Religion for the Logical

December 24, 2019

Original post dated September 25, 2017

Something that I wanted to come forward about recently is: I have become a lot more deeply spiritual than I have been in the past. I think I have not really talked about it much with those I communicate with in my day-to-day life because, well, I work in the computer science field, and you simply don't find too many twenty-something staunch Christians in the professional computer science field—especially in a majority liberal-leaning state such as New Jersey. So I've mostly kept it to myself, which I think is fine, because really, these things shouldn't need to be public. It's not something that I'd ever "push" on someone. I would, however, love to make myself available to talk about it, because I think I can offer a perspective that I know I never saw when I was an atheist (for the first 25 years of my life)—That is, the perspective of someone who understands exactly why you wouldn't believe in God. And I will preface here by explaining that I will be referring to the Christian/Jewish God here because that is the one that I familiarize myself with. This could devolve into some sort of deep theological discussion on the matter of differentiation between Gods but we won't go there, suffice it to say that for the purposes of this article, I will be using the Christian God as my main example.

So I guess this is sort of my effort to communicate this confusing and "obviously wrong" religious thing to the people I'm around. Not to convert them, but so they can understand and maybe theology and spirituality could become a regular topic that they will at least listen to me talk about—because it's important to me and I think to the world, too, and to me it's just another topic. But mention it to most of my fellow young comp sci friends, and, well...and I don't get along too well with the "super good person" type, either. I guess that makes me sound like a bad Christian, but I've come to accept that some of us can be "good" in other ways.

So as a thought exercise, let's look at the Christian God. Basically, his entire deal is he's totally impossible for a human to ever comprehend. God is the very idea of everything and nothing. And he's both and neither all at once. In the Bible, you start with Genesis. God creates things in you start getting into the concept of duality. Everything in the world falls into some perfect dichotomy: earth and sky, male and female. But before I digress, I really want you to let this concept of non-comprehension sink in a bit, and it's not because I want to emotionally sway you with "God's majesty" or something—I just want you to try and comprehend that concept. And we can try and speculate over it all day, but we'll never quite get there. After all, you may be able to comprehend the idea of infinity, but you can never reach it. You might be able to acknowledge that "nothing", i.e. the absence of everything, is possible, but will you ever be able to experience it? Well, no, because it's nothing. There's nothing to experience. This all sounds a little zany and far out there, but that's exactly the point I was trying to make—God is incomprehensible. It is absolutely impossible for us to ever reach Him—No matter how much technology we invent, it simply is not possible. The problems are unsolvable, or if they are solvable I imagine it would involve reaching some sort of a singularity type thing and then, effectively, we would become—you guessed it—one with God. God is not a "thing", or a "person", or an "entity"—God just "is". This isn't crazy talk...there is a perfect thread of logic to it, actually. God is the only possible answer, and we use the word "God" to describe it.

I think that a big, big hurdle—as a matter of fact I can hear some people I know in my head right now saying it while reading the above paragraph—for people is that God cannot be intellectualized. I understand why that turns off people who are more logically-minded (which many great software engineers are): If I can't know it, if I can't solve it, I'm "wasting my time" or it's "inefficient". Why bother? I know, I know. I get that. Over-intellectualization is a separate problem but here I will address it in terms of this subject. If we want to stick with the need to "understand" it, let me suggest that to understand God, you simply have to understand, and more importantly accept, that there is a limit to what you can know. You've got to accept that no matter how hard you work in life, you will never get...somewhere. That somewhere differs vastly for each person. But we'll all never get there, wherever it is. I think that many people have a hard time accepting this. They're in this constant rush for validation and more and more information all the time. It's good that they are learning things, sure. But maybe they're running away from something. I know I was. That level of workaholism was not healthy.

If, however, we choose instead to break from the intellectualization, allow me to offer you another theory. Let's posit that there are "types" of intelligence. I mean, we can agree on that for sure I'd say. There's two that we hear about all the time: your "mental" or "rational" intelligence (some would measure this as an "IQ") and your "emotional" intelligence (some would measure this as your "EQ"). You could also more scientifically relate these to the topmost (rational) and lowermost (primal) portions of our triune brain.

I would then suggest a third type of intelligence: spiritual. I think there is a distinct spiritual growth path, with a childhood, adolescence, adulthood... and some people simply have zero spiritual intelligence. For some, their spiritual intelligence is stunted because it is only filled with negative experiences—for example from childhood. I'd be inclined to agree with that sentiment: I mean, let's be real, baptisms, christenings and church were often boring as a kid, and the millenial generation was the first to really start pulling out of churches. Interestingly, Gen Z has higher church attendance. This idea of "spiritual intelligence" would seem to corroborate this: Few people are well-off emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, all at once. Not too many people even have two of those things. I would say that until the age of about 25, I was very "emotionally stupid". I was horrible at regulating emotions but also horrible at truly letting them out. It's only something I'm just starting to figure out now. And my spiritual intelligence was non-existent as well. During that time, I would always compensate threefold with my "IQ" by arguing constantly, over-planning, working extra hard, and engaging in obsessive, brief hobbies. I think this problem manifests in many of us. Often, we can go to therapy, or DBT, or take medication, to help us with our emotional intelligence. Real therapy is kind of like school for the emotionally-less-abled, when you think about it. Years of therapy have helped me immensely, and even now I'm still only operating at a tenth-grade level a lot of the time. But I'm getting there. And there's been a distinct shift towards "emotional adolescence" along the way. Some have intelligence, both rational and emotional, but there's still "something missing". Often, these same people turn to unhealthy things to fulfill their lives. What I'm suggesting is that we are neglecting our spiritual intelligence.

So let's jump out of the intellectualization because let's be real, if I haven't swayed you with that, I won't. Allow me to instead become an apologist for a moment and dispel a few more misconceptions. These are misconceptions that I always hung on to when I was an atheist and that I understand a lot better now that I'm on the other side of things. Unfortunately, most are rooted in reality. Many (most?) Christians seem to have the wrong idea—or at least an incomplete one. It is not necessarily all about "being nice to people" and "turning the other cheek". Inversely, if you actually take the time to read the Bible and truly understand it (which is difficult, mind you—it's not an easy book to comprehend. It's incredibly intricate and a fascinating read), you will see that it's actually about being a good person. Now "being a good person" is actually a lot different than "being nice to people". Sometimes, to be a good person, you will have to be a hardass. You'll have to be a total jerk, sometimes. You might have to kill someone to save twenty others. Who knows. That's not being nice to someone. But it's good to do. It's the way to act so that love wins—love being another major central theme of God in general.

While we're on the subject of what it means to be a good person—another argument (complaint?) I hear a lot is that "God killed tons of people in the Bible". Often this is followed by "...and Satan only killed, like, one". I only need to direct you to my prior argument. God eradicated villages, flooded the world, and all that for reasons that we cannot comprehend. This probably seems like a jump...but stay with me here. The truth of the Bible is that these actions were somehow justified, but it's totally possible I will never be able to tell you how. (Did you just scoff?). But just hear me out. We can't understand God, right? As a matter of fact, in the book of Job, God literally appears just to point out that it's completely impossible for us to understand why he does the things he does. So no, I don't believe we are dealing with a total asshole of a God. I think God loves us.

"Why does God let people suffer?" is another one I hear a lot along the same lines. I will be a bit more personal with this one. And I'll say again: It's because he loves us. Some people would criticize this, I'm sure, saying it's like returning to an abuser. I see why you would say that. But a good father punishes his son sometimes, even when it hurts him to do so, because he knows it's what's best for him. Because he loves him. Right? And later, there will be some equally-positive event—things will balance out in a healthy and perfect relationship (which unfortunately, many of us have quite possibly never had as children). There's that duality again. It is like this with God, and the universe, and Earth, and our towns, and our lives. Everything balances out. The problem is that it's on such an infinite scale that we cannot possibly understand it—think those corny movies like The Butterfly Effect. You have no idea if waving your hand in the air at a particular moment will cause air particles to shift or a neuron to go somewhere else and so on and so on and now a banana boat just crashed in Utah because of you. You just don't know. It sounds totally insane—I know—but it's true. One hundred percent true. I mean, maybe minus the banana boat part. And before I continue on writing for another four hours, let me just say—if you are unsure about some religious truth, I welcome you to bring it up to me, so that hopefully we can both enrich our lives and clear up understandings that the unfortunate modern church has distorted. Do it with maturity and in search of truthful answers, and we will both surely walk away enriched.

And I do encourage people to do this in general: seek the truth. Be open minded and willing to communicate. I think you will see that logically speaking, when you truly search, without biases and with a clear mind, it is at least not feasible to accept the impossibility of such an entity existing. The logical conclusion, at least in my mind, is that such an entity must exist. Ultimately all roads lead to this concept when pursued far enough. Application source code looks oddly similar to our DNA, for example—look into it.

For further (and much more intelligently-written) reading, I encourage you to check the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article on Anselm's Ontological Argument for God's Existence—an argument that was in the absolute most technical sense proven wrong, mind you, but an interesting article nonetheless. The article goes on to explore the vast majority of possible counter- and counter-counterarguments, with some surprising conclusions. It is a heavier read and requires at least rudimentary knowledge of formal logic but I would highly recommend it for the logical thinker exploring the concept of faith. It won't help you understand faith, but it will get you thinking about this concept.