Religion 101: the Quest for Meaning

Hindu God

Hindu God

In the Beginning was the Question: WTF? And thus was born Consciousness, self-consciousness, both blessing and curse. Could the origins of consciousness be of anything besides the juxtaposition of Self and Other? I doubt it. From that is born the recognition of basic relationships, very similar to Boolean logic: more than, less than, equal to, etc. This is primal thought, thought without language. From that all the plethora and panoply of consciousness is possible.

Now that we have language, it’s hard to imagine thinking without it, because we certainly do think in a language, just as does a computer. But computers existed, and had functions, before language, and so did we humanoids: not much, perhaps, but some, enough to populate several continents, apparently for no other reason than that they were there, and had food.

From the basic relationships come causal relationships: if this, then that, every time, so one must be the cause of the other. Animals do this all the time, and without language, as we know it. Yet they exist—and have meaning, to us, at least. This cause-effect relationship I suspect is the origin of ‘reason’, in fact, and arises very early in the history of thought, in fact the same word in some languages.

Cueva de los Manos, Argentina (Creative Commons rights held by Marianocecowski)

Cueva de los Manos, Argentina
(Creative Commons rights held by Marianocecowski)

So what? Why is this important? Because it speaks to the very nature of our being, and our need for symbols; and our needs that go beyond symbols. The Cro-Magnon cave painters had little in the way of language, I think we’d agree. Whatever it was, it wasn’t much. They weren’t tweeting, nor writing theses nor dissertations. But they were expressing a need, a need for symbols and meaning, reason and religion.

I’ve written more than once about the need for all religions to merge into one, choosing the best of each, and in effect creating a new religion, while rejecting none of the others. After all, once you’ve acknowledged the common roots of all the great monotheistic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—and subsequent divergences, and added the philosophical overlay of Buddhism, you’ve accomplished a lot. Internalizing it is another matter; practicing it still more, much more.

Then what? Beyond mixing religions, there has to be more than motivational puff-pieces to sustain it. You know what I’m talking about: ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life’, ‘be in the moment’, etc., fine, but limited in scope, nuance and perspective. I doubt that the Buddha said half the stuff attributed to him. Muhammad said much more, but is seldom quoted, for political reasons, and marketing decisions.

Preachers are the original motivational speakers, certainly, but there still has to be more than that, right? Why, but of course. Religion should explain the world in its most fundamental essences, just like scientists. Philosophy and science were once one and the same discipline, remember. So we must not only unite all religions, and unite all religions with philosophy, but unite with Science, also.

There is no mutual exclusion implied nor intended in any of these disciplines, except by small and petty-minded individuals with an ax to grind, and no place to sharpen it, except upon the hardened edges of self-righteousness. Many would-be and wannabe scientists are guilty of this (especially some of the ones who claim to f*cking love it). A little learning is a dangerous thing.

I don’t want to promote conflicts of interest and learning, because I see none, but once religion gives to scientists what is the proper realm of science—mathematical correctness—then religion is, in effect, a step up, and free of a great burden. Science is all about measurement. Religion and philosophy can then concentrate on matters of conceptual importance, which are more likely to be ‘correct’ in an absolute sense, i.e. belief systems.

Scientists who purport to extrapolate scientific theories into religio-philosophic ‘truths’ are doing a grave disservice to both. The quest is ongoing, for the means and the meaning of life. Bottom line: there is no answer to the fundamental question of whether life is built up of particles or trickled down from consciousness. Measure that.