If there is one thing that I learned from Monday’s discussion of religion, it is that whatever you believe in, you should not let yourself be a slave to its rhythms. If you cannot truly understand it–and I guarantee you that you do not understand it–you should not let your life revolve around it.
Too many times in the past has religion been used to justify some of humanity’s most terrible deeds–religious persecution during the Roman era, the destruction and massacre of the Mediterranean Crusades, and several cases of state-sponsored genocide, just to name a few of the more known cases. Religion has lead to wars between countries and insurrections within. It made slaves out of most of the populace during the Dark Ages (serfs and peasants were told to work hard in return for reward in their afterlife and to avoid holy retribution). It was used to justify the terrible and paternalistic imperial conquests of the 19th century. And even in the present day, fanatics from both sides attempt to discredit each other. But why do we keep letting these injustices continue?
America’s founding fathers recognized the innate problem with bundling religion with government and addressed that issue in the Constitution that still guides our country today. Keeping them together as one unit would amount to ruling a populace with fear–fear of something they could not possibly have understood.
What do I mean by understanding, then? It is being able to communicate with certainty a belief or knowledge you have. Consider this example:
- First, you are a one-dimensional ant (a line segment) living in a one-dimensional universe–an infinite line. You have two perspectives, front and back. In this frame, it would be absurd to claim to know what is up, down, left, right, because those perspectives are simply unavailable to you.
- Then, you become a two-dimensional (a finite flat shape like a circle or a square) ant living in a two-dimensional universe–an infinite plane. You have four perspectives now: in addition to front and back, you can see left and right. At this point, you can understand what a one-dimensional world would be like, but it would be equally absurd to claim to know what is up and down.
- Finally, you become a three-dimensional (a finite shape with volume like a sphere or a cube) ant living in a three-dimensional universe–an infinite space. You can finally understand the six directions we are familiar with and the previous dimensions. But what comes next? We cannot know. Some say time, but if that were true, we would be able to look back and forward in time with as much precision as looking backward and forward in space–but we cannot.
My point is that although it is easy to understand the universes whose dimensions are equal to or smaller than the one in which you live, it is pure vanity to claim anything about universes whose dimensions are greater than the one in which you live (Linear algebra freaks, you can relate all these together using familiar terms such as vector spaces and subspaces of those vector spaces). Regardless of whatever may exist beyond our ultimate level of perception, we cannot speculate on their properties.
Because there is no way of knowing what exists outside of our range of perception, regardless of what other human sources tell you, it is futile to live a life revolved around the “super”-spaces (a “space” of which our current space is a subspace). Christians for example may claim that the Bible is composed of the word of God, written by Jesus’s disciples, and therefore that claim must make the Bible the truth and Christianity valid–but how different is that from a 2D ant listening to another 2D ant explain what he asserts the 3D ant told him about the world beyond?–that there is up and down in the 3D universe, when the 2D ant has no way of understanding what that could possibly mean?
When people speculate on the properties of the un-understandable, they make tragic mistakes (as I’ve mentioned above) and conflicting conclusions. Muslims are convinced that “all religions other than Islam are heresy and error,” and that heretics go to their equivalent of hell. Protestants believe something along the same, and so do Catholics. Buddhists and Hindus have completely different mindsets based on reincarnation. But realistically, at least one of these beliefs is wrong; you cannot both go to Islamic hell and Protestant heaven while being evaluated in the Catholic purgatory. (and plus, did God just build a new waiting room when Martin Luther created his own strain of Christianity? That surely does not make sense) Is it the fault of the Buddhist monk to never have heard about Jesus? Does he deserve to go to hell because of it? Certainly, you can see the vanity in attempting to question the unquestionable and attempting to understand what we cannot understand.
And what about moral beliefs? Why can’t the code of ethics to which we all adhere be based on common sense and personal experience? Why must there be a set of things that Jesus and Moses say we should do and should not do? Why can’t we simply apply our common sense? Surely, Jesus did not foresee the advent of computers and the Internet. Is it okay to spread viruses to unprotected computers because Jesus did not mention anything about it? As you can see, religion should, by no means, be the official framework on which everyone’s morals are based.
Everyone, live your life around what is real and what can be understood, and leave the unreal and impossible-to-understand to your afterlife, if you believe there is one. Do not dwell on what goes on beyond your range of vision, for you will never understand as long as you are trapped in this universe, and do not make the understanding of the un-understandable be your life goal; those attempts will only be in vain.
I thank everyone for their time and hope that I offended no one with this post. Regardless, I invite everyone’s honest thoughts into this discussion. I am strongly interested in hearing everyone’s inputs.