metaphysics

I’m apparently one of the people wired for numinous experiences, though neurotheology is a very new field of study and has yet to determine if that portion of the brain is functioning as an antenna or simply as a pattern-recognition system similar to the one responsible for pareidolia. As a scientist, I have to consider the possibility that these phenomena are purely illusory, but the universe is a great deal more interesting when I postulate that there is something more going on than we can currently study in the laboratory. (When it comes to matters of belief or disbelief in the supernatural, I am a Fortean, and avoid taking such matters too seriously.)

Since there are no objective criteria for evaluating the truth of metaphysical assertions, I believe that public policy must be founded on non-metaphysical grounds. (Religion can, of course, inform the consciences of individuals.) People who believe that there is no morality without a grounding in some divine mandate are simply not thinking hard enough; one can derive the foundations of a moral society from the postulate that other people are real and application of the Golden Rule.

I have an ingrained distrust of organized religion; whenever an organization gets significant power, it attracts people who are interested in the power and authority rather than in the literal re-connecting function of the religion in the first place. Because of this, I tend to be fond of the perspectives of neo-pagans (who are as susceptible to dogma synchronization as a herd of cats) and Zen Buddhists (who see the whole thing as an illusion anyway). I’m not strongly attached to any particular symbol set, and consider theological systems to be frameworks we design to try and get a grip on the infinite using our own finite brains; details of divine gender and number are our responsibility, not that of the infinite.

I treat religion as a solution to an n-deity case of Pascal’s Wager: I try to live my life so that each day, the world is a bit better for my having been in it. This is a win-win proposition: if an afterlife exists, I will wind up in the same place as other people of similar goodwill, and will be in good company; if no afterlife exists, I made the world a better place anyway.