Monday, August 20, 2012

"Religious Experience"

*please note, the contents of this post are the thoughts of the author, and do not reflect the position of everyone affiliated with DAFT*

So I was browsing around the internet looking for some new music to listen to. I very rarely get involved in the comment-section on youtube because it's mostly filled with the ramblings of 12 year olds trying to figure out how to deal with all the new hormones they're experiencing. But I came across a musician who writes some really excellent music so I thought I'd browse through the comments to see what other people think. And little to my surprise, there was an argument ablaze over god. Luckily enough the arguments weren't over some dogmatic issue, and the arguments for god were more like for some transcendental-abstract-hindu-buddhist-simplified-type-thing.  I never really figured out how arguments over god's existence ever show up on completely unrelated videos on youtube, but alas, they do, and I'm sort of tired of it.

Now, as many of you may know I'm an anti-theist, and I'm damn very well active in my secular drive, but there comes a time when you have to just let an opportunity for argument go. Let me lend everyone in on a little-known fact in neuroscience: Your experiences, thoughts, emotions, are results of highly complex neuro-chemical reactions firing off in your brain. Some of the chemical's amounts are genetically controlled, others may be environmentally-dependent, either way- that's beyond the point.

Religious people's perceptions of god are a result of these reactions. Prayer, like a rather secular act of meditation, work similarly and evoke much of the same activity in the brain. They "feel" a holy presence, or a feeling of calmness because it's actually really there for them. They honestly feel something. Of course, the more scientifically minded will attribute those feelings to what they are: neurotransmitters going off, neurons blasting at eachother. Yet again, there are those that may not be as versed in these biological concepts; for them, the experience is attributed to whatever god or gods they were raised into believing.  I would never deny someone's "religious" experience, as they really did have an experience. They really did feel something, in some more euphoric cases they may have even heard or seen something.

If someone interprets those experiences badly, which happens... a lot, we have every right to retaliate. When people use these experiences as rational for their bigotry, we have every right to fight back. When they want to force these experiences on the unwilling, we have every right in telling them to fuck off. When people want to use these experiences to drive pseudo-science and bullshit into minds of children, we have every right to argue.

On the other hand, when people use these experiences to do good. When people use these experiences to do non-discriminatory charity work, when people use these experiences to help others, to create things, to build things, to make art, to make music, to love- we have no fucking right to be assholes to them simply because they gain inspiration from somewhere else than us. Service, community, love are secular things, even if they're religiously inspired, as it benefits humanity.

So next time we come across a person of faith, let's examine if what they're doing is beneficial to the world. If it is, I'd recommend chipping in and helping a bit. If what they're doing is backwards, bigoted, crap that perturbs progress, continue to be the bad-ass juggernauts you are and inform them of their mistakes and work towards progress.

May you all be touched by his noodly appendage,