Relax, relax. I'm NOT about to take on that role myself! It's just that there's a fascinating article at Fox News this morning: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/04/22/can-faith-reside-within-brain/
"Neuroscience knows a great deal about how the brain works during a variety of spiritual experiences, ranging from meditation to near-death to the mystical sense of oneness. Knowledge made firm by well-established brain mechanisms that have stood the scientific test over time.
Against our intuition, we now clearly see that spiritual experience of many varieties is inextricably bound to our primal brain. When we consider the brain's majesty, things like Beethoven's symphonies and Einstein's theories come to mind. However, this grandeur blinds us to the brain's prime purpose-to keep us alive....
Of course science can't explain everything about the brain, including spirituality.
Beyond science's boundaries we discover faith. When transcending science's limits, we must keep in mind that like knowledge, faith too resides within the brain since nothing is known of experience outside the brain.
Many neuroscientists, like Thomas Metzinger, hold that the brain with its own processes is incapable of fully understanding itself. The brain thereby finds itself enveloped in "a special form of darkness."...
Do cold hard science facts suck the nectar from our spiritual potential? I think not, for it seems to me we are poised on the threshold of an era holding promise for the birth of a new kind of wisdom. Such wisdom steels us against false hopes shielded by false science. A wisdom that dispels the "scientific proof" that out-of-body experience evidences consciousness outside the brain, or that near-death experience "proves" a return from death possible or life after death. These assertions rightfully belong in the province of personal faith, not the realm of science."
How refreshing: A scientist, and moreover one in a "hard" field that explores questions with objective answers (could we but know them), who admits to the limits, not merely on his own comprehension, but on science itself! There are some, clearly, but I get the sense that most of them prefer to keep their convictions to themselves.
Faith doesn't come to all of us in exactly the same fashion. Indeed, it doesn't come to all of us, period. Some reach it through a process of exaltation, perhaps through art or music. Others of other inclinations yearn for it, but must fight their way past the many obstacles that rationality and the human experience pose to belief. Still others simply accept the Bible story without objection, make it the core of their lives from early on, and are never troubled by the carpings of the anti-theists.
Because it's neither provable nor disprovable, faith is the ultimate mixed bag.
Alongside that, allow me to quote a recent review of my novel "On Broken Wings" ( http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/9937 ):
"Again Porretto has the courage to ask life's major questions: what is religion? What is love? When is it okay to kill? What is God? What happens when we die? What do we owe our fellow man? What do we owe ourselves?"
(It's an extremely flattering review, and I wish its author had left an email address so that I might thank her for it. Ah, well. We don't always get what we want, and that's not always a bad thing.)
The part that made my ears prick up was "What is God?" If you recall the piece I wrote about definitions -- go to http://bastionofliberty.blogspot.com/2012/04/pragmatics.html if you don't -- the point of definition is to establish the criteria for inclusion in a category. Since God is, by postulate, unique, any attempt to define Him intensively would be internally contradictory. However, we can theorize with fair confidence about certain of His attributes, which is another approach to the exploration of His nature and our relation to Him.
Faith is, of course, a prerequisite: at minimum, faith that God exists (whatever "exists" means in application to a Being we cannot probe by material or temporal methods). But given that much faith -- alternately, that much willingness to suspend disbelief for the sake of an interesting inquiry into the likelihood of a supernatural realm -- it becomes possible to ask other questions of import. For example:
- Why did God create the universe?
- Does God experience time in any meaningful sense?
- Is there only one valid "God story," or might there be more?
- Does Man stand in a special relation to God? If so, what is it?
- Is there a Divine Plan? If so, is it possible for mortal Man to know it?
One of the blessings of our time is that intelligent people with the required modicum of intellectual courage, such as neurologist Dr. Kevin Nelson, who authored the Fox News article cited above, can actually discuss such things with no fear of being burned at the stake, regardless of their conclusions, doubts, or reservations. It was not always thus. Indeed, we should remain mindful that, given Man's habit of attempting to impose his views on others by force, it's not impossible that the hazards once associated with such undertakings will return in some darker future age.