God & Belief Superposition
When reasonably smart people believe in a deity, the rationale is usually communicated to others as a variation of “you don’t know that God doesn’t exist” in combination with “I feel it’s right for me”.
It was the same for me. I was practically not believing anything I didn’t need to believe, but despite that I felt that the idea of God fit with me and my values. It also felt right to have something beyond the mere normal, something that gives a bigger context to your daily life and self-identity.
I didn’t need to believe. I just sensed and felt that there is something. This was sufficient for me to entangle myself with many other concepts that usually come in a bundle with modern spirituality: enlightenment, karma, mantras, thoughts are wishes, et cetera, et cetera which have questionable relation to reality.
I also didn’t care what other people really thought of this. It was mine, I felt it and I found the concepts beautifully matching up like a jigsaw puzzle.
With this experience I may never label spiritual or religious people stupid a priori, knowing how easy it is to build logical systems out of some foundations that may not actually be grounded in reality. And this phenomenon is easy to miss if you don’t have the correct knowledge beforehand.
A significant source of confusion is that if you believe in God, and are dedicated, you will find experiences that support this belief.
I was involved with spirituality with ties to Hinduism. When I chanted the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” (salutations to Shiva), my mind cleared up, I immediately felt better, my worries dissapeared for the moment. I felt more connected to my concept of Life. It still works to this day.
The problem isn’t the experiences, but rather that I was under the effect of Confirmation Bias:
It is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives.
It’s not necessarily that I was looking for affirmative experiences and disregarding negatives, but it is harder to notice these negatives when you have trust. Should I wish God to help me acquire a particular experience X - if X happens, that’s an affirmation - if X doesn’t happen, then it’s my karma and I have to ‘resolve’ it. This sort of unfalsifiability creates a serious Selection Bias of interpretation of experience.
As with actually feeling the effects of mantras, I think why it worked so well was that I had these as mental hooks to trigger expected emotional behaviour on my body, because I had enough belief of the mantra possibly affecting me, be it conscious or subconscious. Naturally, nothing really unexpected ever happened beyond that. Even with feeling things, as personal evidence, there are so many stronger hypothesis for explanation than the hypothesis of God. With feeling things, that might just be complex emotional triggers.
Even though there’s plenty of proclaimed personal evidence (e.g. feeling things) in the world, you would expect that by now there would be a publicly verifiable evidence, if God had any real (i.e. measurable) effect on us. If God chooses to be unfalteringly devious like that, I wouldn’t know what to do anyway if I cannot verify that I am not being delusional! If the publicly verifiable evidence is yet to come, well I’ll revise my beliefs then.
I personally don’t see any reason why I should put any effort onto infinitely small could-be.
I have always of course been open-minded towards God being possibly real, having seen no direct evidence of the contrary. I have gained many experiences being involved with spirituality. It has given me a deep insight how the brain works in exposure to it and how it builds this house of cards.
But, as it stands, there are no publicly verifiable evidence anyone has seen since the dawn of the concept of God, and I cannot verify my own personal evidence or even put it to any use, then the effect on my life of either existing or not-existing God is none or pointless to consider.
With all that I know, rationally - there is no God.
Since I wrote this initial post, I have become a little wiser.
I still believe everything I wrote above, but I have a perspective on top of this as well. A perspective where God is real.
The way this can ever happen in the first place must mean that these two perspectives I hold are somewhat othogonal and not cancelling each other out. I believe that to be the case here.
The God I do believe in is one that is in collective consciousness, merely human. So no other species would have a god like we do. The idea of God is so natural to humans that even after hundreds of thousands of years, even with the advent of space age, it is still prevalent in our minds.
The concept has not been killed off by natural selection, so it has had significant advantages to have been survived this long. Even moreso, now that we have surpassed the age where natural selection functioned strongly, world relgiousness has decreased, leading to the hypothesis we might actually be getting less evolutionally fit by not believing in God.
Isn’t It An Illusion If It’s Just In Our Heads
I don’t think it really matters that people believe in something that does not exist physically. I think the concept of God and everything it entails, both through collective consciousness, religious texts and also personal development with the better religions, is still immensively powerful.
So, even though God isn’t something we can model per se, it is a strong force in the world, through humans.
Okay, But Still, What’s The Point
For a lot of people, God and its adjacent religion gives a lot of meaning to their lives.
You have someone to tell your problems to, even if you don’t have anyone else you trust. You’re never truly alone, even if God is just a mythical extension of yourself.
And if you’re a bit more open-minded, you can also pray for luck. It does not directly increase your luck, but with prayer you’ve already resolved your mind that you are more lucky. There’s lots of research to support that if you feel lucky, you tend to get more opportunities in life and vice-versa.
With the stronger religions, with religiousness comes also community. It is a tight-knit community of people with shared values. It is not only a source of social life, but also a strong support network. Without such connections, more sociable people tend to easily get depressed.
There’s no “lose condition” in believing in God. I don’t think it truly matters how sure you are in your beliefs, you can just embrace the weirdness of it all and enjoy the benefits it comes with. It is, after all, simply a human concept. And you are human.
A lot of mythology comes with God. Some if it is pretty cool. Some of the stories, like The Old Testament, to me are also, similarly to God, simply stories bound by collective consciousness and multiple writers over the years. I don’t think it is necessarily supernatural, but I’d say it still holds a lot of value and wisdom. It is sad some of it has been for the basis for suffering through wars, but it has also been the basis for a lot of well-lived lives. All-in-all, I’d say the mythos has been meaningful (and probably will be for a long time).