My Beliefs

Not Easily Summed Up

I am afraid my belief system is not easily summed up. At best, it is a dialogue between my past and future selves carried out in the present. I was raised Christian. For the vast majority of my life, I have indentified myself as a Christian, even when my core beliefs diverged from "standard" Church practise. For a bit, I considered myself a "natural" Christian, opposed to "religious" Christians who, in my opinion, worshipped the Church and its quasi-mystic trappings more than their personal savior.

But that was mostly unfair to the both of us. If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, and generally is known to refer to itself as that "critter pictured in the duck-crossing sign", well, it may or not be a duck. I was a Christian that disbelieved the Genesis story, most of it, who reviled Old Testament morality, balked at the Pauline teachings and was not too terribly concerned with the rapturous forthcomings of our world. I chaffed at Jesus' discussions of the Flood and of Adam and Eve, and generally accepted a more or less edited version of the teachings of my so called savior (and this time, the insult lies with me. I want to make it abundantly clear that I have lots of respect for Jesus); I believed in enough to take his title as the title of my religion but probably would disagree with him if I met him in person and had a prolonged discussion.

In short, I have not been able to call myself a Christian in the complete trappings of it as a full faith for a long time. I do not know if I ever accepted everything the Bible said as unerringly true. Even if I would accept some parts of it, other parts, even out the mouth of the Biblical Jesus (which was recorded years after the actual Jesus), I would find either wrong or offensive. I think I was deluded and afraid of Hell, or I would have noted this earlier. Also, I have long held that seeking for truth is my ultimate goal, which is anti-thetical to most Christians. In an argument with a friend, I asked why could it not be that God granted me the task to ask questions. The friend replied with Noah's blind faith. He did not ask questions, and so neither should I. I still remember my reply: "Yeah, but his lot was to build the ark. That is kind of like saying that I should brag for being able to ask questions without needing a boat."

More so, I am turned off by the notions of a religion (and I bash Wiccans as well as other, non-Christian, faiths with this) that postulates a god/goddess and a spirit just to spend much of their time trying to manipulate the spirit to get something physical. If you want more money, work for it. If you want to make something fall in love with you, do what it takes. If you want to rid yourself of an enemy, kill them (ok, not really, but there you go). Stop trying to pray to a cosmic godfather (no pun intended, I promise) to weasel favors.

A good amount of my religious ponderings was hosted on this page. I have retained them as the article "Aren't You a Christian, Doug?".

My subtitle for that work was "Aren't You an Atheist?" Honestly, I didn't know what I believed, being some sort of anti-agnostic accepting both disbelief and belief at the same time. To continue my honesty, I would say that I knowingly and with full intent gave conflicting views to my friends. I said "God bless" amongst the Christians, "Blessed be" to the Wiccans, and joined in with a good scoff with the atheists.

I am a philosopher. I am actually an epistomologist, which is different in some ways. I do not care of abstract metphysics. I do not care of ethics, not per se. But, being a philosopher at heart, I am somewhat wary of words like "beliefs" and of words that try and and handsomely sum up worldviews. But I will do my best. I owe it to myself, and to my friends to be honest. A craven Christian is no Christian, and a craven "bright" is no bright.

All this might change tomorrow, mind you, but I will do what I can to be honest with regards to today.

My Basic World View

I believe in a wholy physical universe. By this I mean the universe is all of one type. This type is not necessarily known in its entirety. It might not ever be known in its entirety, but I do not accept dualism. There is no mind, no spirit, no special cases. There is merely existence.

I believe there was an event called the Big Bang that may or may not have led to the universe as we know it. I do not believe it is the beginning of existence. There is either an infinite universe in time, or one in space (or some combination) but I do not truck in all of physical laws just up and changing abruptly. I think the harmonies of the universe are eternal. I could be wrong, but I cannot understand a universe that just up and bootstraps itself into existence out of nothing.

I believe in natural selection. I believe in evolution. I believe in genes and memes. I have believe the latter is stronger than the former, but I probably should not. I do not think humanity is the epitome of existence. I kind of favor the dolphins. I think they would do a better job with the planet. I think most of it is for naught. It is bleak, but truth sometimes is.

I believe there is something unknown, something unbounded. I believe there is something behind the physical laws, behind the eternal truths of law. I call this God because it is a term that I understand. It is not the god of the Old Testament. It is not Allah as laid about the Qu'ran. It is the god that Einstein espoused and Spinoza. Physics is a word for it, but it seems beyond physics, beyond math. A set of rules that cannot be broken and do not alter, the ultimate roll of the dice.

I believe there was a human person named Jesus. I believe that his Sermon on the Mount and that his admonitions that we should love everyone equally and that we should change ourselves in spirit rather than blindly following law might be a cornerstone for the salvation of our planet. He held, in numerous ways, that we should judge how we want to be judged, that we should treat how we want to be treated, that we should not do unto others that we do not want them to do upon us. He taught us to forgive and not think that physical success is all there is. I think he has made me an ultimately better person. I do not think of him as my savior in the way that my Christian upbringing says, though. I do not know about the rising from the dead. I would say probably not, but it would be foolish to assume that we know the secrets to everything. The universe constantly suprises us with its depths of mystery and its power of humor.

For the record, I consider Martin Buber to my second most influential ethicist.

For better or worse, I think there might be some sort of "Holy Spirit" between human conscious and the Universe. A sense of harmony, a linkage of sorts. I think it would show up in chemical truths, though. It would be built into the shape of the molecules in our brain, expressed through our neurochemicals. But it is no less beautiful because of its physical aspects. I have no proofs of this, and will probably never be in a position where I myself could try anything definitive.

I think we should be moral (I propose a set of "commandments" below). I do not think that we are beholden to a cosmic series of punishments or awards. It annoys me to think there are so many believers who only believe because it entitles them to something. They will kill because it earns them a Heaven, or do good because it wins them out of hell. Instead, I hold that we should be moral because there is no excuse for harming others, for oppressing others. We have our darker side but we must try, ultimately, to overcome it.

I do not think it really matters if we do, in the long run. I think it is all an essentially lost game. I do not care. I want to be a better human.

I do not think the universe will ever give up its greater mysteries. For every discovery, there is still more to be found. I find this delightful. The human race can go on for millions of years and still have more to find. That is a beauty above most others. I think in the end, though, it is a fallacy to assume the universe will ultimately make sense to us, that it will be able to be contained in our mind. I think it is a good thing that we know as much as we do, and I am proud of what we have found. I think we should strive for more, for doing more, but I do not delude myself into thinking that is all or bust. Like most of my beliefs, its about doing what good you can with what little you have, and realizing how amazing that truly is.

Doug's Ideas of What Might Make Us Better People

(aka "commandments")

(1) Love, respect and dignity are the watch words of all morality. Though we might infringe upon others, and might require using other things as tools in some limited fashion, having a respect for every bit of fuel we use, every bit of flesh we consume, and every life we cross can only serve to make this a better place more filled with beauty.

(2) Honesty and truth are holy. Education and promotion of the human spirit to learn and explore are holy. They are a powerful tool that can be manipulated. They belong to no one human, no one class, no one race, no one time.

(3) Moderation is a powerful guiding force. Most things we do harm our body in excess, but we are not trying to live forever. Enjoy yourself. Live a little. But be sane with it.

(4) Agreeing to a system, subsisting off of it, makes you responsible for its action. Inaction is action. Refusing to choose is making a choice. We are guilty for what we sit back and allow others to do.

(5) There are things in which there is no "why" question. We should not seek blame. We should accept that which life gives us as the truth and the present state, though it is noble to also seek to change the things we feel must be changed. Blaming a higher force merely weakens our own sense of being.

(6) We will not limit others in our mind to just tools, lest we become tools to others. For every limitor we put on something else, we limit ourselves. This is above and beyond the statement of respect and love, this is acknowledging the truth and the place of everything. All pieces of the puzzle fit together. All are part of the same thing.

(7) Respect does not mean blind acceptance. It does not mean you allow others to trample upon you, or to belittle things you hold dear. It means you understand that these others have a right to belief, but once their beliefs become social functions, they are only fitting to the point that they infringe upon others.

(8) What is good in one instance can be bad in another. Forgiveness is holy. Understanding we make mistakes is holy, but they must be sincere. Judge things by the situation, the circumstances. Do not be afraid to judge, though, for it is needed at times.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".

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