Category Archives: Religion

The Insight of Neil deGrasse Tyson

Responding to this page at

“Neil deGrasse Tyson Lists 8 (Free) Books Every Intelligent Person Should Read”

Anthony Mannucci says:

And yet, there is something missing here. We need a new religion that takes into account all the knowledge that is displayed in these volumes. This new religion should be based on the current scientifically-derived origin story of the human species: big bang through evolution. (This story could change, but for now it’s the best that we have).

None of the books cited here provide such a perspective. A religious perspective is needed because of human nature. One cannot avoid some measure of faith in the conduct of human affairs. Science does not supplant what religion provides.

I’d add the following:

None of these books explain why ISIS destroyed the ancient Temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra. Do these books explain the rise of Nazi Germany? The Bible is included in this list to show that it’s easier to be told what to think rather than to think for oneself. What explains the passion and activism of those seeking to destroy other cultures? NGT is an inherently rational human being who expects a rational world. Unfortunately, a rational world is not required by, and is in conflict with, the scientific genesis story that he himself believes. Human evolution was not guided by a rational hand or a rational plan. The human nature that exists today is here because it survived very difficult and harsh conditions. Human nature is defined by its survivability, not by its rationality.

In difficult times, I turn to God

I am going through some difficult times right now. I won’t explain the specifics. There is no need to.

In difficult times, I turn to God. Another word for God is Vahhd. This is a word I invented. You can find its definition in the book.

I pray to Vahhd. Vahhd is natural law. It is the power that surrounds us at all times, and in all places. It is the power the governs everything, to which nothing is hidden. Vahhd rules all.

I need guidance. I need understanding. Guidance and understanding will take me through these troubled times. I need God’s love. I place my fate in God’s hands.

I know that what will be, will be. I surrender to it. In this surrender, I find comfort.

Praise be to Vahhd.


Worship, worship, worship

Here is my prescription for you: worship. Let’s call it the “Big W”.

Without religion, why would you have the Big W in your life? Yet, I believe the advantages of having worship in your life are immeasurable.

Life is easier when worship is a part of it. Worship causes you to change your feelings of self-importance. You accept that your importance, and your powers, are limited. By the way, they are limited. They really are.

Worship forces you to think about your relationship to the world around you. What influence are you having on the world? Is it a positive one? Could it be?

My interest in religion has less to do with the supernatural than it does with worship. I don’t much care for, or need, the supernatural. I do need to put my life in perspective. Worship.

The Big W. How can you get there?


Sex and Religion

Attitudes towards sex seem rather different between atheists and mainstream religions. Mainstream religions have developed strong moral messages regarding human sexuality. Engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage and for reasons other than procreation are regarded as sinful.

I am not going to debate the religious perspectives. I merely ask: why does the abandonment of religion lead to radically different views on sexuality?

The same cannot be said for other behaviors where morality plays a role. Both atheists and theists reject murder, stealing and lying. Why such disagreement in scxual matters?

I don’t know why religious attitudes are as they are, although I am aware of various theories about it. Religious attitudes were developed before contraception was a widespread practice. So, intact families and care for children may have had something to do with the development of these attitudes.

The “modern” atheistic view is that contraception frees us from the need to regulate or restrict sexuality. Out-of-wedlock children are no longer a central issue (unless the contraception fails, which is relatively rare). Therefore, why place any moral restrictions on human sexuality? Sex can be viewed as a kind of “sport”, or just another activity that brings us pleasure. Use contraception and enjoy the pleasures of sex, no strings attached. Why is sex a sin if it does not lead to unwanted pregnancy?

To me, this divergence of attitudes towards human sexuality is a mystery. Can atheists defend the perspective that sex is a sport? Human sexuality involves our deepest emotions and connections with others. Should it be engaged in lightly? A deep belief in human dignity and worth is a common bond at the core of both religion and atheistic humanism. Human dignity and worth should inform our sexual activities, and prevent us from using others as sexual entertainment machines. This is at the core of attitudes towards sexuality: how we view other people. Are people of sacred value, or just objects we use to gratify ourselves? That is a central question.

Those who are religious will follow the dictates of their religion, few questions asked (usually). Those who do not follow a religion ought to consider how their views on human sexuality fit into their overall world view. Perhaps religion has some useful perspectives to offer as regards human sexuality, derived from a base of belief in human self-worth. Atheists ought to consider whether certain forms of sexual restraint lead to greater joy, because of the positive philosophy underlying such restraint. Pleasure is nice, but there are other gifts to our souls that restraint may bring.

The Self

Why does religion appeal to our selfishness? Why must eternal life be the reward for following Jesus? Why not serve God and then perish?

What is “eternity” anyway? We cannot conceive an infinity of time. “Eternal life” means that we will never face the moment when we know we will die. This moment is what we fear, not death itself.

May I suggest a workaround to your fear of death? When that moment is presented to you, fantasize about something else. Imagine you are in a much better place and time. Take your mind off the present. If you can do this, you no longer need fear death. (If you do not have the imaginative powers to fantasize, then devote your life to developing such powers).

The only reason to seek immortality is because one is confused about death, which means one is confused about life. Every day we lose consciousness when we sleep, which does not terrify us. We believe we will wake up again. In essence, we believe in our own resurrection. This belief separates sleep from death. It is a fine line.

Is eternal life really such a desirable thing? Won’t you get incredibly bored? You will repeat the same pattern in your life millions, billions, trillions of times (and more). Isn’t it better to lead a rewarding life and then gracefully (and hopefully painlessly) check out? Worried about facing death? See the above workaround.

Christians believe in “heaven forever”, meaning a wonderful situation that persists. Can we really imagine this? The only way to avoid boredom is to periodically forget one’s past. Isn’t that the same as the “old” you dying and a “new” you taking it’s place? If you forget your past, your are effectively a different person. Therefore, you have effectively died because your old self is gone.

Embrace the transient nature of your life, which is in fact a wonderful gift.


The Ultimate Selfish Act

God sent His only Son to die for your sins. Christ was sacrificed on the cross for you.

What have you done for God?

The Bible promises that if you follow Jesus, you will have eternal life. Isn’t that a small price to pay for following Him? It’s almost a “no brainer”: be a decent person, go to church once per week, repent your sins before you die and you will never face death.

This begs the question: why are you following God’s commandments? Is it for purely selfish reasons, because you want immortality? Does following God’s commandments constitute the most selfish of acts?

Shouldn’t you follow God’s commandments because Jesus is Lord, and following the Lord is simply the right thing to do? As a Christian, you need never answer that question. You will never need to sacrifice for the sake of goodness. That’s part of the bargain. Be good, and you will be rewarded with ever-lasting life.

What of atheists, or others, who in fact sacrifice and devote their lives to a greater good? That is true sacrifice, and true goodness, because no bargain is involved. These atheists will never be rewarded for being good, unlike Christians.

Who embodies a more pure sense of goodness: those who do good for a huge reward, or those who do good because of what they believe in?

Religion can encourage what is, at its core, a deep selfishness. Christianity does not ask you to do good out of a sense of devotion and worship. Rather, do good because it will bring you significant personal gain. In my view, there is a problem with that message.

Bible Or Textbook?

Athesists often use the idea that the existence of evil in the world is proof there is no God. Believers reject this by stating that God has intentionally given man free will. God intended that Mankind (and Womankind) be free to make moral choices. When the wrong choices are made, evil is manifest in the world. So, the existence of both evil and of God are entirely consistent.

There is another observation that may pose a challenge for those who hold traditional religious views. It is that God created a world where reading and learning about nature will get you farther than meditating about God and the Bible. Why isn’t the latter rewarded much more?

A society that creates an infrastructure for science and engineering will become more powerful in the world than one that only facilitates devotion to God. A deep knowledge of science and engineering is not enough for a society to function well. However, a scientifically-based society that does function well will almost certainly dominate over societies that are exclusively centered around man’s relationship to God.

Why did God so construct the world that physical law seems to trump spiritual law? This does not seem consistent with the “jealous God” that is written about in the Bible. It seems that those who ignore God and focus on mastering natural law are rewarded even though they de-emphasize God. This is not a question of “free will”. One can willingly devote oneself exclusively to God, and lead a righteous life that follows His commandments. Yet, without paying attention to the natural world, that righteous person is vulnerable to those who wield power by virtue of their mastery of nature.

Perhaps this fact tells us something about the nature of God.


The Math of God

This post is inspired by “The Character of Physical Law” by Feynman. It is also generally inspired by the “spirit” of Feynman, who always inspired me.

One can now view his lecture “The Character of Physical Law” on YouTube. He eloquently expresses the importance of mathematics to modern science. This makes science impenetrable to many, since mathematical skill is reserved for the few. Suppose one tried to express physical law without mathematics. Would it appear as religious reasoning?

Feynman makes the excellent point that we are talking about a certain level of abstract mathematics here. The math used by physicists is not a variant of simple arithmetic. I admit this is a point I may have missed in my book. In the book, I declare that mathematics is a form of logic, and leave it at that. Feynman makes the correct point that, if math is a form of logic, it is of a very special kind. To do the math that physics requires, you really need to write down different kinds of symbols than are required by logic. Math that physicists use has to “look mathematical” to work.

If physical law (nature) is so closely tied to mathematical reasoning, and math “unlocks” many secrets of nature, what are the implications for those trying to understand nature before math was invented? Isn’t it possible that the search to understand God was essentially an attempt to understand nature, but without the math? Without math, nature cannot be described as effectively as we do it today. I use the word describe advisedly. With math, we can describe how nature behaves, but we cannot say why. (Feynman makes this point also in his lecture).

Is it possible then that religion is a branch of science? Both are concerned with the “almighty”. In one case the almighty is natural law, in the other, something more poorly defined. I am not sure how to define God “in general”. Am I suggesting that religion + math = science? Perhaps, at least in a certain sense.

Why abstract math is so important to understanding nature is a mystery, even to scientists. Back to my mistake in the book: math is a form of logic, so all we need is logic to understand nature. Logic is, at least in theory, something that everyone understands.

Feynman pointed out my error. Math, particularly advanced math, is really quite different than logic, although logic is an important element. Perhaps I am most convinced by the following: the importance of i. Not i as in “me” (but lowercase). i as in the “square root of -1”. Most of you have heard of i, but it does not matter if you have not. I will explain a little.

is a number that, multiplied by itself, gives -1. Try using simple arithmetic to multiply a number by itself and get a negative number. It cannot be done. That’s because, using simple arithmetic, two negative numbers multiplied by each other always yield a positive number. Since simple arithmetic really is a form of logic, it would seem that if “logic rules nature”, then nature ought to follow the rules of arithmetic. That means nature should avoid i.  And so it seemed to until the 1920s, when quantum mechanics (QM) was invented.

Although before QM, scientists sometimes used i as a mathematical convenience, it did not have a fundamental role. One could express the laws of nature strictly in terms of “real” numbers, that is, numbers that do not contain i. Thus, it appeared that nature was logical, mathematics was logical, and the reason math was useful for describing nature is that math was logical. The “reality” of the world was logic, not math.

Feynman set me straight. The reason is that, with the advent of QM, i was no longer a convenient mathematical trick, but it entered into the fundamental physics equations themselves. Before QM was known, using i was unnecessary (although I am sure there were clever theorists who could jam it in there. But it was not really needed). With the advent of QM, i became indispensable. We know of no way to write the fundamental laws without i. It appears that i itself is fundamental.

Since nature and logic are so closely related, one would expect that such a number as i, although possible to invent mathematically, would have very little to do with nature. Nature is supremely logical, but would have no use for a crazy mathematical construct such as i. Yet, we appear stuck with it. What does this mean?

To me, it means that nature is not as logical as I once thought. Nature is more mathematical than logical. Whereas logic is staid and solid, mathematics can be weird indeed. For example, mathematicians have learned to do arithmetic with infinity. They have defined shapes that are smooth, but have no slope. And they have defined shapes that always have a well-defined slope, but are very “jaggy” and jumpy. Mathematicians define worlds with infinite dimensions, and with fractional dimensions, none of which can be visualized or really grasped in an ordinary way.

Certainly, mathematical constructs, even the weird ones, must embody logic. These weird things that mathematicians invent have an underlying logical structure. But they are so much more than that, and so different than the logic that underlies the simple numbers.

Which gets me back to God. Understanding nature requires much more than using logic. It requires inventing weird objects such as i. Without this invention, we would have no way to describe how nature behaves. Nature is supremely logical, but it is also supremely weird. This is something physicists have understood for some time now. These days, the search for new physics is really the search for a new kind of math. I don’t know why that must be.

I believe nature is like a supreme being. It rules all. How nature rules seems to be impenetrable to us, despite all the scientific progress we’ve made. Thus, our understanding of science today, that leads us to reject religion as “foolish” and “arbitrary”, is somehow at a crossroads. The closer nature is to being impenetrable, the closer science is to religion. I am not suggesting that science and religion are the same, but that they become closer to each other as scientific understanding becomes ever more abstract and mathematically weird.

Such may be the math of God.

What is “God”?

I recently heard an interesting talk by a survivor of the Holocaust. After the talk, the obvious question was raised: do you still believe in God? How has this horrible experience affected your faith?

The speaker side-stepped the question, but did provide the impression that his faith is gone. Although still active in Jewish life and in his synagogue, he no longer believes in God. I have heard others express a similar sentiment. “I believed in God until a such-and-such horrible thing happened to me, and then I could no longer believe.”

I find this attitude to be short-sighted.

We can all agree that horrible things happen to people. Why did you believe in God until the horrible thing happened to you? Were you not aware that horrible things have been happening for the past thousands of years?

If God has been around forever, then clearly God has allowed horrible things to happen to people. You can either stop believing in God, or change your understanding of God. If God only allows good things to happen to people, then clearly there is no God. Maybe God does allow that.

Bad things happen to good people. Assuming there is a God, then God allows bad things to happen to good people. How can this be? I don’t claim to have the answer.

If God allows bad things to happen to good people, and God allows evil in the world, why believe in God? In particular, since the natural world is explained by science far better than it is by religion, why believe in God?

The answer is that science has nothing to say regarding life’s purpose and meaning. Science cannot provide the information to help you form a world-view that makes you feel complete.

You need to feel complete. You need to feel you have worth and value, and that your life has meaning. You cannot escape this need, even if you never think about it.

Even if you don’t believe in God, you need to act as if you believe in something. Is that “something” God-like? In many ways, natural law (the laws of physics) are “God-like”, except that they don’t have a personal character to them. Natural law is not “jealous” or righteous, this is true. Natural law is not “loving”.

God as a concept is handed down to us from the time we are children, and we tend to form a naive view of what God must be. As we grow up, we learn things that contradict our childish views. Perhaps God is less personal than what we thought as children. An impersonal God, a God that resembles natural law, is not a God at all. It is too different from God to suggest that natural law is “God-like”.

I conclude with this declaration: worship natural law.

This declaration is not a scientific statement. Neither is it false.


Speaking For God?

This is something I question: speaking for God.

The tagline for (a dating site) is: “Find God’s Match for You™” (note the trademark). The company acknowledges that tagline has caused controversy, but states “we do believe ChristianMingle is a tool God can and has used to bring people together.”

Is this an uplifting belief? Is this a belief that leads to our enrichment as people, to our betterment? Or is this a belief that is used to achieve a specific result?

Is this belief based on anything other than a desire to want it to be so?

Beware of such beliefs that imply an intimate knowledge of God. Insight into the Almighty is not why we believe. We believe so that we can allow ourselves to imagine a larger purpose to our lives. Yet, we must be humble in our beliefs because we recognize our limitations as human beings.

Beware of all beliefs that imply a knowledge of God, leading to a use of that knowledge to achieve specific results. That is using belief. Be suspicious of such use.

Then continue on your journey, believing your way forward, but remaining humble about the knowledge of where you will be.