… and Faith from Ashes
It’s been noted that physical laws tend to carry over from one scale to the next: the microcosm reflects the macrocosm. Ideas, information, and systems are all the same thing. Even we, as people, are made up of different kinds of information, be that information RNA or memory.
As we age we have a tendency to become more fixed in what we believe to be true and more dismissive of new information, thinking that age gives us the right to ignore change. If we make that choice and cease allowing new information to take root within ourselves, we condemn ourselves to pining for what was instead of reaching for what could be.
We can do better than that. We can, instead, choose to keep growing, keep refining, keep becoming more and learning more and doing more.
If we make the choice to keep evolving, keep changing, we are faced with more opportunities to take in an ever-increasing amount of information. That which we take in and make part of ourselves accelerates our growth. It can feed us or make us wither, as we so choose.
Those of us able to change with the times while growing in complexity live longer, fuller lives. This is an observable truth; those of us that do more, maintain the ability to keep doing more. Likewise, those systems that are able to grow more complex perpetuate themselves further into the world we perceive, proving fitness through necessary complexity.
We can infer from this that new information is good, and a search for understanding is necessary to thrive in the world in which we find ourselves. We must be able to make use of what we know, to test it, to see if what we know is actually applicable.
One of the most misused bits of philosophy comes from Descartes. The line is commonly given as “I think, therefore I am,” but that ignores the first part of what was said.
“I doubt therefore I think, I think therefore I am.”
Context is everything. If we are to doubt what we know, we must explore that knowing. We must learn to expand that knowledge and test it. We must grow through exploration and learning. Most of all, we must be willing to consider that we might be wrong.
Given the idea that these truths are applicable to us, what can we in turn infer about Faith?
Faith is another system, a series of axioms that we assume are true and use to make sense of the world around us. Blind acceptance of these baseline axioms isn’t faith, it’s an abdication of self and choice, allowing someone else’s dogma and assumptions to write the core expectations that you might have for growth, evolution, and knowledge. Fitting what we’ve learned into the memes of what we know is like putting a round block in a square hole – it might work in the short-term but it’s crippling over a longer period.
Faith has to grow or it will stagnate and become irrelevant, or worse, intellectually entropic. Do you know why you pray the way you do, where the tenants of your faith come from? Dogmatic religion doesn’t. It’s too heavily reliant on memes without understanding why those memes were put into place to begin with. Saying because God said so is no longer a viable argument for behavior – we need actual reason to subscribe to any credo or proscribed set of morality. Anything else is stagnation.
“I doubt therefore I think,” Descartes said. “I think therefore I am.”
Doubt is not the enemy of Faith, but it is the enemy of dogma; analysis is necessary for belief to mean anything, because information without context is meaningless. Those of us moving into the Information Age need to question, need to find our own answers from the greatest possible amount of qualitative information available to us.
Ignorance is worthy of pity, not hatred. Willful ignorance is worthy of mockery – any answer that boils down to a simple because or because it’s always been done this way is no longer good enough. The tenants of any Faith that are flexible enough to allow for this sort of growth will survive and continue to thrive in the world to come, but any creed that value ignorance over knowledge or obedience over freedom is now in its death throes, whether it knows it or not.
The Information Age demands minds that question, people that are able to admit that they might be wrong. The only certainty is change, we’re told, and only change is going to let us rise to the heights that our Faith tells us we are capable of. Religion as we know it is dying and dead; let Faith in the divinity of ourselves and whatever God we all are made of rise like a phoenix from those ashes.
We have a world to build, a paradise we can make. You and I, let us promise ourselves to make this world stranger and better than the one we came into. Let us make this a world worthy of Faith, let us make ourselves people worth having Faith in. We are the victors of more than four billion years of evolution, each and every one of us a miracle.
Let’s fucking act like it.
Screw the promises of afterlife – let us make this world a Heaven, so that whatever angels there are look at us and use us as the standard by which they sing their praises. We are more than capable of this, you and I together. Let us be no longer constrained by outmoded ideals of ignorance and acquirus quodcumque rapis.
We can do better than that. We are doing better than that. We are the standard by which Faith is measured and questioned and grows.
Let us embody the Faith we wish to be, the change we wish to see in the world.
We are all worth it.