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October 09, 2009


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There's no need to seek reality in a religion... any more than there's a need to see your own eyes. Relaity has already appeared in what you preceive, and what you're doing, just now.

In each moment, perceiving the clarity of what we see and hear and taste and touch; using that clarity with the intention of helping all beings; that's enough. How can an idea, an understanding, a religion, be expected to deliver more than that?


Stuart, I agree with you... pretty much. But what we're perceiving and doing right now isn't all of reality. It's just the tiny part that we're aware of at the moment.

So I think there's a place for broader meaning-reminders of one variety or another. Books, poetry, music, art, talks, or whatever that manage to capture "what life is all about" in an engaging fashion.

For example, I love to learn about the immensity of the universe, those 100 billion galaxies, each with an average of 100 billion stars, all caught up in the vast expansion of time and space.

Knowing that this is part of reality -- the largest part of reality, by far (compared to what I know personally) -- enriches my understanding of the cosmos.

So while I understand what you're getting at when you say what we're perceiving now "is enough," the here and now can encompass learning about things that are far distant in space and time.

Cosmic... just started to read Dan Brown's new book, "The Lost Symbol." Came across this in the frontispiece (or whatever that page is called):

"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books."

This kind of gets at what I was trying to say in my previous comment. Except, I don't think there is a single meaning of the world. In fact, probably there is a separate meaning for every person.

There is.

Religious Naturalism: www.religiousnaturalism.org

Two articles to explain further:

What is Religious Naturalism?
Jerome A. Stone

Theology Of, By, & For Religious Naturalism
P. Roger Gillette
The Journal of Liberal Religion
Meadville Lombard Theological Seminary

Representative book:

The Sacred Depths of Nature by Ursula Goodenough

Alex, thanks for the links. I've read Stone's essay and resonate with most of it. Yes, religious naturalism is needed to provide depth to the surfaces of the world. I like his analogy that it is like the caffeine in coffee (something I'm intimately familiar with) rather than the cherry on top of a sundae.

This excerpt describes Stone's conception of "sacred":
Gradually I have developed a technical theory of sacredness. It goes something like this. The word "sacred" is a word we use to describe events, things, processes which are of overriding importance and yet are not under our control or within our power to manipulate.

In this sense these four events and others are sacred. But there are further twists. The stance for living which flows from this emphasis on the sacred is essentially that of openness, of readiness for the appearance of sacred events. Disciplined preparation and loyal commitment to the sacred are called for but need to be
balanced by a recognition that the sacred is essentially unmanipulable.

Thus Confucian focusing of heart and mind needs to be balanced by a Taoist openness to the spontaneous play of the sacred.

"What this "full-service" religious naturalism requires of us is not just conversion, but much more-it requires a radical spiritual transformation."

---Requiring a radical spiritual transformation may lose many interested parties. What if your "radical" is just too radical? What is the difference between mildly and majorly radical spirituality?

Its been argued science only explains phenomena, but fails to explain meaning.

I agree to an extent and Brian seems to hint at something that fills that gap, a philosophy of life as it were. Here i think the ancient religious traditions are useful - but so too the advice of the eldery and wise in every culture who've experienced the trials and tribulations of life in that culture.

What is not appealing about religion is its requirement of faith. While it may provide meaning to some, its the veracity of that meaning which is in question.

However, there are two mystical/religious ideas in particular that appear to be interesting in informing our views on reality.

(1) The idea of a realising the 'self' by following a path of medition or mind training that tries to pierce through an illusion of duality and recognise the inteconnectedness of our true natures to everything else.

(2) The idea of some sort of flow or force interwoven into the very fabric of the universe and giving rise to its order and natural laws (Tao). Its this harmony or order which perhaps hints at some sort of pervasive undetectable quality.

Just curious, what is the "law" that led to the arising of first life on Earth and why hav'nt scientists been able to create primitive life-forms in the lab?

Brian wrote:
"Our universe is some fourteen billion years old, having gotten its beginning in a " big bang" that produced a still-happening (and accelerating) expansion of time and space."

--I have to say that this sounds a bit "religious" to me in the sense that it implies acceptance and belief in a theory that has not been proven. I'm not saying there wasn't (better: isn't) a "big bang" (as it would be ongoing as we speak), but it is only the best hypothesis that scientists (Brian's priests) have come up with so far.

Remember this? It was posted on this blog awile ago by tAo?...


Just curious,
there is no law on life, science does not know how life first arose, its one of the big questions facing science along with many others such as trying to reconcile relativity and quantum mechanics.

A scientist never undermines the importance of religion. And no religion refutes the scientific achievements. Only an erudite scholar who has little knowledge of science or religion has a problem.

Science attributes every inexplicable thing/ phenomenon to nature. Religion is based upon basic laws of nature. Science and religion are/ were never in contradiction with each other. It is the confused MAN who understands neither science nor religion.

The above words are not directed towards any individual of this blog. It is my belief.

Just Curious, see today's post for a response. Science doesn't yet know how life arose on Earth. Neither does religion. But I'm confident that science is much more likely to come up with a convincing answer before any religion does.


i respect your polite approach, but respectfully disagree with some of that, since i think there are areas where science and religion can be argued to be wholly seperate, in that one is based on faith while the other is based on reason, which are about as far removed from one another as one can get.

moreover there are areas which are of huge disagreement such as the theory of evolution and creationism taught in many US schools. now it may be that these folk are not particularly erudite, but many atheists certainly are very erudite. In fact, the proportion of top scientists who are atheisitc or agnostic seems striking to me.

Richard Dawkings, shown in Brian's clip, is a hugely erudite man who has specifically tryied to undermine the importance of religion. You can decide if Dawkings is right or not in this pursuit, but his erudition is hard to dispute imo.

Dear George,
Thanks for your kind words.

Richard Dawkings is no doubt an erudite scholar. I am myself an earth scientist, introduced to the subject in 1974. It is a very narrow minded approach that does not believe in the multi- prong evolutionary tree to explain the natural phenomenon. If you calculate the age of the earth which is about 5 billion years has the earliest fossil record of about 3.5 billion years. Where goes that record of about 1.5 billion years? Was there no life during that period? Normally it is explained that the amino acids turned to primitive life.

Sir, we can only have the record of the last event of formation of this universe. Nobody knows how many times such events have happened. If one tries to trace back the rate of evolution of the life on the earth i.e. the growth of life from amino acids to complex man, I believe that the period of 3.5 billion years is too short.

Faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. When one develops faith by reasoning out doubts, only then that faith prevails. Curdling of milk can be initiated by curd alone.

If reason be the fundamental principle of science that gives tangible results to a man, it is as a result of natural propensity of a man that requires no efforts to believe.

If faith be the fundamental principle of religion that gives tangible results to a believer, it is as a result of life time effort of a man against its natural propensity.

Everybody in this world wants to follow the line of least resistance, so it is better to follow a scientific approach. A scientist has an extraordinary faith in the other scientist without which science can not progress.



Interesting, but i have a slightly different understanding.

Simple cyanobacterial life arose as early as 3.7 of earth's 4.5 billion year existence (pretty much as you say). This in itself is the most amazing thing for me, since it seems even when the earth was so ingospitable and just forming, life was able to take hold. Perhaps life is therefore not so precious or rare or delicate. These microbes grew over time eventually changing the atmosphere allowing larger oxygen-breathing organisms to exist.

As you know, the fossil record only one of the many techniques for proving evolution. Its not totally complete in places, but this is to be logically expected with the rare set of simultaneous conditions required for fossilization to occur.

You might take the view that 3.7 billion years is too short a time for man to evolve, but i take the opposite view that it seems quite amazing how quickly simple life seems to first take hold and that 3.7 billion years is an incredible length of time, largely incapable of being understood by the middle-earth human mind not designed for such massive universal contemplations.

A perhaps more wacky alternative to the 'primordial soup' theory is that these early microbes actually came from outer space (evolved elsewhere) embedded into rocks or asteroids that crashed into the early earth (with the earliest rocks having a similar date to the earliest cyanobacteria fossils). Apparently certain microbes can surve in the vacuum of space in a dormant state for long periods.

i am not sure i agree that science (and reason) is the path of least resistance for humans, in fact i would say it is the other way around. Our minds are far more malleable when we are young, its almost as if our brains are naturally programmed to believe. We believe our parents when they tell us not to grab the tiger;s tale. In childhood we are delighted by fantasy and fiction and belief in superstitiours stories and myths. Our childhoods are typically remembered for their happiness, innocence and wonder, and yet we all grow up, and face the unprotected realities of existence. perhaps that is why some prefer religion to return back to this confort and sense of wonder?

This is precisely the criticism that many lelved against personal-god religions, which einstein rejected as childhood superstition, despite having reservations as to dismissing religion totally that appear similar to your own.

Dear George,

It is indeed a nice piece of writing by you. I am delighted that you have good knowledge of the subject. I have used the term fossil in a broader sense. For example stromatolites in rocks of pre-Cambrian terrains represent structures produced by presence of algae and therefore connote presence of life during azoic era.

Well it is not a platform to compare notes. It is more important to understand the spirit behind it.

Where ever you seem to differ with me is due to my inadequacy in expression.

You wrote, “i am not sure i agree that science (and reason) is the path of least resistance for humans, in fact i would say it is the other way around.”

…………..I feel that for a slightly reasonable person, science provides a tangible solution. Its use you can be made readily. Faith seems to be an obsolete concept and not a concept of modern life. I do not mind if you do not agree with me.

I must thank you once again for fruitful note.

Just as for all the really Big questions like what existed before the Big Bang, or what is the origin of life, neither science nor religion have even half a clue.

Except the true mystics do.

And by saying this I'm not referring to charlatans and frauds that pretend to be mystics and the like.


i think your expression is very good, perhaps it is me that is not completely understanding.

our views on faith are quite different, but i will try and take in your viewpoint.


LOL, so what do the true mystics say?
you cant just make a statement like that without giving any support. Well i suppose you can, but how do know the difference between the true mystics and the chalatans?

If you are interested in reality based religion then you might want to look at the Church of Reality. It's a religion based on believing in everything that is real.


Just because religion is considered science does not mean it is not true. I see your point that if it was true, it would be accepted, and be science. However, just because it is not considered science does not mean it is not true. Some scientific theories are not accepted by science; however, over time they become accepted. Therefore, maybe religion will eventually be accepted by science. Religion is perceived by different people in different ways. Just because someone thinks it is real does not mean another person does, and just because someone thinks it does, it does not mean it is. There is no definite answer, only people’s opinions for the time being. However, there is some reality in religion.

then what is that reality? reality means that it is real. what evidence is there that what is propsed in religion, is real? so far, there is no evidence, so there is no "reality in religion".

your faith and belief does not amount to reality. that is what you religious types always seem to fail to understand.

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