Having started this churchless blog way back (in Internet time) in 2004, I've been able to follow a lot of interesting comment conversations about many subjects related to God, soul, spirit, consciousness, life after death, and such.
Naturally I've also been able to follow the continuing progress of my own irreligious evolution. In both cases -- looking at how other people regard supernaturalism, and how I do -- I'm struck by how difficult it is for us humans to let go of blind faith.
Religious true believers who come to embrace agnosticism or atheism find it fairly easy to discard traditional dogma -- such as that God is a being with person-like characteristics who resides in heaven and intervenes in worldly affairs.
But it's a lot tougher to go completely cold-turkey on blind faith. Or, to give the benefit of the doubt to supernaturalists, extremely-limited-vision faith.
Meaning, they continue to believe in some sort of enduring soul that is separate from the brain, a universal consciousness, unseen powers distinct from the laws of nature which affect the world, and other sorts of unproven supernatural phenomena.
Today a Church of the Churchless commenter, "cc," left these cogent thoughts on a recent blog post:
If there does exist a soul or unified consciousness, it doesn't need anyone testifying on its behalf. Denied or acknowledged, it would remain untouched, unphased [sic] by everything said about it, so why speak of such things at all? Stay within the realm of what can be verified or hypothesized and you approach the unknown with respect. But speak knowingly of what you can provide no evidence of and you're a religious nut.
l responded with my own comment:
cc, that's just how I see it. I can understand why people hang onto notions of "soul," "spirit," "life after death," "universal consciousness" and such after they supposedly have given up a belief in some traditional form of God.
However, those other notions are founded on the same blind faith as a belief in God is. It reminds me of Christians I've known who thought that they were discarding rigid dogma by embracing an Indian guru.
But then they'd look upon the guru almost exactly as they did Jesus. They simply transferred their blind faith into another form.
Where's the evidence? Like you said, without that, someone is a religious nut even if they don't belong to an organized religion. They've formed their own faith-based Religion of Me.
There's nothing inherently wrong with that. We all have unproven subjective beliefs. What I object to is when people say that scientific facts are wrong, even though they can't provide any more convincing alternative facts.
Meaning, they want other people to believe that their subjectivity is objective fact.
It's like telling me, "Dude, you've got a beautiful garden. But you've got to start believing that fairies are making the flowers grow."
I reply, "I don't believe in fairies. My flowers grow just fine with water, earth, air, all that natural stuff."
But the true believer persists. "No, man, you don't get it. Behind all that are FAIRIES!. I know they're real. You need to believe in them too!"
I'd respond with: "Hey, if you want to believe in fairies, go ahead. But unless you can show me evidence that is more convincing than what botanists tell me about how flowers grow, I'm going to ignore what you say."
When I told my wife about this comment conversation, she said:
"What's even crazier is that people will start to believe that the fairies want us to act in certain ways. They'll make up fairy commandments which people are supposed to follow, and claim that we need to pray to the fairies so our flowers will grow. If it's pointed out that flowers grow with or without prayers, then the believers will reply, It's the Will of Fairies that this be so. And if the flowers die, they'll also say that it was the will of fairies."
The way I see it, what's going on here is akin to the Zen adage, "First there is a mountain, then there isn't, then there is."
Many people get stuck in "isn't," even if they cease being traditionally religious. Meaning, they continue to believe that really real reality isn't this world; a meaningful life isn't achieved by living normally and naturally; how science understands the laws of nature isn't how things genuinely are.
I'm not saying that I know for certain this viewpoint is wrong. I've just come to see it as being less likely to be right than the "is" viewpoint.
Because "is" is where we live right now. "Is" is the reality we experience right now. "Is" is directly known right now. "Isn't" is a hypothesis, a conjecture, a concept. There's no evidence of "isn't," no proof of a mountain that isn't there.
I'm not saying that I'm an enlightened Zen master. (Though if you want to say that I am, that'd be cool.)
My claim simply is that realizing there's no such thing as enlightenment; there's no such thing as a supernatural world apart from this one; there's no such thing as a meaningful life different from the one each of us is living now -- this is what spiritual realization is all about.