By faith and upbringing I am a Mormon.
Not so well understood by many traditional Christians, our faith is centered on Jesus Christ, and not any mortal being. The nickname Mormon can be misleading, originally, it was given by the enemies and persecutors of its followers. It is preferable to call us Latter day Saints. Here too misunderstandings can occur. It is more commonly understood that saints are people of exceptional faith and works who have been formally canonized by the Catholic Church after the death of that individual. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints (formal name), the members of that organisation refer to themselves as "saints", the intention is not self admiration and placing themselves on a pedestal as the revered saints in the Catholic Church, but in the Mormon faith, the intention is rather to classify "saint" as an individual who strives for personal improvement and a higher level of conformity to the doctrines of the Church. It is well understood that all its members are "human" and subject to the frailties and foibles of an earthly existance.
My introduction may seem long-winded but it has a purpose that relates to the matter I want to discuss.
Society today bases itself on Empirical knowledge (science of experimentation and observation) and Empiricism (philosophy of knowledge gained from personal experience). In other words tangible results and logical results; I know what I see, taste, feel and even can deduce.
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy that deals with concepts outside of tangible experience. It deals with abstract concepts that cannot be proved or deduced with our finite senses. Religion is the traditional example that links into this area.
There is interaction between tangible dimensions and intangible dimensions. Language (field of semantics) is where man learned to link concepts and associations in his environment, for example that thing off the ground is a rock! So mankind learned patterns of communication where groups of humans used the same sounds/words to identify "stuff".
I personally have never ventured to Europe, or Asia, or the Americas. When I was a teenager, I idly wondered to myself if other places were real or it was all just an elaborate hoax. Television, radios, books, experiences of others who had been "overseas" was all just a lie, a giant array of fabrications perpetuated just to fool me. I used to imagine to myself, why should the sun come up tomorrow? What if it didn't? What if gravity suddenly didn't work anymore. I imagined myself clinging to my bed as it floated off. I used to love getting lost in "weird thoughts". I loved the science of proof, but I really preferred the use of logic in less concrete areas.
When a teenager growing up, I used to be quite patronising to the faith of my parents and my peers. All the usual observations of religion just being a crutch for the mentally fearful and weak, was my viewpoint. I was cynical and loved teasing people at church all the time. The motives of people I found easily transparent (probably due to the many books I read). My father indulged me to a certain extent (he was quite patient with me, now when I look back and think about things) but he had a simple rule. You live in my house, you live by my rules. You don't live them, you don't have to live here, you are quite welcome to go and live elsewhere. I knew that home was a good thing so regardless of my opinions, I would abide by my Dad's rules and attend church with him on a weekly basis. I was not interested in going it alone out in the big world, I certainly had no intention of wasting my energy on that.
I am sad to say that I regarded my Old Man as a Fool, a Simple Man. There were aspects of his life that I did admire, there is no doubt of that, but I considered myself as a superior being. I took my chess skills too seriously and accepted the admiration of my peers as a matter of course (not that their opinions mattered more than my own self opinion). All my friends certainly knew that I was vain. The song "you're so vain, you probably think the song is about you, don't you, don't you" was a hit in my teenage years and when I went dancing, some of the girls always pointed me out when that song played. I was flattered I must admit.
(how many hours?)
Yet I loved to test the areas of my thinking against my Dad. We used to have the greatest of arguments and these "debates" could never be done quietly, but at full volume. I found out over time and many arguments that the Old Man was not as dumb as I thought he was. I started to find out that there were many things that he had forgotten that I had yet to learn. Politics was our favourite battlefield; my liberalism versus his conservative views. I really grew to love the Old Man because he treated my opinions seriously. The greatest gift he gave me was to treat my doubts seriously and answer my concerns honestly. We learned to understand each other and became extremely close. In my later life, I realised that almost all our views had grown to mesh together and that we had nothing to argue about anymore, it was quite a loss to me that we never had raging arguments anymore. I was amazed that he was prepared to change his position in certain areas of thought even when he was "old". I really admired his honesty and integrity to live by his understandings.
When I learned a little about science, I really enjoyed it when we unwrapped concepts such as weight and mass. I still think about the one example when a speeding train and a fly collide. The train is going at 100 kilometers per hour in one direction and the fly is travelling at 1 kilometer an hour in the opposite direction. Obviously the fly cannot continue in its former direction when it hits the train. The remains of the fly must change direction to that of the train upon which it is squashed. The analogy states that before the fly can go in the opposite direction, it has to stop first, then go 100 km/hr in the opposite direction. The academics argue that both the train and the bug must stop, then go at the speed of the train. This argument is my favourite hate, I refuse to accept it.
So there is this conflict between science and religion. They seem to be like oil and water; they just cannot mix philosophically. People try reconcile the two but there are serious flaws in their logic. In general, both parties of protagonists tend to regard their opponents with condescension.
Now I am no scientist, neither in practice or philosophy, yet I love to think about "things". I like to try understand the viewpoints of others, particularly those who disagree with me.
Over the passage of time, I have become devout in following my faith in Jesus Christ. Brainwashed? Probably. Often we are conditioned by our environment and upbringing. I would like to think it is my own choice. I certainly know that I was critical of many aspects, but was I really critical? How big is the pond that I float in? There is a vast unknown ocean out there.
The one advantage that I had in life was that when I expressed doubt, I was not condemned by those with whom I associated. I suppose they realised that my doubts were not an end destination but a process that was a journey of inquiry. How often has the questioner been branded as heretic? Doubt is regarded as an enemy; a poison that could effect others. I am impressed that my Dad could see past the outward aggressive stance of his son. I wonder how he had the wisdom to see past the exterior to what I thought was carefully hidden, my genuine seeking.
How people express their doubts varies. Often their insecurities are manifest through dress, tattoos, and other patterns of attention seeking. The non-conformist attention seeker. Too many lack the language or thought skills of expression. Their drive for being unique, or to stand out from among their peers is clearly evident, it is a desperate cry for attention, for love, for wanting to belong to a group. It is almost as if they lack self identity and seek to submerge themselves in a group. The urge to belong. Often the very thing they seek is the very mechanism that is used to condemn them by those they most desperately seek recognition from.
(wonder why I never got the job?)
I had a good friend when I used to play golf. He was a brilliant academic with an astonishing mind. Yet when we played golf at West Bank Golf Club in East London, he used to doubt himself. Endlessly would he agonise over how to play his shot, what angle, how hard, what about the wind, how would the ball roll on the green? Indecision ruined the game for him. When you play in the weekly club tournament, it is required that you keep up with the group of golfers in the front. We used to lag too far behind with the result that the club captain would chastise us to speed up. It was so frustrating to play golf with him. I used to think to myself, "Just hit the shot Anton!! Learn through your mistakes, MAKE THE DECISION!" Because of his academic skills and his very high results, golf was a struggle as he wanted to achieve the same high standards in his game. Eventually he stopped playing competitive golf and we used to only play "casual golf" together. Doubt is good but it must be managed, it cannot be allowed to negate action. The worst result is that you will be wrong. Learn from it and try not repeat.
(control it! make a decision and learn!)
So Doubt is as valuable tool in life. We all have it at our disposal, the question is, How do we use it?
As I have said before, I hope we use it as a vehicle, not a destination, regardless of where our journey takes us.