Om. It seems that many people these days feel that the discoveries of modern science have somehow “disproven” the existence of God and branded the path to God as an infantile superstition. These arguments typically are, in my opinion, based on the view that religion is identical with the monotheistic traditions that currently dominate the spiritual terrain of the Earth. In these traditions (popularized Christianity, for instance) God is something separate from the physical universe that can be approached by faith but not experienced directly, created the world in 7 days without evolution 6000 years ago, is often portrayed as male, and created human beings separate from animals.
These descriptions of God are unarguably antithetical to the recent scientific discoveries of evolution and the cosmic age of the universe. It is now clearly known that humans slowly evolved from less complex animals, that the Earth is billions of years old, and that beyond the clouds no “heaven” exists where the righteous go after the death of the body.
My aim in this post is not to discredit the monotheistic traditions that in my opinion have a rich symbolic, spiritual, cultural, and historic value. I simply want to argue that my personal conception God and the path to God can coexist in harmony with modern science. I also want to show that science can even enhance one’s appreciation of the Divine’s inexhaustible ingenuity.
This topic could fill volumes, but since this is a blog and since you probably have more important things to do today I will share only a few of my thoughts on the matter. With that said, here are some reasons why I believe we can be seekers of God without ignoring science:
On God as a direct experience
As I talk about in my recent book “Daily Bliss” (available in a below post), Zen Buddhism has majorly influenced the way I conceive the Divine. From the Zen perspective enlightenment (aka the experience of God) is a direct experience that anyone can have through the practice of meditation and other “expedient means.” Furthermore, in Zen God is not something separate from this moment; this very moment, and the One witnessing it, is God Itself. This God is not male or female, nor any “thing,” but the formless Source of all that is all.
This Truth can actually be experienced but it takes an intense amount of spiritual work. From this point of view to have “faith in God” simply means that the experience of God is possible to have for yourself. Faith is only necessary in the beginning but loses its importance once God is actually experientially known.
This approach to the Divine is in harmony with the scientific method, which emphasizes that knowledge can only be based on observable facts. While God cannot be said to be an observable fact (for how can we observe what is one with us?), the idea that we should not base our views about God on anything other than our own direct experience is an approach that does not compromise the fundamental ideals of science.
Meditation as a science (briefly!)
Paramahansa Yogananda, who brought the practice of Kriya Yoga to America in the 1920’s, often called meditation a scientific technique. There are many ways to make light but a flipping the switch for the light bulb is a heck of a lot easier than grinding sticks together for an hour. In a similar way there are specific techniques of meditation that powerfully aid in catalyzing the universal experience of Truth.
I primarily have utilized Zen meditation for this purpose but have also encountered other traditions with similarly potent techniques (namely Vipassana meditation taught by S.N. Goenka and Kryia Yoga as taught by Yogananda). From the perspective of these traditions the search for God via meditation is not a blind faith in an external dogma, but a purposeful, tried, and tested methodology that millions of people have both spiritually and physically benefited from.
How evolution and cosmic time coexist with the idea of an eternal Creator
It is now overwhelmingly evident that evolution is factual. Yet one of the most ignorant things I hear nowadays is that one cannot believe in God and simultaneously believe in evolution. It’s a soup or salad scenario to these people…you simply cant have both!
For me, evolution actually enhances my reverence for the Divine. God created evolution, and like all of nature evolution is the mechanism by which His will is physically actualized. Though an endless chain of traceable causation forms individuals, God originally knew all that would ever happen.
To use an example, I believe I was created in love by God as a unique individual. Now what I am as a physical being is the combination of billions of years of detailed causation that our brain cannot even conceive of – reptilians mating with each other generation after generation for millions of years… ice age after ice age… cave men breathing heavily in pursuit of saber tooth tigers… the mysterious advent of civilization…my grandparents meeting in a New York city hospital in the 1940s…the glorious invention of breakfast cereal…and the list (for my body alone!) could go on and on until the end of all things.
Thus, to say that God is all knowing is one thing-but to say that God knows all that has ever happened and will ever happen given the mind boggling complexity of evolution-that is entirely another! And to know that God, who is greater than endless galaxies, loves me unconditionally as His unique child-that is indeed wonder beyond wonder!!!
This same idea applies to the fact that the universe is many billions of years old. The humbling scope of cosmic time is simply another reason to praise God for His unsearchable greatness. His works are indeed mighty, yet even the mighty universe doesn’t even come close to expressing what He is in Himself.
On the false idea that religion has only harmed the world
Many people I talk to ignore God because of their view that “religion only harms the world.” In response to this I often quote St. Augustine: “never judge a philosophy by its abuse.” It is obvious that many terrible things have been done in the name of God but it is ignorant to equate those things with what religion is really all about. Doing so is like watching a terribly dubbed version of your favorite movie. Imagine that your favorite movie was poorly filmed in a seedy theatre, was given inaccurate subtitles, and dubbed over with completely idiotic and incorrect dialogue. If I then watched this and based my judgment of your favorite film on the bad version, how could I claim to understand the worth of the original movie?
A similar thing happens with religion. People ignorantly equate Christianity and the spiritual path in general with the many ways it has been falsely portrayed. These people often absurdly ignore original message of Jesus and similar prophets, a message that implores all people to unconditionally love even their enemies.
Anyone who has actually realized God renounces all unnecessary violence and implores their fellow humans to love all beings. For God dwells equally in all, and as John the beloved said, “How you can hate your brother whom you have seen, and claim to love God whom you have not seen?” This universal religion of love is what unites all authentic spiritual traditions, prophetic ministries, and teachings throughout time.
With all this in mind, I hope you will judge the worth of the spiritual path based on the ways it is authentically expressed and not “throw out the baby with the bath water” by equating religion/spirituality with the unfortunate ways it has been misinterpreted and used for personal gain.
On something out of nothing
Many people believe that the new scientific origin theories of the universe somehow cancel out God. But no matter how much we know about the nature of the universe we will never be able to rationally explain its inherently miraculous existence. The fact that anything exists at all is, at the end of the day, entirely inexplicable without a Divine Source that is not limited to space and time. To simply brush off this possibility as “unscientific” is to be just that- unscientific! There is perhaps no greater hypothesis that can be posed to explain the mystery of being than the creative power of an omnipotent and eternal God. While other options admittedly exist, they pale in comparison to the overwhelming intuition that this life is the result of a Power that preceded it and will continue forever after its destruction.
I believe that happiness can only be found in the realization of God. Everything else, however wonderful, is impermanent and only a fraction of the infinite bliss of God that in truth we are. Secondarily, in a relationship with the Personal God (as I describe at length in my book) we can find unconditional love that completely satisfies the human heart.
To realize God, though, takes the faith and courage to walk a difficult path to Him/Her/It. I have talked to many people who exclude this possibility from their lives because they find it unscientific, and this post is, in a sense, a brief response to these encounters. For as I have stated above I believe that the path to God, as I currently understand it, can completely coexist and even be enhanced by modern science.
If you actually read this all the way through I appreciate your patience and support! May God reveal Itself to you, and may all beings insist upon the Way of love alone. To Him be the glory forever! Om.
P.s. In my previous post there is a link to my new book, Daily Bliss, a practical manual on ways to experience God in daily life.
- Lessons from the Gita 3: God Realization – The End of Religion
- Many Paths, One Goal
- Homosexuality, Christianity, and The Future of Scripture
- Re-interpreting Jesus II: The Kingdom of God
- Jungian Christianity – Thoughts on how Jungian psycology influenced my views on religion.
- Purposes of Meditation
- Mechizzawhaaaaaa? Melchizedek and the Source of Spiritual Authority
- Re-interpreting Jesus 1: Beyond Religion (The Law and the Prophets)