When I was young, I spent considerable time arguing with my mother about religion. I distinctly remember sitting at the kitchen table and questioning why we couldn't eat meat on Fridays and being told that God said we couldn't. I just couldn't figure out why God would care. I always felt a certain resonance with a spiritual element, but had great difficulty with rules that didn't seem to have a purpose, other than that they were "rules." Both feelings persist to this day. There always seems to be an intolerance for questioning anything about God or the Church and we are admonished to simply have faith. "Faith in who?" I used to ask. "Faith in God." I was told. "Who is God?" I would ask. It was the wrong question. The question should have been "What is God?"
Somebody decided to write the line that mankind was created in the image and likeness of God. A couple of thousand years ago, this probably helped the downtrodden masses to find a certain affiliation with a stern father figure who demanded that they behave with some sort of integrity and in a manner that helped to keep the peace. The threat of hellfire and eternal damnation kept the religious leaders in food and power without the messy human sacrifices demanded in some cultures. Truly spiritual people found it easier to explain our connection with a higher level of consciousness by creating a human personality that people could both revere and fear. Our forefathers could relate to the concept of an all powerful god who had dominion over the lesser gods of sky, water, fire and earth and so religion was born and God was created in the image and likeness of man.
Throughout this time, scientists of every stripe have been trying to explain how things work and have been busy reducing everything to smaller and smaller pieces in an effort to deduce why the universe is as it is. This activity has been referred to as Reductionism and has resulted in the discovery of everything from atoms to bacteria, quirks to quarks and nits to nanoseconds. This process of reducing everything to its smallest unit of measure has helped to explain how things operate, how things change and how the world has evolved. This desire to understand how, has created ever decreasing lines of vision as scientists concentrated their studies on smaller and smaller areas of interest. The move towards specialization and concentration of focus has created a large body of knowledge at the cost of understanding, or even recognizing, the bigger picture. While science has been trying to find "smaller" no one appears to have been bringing the information together to locate and answer the bigger question of "why." That is beginning to change as some scientific minds are beginning to shift their looks in the other direction and communicate across disciplines to find and explore some new theories beyond reductionism.
The conflict between religion and science can be oversimplified by stating that religious fundamentalists hold that without God, there would be no morality and science continues to attempt to explain away the wonder, awe and random creativity with theoretical rules. A band of brave cross-thinkers are beginning to emerge, who accept that the randomness of evolution shows a level of consciousness above our historical understanding. Science continues to work hard at explaining how the universe operates but ignores what created it in the first place, while religion takes the simplistic stance of an almighty personnage doing so in six days. Both schools would have us choose one side or the other - God exists vs. God doesn't exist.
The 17th century philosopher, Descartes declared, "I think therefore, I am" and philosophy profs ever since have told us that this statement proves our own existence. We are beginning to see that it means more than that. The fact that we can think about the fact that we think, raises us above the level of existence and proves a higher level of consciousness. The fact that we can discern the beauty of a sunset, the majesty of mountains, the pain of loss and the joy of love precludes the necessity to measure as we acknowledge the presence of a power to create them. More important is the fact that we even recognize our ability to appreciate this level of existence itself. Our ability to live here and now and leave history in the past and the future to be experienced, puts us in touch with something outside of ourselves yet connected to us in an intimate relationship that continues to create and keep in harmony, a universe beyond our current level of understanding.
Evolution continues and it is as much reaction as it is proaction, as it continues to march on toward change and the opening of new levels of understanding and consciousness oblivious to the man made rules of good intent. If you want to call that God, that's OK with me. God is here and present and fully capable of leading us to the next step that reveals what we need to know to move up the ladder of enlightenment. Spending a couple of hours on a Sunday morning in a church thinking about thinking, probably isn't such a bad idea, but I think that I will think about thinking, on the beach instead.