Section 3: “Philosophy and Theology”: (five essays)
What is the cause or origin of events which we cannot readily perceive?
What is life all about?
What can we say – as modern people of our time – about a possible transcendental core or origin of Creation? What is this existence leading to or what is its meaning or possible purpose – in religious terms or in scientific terms? What values or direction shall we pursue in our own lives? What can we truly believe in?
The function of the human mind creating visualization – as discussed in the chapter about Creative Thought – leads to the human mind’s capability for religion – systems of abstract (virtual) explanations of otherwise not understood phenomena and the resulting rules for behavior in the actual world we live in.
The key essay in this section addresses the question of “Interpreting Our Existence: Meaning of Existence, Personal Direction, Values – an Attempt at Unifying the Perspectives of Science and Religion tempered by Practical Experience and Human Sensitivity”.
Our Western culture and world view were formed by Christian beliefs and traditions – themselves based on the Jewish faith as evolved in various stages – which, in turn, was significantly influenced by several other civilizations. The main religious concern, as in all religions, was the obtaining of a favorable life on Earth; but, later, the main concern became access to eternal life in Heaven – with consequent rules for behavior here on Earth. Such access to Heaven was seen as being based on faith or by following religious laws in every detail.
Later, in our own time, came the sciences and space exploration which have resulted in a different, more “evidence-based” view of the universe and the important recognition of its evolution, ending in final collapse or dissolution. The factual observations of nature, history, and personal destiny led to less or no reliance on divine interference here on Earth. How can we bring scientific knowledge and religious beliefs together? What can we stand for? Which course are we ready to follow?
The question is discussed whether there is any meaning, purpose, and plan for existence, or whether evolution and destiny are non-deterministic and open-ended (not guided to a predetermined higher goal).
What is a fulfilled life? Some philosophies recommend withdrawal in contemplation or “prayer”, believing in a reward in interesting mental effects of “peace” and “harmony”, or in a “next life” – thereby throwing away much of the possible fullness of this life – in order to avoid some of its occasionally overwhelmingly negative sides impacting our emotions and behavior.
In this essay, however, thoughts are presented for three directions to follow in our own human lives here on Earth, indicated by the key concepts of:
- Nature-expected “growth”
- Altruistic “service”
- Joy about beauty, art, and “culture”
All three are further discussed in some detail below.
Is there a ranking of the diverse and often life- and behavior-controlling human emotions – including “satisfaction”, common “happiness”, or profound “meaning” (sometimes contradictory in their appearance in our minds and of different immediate significance, common importance, or philosophical depth)?
For all human beings, the basic struggle for survival and for a decent existence must have a certain (but not absolute) priority. Later in life, the management of untimely or age-related decline may become paramount. Beyond that, we should not limit our lives to the often predominant pursuit of wealth, recognition, and power for their own sake – or to entertainment.
Practical observation shows that religious/moral goodness is not the only goal in life. To reach fullness of life – and to fully pursue human natural potential in existence – observation of the world and nature shows us that we should pursue, or are allowed to pursue, not only one but three unrelated directions or dimensions of life in parallel – with difficulty in balancing the commitment to each versus the others in ongoing compromise. We should pursue personal growth in mental and personality development; we should render caring service to others, the family, the community, and the environment in love, empathy, and good stewardship; additionally, we are allowed to enjoy all the beauty in this world, including appreciation of the arts and “culture”.
In the end, this essay points out – and that is what these writings stand for
- that we humans would be well advised not to rely on external, divine help
- not to assume that all natural suffering in this world is always a necessity for progress and that continued political violence is unavoidable forever
- not to give up in withdrawal
- but to assume responsibility and to selectively refrain or use our own initiative
- to refrain from acts with negative consequences
- to pro-actively develop and build a humanely better world
- a world with necessary balancing restraints and rewards as incentives for personal performance, but with less severe suffering (whether from medical causes, loneliness, personal weakness, addictions, misdirection, injustice, poor governance, violence, or environmental degradation)
- and a world with more empathy, fairness (in balanced respect), and chances for a more fulfilled life for all – at least in the limited part of the world where we can act or have any influence – now expanded by the internet.
Another essay, “Astrophysics, Theology, and the SETI Project”, discusses the specific consequences of modern astrophysical knowledge and the expectation of extraterrestrial intelligence for our religious thought.
Our increasing knowledge of the universe indicates that Earth-like planets with intelligent life can be expected in some other places in the universe. The SETI Project by NASA and other scientific institutions searches already for intelligent electronic signals in outer space. If we are not the only intelligent beings in the universe, some interesting conclusions can be drawn for our traditional religions and our way of discerning a meaning in our lives.
The essay “Religion – What Is Religion? What Should Religion Be?” analyzes the phenomenon of “religion” in more detail. How did this phenomenon originate and evolve in natural evolution and human history? What supports religiosity? What is true, or not true, in religion? What would be a beneficial approach to religiosity?
The essay also discusses the necessary changes in theology under the impact of the newly gained scientific knowledge of the universe – specifically, the discovery of natural evolution, of other possibly life-supporting planets in the universe, and of the expected ultimate dissolution of the whole content of our universe.
The essay discusses five different aspects of common religious concepts of “God”, most addressed by all major historical religions, but several rejected by modern thought:
- God the Creator – but, as we know now, also the one who lets the whole world come to an end in a collapse, black holes, or a total dissolution in radiation in the future – seen by science in the abstract terms of the “Structure Providing Essence of Existence” – remaining as the last mystery to which our thoughts can rise and which challenges our lives.
- Is there a still-active God, expected to interfere with or guide natural evolution, world history, and personal destiny – a belief that cannot be confirmed by observation in our universe – or that would lead to startling contradictions with established theology when considering all the catastrophes, suffering of the innocent, and destruction in the world – all not inhibited by divine intervention?
- Is there a personally reachable God, who can be appealed to and is expected to respond to such appeals – a belief that can be confirmed only by the selective observation of the winners or survivors – but sadly not realized by the equally fervently praying losers and sufferers? Can a religion of the winners be accepted by all?
- Is there a judging God, who is believed to have issued moral and ethical laws or values, provided humans with “conscience”, and who will judge all humans upon death – promising rewards in an after-life or a next world in paradise, or punishment in hell – a belief that is in contradiction to our understanding of the universe and nature – and their ultimate natural disappearance?
- The inscrutable God, addressed by Christians as “father”, who issued moral laws but lets injustice, immorality, catastrophes, indescribable suffering of the innocent, and utter waste of created beings exist throughout nature and the course of this world.
This leads to the definition of four desirable levels of religiosity among all humans:
- A simple, ritualistic, but not cruel religion – for the less developed who are living close to and with the forces of nature
- A religion of strict laws for tolerable social coherence, enforced by “God” (see the Ten Commandments) – for the people in a more urban world of commerce and politics
- A religion providing humane inspiration and warm emotional support – for the many people who are suffering and despairing all over the world at all times – providing some support, a little hope, or humane guidance – also admonition to the powerful – or joy to the fortunate
- An advanced interpretation of the “Structure Providing Essence of Existence”, consistent with the sciences – for providing a direction for our modern life here on Earth – to be fulfilled in mental and personality growth, in caring service to others, the community, and nature, and in joy about sensing the beauty in this world.
Two more essays in this section address the fundamental questions of the “Intelligent Design Theory (IDT) – Plan and Meaning vs. Natural Evolution”.
The first essay on IDT presents a key discussion of the “science and theology” controversy and the weakness of the “IDT” as discussed these days.
The second essay on IDT presents a more philosophical discussion of some basic topics. This analysis presents not only the common arguments by science against IDT but, somewhat surprisingly, also the very important theological reasons against it.
Two final essays are in this section.
The first is "The Historic Jesus: in a Geographic and Historical view"
The second is Meaning of Life: Eternity Views Evolution and Life on Earth - Concluding Observations: Does the Ultimate Spiritual Essence, “Eternity” or “God”, observe evolving life on Earth – whether with “pleasure” or with “interest”? What should be our human role or direction during our life on Earth? What should be our personal goals to provide meaning to our lives?
(auf Deutsch:) Sinn des Lebens: “Gott schaut auf die Evolution und uns Mnschen auf Erden“