“When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner… then you will enter the Father’s domain.” saying of Jesus, Gospel of Thomas 22:4, 7
While I was in the midst of an existential crisis at about the age of 22, I had a dream which symbolized the essence of what this book is all about. In this dream, I was swimming in a lake, making my way towards a rocky shore with a Bible in one hand, and paddling through the water with the other. As I struggled to make it to shore, I tried to be careful the Bible was not touched by the water when I noticed a nun sitting at the edge of the shore. She looked at me, rolled her eyes, and then extended her hand, saying, “Just throw it at me.” I tossed the Bible to the nun, and then continued my swim with much greater ease, without the burden of the book, in the opposite direction, away from the shore.
This book is a kind of documentation of my journey in awareness. At times I will correct, clarify, or amend something I may have stated in a previous chapter because as my awareness deepens, so too does my insight and view of what is. This is in the spirit of the scientific method, which is open to change in the face of new evidence which may lead to a revised view of reality. This is not in the spirit of “religious truth,” which is “unchanging,” even in the face of invalidating and/or contradictory evidence to religious beliefs. While I am not a formal “scientist” in the strict sense of the word, as I am not particularly versed in scientific terms, theories, etc., I have an immense passion in examining human nature, our motivations, how we evolved into the beings we are today, as well as the nature of reality and the universe. While I am also not a formal “philosopher” in the strict sense of the word, as I have never been formally educated in philosophy and am not particularly versed in philosophical terms, philosophical positions, etc., it could be said I am and always have been a philosopher by nature, whose epistemology relies primarily on sound reasoning and logic, while also deeply considering scientific knowledge in formulating my positions. Interestingly enough, philosophy was at one time considered a “science” of sorts, and especially in ancient times with some of the greatest philosophers of all time such as Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Lucretius, among others. Even today, philosophy frames questions, and science is a strategy for arriving at consensus answers to these questions. Indeed, philosophy and science go hand in hand.
I was raised Catholic, and have always loved the truth reflected in so much of Christian scripture, but have never been satisfied with, nor convinced of traditional Christian dogma and theology, its beliefs, and their interpretations of “inerrant” scripture. I can remember as a child while doing my CCD homework, asking my mom how we can actually know whether or not Biblical scripture is truly the “divinely inspired” “Word of God.” After an uncomfortable silence from my mom, who was clearly a bit flustered by my question, as if she had never before asked this question herself, answered something to the effect that it simply is the “inspired Word of God,” which I took to mean this claim is to be taken “on faith,” not because we have any actual evidence to prove these words comprise the “divinely inspired” “Word of God.” As I grew older and began to think more deeply and critically on these things, I realized there must be a separation of the “wheat” from the “chaff,” the true from the untrue, when looking at all things in life, even the reading of scripture and the traditional interpretations we are so often taught within traditional church settings. Unfortunately, virtually all traditional church institutions emphasize only our unwavering faith, and not our questioning. To question is to seek the truth. For All must be questioned to find the truth. The fact is, there is a vast difference between reasonable doubt, and unreasonable “faith.”
Truth is the most valuable virtue we hold, because without it, we have no basis whatsoever for knowing reality – the foundation of our very sanity. It is the reason the vast majority seeks the truth in one form or another. Without truth, we have no basis for that which we most highly value like integrity, honesty, and the assurance in our knowledge we are correct and not mistaken about reality. I can think of no more passionate desire for myself than to know what is actually true about existence and our circumstance, regardless of whether I “like” it or not. It is ultimately this passion which drove me to write this book – with truth being the most consuming passion for me, and music a close second. Neither I nor anyone else who has a genuine desire to know what is true wants to be mistaken about reality, yet not all worldviews can be correct, since many of them contradict other worldviews and reality itself. While some relativists may argue there are “no absolutes,” this is incorrect because to believe there are no absolutes is itself an absolute – that there are no absolutes. Theists have often correctly pointed out the problem with this relativistic point of view because of its contradictions. So does this mean the theist is therefore correct their God is this “absolute truth?” Not quite. They are half right. There is absolute truth. There has to be otherwise there would be no basis from which to speak of anything whatsoever, even the very idea there is no such thing as absolute truth. Ironically, one can never deny the fact of absolute truth without affirming its reality. However, the reason absolute truth cannot be a “god” is because truth is not a “thing,” “entity,” or “being,” but is rather what actually is. This is not the same as the idea of “objective morality,” or “absolute morality,” which is a point I address at length in the chapter, “Morality?” The phenomenon of “cognitive dissonance,” or the psychological discomfort we experience when our beliefs are confronted by invalidating evidence for our beliefs, further illustrates the fact of absolute truth independent of our opinions or beliefs. For if “truth” is nothing more than a subjective opinion, then we would never experience cognitive dissonance in the first place, since there would then be no corrective – no absolute truth against which to know what is not true, and therefore no way to perceive any conflict between our beliefs and reality.
The fact there is absolute truth, and/or absolute fact is well-illustrated by Marshall Brian in his book, “How God Works.” He explains how if all of the scientific knowledge we have today was somehow lost or eradicated, and all our formulas, equations, laws of physics, and other scientific facts about the universe were somehow forgotten, new scientists would eventually discover the exact same scientific facts we have today – precisely because truth, and/or fact is objective – in other words, everyone who looks at the data, evidence, and sound reasoning with intellectual honesty will come to the exact same conclusions about what is actually true. To put it simply, those who acknowledge and value evidence will all agree the Earth is not flat, but a sphere, and those who also acknowledge and value sound reasoning and logic will all agree that two plus two equals four and not five, and that one minus one equals zero and not ten. There is no “wiggle room” for “different facts” because facts are facts, which by definition means they are unchanging regardless of one’s personal opinion or belief. Two plus two will always equal four, and is simply not a matter of opinion, but a matter of fact. Opinions on the other hand, are always a subjective point of view which can therefore vary greatly from person to person. Fact and/or truth is by definition not subjective, unlike all opinion and matters of “faith.” Faith in terms of “religious faith” is simply an opinion – a subjective point of view and not an actual matter of fact, because if religious faith was a matter of fact, then all religions would agree on the “facts” of God instead of what we have today, with so many varied faiths, opinions, and theological arguments of how God and “the supernatural” supposedly “work” in our world. The fact there is any disagreement at all between these different faiths and theologies proves these views to be opinions and nothing more. Scientific and logical matters of fact are only able to be called fact precisely because the data, evidence, and sound reasoning reveal the undeniable fact of a matter, and those who value evidence and sound reasoning will acknowledge and agree with these facts, such as the fact the Earth is a sphere instead of flat, and that two plus two equals four and not ten. That is why there can be no variation in matters of fact and/or truth. As Greta Christina well put it, you are entitled to your opinions, but you are not entitled to your facts.
While I do not agree with the viewpoint of many religious and political fundamentalists, the general desire that they and many of us feel for everyone to agree on a given ideology or worldview is understandable, since most of us would prefer peace over war, and if we can agree on a common worldview and goals, then it would appear there would be far more peace and less war in the world. However, the problem with this approach, as has been proven over millennia of wars, is we cannot organize a peaceful society around ideologies since they are based on subjective belief instead of objective truth. Truth is not an ideology. Truth is. Because of the subjectivity of faith, of belief, there will therefore always be disagreement about such matters, and with it a desire from those in power to impose the acceptance of their ideologies by force, as the Roman Empire did during the dawn of the Common Era, as the Catholic Church did in the Middle Ages, and as the Nazis did in the early 20th century. To approach organizing a society from an emotionally and ignorance driven faith-based point of view, which by its nature requires coercion and fear of the consequences for non-compliance to ensure complete adherence, instead of a pragmatically and educated driven factual-based point of view, which only requires we naturally accept and honor what is actually true without coercion, can only lead to more of the same because the bottom line is, if we based the organization of our society around what is actually true instead of what we believe things to be as we do with religious faith, there would be far more peace, compassion, and understanding. In a nutshell, knowledge of truth is freedom and peace, while ignorance is slavery and war.
There was a time not too long ago when I would have been tortured and burned at the stake for expressing the ideas I express in this book. Many brilliant thinkers and scientific minds such as Giordano Bruno, were tortured and brutally executed by the Catholic Church simply for rejecting core Catholic doctrines such as eternal damnation, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ and the virginity of Mary, as well as refusing to believe such nonsensical notions as transubstantiation – the Catholic doctrine the Communion host literally becomes the body of Christ. Sam Harris, during a debate with William Lane Craig, brilliantly and humorously summed up the absurdity of the doctrine of transubstantiation.
“If you wake up in the morning, thinking that saying a few Latin words over your pancakes is going to turn them into the body of Elvis Presley… you have lost your mind. But if you think more or less the same thing about a cracker and the body of Jesus, you’re just a Catholic.”
Bruno is considered by many today to be a scientific and freethinking martyr, who died in large part for his anti-Catholic scientific ideas and for championing science and reason over faith. At his execution on February 17, 1600, he had his tongue tied so he could not address the crowd with more of his “dangerous” ideas, stripped naked in the February cold, tied to a stake and burned alive by the Roman Catholic Church. He, like Galileo, championed Copernican heliocentrism – the idea the Sun is at the center of the Solar System, around which the Earth and other planets revolve – which of course we now know today to be a matter of fact. However, this viewpoint was in direct opposition to the Church-approved belief in geocentrism – the idea the Earth, and not the Sun was at the center of the Solar System. While Galileo was eventually forced to recant his views to avoid execution by the Inquisition, Bruno refused to do so, and paid with his life in an excruciating death. The very fact the Church was fearful of Bruno’s anti-Catholic and pioneering scientific ideas, such as the possibility of life on other planets, and the idea of an infinite universe in which there can therefore be no “center” of the universe – invalidating the egocentric idea of the Earth being at the center of the universe – ideas that challenged and directly contradicted Church dogma, well illustrates the futility of attempting to reconcile faith with reason, or science with religion. It also illustrates the fact that the 16th Century Church well understood the conflict between faith and reason, science and religion – a conflict many religious apologists today either downplay or outright deny. Even Martin Luther admitted the irreconcilable conflict between faith and reason in his own words, and why he was a supporter of scientific-minded and freethinking individuals like Bruno being burned at the stake.
“All the articles of our Christian faith, which God has revealed to us in His Word, are in presence of reason sheerly impossible, absurd, and false… Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but-more frequently than not-struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God… Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore… Heretics are not to be disputed with, but to be condemned unheard, and whilst they perish by fire…”
The reason this attempted reconciliation between faith and reason is futile is because faith and reason, religion and science, are entirely different epistemologies – ways of “knowing” what is true, with faith and religion based on authority, superstition, and “revealed truth,” and science and reason based on evidence, logic, and sound reasoning. The reason these “ways of knowing” cannot be reconciled is because matters of “faith” and “revealed truth” are never falsifiable – that is, they cannot be disproven, and are therefore meaningless assertions for “knowing” reality – knowing what is actually true, while scientific and logical theories are falsifiable, which means if a claim is found to be true even if it could be proven false, then the theory is at least a viable possibility of what could actually be true. That is why if faith is ever correct about a given claim proven to be true by science, evidence, and sound reasoning, it is only correct by accident. In short, when it comes to understanding the nature of reality, faith is a useless epistemology, while scientific evidence and reason are the only genuine epistemologies we have, because whereas the scientific method is self-correcting, in which scientists and their peers do their very best to disprove theories to be as sure as humanly possible they are correct and not mistaken about their claims, this is not the case with religious faith.
Theists can say we cannot technically “disprove” God, but neither can we technically “prove” God either, since faith is not self-correcting – not falsifiable. In other words, since religious and spiritual claims are not self-correcting, not falsifiable, then there is no way to ever actually know whether you are right or wrong about a given claim; whether it is the claims for “prophecy,” or so-called “inspired” words called scripture, whether or not we are even worshiping the “right God” in the first place, whether or not God actually “speaks” to us directly, the “correctness” of our scriptural interpretations, indeed – any faith-based claim. This is the very reason why faith is in fact, not an epistemology at all, since epistemologies are by definition methods of knowledge and not belief as faith is. In fact, the very word “science” means knowledge, whereas belief, or “faith,” has nothing to do with knowing what is true, but with believing what is true. The real question we could ask ourselves is, if we are truly committed to knowing what is actually true about our circumstance, good, bad or otherwise, why would we not use a method that actually gives us a legitimate chance at doing this? Science and sound reasoning are self-correcting, and therefore gives us a legitimate chance at knowing what is actually true, while faith is not self-correcting, which therefore gives us no means of actually knowing whether or not a given faith claim is actually true. Believers may claim it is the “Holy Spirit” which “tells” them what is “true,” but this is once again nothing more than an appeal to faith. One could just as easily claim that Allah, Vishnu, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster are responsible for “telling” us what is true, and they would all be equally invalid claims as the claim for the “reality” of the Holy Spirit since they are all equally non-falsifiable. The only way to actually verify the factual correctness and/or truth of a given claim is to verify it from a credible outside source. We know this and do this in virtually every area of our lives except religion. If two people make two different claims about something, it is nothing more than one person’s word against another until actual credible evidence is produced to prove and/or demonstrate the factual correctness of a given claim. We see this in our justice system and in virtually every other discourse on truth except religion. It is a profound and striking fact that while we do this in almost every other area of our lives, we almost never do this in matters of religious faith. However, the problem with not doing this in matters of religious faith is the fact that as long as faith is only “verified” internally, with no third-party witnesses or credible outside sources to validate our faith claims such as the idea the “Holy Spirit” or anything else is “speaking” to us or “answering” our prayers, then we are trapped in circular reasoning. If one makes a claim, and then provides “reasons” why that claim is “true,” without ever going outside the “circle” of that claim to find genuine third-party evidence and/or sound reasoning which would verify whether or not the initial claim is even viable in the first place, then the reasoning is circular, and therefore invalid. Circular reasoning may be a clever technique of the charlatan and the believer, but it is unsound reasoning because it is reasoning which is self-validating – something one can do to make any claim appear “valid” and “true.” The problem is, even believers know this is false, because those of a given faith can often clearly see why the claims of other religions are false due to their non-falsifiability. However, the blind spot for most believers is in not being able to see the fact their faith claims are just as non-falsifiable and therefore invalid as any other religion’s claims since faith claims are called for what they are, as stated previously, precisely because there is no good evidence or means to prove their factual correctness to third parties. If they did have such means to prove their factual correctness, then we would again refer to such claims not as faith, but fact. That is why faith claims are therefore again nothing more than one person’s word against another. For example, some Muslims believe Allah tells them to fly airplanes into buildings with the reward for their martyrdom of 72 virgins in paradise after death, and they believe it just as fervently as Christians believe Muslims are wrong, and that the Holy Spirit tells them they will go to Heaven after they die for their belief in Jesus Christ, which Muslims say is wrong. The problem with both claims is neither one is falsifiable by a third party since they each lack credible evidence to verify their factual correctness, which means they can tell us nothing about reality, and are therefore both incorrect.
It is often argued by theists that faith is necessary because science and reason are themselves either unreliable or flawed, often pointing out gaps in scientific knowledge and limits of reason to defend this point of view. But such complaints are just clever rationalizations and distractions to keep us from facing the fact that faith is not and cannot be the “answer” to whatever limits are claimed to exist within science and reason. The question is not whether or not science and reason are perfect, but rather as stated previously, which tools give us the best chance at understanding reality and the true nature of the universe? With that in mind, what legitimate reason could we possibly come up with to justify why we would we want to use a non-corrective tool such as faith to make important decisions about reality upon which our lives depend? In other words, why would we willfully choose to drive a car without a self-corrective steering wheel? If we did so it would be virtual suicide. Given this striking fact, why would we possibly choose faith over science and reason? Why would we virtually guarantee ourselves intellectual, “spiritual” suicide if you will by not choosing a self-corrective tool to ensure we are correct and not mistaken about reality? On its face it seems absurd. However, religious faith in particular is a very special kind thought process – so “special,” we compartmentalize it by putting it in a “separate box” from everything else in our lives so we don’t have to examine it critically and logically as we would examine anything else to determine its credibility and trustworthiness. The fact we tend to do this reveals a striking fact about our religious faith. If it was credible, then we would have no problems examining it like anything else. The fact we instead compartmentalize religious faith by setting it “apart,” making it “Holy” as it were (the very definition of “holy” is “set apart”), is not for legitimate “spiritual reasons” as claimed by believers, but is nothing more than a defense mechanism to shield religious claims from criticism and falsifiability – a problem we will explore at length in this book. This compartmentalization defense mechanism allows for the phenomena of doublethink, which is the acceptance of two mutually contradictory beliefs to be correct at the same time. The reason we engage in doublethink is to relieve our cognitive dissonance when evidence and reason clearly demonstrate our beliefs to be false. Rather than accept reality and the pain that often goes with it, many of us instead engage in doublethink to cover over or drive away the pain of the truth from our minds. However, one of the side effects of doublethink is another cognitive error of conflating faith with fact and/or truth. Almost everyone at one point in history believed the earth was flat, but that never changed the fact and the truth is was always a sphere, regardless of what others believed. This example clearly illustrates why belief or faith is not necessarily fact, the cognitive error in conflating faith with fact, and why truth or factual claims are invalid without backup from science, evidence, and sound reasoning. It is why you cannot simply say you “believe” or have “faith” in something to make it so.
It is this clever compartmentalizing mental trick of doublethink which allow scientists like Francis Collins to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, while understanding the scientific fact that dead human beings and other animals never under any circumstances, rise from the dead days after they are buried. While Collins believes it is possible that “one can be intellectually in a rigorous position and argue that science and faith can be compatible,” this is simply not true, for reasons as stated previously. It is not compatibility which allows scientists like Collins to hold their religious beliefs and scientific facts simultaneously. It is compartmentalization and doublethink. The fact the Church thought it best to stamp out this evidence-based, scientific and logical way of knowing what is actually true, by burning books and people who dared to express these “dangerous” ideas, proves they knew it was a lie they were defending, and that their faith-based “epistemology” was incorrect. Again – it was their cognitive dissonance – their confrontation with the undeniable falsity of their worldview in light of the evidence of truth provided through science and reason which led them to persecute Giordano Bruno and other so-called “heretics.” They knew their faith claims would not and could not hold up to the light of truth from the evidence provided by science and reason. If they did think it could do so, then the Church’s persecution of freethinkers and scientists would have never happened. This is precisely why religious scientists such as Francis Collins are incorrect about the supposed “compatibility” between faith and reason, religion and science. The only reason there is conflict between religion and science and not religion and other disciplines is because both religion and science attempt to “explain” reality – how the world, the universe, and existence actually works. Religion and science therefore largely vie for the same territory in what they attempt to explain, yet they cannot both be correct because time and again science and reason refutes that which many religions, particularly Christianity, put forth as viable explanations for reality. While Christian and various other religious evangelicals have tried and continue to try their best to stamp out the truth, it cannot be stamped out, nor changed, nor made to be not true, no matter how may so-called “heretics” are burned at the stake, or truth suppressed by those who refuse to acknowledge the genuine epistemologies of science and reason. No matter how hard some may try to ban contraception, refuse to teach evolution in schools, or make it a “sin” or even a crime to question the validity of so-called “sacred books” and their often absurd claims, none of this can make their faith claims “true.”
The fact the Church proclaimed to be the representative of “Christ on Earth,” while torturing and murdering people for the crime of thinking in conflict to Church dogma, is not only a blatant and appalling contradiction to the directive of Christ to love one another, but is also a most troubling black eye on the Catholic/Christian religion. It is a black eye that extends to Protestantism, as the essential founder of Protestantism, Martin Luther, was perfectly fine with burning heretics at the stake, making him no different than the Catholic adversaries he so ardently criticized with his Ninety-five Theses. This stigma continues to this day with the Church’s continued thwarting of scientific progress even in the modern era with their stand on stem cell research and contraception. As late as the year 2000, on the 400th anniversary of Bruno’s death, Cardinal Angelo Sodano still defended Bruno’s prosecutors, while at the same time acknowledging it a “sad episode.” The fact the Catholic Church and other Protestant denominations and other religions will simply not genuinely own their complicity in crimes against humanity, and discouraging or punishing others for practicing the basic human right to think for oneself, just because it contradicts religious belief, further increases the antagonism between religion and science, faith and reason.
While my main focus in this book is with the problems of Christian or Judeo-Christian theology with which I am most familiar, there are problems in one form or another with all religions, as well as belief systems surrounding the occult, the supernatural, the metaphysical, or any other versions of “woo,” because by their very nature they all make unproven faith-based claims to knowledge of things we cannot know, instead of proven fact-based claims about the nature of reality, as I explore in more depth throughout this book. The problem with Christianity in particular is the fact that several faith claims made within Christian doctrine about life on Earth from the virgin conception of Jesus and the origins of life (biological claims), to what happened in the past (historical, geological, paleontological, and archeological claims), and what will happen in the future, the nature of the world, the cosmos, the origin of the universe (cosmological claims), claims for life after death (neuroscience and physics claims), all tread on scientific and factual historical territory which modern science and historical data, or lack of scientific and genuine historical data has virtually invalidated. To square what we now know today about the universe, the world, and reality with Christian dogma is impossible without doublethink, and will not get any easier going forward as science, history, and philosophy continues to make progress in helping us better understand our past, genuine possibilities for our future, and the universe and world in which we live. What we now know today from neuroscience, biology, physics, cosmology, philosophy, history, mythology, and logic, among other disciplines, all consistently point to the same conclusion – Christian claims about the nature of reality are simply not true. And it’s not that Christianity merely fails in just one or a few disciplines, while it works in others. Christianity is on the losing side of the evidence and sound reasoning in all relevant disciplines which could potentially validate the truth of Christianity. This overwhelming fact is precisely what makes Christian claims about the nature of reality simply untenable. In this book, I look at the problems of Christianity from the perspective of various disciplines, and why Christian truth claims about reality are almost entirely not true from these perspectives. We can either believe historical facts, as well as science with its innumerable, peer-reviewed, double-blind tested mountains of evidence about the nature of reality, combined with sound reasoning and logic, or we can ignore all of the evidence and stick to faith claims and pseudoscience despite the evidence. In short, we can either accept reality, or we can ignore reality by perpetuating unjustified faith claims.
The word “mysticism” in the true sense of the word means “the pursuit of communion with, identity with, or conscious awareness of an ultimate reality…” Indeed, it has never been belief, or faith I was seeking, but direct awareness of truth. And while it is exciting to discover truth by ever seeking and ever questioning, it can be a lonely path, as so few hear or heed the call within to question all they believe to approach Reality. As said by Jesus in Matthew 7:14.
“…small is the gate and narrow the road which leads to life, and only a few find it.”
That is another reason I wrote this book… to be a support and encouragement for all who are seeking the Oneness of All, God, Truth, Love, or whatever other name we give for Reality. This book is for those who are seeking Reality outside the usual, often unfulfilling means of a traditional church setting or faith-based dogmatic following. I encourage all who feel drawn to the life-giving waters of truth to come and drink through their own inquiry… for there is no greater gift than awareness of who we Are…