A few years ago I wrote a piece in a note on Facebook. It generated a lot of discussion, and after looking over it again I've decided it's worth bringing back for fresh eyes to see. This particular piece was entitled "Faith," and was essentially an exploration and (at least partially) an explanation of my beliefs. As always, I encourage discussion in the comments section!
I've been having a deep discussion with some people online that has challenged my belief in a higher power (for lack of a better term, I refer to this power or entity or multiple entities as "God"). In this note, I am summing up a lot of my reflections and defense of my beliefs, in hopes that it will inspire you, the reader, to examine yourself and your beliefs.
To start with, I'm going to share a link to the thing that started the discussion I've been having. This is purely anecdotal and has no bearing on my arguments.
First off, evolution has been observed in multiple instances. This does not contradict God's existence, however. Something has to trigger the mutation to happen that would make the butterfly yellow and blend in better with the yellow flowers. I don't believe that anything happens without a reason or a cause. I definitely believe in evolution, but I don't believe that "God" has no hand in it.
Some argue that through science, we can answer how things happen, and even why things happen. This is true, to a degree, but when we ask "why?" we're not looking for an explanation of what caused it, we're looking for an explanation as to the reason it happened. There is a subtle difference between the two.
For example, say I crush a spider. The cause for its death is the collision with my foot, or a rolled-up newspaper, or something of that sort. Why it happened was because the spider was freaking me out.
Likewise, with life, and time, and even the universe, we can figure out how things work and all the causes for it that we want, but that doesn't address the issue of "why" they happen(ed)/exist. For that, I honestly believe we cannot find a true answer, and ultimately it comes down to faith.
I just don't understand how anyone can see such an intricate web of "coincidences" from the series of "mutations" that lead to us being what we are now, to the perfectly balanced cycle of light/heat and cold/dark of our planet, and the hundred millions of little things like the amount of cosmic background radiation, or the levels of various chemicals in the atmosphere, or even the existence and strengths of the many different forces in the universe (From the strong and weak nuclear forces, to gravity, to electromagnetism, etc.) that if any of them were even slightly stronger or weaker life would not be possible, and not believe in some kind of higher power that designed it all.
This is not to say that the fact we are alive is unique and we are alone. There's bound to be other life in the universe, if not our galaxy. Recently I read an article where scientists found three "super earths" not too far off, that were planets much larger than our own but had atmospheres and oceans and landmasses much like ours. What's stopping life from evolving on planets such as these?
Some argue that it's simply "in our nature" as humans to interpret things. This isn't a bad thing, because without religion our species would probably still be centuries away from understanding anything. It was mainly due to different religious institutions that education became so widespread. I went through Catholic education in elementary, middle, and high school (1st-12th years/grades for you non-americans out there) and throughout the 12 years of that education, I was taught how to do tons of math, read and write properly, all of the basics, but even more importantly I was taught how to analyze and challenge things, how to logically reason through things, and how to solve problems.
Sure, I had to go to mass every now and then, and sure I was told many times about "Our lord and savior Jesus Christ", but the religion was never FORCED upon me. I was taught about it, just as I was taught about the basics of Buddhism and Hinduism and Islam and Judaism, etc. but I was not "brainwashed" by the Church. On the contrary, I was given the tools and techniques to challenge every word of the Bible, and encouraged to do so.
Faith does not hold us back, so long as we do not blindly follow it. What I was taught was that as long as we don't simply accept the things we are told as true, we will be able to find Truth through our own questioning and searching.
Say what you want about religion, but as far as I'm concerned they're the best educators we have right now.
Getting back on topic, when I ask "why" I'm not looking for the physical or even psychological reasons as to how the event comes to pass, I'm asking what is the purpose of the event. Maybe it's just because I'm human and I don't want to believe that I'm nothing more than just a creature, but I refuse to believe that my "purpose" is to survive and mate to propagate my species. I believe that there is an overall purpose for existence in general, and an individual purpose for everything that exists and happens.
Ultimately, what it all comes down to is faith. Because of the very nature of religion and "God", we can't prove or disprove "God's" existence. There comes a point where we have to decide whether or not to believe in a/the higher power. Maybe there is none and we exist for no reason other than a series of coincidences, but if that's true then is it really worth living? If there's no driving purpose behind life, then wouldn't it make sense, logically, to just stop and discontinue living? If you don't believe in a higher purpose or a higher entity, and you believe that all there is to existence is the physical properties of the universe, then what difference does it make if you live or not? After all, a dead body and a live body have the same number of atoms and molecules etc.
Some say that religion just wants a simple answer to "why" that doesn't bother with specifics and is thus fantastical and, ultimately, worthless. I disagree. Even if you learn, through science, how and why everything happens in the universe; even if you can explain away how and why each event and action takes place, you still won't have an answer as to what the point is. You still won't be able to say WHY existence, well, exists.
This is what religion seeks to answer; What is our purpose? WHY ARE WE HERE? The true answer could very well be that there is no reason, but I, for one, choose not to believe that. I may be deluding myself, but at least I feel better about my existence believing that there's a reason for me to be here.