Below is a recent comment left by Osho Robbins on this post. Though it concerns the specific beliefs of the India-based Sant Mat religious philosophy, Robbins makes some points that apply to all forms of religiosity.
Such as mistaking subjectivity for objectivity; faith for facts; wishful thinking for actual reality.
I agree with almost everything Robbins says. I do, however, look upon "I don't know" a bit differently than he does.
It seems to me that a don't-know attitude is justified in situations akin to a coin flip -- where the actual outcome is close to 50-50: could be this, or could be that. Odds are about even that each is true.
When it comes to the existence of God or life after death, though, the odds appear tilted considerably toward the unbelieving side. There are many reasons to doubt that God is real or human consciousness survives in a non-bodily form, and few to support these beliefs.
Something that has a high probability of being true deserves more than a "I don't know."
Still, if we take "I don't know" to mean "I don't know for sure," then this fits with the scientific method: knowledge is always subject to falsification and change as new evidence becomes available.
I made some minor grammatical edits to Robbins' comment and added bracketed explanations of some terms that will be unfamiliar to many readers. Here it is:
When a seeker initially comes across Sant Mat - it seems like a great idea:
1. Get initiated.
3. Leave the body.
4. Transcend death - by discovering you are a SOUL and do not die and have a life independent of the body.
5. Meet the master within - become good friends with him as he personally escorts you through the inner regions in his Radiant Form [akin to Astral Form].
6. Become all knowing and all powerful as you become a 'saint' and arrive at Sach Khand [heaven, basically].
7. Become immortal and reside in Sach Khand forever.
8. Spend the rest of your life here on earth guiding other souls on the path to Sach Khand.
Once you believe this is possible (which you do if you attend satsangs [spiritual meetings], read the books and listen to the stories of others who have achieved this), you are pretty much hooked.
You will now do whatever it takes to get initiated and become a disciple.
You know it's going to be hard work and involve lots of meditation - but you are sure you will succeed - with the grace of the master.
So you get initiated. The meditation is tough because you are just sitting there - repeating the five holy names [a mantra] and nothing is happening. years go by. Decades go by. You eventually accept that it's not going to happen - but by now you are a believer.
So you decide to do seva [volunteer work] instead. Become a speaker, or a secretary, or a treasurer. The other satsangis [initiates] have become part of your social circle and your friends.
You are 100% convinced that this path is the truth and the real way to God. You can logically see it makes total sense.
If you personally have failed to make progress - it's because you have failed to live up to the high standards demanded by the masters. You know you need to work on yourself. But at least you know the master will come and save you at the time of death.
This becomes the fall-back position. This is every disciple's insurance policy.
When a broker offers you life insurance - you laugh in his face and tell him he is selling death insurance and that you already have the best life insurance policy in the universe.
The disciple has this feeling of superiority and it is unavoidable because he knows he is part of the chosen few in this world.
What the disciple cannot see is that all religions are the same. The Muslim believes he is special because he is a believer. The Christian believes the same.
The reason the Sant Mat follower believes so strongly is because the books and satsangs explain that the only path is through a living master and there have been past masters but they cannot help you now. It makes perfect sense, and that is the point.
Once you believe this is the only real path - there is no way you can ever leave. After all, where will you go? All other religions are false.
So the satsangi has a hard time with these churchless folk. All they can see is that these unfortunate people have had no results in meditation and have now turned their back on the master. They consider this to be 'really bad' because the master is God's representative on earth.
Just because they personally have no results doesn't matter because they KNOW they are on the RIGHT path.
This is the disciple's BELIEF and all beliefs appear to be the absolute truth - they are not considered opinions - but TRUTH. That is why the disciple cannot avoid being dogmatic.
Humans are very good at taking a belief and making it appear to be the truth.
The person who does not believe in God does exactly the same. He takes a belief and makes it appear to be the truth.
An honest person can only say "I don't know." He is neither a believer nor a dis-believer.
He takes no sides because all sides are beliefs.
In religious beliefs - you never get 100% proof. The attraction of Sant Mat is that you can do the 'experiment' and get to Sach Khand. If you arrive - you can finally say "I KNOW" rather than "I believe."
Of course there is still the question of delusion. Perhaps you are just deluded and have not arrived anywhere. Or maybe you get a mental shift and realise the journey is not literal and that Sach Khand is not a place so nobody arrives.
There will never be any objective proof. If someone claims to be enlightened, it is personal to them. They cannot hand it on a plate for someone else to examine. And when you can't define exactly what it is - it becomes even more impossible to prove to others.
Anything subjective is, by it's very nature, impossible to prove objectively.
There is the domain of "objective things" and the domain of "subjective things".
If you draw each of them as a circle - they will be separate circles - with no overlap.
They are separate worlds and cannot meet. Neither is any more real than the other.
They are different. Some people give greater credence to the objective and some to the subjective. When you are dying - the objective becomes irrelevant and the subjective becomes all important.
Any 'spiritual' journey is subjective and this is why the objective person will necessarily doubt and ask for proof. Proof cannot be given.
When a Radha Soami follower leaves 'the path' it simply means he has changed his focus from subjective to objective. Objectively speaking - Sant Mat appears to be nonsense. However to the believer it makes perfect sense because he is not concerned with the objective world.