Here’s a Dutch TV show I was on. It’s in English with subtitles.
In this interview I say something that I’ve been saying in a lot of my talks and interviews for the past couple of years. I might have even put this in There is No God and He is Always With You. I can never remember my own books…
Anyway, the idea is this. When I was younger I thought that life was very mysterious and very brief. I wanted to know if there was a reason for all of this. I heard people talk about God and I heard people talk about atheism. But what I wanted was an answer for myself.
I wanted to know concretely if there was a God or if there was an Answer.
Or, if there was no Answer or no God, I also wanted to know that for myself.
I can’t accept that there is a God just because the Pope and Pat Robertson say there is. But, in exactly the same way, I can’t accept that there is no God just because Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens say there isn’t.
This is where I part ways with most of the prominent atheists out there. I am in full agreement that the scientific method is a better way of learning about the history of the Earth than reading the Bible. I see the logic in accepting logic over superstition.
My problem is that both the major spokespeople for religion and the major spokespeople for atheism seem to be working from the same criteria. Most of us believe the only way to learn the truth is to receive wisdom from outside. The religious believe it will come from the words of religious figures or via a direct message from a divine source, a personal revelation from God. The non-religious think it must come in the form of sense data as interpreted through the intellect. So it becomes a fight over which interpretation of the available data is better.
If that’s what you’re arguing, then the atheists win. No question about it. When asked to choose between ancient fables and modern science, I’ll choose modern science every time. When asked to believe something someone says God told him and something someone else can show me actual data about, I’ll go with the data.
The trouble for me was, that was not the question I was asking. At first I thought it was. But even after I’d decided that science made better sense than religion, I was still left in the dark about what actually mattered most to me.
It took a long time to understand that sense data as interpreted by the intellect was not going to do it for me. Even if the interpretation of that data was as logical as it could possibly be. And even if that sense data was a divine revelation from God on High.
It took a lot of sessions of sitting without seeking for answers before I got a sense that seeking for answers wasn’t the way to go.
I’ve heard a lot of ways of trying to describe what ultimately worked. Dogen wrote about turning the light around and shining it inward. But I tend to picture it more like taking a step to one side.
It’s kind of like there’s an argument. One guy is shrieking, “Chocolate is better than peanut butter!” Another is screaming, “Peanut butter is better than chocolate!” For a while you listen to them, trying to evaluate their claims.
Then one day, you notice that there is a whole world outside that argument. There is real chocolate and there is real peanut butter. So you step to one side and try some peanut butter and some chocolate for yourself. And then you try some pad thai and some curry, then maybe a bit of bicycle riding and feeling sand between your toes…
After a while the argument those guys are having ceases to be important anymore. It rages on, but you’re no longer listening.
Or something like that.
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