Wednesday, January 12, 2005

"What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?"

Now that we've got this roiling discussion about god going, I'll lob the next ball over the net. Actually it comes from Lawrence of A Better Nation who sent me this link to a New York times article for which fourteen scientists were asked, "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?" The answers are interesting and include theories about topics as varied as true love and the Abu Grahib abuse. I was particularly interested in one who says he believes a god exists and another who says he believes no god exists. But I was really drawn to this response on the whole god question:

Nicholas Humphrey
Psychologist, London School of Economics; author,"The Mind Made Flesh"

I believe that human consciousness is a conjuring trick, designed to fool us into thinking we are in the presence of an inexplicable mystery. Who is the conjuror and why is s/he doing it? The conjuror is natural selection, and the purpose has been to bolster human self-confidence and self-importance - so as to increase the value we each place on our own and others' lives.

The myth of a divine sapien being is one the most powerful and universal. Every single culture in the world throughout time has had such a myth, even if they had no interaction with any other culture. Why is that? Isn't that proof of the existence of such a sapien divine being? Humphrey's answer offers another possibility: that believing in a god could be part of a survival mechanism responsble for the existence of humans as a species. This idea supports my belief about god which is that a lot of people need to believe. I know because I'm one of them. I maintain that just because I've (painfully) stopped believing in "God" doesn't mean I'd ever try to take someone's god away from them. I know faith and prayer are extremely powerful and I know they work miracles every day and we all need those. I don't think it matters if praying makes a difference because there really is a responsive god or if praying makes a difference because the humans involved are powerful enough to make a miracle happen. Who cares? If prayer works, prayer works. So be it. I currently believe that it is our faith that heals us, whether or not there's a god.

I wonder if it's time for me to check out a book my friend Robert Cowie recommends, Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth. Robert says this book includes an examination of our powerful, universal myths and how they affect human behavior and development. I know the god-myth changes lives, for better and for worse. I tend to despair that humans are anything but doomed and overdue for extinction, but Robert offers the idea that it's our belief in the god-myth that has strengthened our species and offers us hope. Also thanks to Robert for his comments on this god question over the past several days.

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