Sunday, July 18, 2010

The More I Learned, the More I Questioned

One attitude I find truly morally repugnant: a fear of learning the truth.

I've faced that dragon many times.

I can't say I've ever fully slayed him, but I have won several life changing battles that have caused me to read and listen to free thinkers and to face my own questions.  Maybe I shouldn't be, but I'm proud of that.  And, I feel my life is better off because of it.

There have been two categories of education that have been particularly powerful in steering me towards a less dogmatic view of religion.  It's been said that you can't unlearn somethings.  Yes, you may be able to forget things, but never unlearn them.  Your brain structure, consciousness and world view won't ever be the same.  Below are two fields of knowledge that I can by no means unlearn.  Furthermore, if we are to unite the world and break down walls of superstition, prejudice and myopic bigotry then these fields must be educated to tomorrow's leaders to our fullest ability today.

Scientific Thinking

What's the difference between religion and science?

That's a great question.  One that I hope you'll ponder.  They both make truth claims about reality.  They even both involve faith (I'm defining that as making a conclusion based on incomplete evidence).  They even both have authoritarian figures espousing contradictory views.

The difference is falsifiability.

One you can disprove.  The other you can't.

You can't disprove that Poseidon created the oceans.  You can't even disprove that God created the Earth 6 thousand years ago with the appearance of being 4.6 billion years old.  -BUT- you can disprove that the Earth is the center of the solar system (uh, Earthar system, I mean...).  You can disprove that mold is spontaneously generated by bread.  You can disprove that blood letting is an effective means of dealing with the Black Plague.  Et cetera.

They're falsifiable because they have to do with the physical world.  The spiritual world can't be empirically tested.  

So, the more I've learned about science the more I've just assumed that knowledge should be, necessarily be, backed up by facts and either proved or disproved.  No one ever had to explicitly tell me that.  Through repetition and constant exposure it's become a part of my cognitive fiber.  

The more science advances the more superstition retreats - in both my life and the world.  You can see it in every major field: astronomy (Galileo), biology (evolution), anthropology (pluralism), physics and cosmology (Big Bang Theory), etc.

The more familiar we are with the truth the easier we spot impostors.

The more I learned, the more I questioned.

Comparative Religion

Two of the most influential books I've ever read: the Qur'an and the Book of Mormon.

Why?  Because I thought they were true?

No, but because they made me read the Bible differently (my upbringing's holy book of choice).

The similarities took me aback.  They all are books that make truth claims about reality based on a human writing down what God said.  They all contain profound wisdom.  They all claim they must be accepted on faith.  They all are quite well written (for their time period) and can contain stories that are quite moving and powerful.  And, as I said above, they are all unfalsifiable.

What's more they are all believed by sincere, wonderful, genuine, virtuous people.

It seems to surprise people that I used to do street evangelism and have traveled to five continents doing missionary work.  Those experiences had a surprising effect on me.  In the short term arguing for one side only made me more convinced.  The more I'd say it, the more I'd believe it.  In the long term, though, it introduced me to different ways of thinking about religion.   

From debating with numerous people, from reading scores of apologetics books I've been introduced to many questions and different ways of thinking.

The more I learned, the more I knew I didn't know.

Here's how it works for most people: mythology is stuff people believed a long time ago, religion is stuff other people believe today and truth is something I believe.  

The more I learned, the more those lines blurred.

The more I realized that it is preposterous to think that a God would send people to hell for not believing something that is completely unfounded and incompletely known throughout the world.

The more I learned, the more I questioned.

So, if you're of the ilk like me that wants kids to question on their own and to think independantly, that doesn't just want to create prejudice and hostility against other's ways of thinking and wants the world to live in a greater state of harmony and enlightenment then you must educate on these two subjects - science and comparative religion.


  1. there are so many thoughts i have about this! question after question! thats a good thing right?!
    Do you think ( and I have some premature thoughts about this, and i hope to ask this in a non-offensive way) that those who are religious or have religious claims come from a result of limited exposure? Limited exposure to questioning, debates, education? compared to those that have? hmm. im curious.
    just like political science, the science of economics, what about the religion of science?
    i wonder how long the two can co-exist (maybe blend is a better word) before seperating completely from one another.
    when i think of connecting science and religon together, I can't help but think of the human body. this miraculous being comprised of so many different systems each having their own function but interdependent with the other.. its essential to survive. Trial and error disproves or approves a medical treatment for disease. science like medicine are always open for change. thats what i gather at least. but the two share in mystery, things that we will never know but it doesnt mean we won't stop trying to figure it out. and i rant... hahah

  2. Thank you for saying that. I really question(ed) whether or not I should (have) posted this. Why? Because it is really condescending. It has an air of, "Well, if you only knew what I know, read what I've read, been where I've been then you'd think like I think." Which, is a really a-hole way of thinking. So, let me apologize. I don't mean to sound like that.

    Any statement of belief is inherently a statement contradicting other differing beliefs. So, I struggle with how much do I put forth my beliefs (and therefore contradict others) and that causes me a good deal of internal turmoil.

    It comes down to this, though: what would I want someone else to do for me? "Do unto others..." You know. I would want someone to say, "King, you have no clothes on."


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