Throughout each of our lives we each come to our own conclusion about the nature of our existence. Some people accept the cultural narrative, which in the West tends to take the form of Christianity. For many there's too much conflict between the Bible's archaic tales and what science and/or their direct experience tells them of world, and so they reject the teachings of the Church. With a literal interpreation of the bible disproven by science, many unfortunately end up at the opposite extreme.
I think a lot of people who regard themselves as "atheist" not because they don't believe in a higher power, but because the inherited description of that higher power has been inaccurate. The Christian notion of god is a 2,000 year old metaphor, presenting a personified image of God, created in a time when we lacked the contributions of the great philosophers, psychologists, and scientists. Today, our understanding of "God" (which some would rather refer to as the universe, or simply as Objective reality) is a whole lot better. It presents an amazingly complex universe governed by laws. Our understanding has evolved, and the church should embrace this progress as it provides a more complete understanding of what God is and isn't. Why the church would forsake the contributions of some of humanities greatest minds who have spent centuries studying the nature of the universe, and instead place their faith in a 2,000 year old book, largely escapes me. Perhaps the Church fears that if Bible is challenged as being the infallable, absolute word of god, it may loose it's legitimacy (at least the catholic church is coming around). But concepts like evolution don't disprove God, they simply alter our understanding of how the universe functions (or in personified Christian-speak, it shows us how God expresses his will). The contributions of science build upon a primitive, ancient notion of what "God" is, and how his/her/its laws have brought us into existence. If religion debates the tried and tested truths discovered by science, it will loose simply because that's sciences arena.
But I do feel that there are some elements of truth contained in our ancients religious texts that science has not yet captured. The analytical/scientific perspective has it's shortcomings. There is still so much that is unknown. Just as people 1,000 years ago would have thought we were mad in stating that matter is simply energy, or that diseases are microscopic viruses and bacteria, 1,000 years from now people will regard us as equally primitive. These shortcomings of modernity may be part of the reason that so many people refuse to let go of the more primitive, mythical worldviews offered by the ancient religions (although I suspect most of it comes down to a lack of education).
This is where I'm going to loose some of those reading this, those that I haven't already offended with my critique of religion, but what sets me apart from atheists is that I think/feel/believe that the universe is in some way conscious. There is a kind of emotional/karmic/psychic energy that pervades all life, and extends beyond the confines of our brains, and that and feelings and thoughts ripple out into the universe. Many of the world's spiritual traditions have presented similar concepts, the most notable being Prajñā in hinduism or Chi (Qi) in Taoism. In the Christain tradition this sensation is interpreted as a personal god, because it seems to react to our thoughts and actions individually, but there isn't an autonomous deity responding to our actions. It seems to be a more fluid, natural process.
For years I questioned this belief, largely because it runs so counter to the materialistic centric view of reality that I had been taught in school, and because it's so easily disregarded as hippy, newagey junk science. But I've since come to the conclusion that it is simply an aspect of the universe that science has not yet discovered or explained.... just as gravity always existed before Newton, although we hadn't created a logical framework to fully to pull the concept into our existing worldviews. If this model is accurate, then emotions like love and hate aren't just biological reactions, but the consonance and dissonance energies when we interact.
Do I have proof of all this? No, not beyond my own personal experiences (although it certainly explains some strange scientific findings). I can't prove it to you with an experiment or a mathematical model, and for many that will be enough to disregard the hypothesis. But the effectiveness of natural healing techniques such as acupuncture and Qi Gong demonstrate that something exists on this level. Even mainstream medical practitioners are also beginning to embrace the health benefits of these eastern approaches, when these were all ridiculed by the mainstream just a few decades ago. My hope is that we're going to continue to see a convergence in these western and eastern world views in the coming years.
Great photography... Found you while looking for new material for our Web site and blog (see attached link, where you can also find a link to the blog). I appreciate the connection you are making--you might find my work deals with that in a fundamental way.
There's a HUGE problem with relying on or waiting for the convergence of existing/traditional paths. As you somewhat imply, their metaphors (or what I call "metaphoric systems") are arcane and largely irrelevant. But, more importantly, they have no proprietary access to truth and any assumption otherwise only keeps us needlessly isolated.
on Mar 5th, 2013
It depends on the level we are taniklg about. People like Stephen Hawking even think Einstein's Theory of Relativity can be improved upon because it is an approximation and does not meet the observations exactly. There are still questions about the differences between quantum physics and relativity. There are still things in the quantum world that remains mysterious such as entanglement. There are new species being discovered all the time which open a new light into the time period of evolutionary occurrences. And so on. I wouldn't label any of these total failures. More of a narrowing down to the truth.