My personal reflections on this blog take inspiration from the Bahá’í teachings.

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Is religion adaptive?


An interesting discussion has been taking place on the Migrations blog on the question: is religion adaptive? The point of view being explored is whether the capacity for religious experience is an evolutionary adaptation, and assuming that it is, whether it is still useful. Dan, the "owner" of the blog, feels that religion has had its day. I've offered some observations to the contrary.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Belief in God -- what difference does it make?


I find it interesting to state the basic atheist premise and the basic Monotheistic premise in very similar terms:

Atheist: “Nothing has caused existence. It just is.”

Theist: “No thing has caused existence. Its Cause just is.”

Rewording it a little differently, the atheist says, “existence is caused by nothing”; while the Theist says, “existence is caused by no thing”. The premise of Theism can be expressed as the idea that the cause of all things is not itself a thing. The theist asserts that the non-thing from which all things emerge must surely be very great, for how could this vast and complex universe have a trivial origin. The atheist replies perhaps, that the theist is trying to make something out of nothing. The atheist says that the universe itself contains whatever it needs to explain its own complexity. The believer then enquires as to whence came these amazing characteristics, since every effect must have a cause. The atheist replies, why must the universe as a whole, necessarily have a cause? The law of cause and effect applies between entities within the universe. There is no reason to suppose that the universe as a whole requires a cause.

The argument now looks suspiciously like its going round in circles. The atheist says the universe as a whole is uncaused. The believer says it is caused by an Uncaused Cause, which is to say that whatever the being of the universe ultimately rests on, it is uncaused.

I am reminded of Marzieh Gail’s statement: “Atheism expounded is nothing less than theism with some changes of vocabulary ...”

As a God-believer, I come down on the side of the Uncaused Cause. But having learned from a thoughtful blogger, Psiomniac, who has a fruitful way of raising questions for discussion, I am just going to invite comment on the following question:

Is there any significant difference between the view that the universe “just is”, and the view that it exists at the behest of an Uncaused Cause?

Saturday, 3 March 2007

The month of ‘Alá’


In the Baha'i calendar, the month of ‘Alá’ ("Loftiness"), is the month of fasting. It runs from 2-20 March each year, so Baha'is around the world are currently fasting each day from sunrise to sunset. Here is a poem about this special time of year.


This first day of the fasting month, I rise
as lines and shapes in black and shades of grey
develop form, appear as houses, trees,
until -- a brighter burst of light breaks out --
the rising sun declares the day's begun!

The month of Loftiness has come
when through the day the tongue goes dry,
the stomach groans, and while the clock
ticks by, the brain goes slightly dull.

Cicadas drone their usual tune
and yet the atmosphere vibrates
with some uncommon rippling pulse --
some rare sweet song invigorates
the normal air -- a mystic strain
interpolates between the beats
of torpid time -- and laggard hours
are livened by its melody.

So gradually the mind resorts
to loftier thoughts -- desire abates
and indescribably a change
unfolds within the inmost soul.

For nineteen days we mark the route
across the sky, the sun must go --
moved thus to contemplate the laws
creation's Lord laid down long ere
the sun and planets came to be.
Deferring, then, till sun has set
our bodies' wants -- we train our hearts
to crave instead the course Divine.

And frequently, the fasting time
yields new perceptions casually.
It throws up chance encounters too
with fellow-travellers seeking light.

The Blessed Beauty said these days
are each endowed with special grace.

The rising sun declares the day's begun.
It climbs to reach the blazing heights of noon,
descends and soon departs, and day is done --
then may our Lord's good-pleasure light our dreams.