Restricting Curiosity Hinders Progress

The topic of evolution came up over lunch last week. One of my co-workers asked two questions: 1) *Which came first, the chicken or the egg? 2) *If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes? These questions disturbed me. It wasn’t the questions themselves or even her answers that took me aback. What bothered me is that she never even attempted to answer these questions. It never occurred to her that a logical answer was possible.

More than anything else, religion’s uncanny ability to restrict human curiosity troubles me. There’s nothing wrong with the belief that everything in this world is part of a grander plan. Religion is a source of comfort and joy for many and it has incredible potential to do good. It also has a great ability to bring violence and death. We’ve seen these abilities throughout history. Religion has been used as an excuse to wage wars as much as it has been used to provide for people with great need.

As far as I am concerned, hindrance of questions and curiosity is the greatest evil religion can bring.  Where would humanity be if we just accepted the way the world was? It’s all part of God’s plan. Every bad thing that will ever happen to you is a test of your faith. The world would be a dark place if every person thought that way. We’d have no electricity, no cars, no air conditioning and none of the many other human inventions that make life what it is today. No one would have bothered to ask the questions that lead to these inventions if they were satisfied with the way things were.

How would we treat illnesses if the world were without the person who sought the cure? The progress of humanity depends on our curiosity. We can’t just stop, saying, “I don’t understand this phenomena, so it must be the work of a higher power.” Years, decades or centuries might go by before humanity finds the answer to the aforementioned ‘this,’ but that doesn’t mean the answer isn’t out there.

This photo, “question reality.” is copyright (c) 2014 Ibrahim Lujaz and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

There seems to be a debate going on that pits science against religion, as if the two cannot exist in harmony. This is a disheartening development because we don’t have to choose. I remember sitting in chemistry class learning about the Periodic Table. We were learning about the discovery of various elements. I’ll never forget that class, because an epiphany I will carry for the rest of my life came to me that day. Dmitri Mendeleev created the first widely recognized periodic table and predicted the existence of elements we had yet to discover. Let that set in for a moment. Using the same math and science that organized his existing periodic table, Mendeleev accurately predicted the existence of undiscovered elements and their properties.

The world isn’t random. The cosmos make sense. They follow a logic and form a trail we can trace. It will never cease to amaze me how, in the chaos, beauty and diversity of our world, it all makes sense. Asking questions and exploring our curiosities is how we progress human kind into the future.

When discussing science, it’s always funny to me how some people will suddenly start asking questions as if science claims to have all the answers. It doesn’t, and it never will. Every answer we find comes with brand new questions. There will always be something left unexplained. Facets of our universe will always remain beyond our comprehension. That’s just the way to the world. The existence of seemingly unanswerable questions does no disprove science any more than answered questions disprove Divinity. The two are not at odds with each other.

The rift between religion and science is not the worst offense caused by the restriction of questions. This restriction prevents us from growing in our relationship with Divinity. Just like we have to be able to ask questions about our world to progress, we have to ask questions of our faith to grow in our understanding of Divinity.

When a religion or dogma restricts a person from questioning their beliefs, they prevent them from having a deeper relationship with divinity. Their religion, dogma or tradition becomes a sort of false idol. They hold those above their spiritual relationship with Divinity. Religion should assist in the worship and understanding of God. It should encourage questions that help people grow in faith.

I continue to look for a religious community I can call my own. I’m not looking for a place that agrees with everything I believe. Instead, I’m looking for a place that will accept me with open arms, questions and all, and provide me a place to grow my personal relationship with Divinity. I look to embrace my spiritual journey, always seeking to grow further in faith.

*The questions at the beginning of this article do have logical answers. Google them if you’re curious.


73 thoughts on “Restricting Curiosity Hinders Progress”

  1. My bro-in-law spent the last week in the UI hospital. He’s 75 and not healthy. It was announced he was well enough to go home yesterday. Many family members exclaimed their thanks that prayers were answered for him.

    Not one exclaimed thanks for the good care he received that led to his improvement. The science and technology that was part of his story is just as important as the prayers. My god would want humanity to strive to understand how things work and use the tools of intelligence and science to make life better for others.

    Thanks for your thoughtful post.

    1. Have you heard of a blog called ‘Sundays are the Worst’? It’s really a great read and highlights something I see here in your text. People are always thankful for the grace and mercy of God, but they rarely bother to thank people for their kindness and support.

      That’s what I’m getting at here, they are so distracted by their traditions and dogma that they turn their noses up to the common man. They could care less about the suffering of others, the invention of others, or the assistance of other. They take all the people in their life for granted, along with all the human advancements that allow us to live the way we do today.

      It’s true, that we can thank Divinity for your brother-in-law’s health. We should also thank the doctors, the researchers who developed the machines and all the human-made advances that made his recovery possible. It could also be said that Divinity is to blame for these things as it is through Divinity that they exist. That does not mean we should toss them aside. Just as we should help people in need, we should also praise the kindness and assistance of others. The work of man may not have created the cosmos, but it is work nonetheless and it deserves our appreciation and respect.

      1. No, I haven’t seen that blog. I have it up now in a tab so I can take a look.

        I know a lot of people who are kind, generous, caring, promote science, etc, and are not ‘religious’. They follow no church dogma. They don’t attend any church. They are good people. After they die, will they go somewhere different than a ‘religious person’?

        I think not.

        1. I completely agree. Any merciful God worth following will hold the kindhearted atheist above the judgmental Christian. It’s not about the specific traditions you follow, it’s about the kind of person you were when you lived.

          1. I read a bunch of those stories in the blog you mentioned. Good grief. People can be so unlike what we think they should be.

            I know. That was a weird sentence. But, you know.

  2. That place of acceptance exists within you… The ‘Community’ you seek, is more likely bits and pieces of opinions from others, as opposed to an actual group… If, however, you find such a community, good for you… In the meantime, one bit/piece that you might consider is within an Interview with Bruce Lee… Known or Martial Arts, he is in fact, in my opinion, one of the Greatest Philosophers of our time make sure to watch the whole thing if you get the chance

    Great Article


    1. Thank you. I’ll be sure to watch it when I get home. I like the idea of a community because it’s something I want for my children should I choose to have some in the future. My childhood was very dark and sometimes the only thing I had to hold on to was God. There are a handful of events that occurred during that time of my life that solidify my belief in a higher power. I don’t think religion is bad or good. It’s a tool that can be used for either.

      I’ve visited a few churches that I wouldn’t mind being a member of. Most places do not list their beliefs on the wall and demand that all members abide by them. Like I said, I don’t need a place that completely matches my beliefs. I just need a place that can help me grow. How their beliefs compare to my own comes secondary.

      I guess we’ll just have to see. I’ll keep trying out places and maybe that’s all I will do for the rest of my life. Each place will help me connect with my spirituality, even if all they can show me is what I don’t don’t agree with.

      1. Understood… I was brought up without religion… My mom was brought up Catholic Church, when she wrote the Pope asking if she could divorce her husband, and they said no… It was years ago… Anyway, i’ve always been open to there being a god… Is there one? I have no idea, but it sure feels like there is something between all of us… Anyway, in 9th grade, I lived with my dad (as opposed to my mom who i grew up with), and he had become a Christian, so I went to church with him… It was great, really liked the minister… He would take stories from the bible, and relate them to current day situations… I also like the idea of a church like community, even though I’ve never practiced religion like I say… Totally get it… Best of luck to you

        1. Thank you. I think the minster is a big part of it. It’s not really about following a dogma or picking a specific religion. It’s about a sense of connection and the ability to grow in that spirituality.

          These days, I think most religious people care more about following their dogma and condemning those who don’t than they care about the poor, sick and/or unemployed. They sit content on their pedestals, obsessed with Jesus as a god and seemingly ignorant of the way he treated others.

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying. I think many of the leading secular thinkers today have discussed this very issue and that we should be concerned if our beliefs inhibit the most basic of human qualities, curiosity. I suspect though that your co-worker’s curiosity has only been impeded along certain avenues which directly contradict her beliefs. And those questions she asked are so cliché such that it’s unlikely she even came up with them independently. I often think we are more likely to seek the answer our self when the question pops up into our mind organically. She was just trying to be argumentative and used questions she read somewhere as she was searching for information on-line to confirm her own belief system. There are a number of scientists who are also religious, but they rarely if ever research into areas that directly contradict their belief system. So you are not likely to find a Christian evolutionary biologist, or a Christian geologist.

    I just wrote a blog post on collectivism and mentioned that in my observations many people seek religion for a sense of community over the religion representing truths in the world. Your last words in this post confirm that observation. lol You will be hard pressed to find that sort of community in North America, although I think it is rare in general. The philosophy you seem to hold does not lend itself well to community, or at least a theistic one. You’d probably find more community with a group of agnostics, because while you still wish to form a relationship with the divine, you are not opposed to challenging what you know about anything and that is rare amongst people who are religious. It appears to me that you are highly individualistic as well (which I also just recently blogged about!), as are many secular thinkers and thus in general we don’t organize well. Which actually tends to be kind of problem honestly. In my own spiritual journey I made a decision that I was going to develop my own “religion” so to speak because nobody in any religion I had talked to every gave me satisfying answers to my questions. I wanted things to make sense and I was okay with a philosophy that made sense to me even if it didn’t make sense to anyone else. My move to atheism was a slow evolution and not a goal, but the result of a journey. You seem like you are strong enough to make the journey on your own and perhaps you are still in a state of flux in your world view and still have many questions you are trying to figure out. Perhaps community will simply happen when you feel you’ve answered some of the more important questions that you have inside. 🙂

    1. “I suspect though that your co-worker’s curiosity has only been impeded along certain avenues which directly contradict her beliefs.”

      This is probably true, but it’s still a problem. Nothing, not even religion, should restrict our ability to ask questions. Who decides which questions are okay to ask and which questions should be left unsolved. What her religion has done is told her an answer and that all other answers are wrong. When we discover anything, be it a scientific discovery or a spiritual one, we grow by asking more. The bible says 7 days so it must be seven days. The person who has grown in that belief is the person who asked what seven days meant at the beginning of time? If days were not 24 hour days, what were they and how long did they last? Religious leaders are afraid asking these questions will lead to a path of disbelief, but I disagree. These questions can only help a person understand the Bible and what is says about the world’s origins. More than anything else, being too strict about religious dogma restricts the very thing it aims to grow.

      “…you are not likely to find a Christian evolutionary biologist, or a Christian geologist.”

      If true, this is disappointing to me. I wonder if you would say the same about non-Christian religions. I don’t feel like evolution or geology contradicts the existence of a higher power. I mean, science is science. No belief can disprove science. At the same time, no amount of science will disprove the existence of a higher power. The two are not at odds with each other. We, as a society, need to stop pretending that they are.

      “I wanted things to make sense and I was okay with a philosophy that made sense to me even if it didn’t make sense to anyone else.”

      I agree and disagree with this. I do have my own philosophy. I have my own relationship with Divinity which is more important to me than choosing any one belief system. I won’t get into it here because it would take too long to explain, but, in short, I believe all religions, Christian and otherwise, are all pointing towards the same essence. They all sense the same spiritual presence that is beyond comprehension and seek a way to define it. I have considered the possibility that there is no higher power, and that does not make sense to me. I know there is something there. I feel the connection and I feel how it connects to everything else in the world, although I can’t explain it. I like to learn about what other people think and believe because I want to see how it matches with my own spirituality. I think my personal belief system will always be a kind of synergy of all world religions and that I will settle with some form of Christianity because that is what provided me the original tools for defining Divinity. This is all an assumption of course. I am open to all spiritual discoveries that will come to me as I continue to explore this part of life.

      1. I would say it also about any religion, not just Christianity if that person were literalists about their dogma, and a certain scientific field contained information that directly contradicted the words in that holy book. Those who are not biblical literalists perhaps may be geologists or evolutionary biologists, so I guess it boils down to how one defines a person of that particular faith. In the U.S. biblical literalism is strong, which is actually biblical literalism is a much more modern development than when the bible was first written. Early biblical scholars meant the bible to more inspirational than literal. And this is true for many texts that surround Hinduism, Buddhism, and other eastern philosophies. When we take these ancient texts and try to take them literally they are always going to clash against science.

        “I know there is something there. I feel the connection and I feel how it connects to everything else in the world, although I can’t explain it.”

        I know you value science, but this statement is not very scientific. What we personally feel or think we know does not make it truth. I am not saying that there isn’t a God, but we can’t know there is a God in the same way we can know there are laws government gravity or energy, etc. Two people can be good and moral, one certain there is a God and one certain there isn’t. If we can obtain the same result with both atheism and theism then what is the purpose of God? I don’t say this to be argumentative but am just asking what I think is a legitimate question. The ways in which we discover scientific principles are through repeatability, independent experimentation and observation corroborating findings and then we can successfully apply this knowledge in the world. However I can think of no application in which “knowing there is a God” is a necessity other than the fact that it might be a psychological tool in which one receives comfort. And I’m not saying there isn’t value in having these tools to give us comfort, but there are many such tools that we might use to achieve the same result.

        1. No, that is not a very scientific statement. I didn’t intend it to be. When I think about science and religion, I feel like it’s comparing apples to oranges. The existence of one does not cancel the other out. They are each completely different from each other. Maybe a better example would be watching documentaries vs. meditation. The two are completely different. The fact that one person believes meditation works does not refute the facts of the documentary. They are not anywhere near the same thought process. They’re not meant to be.

          You ask a valid question. I am assuming the result you speak of in that question is the type of person. Both are good and moral with or without God, so what is the purpose of God? I don’t know that I have an answer that will make sense to anyone but me, but I will try. It’s like…. like friends. I could confide in friend A or friend B. Whoever I confide in will provide me the same result. While that’s fine, in my life I have found that confiding in both friends provides an even better result.

          Does that make any sense? I’m not trying to prove to you there is a God. I can just say I feel value in exploring spiritually. There are no words I can use to explain it, though. It’s a very personal relationship that exists outside of the human creations of tradition or dogma.

          1. I am apologize for not making my point very clear! 🙂 By pointing out that your statement wasn’t very scientific I was trying to say that in some ways you are being similar to your co-worker who is using a belief to eliminate possible avenues of thought. While you may be willing to be flexible in the nature of your belief, you still claim to know something beyond what science can tell you because you set in within a different sphere of knowledge. Your co-worker might say the same thing about the Bible, and say that science doesn’t have anything to say about the role of the divine in creation. It’s apples and oranges. The fact that she is using her orange to disprove devalue your apple is the problem. 🙂 All I am saying is that just like you say there are definitive answers to the questions she has asked there are also alternative ways to look at the world that don’t include a supernatural being and saying that you know there is a supernatural being colors your interpretation of the world in a different way than if you looked at the world without being so sure that there is a God. You may have less barriers than your co-worker but there are still barriers. And please believe me I am not saying that you are wrong to believe what you believe, only that belief is always belief. We all have them. I of course do too, even if it is not a belief in God. And my beliefs also impact how I view the world. Just like your co-worker needs to open up herself up to the possibility that the bible is not literally true it seems it should be fair that you should always remain open to the idea that there may not be a God.

            Honestly I think your attitude towards knowledge is very healthy and you are asking yourself many questions that I’ve asked myself and I think a lot of people ask themselves. I also feel there is value in exploring spirituality and I think I still do that. I just don’t do it through the vehicle of the supernatural or religion. I think asking questions, pondering things we can’t explain, being swept up in moments that are so emotional we can break them down into their parts, these all relate to spirituality…and we can reflect or seek answers and we may come up with answers and this will lead us to more questions…it’s spiritual, but no God is required. But I am sure everyone has different definitions of spirituality, perhaps I simply define spirituality to suit my worldview. 🙂

            1. I would like to hug this comment. Is that a thing that can happen? I think WordPress should get on this feature.

              You are right, holding the spiritual beliefs I do color my world in a certain way. It’s frustrating, because I don’t feel like I have the words to properly convey this. I’m going to put it this way. I have questioned the existence of a higher power. I have looked at various aspects of life and have come to a conclusion. Perhaps I will write a blog about that train of thought one day. I still think about that train of thought. When I do, I always learn something more. I suppose, that’s my way of being open to the idea of no God. Just because I followed logic to the answer I now have does not mean that answer is permanent. I think that’s kind of what defines spirituality. It’s a sort of fluid set of beliefs, emotions and feelings.

              ” I think asking questions, pondering things we can’t explain, being swept up in moments that are so emotional we can break them down into their parts, these all relate to spirituality…”

              I agree. These are also elements of spirituality. They speak to something at the core of our being and/or consciousness. You may be defining spirituality in a way that fits your worldview, as am I, but that does not make you less spiritual.

              More importantly, the way we address our spirituality does not hind us, nor are we trying to hinder anyone else, from asking questions, seeking answers and progressing humanity.

              1. I shall hug your comments right back. lol I agree with you. I know you main point in your blog was that it was unsettling that your co-worker had asked questions without trying to answer them herself first, or asked them in thinking that there was no good answer to those questions. And so it’s the lack of fluidity as you just mentioned that is most concerning. The thing both you and I definitely share is a lack of understanding how anybody can simply settle on an answer to these questions and just simply stop, or assume anybody else who came up with a different answer to the question is automatically incorrect.

                As a lover of mathematic, logic fascinates me quite a bit. I took a course on practical logic which teaches you a lot about what valid and fallacious argumentation is all about. Spotting errors in logic especially when arguments are made in words can be very tricky. That’s why math is easier!! All it takes is one faulty premise and entire house of logic can be built upon it and we would think that we are being very logical. If you’ve seen the movie Memento, that movie a great one to learn the lesson of how a faulty premise can lead is down the wrong path even if every move from that point is completely logical. We are susceptible to these errors which why logic is hard. Science is hard. Statistics and probabilities are very hard. What’s clear about you is that you are not afraid of the hard path. You are not afraid of revisiting arguments in case something new you’ve learned invalidates one of those argument. It’s an extremely admirable quality. And the question I wish I knew the answer is why a lot of people don’t have it (or at least seem not to)?

                1. I have an answer to that! Because many people are told from infancy, especially people who grow up in strict household, not to question. To question something, especially an institution of faith, is blasphemous as it implies the very possibility that another answer might exist.

                  I was lucky in that my Catholic school encouraged us to question, even in our religion class. I doubt most Catholic schools told their students the same.

  4. Good Article TK, I can fully understand where you are coming from. As a former roman catholic I know all to well the what religion can do, I still hate hearing “let go, and let god.” No wrong, take charge of your own life, take responsibility of your actions, and stop expecting things to just fall in your lap. That being said I certainly do agree that religion has played it’s part in “limiting” the human condition in some sense. But before I sound like I am completely against the whole concept I will say this.

    I think Swarn is pretty much right on the money, the one place that immediately jumped to mind when you said you wanted a community was agnostics (and yes atheists). Because only in those places is there really no creed, no line of thought, and no one telling you “well this is what the book meant.” Both school of thought simply exist in what they are, and everyone is free to see them in their way. As an agnostic myself at this point, that’s my view at least (take it with a grain of salt, as always).

    1. I grew up in the Roman Catholic church as well (I even went to Catholic school through 8th grade). Perhaps my views seem agnostic, but I don’t connect with that label right now. I guess… the only label I am completely comfortable with is spiritual. I don’t believe in nothing and my beliefs don’t stop at a belief in something. My spiritual journey is important to me and I firmly believe there is such thing as Divinity (I use Divinity because I don’t believe God has a gender or corporeal body. I find Divinity better describes this spiritual entity than God because God implies a physical being to me. I use both terms though. I try and avoid gendered pronouns).

      The idea that a place where I will feel I am able to grow will be hard to find does not deter me from looking. Friends have told me that I will never find a place that matches my thought process. That’s okay. I don’t need that and that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m just looking for a place that will expand my spirituality.

      Right now, I think I seek Christian places for my own comfort. My belief system is closer to Buddhism. I LOVE the Dalai Lama and would count him as one of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time. When it comes to science in religion, I always think of and agree with his quote:

      “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”

      Amen, Dalai Lama

  5. I might be inclined to say their is a higher power or something more between heaven and earth as we say. But not calling it a God or such.
    There are questions and I enjoy making up my own mind based on the find I make. One does not exclude the other, thought questions remain.

    Can they live together, maybe one day but we hold to true to what has already been written as truth
    though we never experienced it ourself.or know for a fact it is true to begin with.
    That also goes for Mendeleev table and his predictions. Because we have an answer we create a question to proof it is right.

    What is today is my own discovered truth.
    A wonderful read and great question.

    1. I agree. The fact is, there will always be things that don’t make sense. Searching for answers is how we progress. Just throwing our hand up in the air and asking Jesus to take the wheel does nothing but provide brief comfort. I don’t believe there is no afterlife or nothing else beyond our existence. I’m not asking people to give up their faith. I’m asking people to accept scientific fact and know that it in no way contradicts the existence of a higher power.

      I wish more Christian religions thought like the Dalai Lama.

      “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”

      Religion would do so much more good in this world if it embraced that kind of thinking.

  6. Tonya, I enjoyed the way you went back-and-forth between the two concepts (religion & science) and the open ended objective questions and observations you made. Because I’m with you; science doesn’t have all the answers, but neither should religion be used to keep people bound to beliefs that aren’t justifiable based on scientific observation. There needs to be more balance in the academic world and people shouldn’t be so quick to pose the two against each other.

    1. I’ll never understand why people think science and religion can’t co-exist. Did they forget how this rift caused people to believe the earth was flat after it was proven to be round, or to believe the earth was the center of our solar system after if was proven to be the sun. None of those discoveries disprove the existence of a higher power. The two should not be at odds.

      As far as I’m concerned, the person who fears learning about something because they fear the research will disprove the existence of a God is already doubting God’s existence. True faith (in my opinion) involves embracing every scientific discovery and knowing it in no way disproves the existence of God.

      Pretend for just a second that science discovers the soul to the point it can detect when the soul enters and leaves the body. As such, we can detect the exact moment the soul enters the body of a fetus. We could arguable justify termination so long as there is no soul detected in the fetus. There are two ways at looking at this hypothetical discussion. One could hold tight to their traditions and dogma (which are not the same as God) or one could embrace this new scientific discovery, revel in all the possibilities it provides for the future, and know that this discovery in no way contradicts the existence of God. If anything, it merely enhances our understanding of Divinity’s actions. That’s really what science is, when looked at from a spiritual perspective. It is the discovery and explanation of how creation came to be.

  7. Do you think that the negative aspects that you attributed to religion are actually something inherent to organized belief in a higher power, or something that is bound within the very genetics of mankind?

    1. I think the idea that the problem lies solely in one or other other is too simple of an answer. I’m sure the true problem involves both of those traits mixed with class and culture.

      However, if I were to answer your question using my own experiences, I would say that more of the problem seems to lie in organized religion. I say this because I’ve met many people who consider themselves non religious or atheist and many others who consider themselves deeply religious. By far, the people who have been non religious have been the most kind and the most concerned about social issues such as poverty and equality. On the other hand, the religious people I met have mostly been very closed minded and cruel to those who lived differently from them.

      This is why I say religion has a huge power do as much evil as good. If these religions wanted, they could spread a message that benefits human kind. Instead, many choose to work against progress.

      These are all generalizations, though. There are a handful of religions that don’t curtail curiosity and there are atheists who are horrible people.

  8. Excellent post! It is interesting, those questions your co-worker asked, as they have silly simple answers: the egg came first, from reptiles. We are not descendants of apes, we share a common ancestor.

    I have very little interest in religion as such; to me it becomes as you say; unhealthy dogma. I cannot get my head around the compartmentalisation that a lot of people manage to do, to differ entirely between logic and religion. On a programme on radio there was an engineer, pretty solidly planted in the sciences who said he had no problem with the concept of virgin birth though he said “it is of course impossible but I believe in it”, but utterly dismissed the walking-on-water.

    Maybe I am too sciency (is that even possible? Science answers some things at some times, and in that process creates more questions, triggering more curiosity). Let me recommend two videos on YouTube. Search for “Stephen Fry the importance of unbelief” and “Stephen Fry catholic church”. He expresses it very succinctly and well.

    1. I have a lot of thoughts when it comes to religion. The reason I don’t like people who emphasize traditions or dogma is because those things are not Divinity. They are human institutions designed to honor Divinity, which is completely different.

      I see a lot of similarities at a basic level between all the world’s religions and how intimately they are attached to culture. I feel like people who originally came up with the idea of religion had a sense of something bigger or of a connection between all living things that they couldn’t explain. Religion was a way of honoring this and of trying to define it. I still think all religion in the world is attempting to honor and define the same feeling.

      Religion is unique in that you can literally believe anything, from a virgin birth to a giant spaghetti monster. It’s not something that can be explained rationally, because its more of an internal feeling, like an emotion. Imagine two people say they are sad in the exact same tone. One might mean they are sad and want to be left alone, the other might be saying they are battling with depression and need help. The definition of an emotion as it exist to the person having it can’t always be adequately understood to another person through language. I feel like any relationship with Divinity is the same way.

      Now you have me thinking about the virgin birth…. first off, I wonder how that story got written. Mary had to tell someone, right? I read a story a few weeks ago that said 1% of pregnant American teenagers claimed to still be virgins. This outcome was blamed on these teenagers lacking an understanding of sex. Perhaps the same could be said for Mary.

      I think the Bible and a lot of other holy books are all about symbolism. For example, perhaps the idea of a virgin birth is symbolism for Jesus being a miracle

      But, just like that engineer, he can just believe. No one can prove that an angle didn’t come to Mary or whether or not she had sex before marriage. We can argue it’s highly unlikely, but that’s about it. Maybe Mary and Joesph fooled around in a way that was not technically sex, but that still result in semen going inside of her. ….maybe they also had some trippy dreams related to her pregnancy that they interpreted as a message from God.

      To me, the Bible is a set of stories and should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not Divinity even if it is Divinely inspired. It could have gotten some things wrong.

  9. Tonya, you’ve won me to following you. I wish I had time to comment on this thread, but I have a business to run. I’d like to say just a few fast things. I was also raised Catholic, and left and turned to Buddhism. Studied many religions, but Buddhist I am in my DNA. I am nto sure who said it, but may be Swarm — USA bible-thumpers, aka fundamentalists, are the only literalists I know when it comes to scriptures, and fundamentalists can be found in all religions, even in a teeny portion of some Buddhists’ sects. They seem to forget scripture was written by a hu-man. and fundamentalism is frightening in any case, as it always leads to us and them thinking.
    For years the g-o-d word was a nasty one. I have gotten over that, thanks to my Methodist grandmother turning me toward nature as miraculous, and my own wonder. I often call it the Universe, or god/dess, or spirit
    Having studied science before turning to arts and having one foot firmly in both, I like to remember that there is no perfect science experiment, the questions sometimes push the answers in a given direction, and the parameters of the experiment can influence the outcome. The better the scientist the cleaner the experiment, but still, bias is bias. Humans are all biased even when they are open minded — they can’t help themselves. Physics teaches us that in the best manner. So science is biased too, and there is no better place to see this than the fundamentalist church of the AMA, who cannot fathom that Chinese medicine is a real medicine, tho the acupuncturist I go to is also an AMA type doc (in China, a surgeon) who thinks antibiotics can be a great alternative and is open minded.
    “What we personally feel or think we know does not make it truth. I am not saying that there isn’t a God, but we can’t know there is a God in the same way we can know there are laws government gravity or energy, etc.” From Swarn
    I hate to disagree with Swarm, but ALL of this, science and religion, are in many ways persuasions that make it “truth” and there is very little that is “truth” including gravity’s explanations. Years ago Ken Wilbur wrote an outstanding article on not linking Buddhist thinking to science, because scientific thinking changes. This means science is it’s own odd belief system. Study the history of physics and you will see that they didn’t just find a deeper evidence in physics various laws, sometimes they disproved an existing law. This has made me consider science another religion, because their truth change and is open to interpretation. Most of us don’t know it because in science it seems only the Talmudic scholars of the particular field (in this case physics) can argue the truth — the rest of us have too much studying to do to be abel to weigh in!
    So, I follow my own truth and feel it is just as valid as any crazy written idea!
    In terms of community I find the Buddhist’s lacking. So along with the church of writing and painting, I have taken to a very solo religion. sigh.
    I am pushing 60 and thoroughly enjoy your blog. And Culture Monks. Best, Kate

    1. I don’t have many regrets when it comes to my college years, but one is that I never did take a class called Intro to Buddhism. I don’t know a lot about the religion, but I am very much intrigued. I have a few Buddhist books on my to-read list. I’ve heard that Buddhism is more of a way of life than it is a religious belief in any one deity. It’s even more interesting that you have embraced this way of thinking coming from a Catholic background. Maybe there’s something to that. I come from a Catholic background as well and continue to feel drawn to Buddhism. I know there are some temples around here, but I don’t feel very comfortable walking into one without knowing much about the religion.

      We’ll see where this journey takes me. Who knows, maybe I’ll adopt Buddhist thinking while still feeling drawn towards open Christian religions. I’ve found many in my area that respect equal marriage. That’s enough for me to at least check them out.

      1. Your intro to Buddhism, unless taught by a Buddhist monk.nun, would’ve sold it short and probably wrong. People frame it through the eyes of Christian religions, and the worst of them seem to interview the Dalai Lama and ask him dumb questions then interpret them even more dumbly! BTW, he is a great man but not me favorite teacher.
        I can give you some good books — best books — in order that I recommend them for newbies, and they won’t get much into god/dess, and when they do mention a “Buddha” think enlightened person, not god. At some point you may get into gods and goddesses, but you can walk away from those notions while still being essentially, Buddhist. At worst it will help you with clarity of mind; the basic sanity of our minds really are one of the best things about Buddhist, along with really learning what compassion is for all life. My mother who is Catholic enjoys Pema Chodron.
        “Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind” by Suzuki (Roshi); “Start Where You Are” by Pema Chodron (zennie turned Tibetan nun); “Returning to Silence” by Dainin Katagiri (Roshi); “Gates to Buddhist Practice: by Chagdud Rinpoche, very good beginning Tibetan book. Enjoy!

  10. Very nicely written – especially the bit about dogmatic belief structures limiting a relationship to whatever it is a person might call the divine.

    1. Thank you. This has been an ongoing theory of mine. I’ve had a few friends that do things that appear to be anti-Christlike. They do these things because of their dogma. But dogma is not God. Religion is not God. When I think of fundamentalist, I think of people who worship their religion above the will of God.

      1. People seem to forget that religion is recorded by human agents – and humans are fallible. The concept of finding peace with the divine without the relationship of an “official” medium is little more than a thinly veiled attempt at control.

        1. “People seem to forget that religion is recorded by human agents – and humans are fallible.”

          This is exactly how I think of the Bible. It doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned, but I don’t think it should be taken literally. If I express this thought to the wrong person, though, I get told I’m going to Hell.

    1. What’s particularly interesting is that a lot of people treat part of the bible as symbolism and part as fact. I mean, how do you decide which is which?

  11. you have a nice way of taking two sides and blending them to express your view. I agree on many of the points that you have brought up as to religion. I’ve often thought it to be rigid – that lacks curiosity.

    1. Thanks. I didn’t want to make either side appear more important or more valuable than the other. There’s no reason why spirituality and science can’t coexist in harmony.

  12. “”The rift between religion and science is not the worst offense caused by the restriction of questions. This restriction prevents us from growing in our relationship with Divinity. Just like we have to be able to ask questions about our world to progress, we have to ask questions of our faith to grow in our understanding of Divinity.””

    Look at this ancient piece of scientific approach of a great prophet:

    “Then, when the night outspread over him, he beheld a star, and said: ‘This is my Lord.’ But when it went down, he said: ‘I do not love the things that go down.’
    Then, when he beheld the moon rising, he said: ‘This is my Lord!’ But when it went down, he said: ‘Were that my Lord did not guide me, I surely would have become among the people who have gone astray.’
    Then when he beheld the sun rising, he said: ‘This is my Lord. This is the greatest of all.’ Then, when it went down, he said: ‘O my people! Most certainly I am quit of those whom you associate with Allah in His divinity.”

    There are many verses in Qur’an that invite to think. To think about universe. To think about man’s creation – even the process of growing in the womb. Thinking and Questioning are co related. “” – When a religion or dogma restricts a person from questioning their beliefs, they prevent them from having a deeper relationship with divinity. – “” Absolutely right. We are in the grip of priests, clergies and clerics; afraid of touching and reading our divine books and verses; letting them to specified for holy fathers.

    And the divine verses invite us to think, think and think:
    “”those who remember Allah while standing, sitting or (reclining) on their backs, and reflect in the creation of the heavens and the earth, (saying): ‘Our Lord! You have not created this in vain. Glory to You! Save us, then, from the chastisement of the Fire. ”
    “”He it is Who has stretched out the earth and has placed in it firm mountains and has caused the rivers to flow. He has made every fruit in pairs, two and two, and He it is Who causes the night to cover the day. Surely there are signs in these for those who reflect.”
    “”And of His Signs is that He has created mates for you from your own kind that you may find peace in them and He has set between you love and mercy. Surely there are Signs in this for those who reflect.”
    “”He has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and the earth, all being from Him. Verily there are Signs in this for those who reflect.”
    And so on..!

    1. Thank you for sharing. I admit, I don’t know a whole lot about the Qur’an outside of what I learned through a handful of class periods. I enjoyed reading these passages, though. I feel like few holy books support the prevention of questioning and thinking. Those restrictions come about because many religious leaders – the priests, clergies and clerics as you say – tell us not to question.

      A lot of people who read the post focused on the science side. Thank you for noticing this side of the argument as well. If one finds it important to grow in their relationship with Divinity, they must be free to think for themselves and question what they need to question in order to grow that relationship.

      1. Yes, agreed!
        Without arising a question, I think, we can’t find the way leads to build and strengthening the relationship between Divinity & Us.
        Your thoughts are noteworthy.

  13. I think it’s a little unfair to ascribe this to religion as though religion is the cause–I offer the contention that it isn’t, and instead, the Socratic method is… because that’s what these people are doing (or attempting to do). To whit, such behavior is not exclusive to religion at all. Actually, I often see the opposite happen–an atheist asks a Christian something like “if God is all-powerful, can he make a rock he couldn’t lift?” And they expect to have won the argument against omnipotent gods forever. Yet there are two logical, simple answers to this question–mine is “Yes.” To which I would be asked “then how would he be all powerful if he couldn’t lift the boulder?” to which I reply–“Having the ability to make such a boulder, which would decrease your power in the universe, isn’t the same as actively doing so. If God has the ability to create the boulder but chooses not to do so, God is still all-powerful.” Further, I find science decreases the amount of wonder many people have with the world–the idea of a mundane, predictable universe is a killer to the imagination for some people. Being told their fantastic ideas are “impossible” discourages them from having ideas. Neither religion nor science exclusively has that effect on people. But people in either camp exist. It’s not science nor religions’ fault, it’s the way we teach our children–in public schools we are taught to find the one right answer, and we are ridiculed if we ask questions that seem “stupid.” Effectively strangling the curiosity out of us over 12 years.

    1. I never thought of it that way, but I see your point. I would argue, however, that science adds just as much wonder to the world. I was watching an episode of Cosmos where they described how the eye came to be. It was fascinating, beautiful and, in a way, spiritual. It’s amazing what the world can do and will we never have all the answers. We will never stop being surprised. However, I can see how someone might find science mundane if they consider it little more than formulas and numbers.

      Religion can be just as mundane in claiming to provide all the answers. There’s a flip side to that as well as I have come across religions which encourage questioning, growth and don’t claim to have all the answers.

      At the end of the day, maybe it is our school system. A student should be able to ask any question that comes to mind. Maybe there’s an answer and maybe the answer is ‘we don’t know yet.” That alone would instill curiosity.

      1. I think the problem for some people is that “how the eye came to be” just doesn’t make “spiritual” for them. You talk about the complex series of steps necessary for evolution and they hear that those creatures who weren’t special, lucky, or loved enough died again and again while those who got closer to having an eye passed on their genes because they were the lucky ones.

        And then there are people who won’t question anything that was said by “a scientist” or is supposedly “proven.” A true scientist shouldn’t believe anything is proven, only “not disproven thus far,” and maybe “quite thoroughly tested,” but that’s not how it tends to be in practice. Too many people just ascribe to the beliefs that are supposedly scientific, often without knowing any of the evidence–and that’s bad too, because we get information cascades, and intellectual laziness.

        I’m mostly voicing the other side with the above though, since you said you haven’t encountered it. I believe both science and spirituality are good things too, and that both can add wonder to the world (Quantum Physics, Chaos theory, genetic algorithms… and many more do for me) the key is just to teach people to question and wonder.and play.

        1. I understand that, but it’s still frustrating. It makes even more sense, then, to point at how we teach these subjects to children. We’re told how we’re supposed to see it and not to question. Most people just play along with whichever side they’re on.

          This is one of the reasons why I try hard to gather as many facts as I can before seriously holding an opinion. Even then, I like hearing opposing arguments because it gives me a chance to test my own facts and to expand my opinion based on new information.

  14. Amen to this whole thing! Asking questions is the root of all learning…if we were looked down on for our curiosity, we would never truly progress. The ONLY way I’ve come to know God myself is by asking big questions and searching for big answers…not because I read it or someone simply told me. Keep going on your search! Excited to read more!

    1. “The ONLY way I’ve come to know God myself is by asking big questions and searching for big answers.”

      I agree. This is where I am right now. Asking those questions and building a personal spiritual relationship is more important to me than adopting a specific dogma.

  15. Great post!
    A lot of the world likes to focus on major scientists and ect. who were atheists and didn’t believe in God/the religion of the time, or were persecuted for it (Galileo is the first one that comes to mind). However, i you look back the Muslim Golden Age (from around the 8th century to the 1300s), and the amount of science, medicine, technology, astrology, and so much more more that was discovered (hence the National Geographic exhibit “1001 Inventions”), proves that you don’t need a secular society to have those kind of advancements, and you can have these advancements alongside with religious advancement and devoutness. In fact, without that civilization, the optical knowledge we have today to use a camera wouldn’t be known. Imagine a world without a way to capture images. There are always going to be things that contradict with eachother, such as evolution, but those topics are so complicated that even Darwin admitted that there were flaws in his theory and its unfair to reject religion on that premise itself. Yes, there are questions unanswered in religion, but at some point it is only God who knows the answer, a hard thing to take in for some but very, very relieving once you put your full trust in something that pretty much runs the entire universe. If God controls everything, including science, then He obviously has the answer to the questions that we are asking.
    When you said that “. It will never cease to amaze me how, in the chaos, beauty and diversity of our world, it all makes sense,” the first thing that came into my mind was not science, but God. Because this Earth has the exact amount of everything that we can live on it, and if it didn’t, there would be no human race, or we would be some kind of creepy alien.
    Sorry this was so long. Looking forwards to hearing your thoughts 🙂

    1. I completely agree. I think some scientists, like Galileo, could have easily been atheist because of their persecution. I don’t know enough to know their reasoning, but if I was being persecuted for asking questions and making discoveries, I wouldn’t want any part of religion either.

      As for that quote, it does bring forth an image of God. It’s just one more way we see science and religion are not at odds. At the end of the day, both stand in awe of of the wonders of our world.

  16. In the not so distant past, most people could not read or write and were forced to listen to the interpretations of the learned holy men. Religion was used to control the masses. Knowledge was power.
    I think that’s why there is such a clash between God and science in modern times. Religious teachings written with the intent to scare or guilt people from their sense of curiosity are irrelevant and obsolete in an age where the sum of humanity’s knowledge is available with the tap of a mouse.
    I don’t think there is a conflict between religion and science, you only need to be curious enough to explore and make the connections between the two.
    Awesome post to ponder, TK. Thanks!

    1. “Religious teachings written with the intent to scare or guilt people from their sense of curiosity are irrelevant and obsolete in an age where the sum of humanity’s knowledge is available with the tap of a mouse.”

      There we have the answer. Even so, it’s not like science disproved the existence of a God or even strives to. It’s such a silly debate, but it has the devastating potential to create an uneducated population.

  17. Many years ago the Arab world was the most scientifically advanced. (What would we do without Arabic numerals? Imagine trying to do calculus with Roman numerals!) But nowadays religious fundamentalism has taken over, and some kids don’t learn anything but scripture. I hear Christian fundamentalists say that we need to go back to Christianity or we will be destroyed. Really, we will destroy ourselves if we ignore our curiosity and make scripture our textbook for all things.

  18. Not all curiosity is good. When one is TAUGHT not to be curious of someone or something because the consequences are ALWAYS BAD. They realize that, “CURIOSITY REALLY DID KILL THE CAT.” And in order to not end up like the cat…they chose to be ignorant about a subject in order to feel safe…A lesson I learned the hard way.

    1. it’s not really about good or bad, it’s about wanting to know more. About asking questions instead of just accepting what’s spoonfed to you. Curiosity and questions are not the same as actions. There’s no reason to be willfully ignorant.

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