Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reflections on Faith

I've been pondering this post for a while now. Though I am not religious, i.e. church-going or claiming one Christian sect, I do believe in a higher power and a lot of other stuff that is related to that. In general, my beliefs are Christian and I try to live out my beliefs consistently and prayerfully. I am also a scientist, which some believe to be inconsistent with being a person of faith. I will take a stab at what has been brewing in my head, so here goes.

Most of us have faith. We have faith based on beliefs and experiences. Faith that the sun will come up tomorrow, gravity will continue to hold us down, the electricity will be on today, the people in the space shuttle will get 'there' and back. We cannot function without a worldview that includes faith in the routine of our lives.

Some of these things we take as fact are based on the current science. As recently as 100 years ago, some of these matters of faith were considered folly or insanity. Other 'facts' of science from years past have been disproved and replaced with new theories -- remember relativity, the flat earth, the earth as the center of the universe?

As a scientist, I make observations on my own experience. My primary observation is the abundant order in our natural world. The complex evolution that ensures that cats give birth to cats and apple trees make new apples is a miracle. I absolutely understand the science that makes it happen. But what is the ordering force that makes the science happen?

I am often amused at the debate between creationists and evolutionists, as I reconciled the issue for myself years ago. I literally compared the timeline in Genesis with the timeline in my earth history class. The only discrepancy I found was the length of time, and then it hit me! Who am I to presume how long or short God's day is?

I have had some very intense personal experiences that have given me faith that there is a higher consciousness and that when we calm our mind and listen, we can connect with it. That still small voice has saved my life, literally, at least once that I am certain of.

So I marvel that people who take much on faith -- the full faith and credit of the U.S., faith that the elevator inspector wasn't on the take, faith that their spouse is not cheating, faith that all people deserve a chance to be free -- will scoff at others who have faith that we are not the highest consciousness in the universe because there is no scientific proof. How silly that sounds to me. For a million years man was able to exist without scientific proof that water is H2O and required for our metabolism to digest and eliminate food, remove impurities through sweat and urine, etc.. See where I am going? Not having some threshold of peer-reviewed proof does not mean it is not true.

To require proof of a higher consciousness is not a standard these people require for virtually every other belief that makes up their day-to-day 'faith'. How convenient to require proof for the basis of morality, goodness and selflessness. To refuse to attempt this element of faith without proof is perhaps a convenient excuse for living selfishly. If we are all part of a higher, ordering force, then regardless what you call it, order calls for charity and morality. Charity and morality require standards, introspection and self-discipline. Without these as part of our shared belief system, the world will again disintegrate into barbarism as it has so many times before.

Am I out to lunch?

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