This is my first blog entry. I made this blog specifically for documenting my study of various religions.
I guess I should start with a little about myself. I recently graduated from Penn State with a B. S. in Information Sciences and Technology. Right now I’m waiting on the Army to give me a security clearance so I can start work… sometime soon. Anyway, I’ve been interested in religion since I first started seriously and critically thinking about it – which was around when I was 14 or 15. I was wearing a crucifix on the 4 train in NYC and one of my buddies asked if “I really believed that stuff” pointing to my crucifix. I said “I dunno” and then he poignantly rejoined “So why are you wearing that?”.
After that incident, I decided that I wanted find out what I really believed. Since I was (and still am) such a science-minded person, I wanted to verify Christianity – but well aware of human beings’ tendency towards Confirmation Bias (only looking for things that confirm our a priori assumptions and disregarding information that discredits it) I figured that the only way to prove something true was to try to prove it false. If that sounds strange, I’d like to point out that all of us follow that methodology to varying degrees (except when we have an emotional attachment to the outcome). Buying a TV, trying on clothes, doing our homework – the entirety of our school system is designed around the process of doubt. We wouldn’t have tests if that weren’t the case. We wouldn’t have to sit through job interviews if that weren’t the case. Antibiotics, house shopping, doing laundry… anything that we require some form of knowledge about, we go through a process of skepticism prior to arriving at our conclusion. The study of how people know what they know is called “epistemology”. I had no idea about even the existence of such a word in high school, but I did want to know “how people knew what they knew” and the most consistent methodology, as I just wrote, is examination through doubt.
So after high school in 1997, I joined the Air Force. At this time, I was an agnostic about my Christianity and the existence of god(s) in general. It wasn’t until I had full access to the Internet (1999) that my “verification” really started to go full steam ahead, and Christianity unfortunately, didn’t stand up to scrutiny. Most alarming about the concept of epistemology in the Christian paradigm is this concept of “faith”. You have to first have positive belief, and then you know. Which is a wacky epistemology to follow and downright dangerous if utilized in the wrong context. External critique and verification is absurd if “faith” is the ultimate arbiter of knowledge.
As an example of the profound epistemological deficiency of faith, here’s a less dangerous example. Let’s say two students are taking a math test and they finish at the same time. Someone who expresses some healthy skepticism might say “I’ll go over my test again to make sure I made all the right calculations”. Proponents of faith would simply say “I know it’s right, it feels right and I’ll hand in my test” without checking their answers. Naturally, the person who checked their answers before handing in the test would be doing the more rational thing. Most people would agree as well – mainly because there’s no emotional investment in a math test.
A more dangerous example of the intellectual bankruptcy of faith, let’s say two people have guns pointed at their head. The person of faith would say “I have faith that no harm will come to me if the trigger is pulled”. A more reasonable person would say “I want to check the gun first and make sure there are no bullets in the chamber or in the clip before pulling the trigger”. Obviously most people would still side with the more skeptical person and follow their example – except when it comes to religion!
As of this day, that’s always the final answer as to what Christianity boils down to – faith. Which is odd considering that fideism is frowned upon in at least Catholicism. Anyway, I’ll post more about Christianity in subsequent posts, since I’m constantly digging ever deeper into the history of Christianity. But after Christianity, I studied a bit about Islam (ironically in basic training I went to a Muslim church only because it met twice a week as opposed to the other churches that met once a week), some Judaism and eventually moved on to the religions of the “East”. Religions like Shintoism and Buddhism were more intellectually satisfying since they didn’t concentrate on a cosmic entity that cares that you touched a woman while she was menstruating, and more about living harmoniously with your surroundings.
While in the Air Force I became more of an Ontological Naturalist and most religions didn’t stand up to scrutiny once they posited the supernatural. But still, even eschewing the supernatural from Eastern religions didn’t hinder their message, while in Western religions the supernatural is where they derived their power from – right from might. As of right now, I consider myself an Ontological Naturalistic Pantheist of the Spinoza-Einstein variety and do meditate. My meditation, while it might sound sort of woo-woo supernatural-like, there’s definitely a verifiable change in my physiology while doing it, that other friends have been able to take note of.
As for the name of this blog, I named it “five” in Greek (pente – πέντε) because my last name means “five” in Latin, and my website is called deus diapente, which is Latin-esque for “fifth god” – which is ironic because a lot of the information in my website is incompatible with the [Western] view of god.