It has been said by many, “I am Spiritual, but not religious.” Well I think that Jordan Peterson might say that you may not know it, but you are religious whether you are conscious of it or not. A religion is a set of ideas that shapes your understanding of the Spiritual world, and there is a Spiritual world. Scientists can’t study it, because scientists are preoccupied with the physical world. Some scientists have come to believe that there is no Spiritual world because they haven’t been able to see it through a microscope. They haven’t been able to find the consciousness in our brains. Some scientists call it the “problem” of consciousness, and that is because they don’t know what consciousness is. Well consciousness is our Spirit. It is who we are. Spiritual leaders can see it, and can talk at length about it.
Now I can see why the tension has risen between science and religion. There have been disagreements between the two camps, but they both live in the same world, and so there must be a reconciliation. There must be an answer, to why both camps have their own version of the truth. I was inspired to write about this topic by a video where Jordan Peterson explains to Joe Rogan on his podcast how he reconciles his own inner scientist and religious identity. He explains beautifully that there is a difference between scientific truth and religious truth. He says that scientific truth explains how the physical world works, but religious truth explains how a person should act. I was inspired by this idea, because it can finally put an end in my mind to the debate between atheists and theists. Peterson describes himself as a religious person even though he is a scientist, and many scientists may find this to be a contradiction, but he offers a way to think about these ideas so that both of his identities can cohabitate in his mind harmoniously.
I’ve always felt that I had these two sides to myself that were wrestling with one another, and this dualism seems to be present in all types of different pairs. My soft side and my harsh side. My selfish side and my compassionate side. My logical side and my intuitive side. For a long while I favored my logical side, and came to hate any type of intuitive thinking. I heard compelling arguments that said logic is the only way to reason with our world and that any intuitive thinker must be a palm reader/con artist or a “psychic medium.” Then I met my wife. She embodies what it means to be intuitive. She knows right from wrong without trying too hard to think about it. I then found that having a good intuition also comes in handy in sports. They trust their instincts and act in a certain graceful way that always works out better than careful calculation. Whenever I tried to practice basketball I was never really good at making shots. I practiced and practiced, but saw very little improvement in my accuracy. I remember some couches trying to tell me to try and develop skills through careful thoughtfulness, but looking back on it, it was the kids who had natural skill that were able to get into the flow and really play well. Of course practice is needed to become better, but only those who already have the inherent gift are able to develop it fully. The graceful flow of energy seen in any professional dancer or athlete comes from an intuitive place. A trust in themselves and a forgetting of all the tips the couch had. Athletes will tell you about a zone they get into when they forget about everything that happened yesterday and at practice, and only when an athlete is “in the zone” can he or she perform at their best. This to me is evidence that our intuitive side is just as important as our logical side.
Today we can talk about sports as a religion. I’m not that into sports so I can talk about music as my religion. Some people talk about love as their religion. A religion can take many forms, and it doesn’t always look like the typical church type of religion. Everyone has a religion, and most people have multiple religions. Even Christians have other religions, like sports or music. A lot of people have left the Christian religion, because it has failed to adapt to the modern world. This was evident in the war between the Catholic Church and Science.
There was a book by Dan Brown called “Angels and Demons.” It was my favorite book when I read it because it dramatizes the war between the Catholic Church and Science. The scientists were part of a secret society known as the Illuminati, and they were out to destroy the Catholic Church. When I read this book I felt a connection to the Illuminati because I also wanted to go to war with the religious establishment in our society. I saw so much wrong with Christianity, and I wanted to show the world how corrupt this religion really was. Luckily I was young enough to have a little humility, and so I set out to learn more about theology and philosophy before I started my campaign to bring down the Christian establishment. I also tried to debate a few Christian friends I had in order to hone my skills, but to my surprise, I wasn’t able to change their minds about the subject. I thought I had all of the right ideas, but the deeply religious people that I debated would never give in to my attacks. “How stubborn!”, I thought, “Why can’t they see the error in their ways?” “Maybe I don’t yet have the proper words to persuade them.” So I studied more, and tried to uncover the truth of why people are religious.
Anyone who dismisses religious people as stupid is of course a bit arrogant, and wrong. Intelligence does not bring people away from God, and if it does, then that is a problem, because an intelligent fool can exist, and they would be the most dangerous type of fool. Wisdom differs from intelligence in that intelligence is simply the composition of data, whereas wisdom is the proper application of meaning to the data. When I started to realize this is when I started to value philosophy. I found that philosophy had almost become a forgotten artform in popular culture. Television seemed to be completely devoid of substance in the 90’s, which is partly what brought about a feeling of angst in young people. Without the proper application of meaning, young people in the 90’s felt that life was meaningless. This is why musicians like Nirvana became very popular. They expressed the feelings of a generation. The feeling you get when you lose your sense of purpose. A sadness. Listen to the song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and tell me if you get the feeling these kids weren’t lost in a fog of nothingness. Caught between our religious parents and the secular media, we were dazed and confused, and started to favor the media. Fast forward to today and it’s no wonder that people like Donald Trump hate the media. He was like one of our religious parents who saw that the media was “corrupting” his children’s minds and began to resent it.
So here I am after coming full circle and I’m beginning to find the truth in religion. Jordan Peterson points out that all of our values come from our religious backgrounds, and I always kind of had a sense of that. When I argue with a Christian, I usually say that we have similar values, just different ways of expressing them. Don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t cheat. Secular people say that these values can exist without their religious backgrounds, and they can, but you can’t deny that they have a religious background. It is like stealing an idea from another writer without giving him or her credit. We have to give credit where credit is due! Peterson points out that atheists like Sam Harris wrongly describe human history as if we were without reason until the age of reason. Peterson asserts that it was specifically our ability to use reason that gave birth to the ideas that form our religions. Of course it wasn’t only our reasoning but also our God given intuition that helped to form our biggest world religions. You see intuition was often seen as a spiritual moment to the prophets of the old and new testament. When Moses went up to the top of a mountain to talk to God, he had a conversation with a burning bush. Now this might mean he lit up a joint and had a hallucination, but it also might poetically describe a premonition or epiphany that he had on the top of that hill. Neal Donald Walsh writes in his book titled “Conversations with God” that he woke up in the middle of the night and had to write down what he felt were actual conversations with God! Now an atheist might say he was simply having a moment of deep self reflection, but I would argue that the difference is simply semantics! A conversation with God can come in a moment of deep self reflection, meditation, or in the middle of some intense action. We all have a connection to God, because God is the source of all creation, physical and spiritual.
Now, here is where I would like to describe my idea of what is Spiritual. My younger, logical self would have a hard time understanding what was spiritual and what was fake. I had a hard time identifying a genuine spiritual experience. I saw some fake spiritual experiences which really ticked me off and made me come to hate the idea of spirituality. It’s the palm readers, psychic mediums, and pseudo religious nuts that turn nice young people into atheists, and it’s a real problem for the spiritual community. I think a new way of describing the spiritual world is needed in order to make sense of what we are feeling and experiencing here in the real world. We know that there is something more to our world than just our physical surroundings, but we have been without a really good explanation. I think the Christian community is holding onto an old idea that spirituality is mystical and magical. I think young people tend to run away from that idea into the warm embrace of the scientific worldview which is much more believable. The problem with the scientific community, is that they lack a certain spiritual element that is necessary to form a complete picture. Our world is not simply a ball of mass without meaning, and I know that scientists aren’t without their own forms of meaning, but in order to bridge the gap I think we need to start to explore the meaning of God and Spirituality, instead of dismissing these ideas as false. If God is the creator of the universe, then let’s look at where creation happens everyday, in our own lives. Physical buildings and monuments are created from ideas within our minds, and so God is like the source of inspiration. Spirituality then is the world of abstract ideas. Principles and laws make of the Spiritual realm. Values and virtues are what make up our spirituality.
We live in a time of change. That is evident. Some people want the change to happen quickly and some people want the change to happen more slowly, and that is why there is a divide between conservatives and progressives. Conservatives want to hold onto the tried and true methods of the past, whereas progressives want to evolve into something better. Both sides are necessary in order to keep the balance between chaos and order. Too much change too quickly will bring about chaos, but a life without evolution would become stagnant and boring. We need artists and revolutionaries to sing of new ideas, and we need the wise elders to tell us when we are acting foolish. When I was younger I resented the so called wise elders, because I thought they were stuck in their ways, but I see now the value in tradition. Institutions are built on tradition, and they become something bigger than any one person. Spiritual institutions are a powerful force in our society, and they are necessary for the proper training of spiritual being.
American culture is one of pluralism. We are made up of many different cultures, and we have to tolerate one another to survive, but our differences are all the more evident when we live next door to someone with an opposing worldview. Society will break down without a cohesive spiritual structure, and we are seeing a degradation of our society because we are losing this cohesive spiritual structure. I think that a reconciliation is necessary, to find common ground between the religious and secular communities. Compromises will have to be made, and public debates will have to be had. Consensus will have to be made. Outsiders will remain, but a spiritual majority must be created, that has a righteous and moral high ground. Our political establishment lacks the spiritual training to create laws that can effectively govern our increasingly divided population. A new wave of unity will have to be created in order to stabilize our country, and bring peace to our nation.