It used to be that if you wanted to see videos of speakers from The Amazing Meeting, your only option was to buy them on DVD direct from the James Randi Educational Foundation. But as of late, JREF has been putting TAM videos online for free. Here’s one from The Amazing Meeting 6, with Neil DeGrasse Tyson talking about religion, atheism and science.
And you can click through to Vimeo for more, including a Q&A with Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
And here’s where, against perhaps better judgment, I add my two cents to the ensuing conversation. I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about my religious beliefs on this site. I’ve tried to generally avoid the topic, but I’m not atheist. I respect atheists and skeptics, but personally, I just don’t like the idea of limiting my view of the universe to what we know scientifically at this point in time. I find the idea boring and a little pretentious, honestly.
I’m also not a member of any major religious organization. I don’t like being told how to think and how to act on something that should be deeply personal. I prefer to think that there’s so much more out there than we know now or that we may ever know. And this is intertwined with several very spectacular spiritual experiences in my life that I’d rather not cheapen by simply writing them off as random sparks in my brain. Religion is as much of a part of human experience as any other thing born of creativity and curiosity. As much as fundamentalists like to try and make science and religion enemies, and as much as some atheists have bitten this bait, there’s no reason that they should be. They’re from the same human impulses and they’re two sides of the same coin. If you’re letting religion get in the way of common sense or if you’re letting it guide you into evils such as hate, war or oppression… if it’s dulling your senses and your capacity for thought and reason, it’s time to re-evaluate things. If it’s complimentary to your other experiences and enriches your life in any small way, if it makes you feel better about life and death and birth and change and renewal, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it.
For myself, if someone asks me if I believe in ghosts or psychic powers or angels, my answer is why not? I can’t disprove it. I don’t believe in John Edwards or the ghost hunters on TV or any other number of charlatans and swindlers, but that doesn’t completely disprove the possibility of existence of life forms or intelligence that we can’t see or that perhaps don’t exist on the same physical dimension as ours. I don’t think that the Bible should be taught in schools nor do I think that intelligent design has anything in the least to do with science and I think the whole ID movement is a deadly poison on society, but that doesn’t mean that I should discredit every idea or any possible notion of some sort of intelligence that’s as gigantic and incomprehensible to us as human city life is to an ant. It could happen. I can’t prove it, but I don’t think it’s my business to disprove it either. Not unless someone’s getting in my face about it or shoving it down people’s throats or trying to teach it in lieu of actual science.
I just don’t see why we, or even Vulcans or gray aliens should be the top of the universal food chain. I don’t like to limit myself to the idea that we live in a black and white world where the only things imaginable are the things that science has proven up to this point, and I’m not afraid for someone to call me stupid for having a belief in a much wider universe that’s full of creativity and imagination and possibility. I’m just not willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater just because there’s some people in Biblical religions who are assholes, and I don’t see why the number of religious believers would be or should ever be zero percent. I’d love to live in a world without evangelicals and religious terrorists and religious zealots who oppress and kill people in the name of their invisible sky wizard of choice, but I think the idea that the human race could or should one day exist with no religion or no spiritual belief is also dangerous, naive and ill-formed. I love ya Neil DeGrasse Tyson, but I prefer my universe with plenty of mystery between the stars and between the lines and outside of what we know.
So what am I, if I’m not atheist or Christian? I don’t know honestly. Probably closer to some sort of Pagan, but I don’t even fall into those pre-defined categories very well, and often “pagan” also conjures up (no pun intended) visions of some sort of woo-woo “wave my magic crystal over your cancer to make it go away” lunacy, so I don’t neatly fall into that camp either. I wouldn’t even say agnostic, because I feel confident that there’s some sort of spiritual or magickal or imaginative world out there or in here or somewhere, but it’s of my own definition, based on my own ideas and experiences. And that’s probably all I’m going to say about it on this site for quite some time, so soak it up.
Oh, and thanks for Delsyd for the link