Monday, June 29, 2015

Belief in the Supernatural

I don't believe in the actual existence of God or gods. I do believe in the power of the human mind to create and envision many things that may not be real, but have the capacity to influence a pseudo-relationship with these sensations to a high degree.

It is now known that there are psychological and evolutionary causes of our beliefs in the supernatural. Our brains have several methods for explaining or internalizing the unknown. Fear can be an important aspect of our dealings with mysterious objects or instances that occur in our lives. There was an evolutionary benefit to supposing that a rustling in the bushes might be a carnivorous beast about to attack rather than just the wind. On the plains of Africa, it could have been either one. The young man that didn't snap into alert mode may not have lived long enough to procreate.

When we looked upon our world and wondered why there was lightning, thunder, volcanoes, falling stars, comets, planets, and eclipses, we tried to explain them with concepts we could understand. Having dreamed of invisible beings with magic powers, the prophets and shamans would tell the people of the human-like but invisible gods that controlled these occurrences. They would make up stories which attempted to answer questions like where we came from, how the earth began, and what must we do to prevent catastrophe. Without science, and without the ability to accurately record events as they really happened, these made up stories were passed from generation to generation by the spoken word and later with the written word of the very few learned men.

Today, grade school children understand how quickly and easily a story can be distorted, embellished to the point that little of it resembles the original. And yet, millions of people carry and preach from these ancient texts that have been retold, copied, re-copied, translated, re-translated hundreds of times. They have the audacity to call it truth and even to believe that God, the creator of the universe, was Editor-in-Chief of every instantiation, thus all were correct. Why do so few of us understand how this works?

In recent years it has become possible to artificially stimulate our brains to produce the strong sensation of a god-like presence in the room, or an out of body experience. These so-called 'God Helmets' may become widespread and easily obtained by anyone. These sensations can also be produced chemically. The psychoactive drug DMT is powerful enough to convert non-believers into 'spiritual' persons in just a few hours. I have taken milder hallucinogenics and have experienced a similar feeling. The next day, however, the feeling was gone and I realized it was all in my head.

The fact that we can dream of fantastic places with complex stories, characters, and happenings, presents us with clear proof of the power of the mind to create supernatural visions from right within our brains. The danger therein lies with ascribing truth to these ideas and spreading them to other people as if they were real and universal. In my understanding, submitting any aspect of your life to a 'higher power' is a false way of incorporating 'spiritualism' into our daily lives. In some cases, one can dump their responsibility onto this realm and call it redemption or whatever. Attributing what happens in the natural world or what people do for themselves, or to, or for, others, to a god or an angel or a devil or demon, is wrong on so many levels. And the belief that we will live on after we die is the worst of all of them.

The human species has yet to fully cross this bridge and reject religion for what it really is. Long-standing traditions and cultural power structures serve to prevent us from doing this. But scientific knowledge will help move us along. Some day, perhaps many centuries in the future, nearly all people will have this understanding, and regard the myths, scriptures, religions, and holy wars, as a tragic curiosity of our history.