“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 well versed in scientific terms, theories, etc., I have an immense passion for scientific and historical facts, and in examining things such as 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 also not particularly well 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. It is from the womb of philosophy where modern science was born, as even today philosophy frames questions, and science is a strategy for arriving at consensus answers to many of these questions. Indeed, philosophy and science go hand in hand.
I was raised Catholic, and since childhood have often been moved by the truth reflected in much of Christian scripture, such as that which I find in the story of the prodigal son, but have never been satisfied with, nor convinced of traditional Christian dogma and theology. I can remember one time while doing my CCD homework as a child, 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 way to separate 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. However, to question is to seek the truth, because questioning is the first step we must take in our path to finding truth – the “way” in which we can begin to separate the “wheat” from the “chaff.” Evidence and reason are means by which we can then answer these questions in order to discover what is actually true, or most likely to be true because evidence and reason are self-correcting tools which can therefore help us verify the truthfulness or factual correctness, or at least the high probability of the factual correctness of a given claim or proposition, as will be explored in more depth in this introduction and throughout this book. Religious faith, which I define as entirely different from what I call true faith, as will also be explored further in this introduction and in a later chapter, is not a means of knowledge as the scientific method and sound reasoning are, because it is simply the acceptance of propositions as fact or truth based on authority, revelation, personal experience without third-party verification, and superstition. In other words, unlike the scientific method and sound reasoning, faith contains no correctives in order to actually verify the truth and/or factual correctness of a given claim. There are times in this book when I make a special distinction between fact and truth, as I feel they are not necessarily always the same thing depending on the specific usage of the word “truth.” As in the story of the prodigal son, the wisdom of owning up for making mistakes, the value of humility, of forgiveness, and showing gratitude for the graciousness of another who does not hold your past actions against you and loves you unconditionally, are all things I consider universal “truths” if you will of the human condition many of us can identify with. But as I will explore more in depth in this introduction and throughout this book, this is not the same as many religious claims for “truth,” which are actually synonymous with fact in the minds of many believers, no matter how thin or non-existent the scientific and historical evidence for these “facts” are, or how logically fallacious the reasoning may be for the reality of these religious and spiritual “truths.” Throughout this book, I try to make this distinction between fact and truth when necessary, but for convenience of expression throughout the rest of this introduction, I will use the terms “fact” and “truth” interchangeably.
Truth is among the most valuable virtues we hold, because without it, we have no genuine foundation for integrity, honesty, and the assurance in our knowledge we are correct and not mistaken about reality. Neither I nor anyone else who has a genuine desire to know what is actually true wants to be mistaken about reality and our circumstance, which is the reason so many of us seek the truth in one form or another. 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. While those who have a genuine desire to know what is actually true wants to be correct and not mistaken about reality, not all of the worldviews people hold can be correct, since many of them contradict other worldviews and reality itself. Simply redefining truth to suit one’s agenda or ideological presuppositions in order to call things “true,” as I would argue Jordan Peterson does by calling what is “true” that which allows the human species to survive, as he did on his first podcast with Sam Harris, is not only a solipsistic point of view, but also one which has no distinction from religious dogma in which “truth” is ultimately redefined to be whatever one wants it to be, whether it be Jesus Christ, that which is “Darwinian,” or any other idea we invent to suit our ideological agendas.
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 this contradiction. 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, which therefore cannot be limited to any given thing, entity, or being. 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 squares cannot be round, nor can circles be angular. 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 the supernatural 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 demonstrate these views to be opinions and nothing more. Scientific and logical matters of fact are only able to be called fact precisely because the tools of data, evidence, and sound reasoning reveal the 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 own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.
While I do not agree with some of the viewpoints 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 demonstrated 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 is 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 solipsistic 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, the essential founder of Protestantism, 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, or ways of determining 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 claims for “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 demonstrated 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 useless because it is not an epistemology at all, while scientific evidence and reason are genuine epistemologies, because whereas the scientific method is self-correcting, in which scientists and their peers strive 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, which has no corrective – no means or methodology by which to verify the truth or factual correctness of a given claim, as stated previously.
Theists can say we cannot technically “disprove” God, but neither can we technically “prove” God either, since faith is again not self-correcting – not falsifiable. That is why there is no way to ever actually know, or even to be reasonably certain whether you are right or wrong about a given claim through faith; 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 or “reveals” himself to us directly through our personal experience, the personal testimony of others or “His Word,” 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 epistemology is by definition the study of the nature of knowledge and justified belief, not the acceptance of claims as fact without genuine justification, or based on fallacious reasoning 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 without justification. 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 nothing more than a manifestation of the logical fallacy of 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 or at least the high probability for 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 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, or the logical fallacy of “begging the question,” which is a form of argumentation where the conclusion is assumed in one of the premises 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 often reject the claims of other faiths, usually with little or no knowledge of these faiths, with the main reason for their rejection being the fact it is not their own. 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 there were such means to prove their factual correctness, then we could then be in a position to 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 cannot necessarily tell us anything about reality, and are therefore both invalid.
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 to demonstrate “absolute certainty,” 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. While there are times we when we do need to step out “in faith” – to take chances or grant trust to someone or something when we do not have as much knowledge or confidence as we may prefer, as I also explore in a later chapter, this is not the same usage of the word “faith” as it is often used with regards to belief in religion and the supernatural when propositions are accepted as fact with little to no good evidence or sound reasoning to justify these beliefs, as stated previously. This conflation is in fact, an example of the logical fallacy of “faulty comparison,” since these two definitions of “faith” are not at all one and the same thing.
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, logically, and rationally 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 critically 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 it is a sphere, regardless of what others believed. This classic example clearly illustrates why belief or faith is not necessarily fact, by exposing the cognitive error of 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, who is noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and his leadership of the international Human Genome Project, 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 stated previously and will be further explored in this introduction and throughout this book. It is not compatibility which allows scientists like Collins to hold their religious beliefs and scientific facts simultaneously. It is compartmentalization and doublethink. If God is a genuine reality which needs to be accounted for, who sometimes interacts with and intervenes within the real world of our daily experience and the universe, as many religious apologists claim, then there would necessarily be a “God” factor in scientific equations and theories for what happens in this world and the universe, but there is not. The reason there is no “God” factor in scientific equations and theories is because legitimate scientists – including those who are religious like Francis Collins, know on some level or another that the idea of God has nothing to do with the way we understand and predict how things in this world and the universe behave according to the laws of physics. While some may be tempted to cite quantum mechanics, quantum physics, and/or quantum field theory to scientifically postulate where God and the supernatural supposedly “resides” and “operates” in our universe, as some like Deepak Chopra have claimed, the only genuine similarity between quantum theory and religion and spirituality is the quality of “spookiness,” as Einstein and others have sometimes described difficult to understand suppositions like quantum phenomena. Or to paraphrase Sam Harris, some believe that just because quantum theory is “spooky” and difficult to understand, and religion and spirituality is also “spooky” and difficult to understand, they must somehow be related. This is yet another example of “faulty comparison,” since the two are really not related or cannot be demonstrated to be related since this is a non-falsifiable claim, and is therefore an example of fallacious and unsound reasoning.
While Francis Collins may fervently adhere to his religious convictions in his personal life and on Sunday mornings at church, he leaves his religious beliefs at the door when he enters the scientific lab in his professional life. He has to do this because as just stated previously, God has nothing to do with the scientific method, because it is not necessary to posit a “God” factor within scientific equations, as also stated previously, since they contain explanatory power sufficient unto themselves, requiring no need for a hypothetical “outside cause.” The reason Collins can leave his religious beliefs at the door of his scientific lab is once again because of compartmentalization and doublethink which allow human beings to separate and compartmentalize their real-world understanding from their religious and spiritual beliefs. The fact we even need to compartmentalize and rationalize our faith in light of scientific and logical matters of fact which contradict these beliefs, demonstrates their falsehood, as does ironically, the existence of religious apologists such as William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, and C. S. Lewis, who would not have a job, or have had a job if their arguments had any credibility within the scientific/intellectually honest community. In other words, if the claims of religion and spirituality were backed by any credible evidence and/or sound reasoning, they would then be absorbed within the domains of science and philosophy, instead of existing within the separate domains of religion and spirituality. On top of this, the very 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. While some have cited a view which was advocated by Stephen Jay Gould there is a “non-overlapping magisteria” between religion and science, or the belief that science and religion represent different areas of inquiry – fact versus values, so there is “a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority” in which the domains do not overlap and can therefore have no conflict, this is simply not true. For it is precisely because religion and science overlap in what they at least in part attempt to explain that there is persistent conflict between religion and science and not religion and several other things such as sports, art, music, and other disciplines. Both religion and science at least in part attempt to “explain” reality – how the world, the universe, and existence actually works. Religion may be in the “values” business, but to deny they are also in the “factual information” business is disingenuous by all who would make such a claim. For if that was the case, why then would there be such persistent conflict and heated debate over such issues as creationism, evolution, and stem cell research, and the asserting as fact that which cannot be known as fact such as the idea Jesus was resurrected from the dead and Muhammad flew a winged horse to heaven? If believers truly considered their religious convictions as only “poetic metaphors” rather than matters of fact, these conflicts and heated assertions for the “truth” of their beliefs would not be happening. When believers let go of any claim for the supposed factual “interaction” between the supernatural and the natural, causal universe, only then will I buy the notion of “non-overlapping magisteria.” Until that happens, I will continue to call this notion out for the disingenuous falsehood it is. While there are certainly differences between religion and science, the truth is, religion and science largely vie for the same territory in what they attempt to explain, contrary to the mistaken notion of “non-overlapping magisteria.” The problem is they cannot both be correct in what they attempt to factually explain because time and again science and reason refutes that which many religions, particularly Christianity, assert 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 many 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 that in the past the Church had proclaimed itself 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, as stated previously, 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 falsify, and therefore cannot demonstrate to be true or even possibly true. They are therefore meaningless assertions for knowledge of “truth,” as illustrated in the analogy of Russell’s Teapot, 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 origins of the world, the cosmos and the universe (cosmological claims), claims for life after death (neuroscience and physics claims), all overtly 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. As Greta Christina well put it, the amount of times throughout history in which theological and spiritual explanations for reality and phenomena have been replaced by scientific ones is thousands upon thousands of times. The reasons for why the sun rises and sets, how the complexity of life came into being, why we get sick and die, and where thunder and lightning come from, among numerous other phenomena which were once explained by religion and spirituality are now explained by science. It is furthermore a striking fact that the amount of times scientific explanations for reality and phenomena have been replaced by religious or spiritual explanations is exactly zero. Given this overwhelming track record, there is little to no reason to believe any other mysteries of the universe and existence itself will not also one day be explained with a scientific explanation, or just accepted as fundamental reality, or brute fact, as I posit consciousness as being in the chapter, “The Principles of Oneness.” I also have yet to hear a single argument for the existence of God and the supernatural which is devoid of logical fallacies such as “special pleading” which is used rampantly in arguments for the supernatural, and could even be said to be the foundational logical fallacy of all theistic, supernatural thought. I furthermore have yet to hear a single argument for the existence of God and the supernatural which is devoid of unsound reasoning, or does not contain factually incorrect premises, which invalidate their truthfulness, as I explore at length in this book.
Over the past 500 years or so from the landmark discoveries of Galileo, Darwin, Einstein, Max Planck, Watson and Crick, and many others, virtually all of the claims of the Abrahamic religions in particular have been demonstrated to be false, one by one, until all that now remains in the 21st century is “mystery” and the ever-receding space of genuine scientific ignorance in which “God” supposedly resides. That which we have no explanation for is the “God of the gaps,” but the fact religion has had to continually retreat into this ever-shrinking “unknown space” for the past 500 years in order to keep it supposedly “relevant,” while continuing to backtrack, rewrite, and “reinterpret” its theology to update itself in light of modern scientific discoveries and more humane and ethical behavior such as not condoning animal and human sacrifice and slavery, polygamy and genocide – all behavior condoned in the Bible, bears witness to its all-too-human origins and not the work of a “Divine Creator.” It also reveals the non-omniscience of God since the Bible, the supposed “infallible” and “perfect” Word of God is full of errors about the age of the Earth and the formation of the universe, is ignorant of the evolution of life on this planet, and even the numerical ratio of a circle. What’s worse is the “morality” of this God is so lacking in compassion that he never condemns slavery within both the Old and New Testaments. The reason the Bible’s position on slavery is so damning is because slavery is perhaps the easiest moral issue to make a judgment call on as being an abomination and inhumane to treat other human beings as if they are your property with whom you may do as you please. Yet the Bible, which is supposedly the “inerrant” and “perfect” Word of God gets this simple moral question of slavery wrong by condoning it at worst, and not condemning it at best. Even Jesus himself had nothing to say in opposition to one of the most abominable practices is the history of humankind. This is yet another reason, among others we will explore in this book, why citing the New Testament doesn’t get us anywhere in claiming a “better” and more “forgiving” or “loving” God than that found in the Old Testament. It could even be convincingly argued the New Testament is actually worse than the Old, since it contains perhaps the most inhumane concept ever conceived of eternal Hell – a concept not found in the Old Testament, and one which nobody in the Bible taught about more and threatened others with more than the “Prince of Peace” himself, Jesus Christ – a man who also taught others to “love and forgive” their enemies at the same time, exposing his blatant hypocrisy by asking us to do what he himself either will not do or cannot do. For if a “just” God and a “just” Jesus truly did love and forgive their enemies, then Hell and its unjust principle of eternal punishment for finite transgressions would not exist. The New Testament God also uses the unjust and immoral practice of human sacrifice as a means of vicarious redemption, which is immoral precisely because it undermines the very foundation of morality itself – personal accountability. While the Old Testament approves of animal sacrifice, the New Testament goes one step further by approving a single human sacrifice as though it were effective.
While the religious impulse is something Charles Darwin well understood personally, as he too had difficulty turning away from religion, the scientific and neurobiological reasons for religious faith are now well understood with profound scientific discoveries behind why we believe in god(s) as brilliantly illustrated in the fascinating book, “Why We Believe in God(s)” by J. Anderson Thomson, Jr., MD and Clare Aukofer. This book clearly illustrates the essential neurobiological reasons behind religious rituals, and the reasons why we are so inclined to believe in God(s), and how and why religions hijack some of our evolutionary adaptations and turn them into the by-product that is religious belief, which takes advantage of our natural credulity. While some might argue that God “instilled this religious impulse within us,” or “inscribed himself onto our hearts,” then he was remarkably inconsistent with revealing exactly who and what he is to the many varied cultures of the world, what he wants from us, how many gods there are, what gender it or they are, whether he has a son Jesus or merely a prophet Mohammad, etc. The numerous contradictions both within a given single religion, and among different religions clearly illustrate that while it is true that the concept of God(s) has been a cultural universal throughout history, this universal fact is not the same as the non-universal manifestations of this theistic fact, which illustrates why god(s) and religion are man-made and cultural. If any given particular religious manifestation or tradition was itself universal and “true,” then there would be only one concept of God or Gods, and only one religion instead of the innumerable dead and “living” gods and religions we have today and have had in the past the world over.
In this book, “The Christian Contradiction,” I look at the problems of Christianity in particular from the perspective of various disciplines, and why Christian truth claims about reality are almost entirely not true from these perspectives. We can either accept 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 believe in 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 one definition from the Merriam Webster Dictionary is in part defined as “the experience of… direct communion with ultimate reality…” While I do not accept several other “woo” or “spooky” definitions of the word “mysticism” which involve “otherworldly realms” and “supernatural beings,” I would instead define “mystical” as simply the experience of the knowledge all is one, or what I like to say “The Oneness of All,” as expressed by Jesus from the Gospel of Thomas in the opening quote of this introduction. The most strikingly profound experience of oneness for me occurred quite by accident while singing with a choir in college. I was overcome with overwhelming joy in the undeniable knowledge the sound vibrations manifest in the music from my voice and other voices, the clothes on my back and on the backs of others, our chairs, the floor, the walls, and even every movement at every moment of the director’s arms were all one. I almost gasped while singing as I was swept away by a loss of my sense of “self” as separate and independent of “other.” There was no “me” as separate from “you,” there was no music as separate from the room in which we were singing, and the piano upon which the accompanist played. I knew in that moment all is truly one. While this is not an experience I can “prove” or demonstrate to have factually happened any more than a dream I had last night, my experience of what I would call this Truth of the Oneness of All is very much unlike religious belief or religious faith, because unlike religious faith, the realization of The Oneness of All holds up to sound reasoning and I would even say scientific evidence. The scientific fact that all things are interdependent on other things for their existence, demonstrates the fact that all is truly one and inseparable, as I explore at length in this book. In that profound experience I have never quite had in the same way again, although have come close to experiencing during meditation, I realized it was That which I was seeking, not religious belief or faith in the supernatural without evidence or sound reasoning. I wanted direct awareness of what is true, or what I would call Reality. And while it can be exciting to discover what is true 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 to know what is true outside the usual, often unfulfilling means of attempting to find out what is true within a traditional church setting in which the congregation is simply told what is asserted to be true, or through the means of faith-based, dogmatic following. I would argue such faith-based, dogmatic following cannot tell us what is true, since faith is simply an assertion without justification or backup for the assertion, and not an actual methodology, such as science and reason, to discover what is actually true, as stated previously. For the genuine desire to know what is actually true is not a sin, nor a crime, nor an exercise in confirmation bias. It is that water which is pure. I encourage all who feel drawn to the life-giving waters of truth to be not afraid to drink of this pure water, and be filled through the discoveries of their own inquiry.