? None. Absolutely none. There is not a single shred of objective evidence that reality consists of anything more than the universe we know now.
If there were, such a fact would have been trumpeted in banner headlines across every newspaper in the world. Core scientific theories would have had to be revamped. Possessors of this truth would have had a permanent seat on Oprah’s couch reserved for them.
Nonetheless, I’ll admit that religions meet many human needs. They give believers a sense of community, relief from anxiety concerning the unknown, an opportunity to engage in altruistic service, comforting rituals, and other benefits.
Yet none of this addresses the core religious quest: discerning the nature of God (or, for godless religions, of ultimate reality).
If we were to grade religions on their demonstrable metaphysical accomplishments, they’d get an “F.” In the arena of earthly achievements, I’d grant them a “C” (the Crusades, Inquisition, Islamic terrorism, and other negatives bring down their grade).
Virtually every religion, spiritual path, or mystic practice claims to know the truth about God or ultimate reality. Every teaching has it’s A, B, C’s down. For example, “There is (A) a personal God who (B) loves us and can be reached through (C) the Lord’s grace.”
The problem is, an X, Y, Z exists for every A, B, C: “There is (X) a universal impersonal power that (Y) is detached from creation and can be reached through (Z) meditative effort.”
What we have then, is an overarching religious equation that sums to precisely nothing:
(A + B + C +… ) – (X + Y +Z + …) = 0.
In other words, the purported truths cancel each other out. Another more radical way of considering this equation is that each of its terms also is zero, since every metaphysical statement is unproven and so lacks any truth value.
Regardless, I’m led to conclude that either nothing exists beyond the physical, or whatever exists is so ineffable as to be nothing that can be described or confirmed in worldly terms. My mind impels me to lean toward the first option, while my heart (and fear of nonexistence after death) makes me hope that the second option is true.
In either case, we’re left with a big fat religious zero. Nada. Zilch. Nicht. Nothing.
The only question is whether this nothing is really Nothing, or whether it is a reflection of the nature of Everything. That’s what my Wu Project is all about—trying to lay bare the essence of nothing.
It’s like trying to catch invisible butterflies with a net made out of the void. Decidedly challenging. And infinitely entertaining.