Some of My Views on Science and Religion

When I look at religious truth, such as cosmology or creation myths, I do not see it trying to supplant science’s place.  What I see it does is give particular meaning to reality.  I’m not a literalist in my faith so I don’t believe, for instance, that humans literally came from trees.  I don’t believe that dwarves in physical reality evolved from maggots, or that the world hangs on a great Tree in physical reality.  I also do not look at these as simply archetypal.  My beliefs are more complex than that.  When I look at the myths these thoughts come from, I see them as a way of placing oneself in reality.  We are just one more being in the cosmos, and there are beings who have been here prior to us after Creation.  My Gods, according to the myths I believe in, come from the Void, from the same place as all Creation.  The two worlds of Fire and Ice colliding and expanding, resulting in the Universe from the melting and cooling of their meeting, does not, to me, represent the objective truth but a framing of reality.  Some look at this and call it blasphemous and others look at it and call it ludicrous, and I shrug and say “This is what I believe”.  I do not have to have a literal belief for such a thing to have deep, meaningful truths to me.  I do not have to hold a literal belief of that creation myth to believe the Gods are real and have impact upon the Worlds.

I also hold that the Big Bang Theory is probably one of the best in terms of understanding the creation of the Universe.  I believe science is one of the best ways for us to understand the world around us.  I do not see my faith or science at odds.  My faith is a complement to my understanding of what science tells me is the objective truth.  My faith does not comment on gravity; it does not need to.  Science tells me what gravity does, and how it affects reality.

Yet that creation myth, as I have said, helps to frame reality for me.  How does it frame reality, against, say, the Big Bang?  I can look at two seemingly dichotomous views and see what it says about the nature of reality.  The science behind the Big Bang Theory tells me, from science’s standpoint, the why, how, where, when and what of the Big Bang.  The myth of the worlds of Ice and Fire arising from the Void, meeting and forming the Universe can tell me that all things begin in primal chaos, and that the Universe sets itself into its own motion, that out of chaos comes order.  One could say prima facie it is a scientific statement.  I would say that both frame different parts of reality, and where they come together is that one tells me as best as it knows objective reality of an event (science), and the other gives deeper, philosophical and spiritual meaning to the event (religion).  Science is not spirituality because science deals in data, facts, and theories that can be tested and proven or disproven.  Religion can operate like that, but it is not that.  Religion deals with the deeper why questions, the metaphysics, purpose of reality and life, the spiritual nature of reality, and other like ideas.  You could say philosophy could do this job, too, and I would agree.  At some point ideas in religion must be taken on faith, discarded, or religion must moderate its views to align itself with better data or understanding that science gives to it.  That said, I do see in many ways where science and religion depart from one another, and cannot properly inform each other.  I don’t feel that religion need have a stranglehold on truth, even ones where it claims to have them.  I do feel that everything should be open to questioning.

I question, though, science’s investigation of religious claims for two reasons: 1) Can it really objectively test these claims?  2) If religion is a framing of reality can it be tested, and if so, by what criteria?  Can science test the ‘truth’ of Odin’s existence?  Can it test the ‘truth’ of reincarnation?  If religious claims can be tested by science, what are the implications of any experiments and tests run to prove, disprove, or evaluate religious claims?

Can science be tested by religion?  1) Can it really objectively test the claims science makes?  2)  If science is an understanding and explanation of reality, can it be tested by religion, and if so, by what criteria?  Can religion test the Big Bang Theory?  Can it test the Theory of Evolution?  Can it test the Law of Thermodynamics?  If scientific claims can be tested by religion, what are the implications of any religious scrutiny and exploration that is done to prove, disprove, or evaluate scientific claims?

Realistically speaking I do not see a way to prove or disprove the existence of Gods, spirits, or anything else like that because there is not an objective way to prove they exist or do not exist.  I don’t see any way for religion to test science either.  I see them as stating two very different things by the implication of their works, the framing they both do of reality, and the very ways in which they operate.  I don’t see either way of being able to properly evaluate one another on their own ground, or the other’s.  Science does not deal in religious truths because it is the investigation of the physical world through certain reproducible ways, theoretical thinking regarding the how or why of phenomena backed up by hypotheses and educated guesses.  Religion does not deal in scientific truths because it does not investigate the physical world, but can give it deeper meaning through its spiritual beliefs, metaphysics, cosmology, and philosophical underpinnings.  In short, they neither inform nor explore this world in anything resembling similar ways.

Failing Your Community

You know when you screw up big.  You screw up so monumentally huge that you barely see it coming.  You’re stuck in your own consensus-trance, convinced you’re doing fine and doing right be people.  Reality slaps you in the face like a sledgehammer.  I’m writing this because the community I belong to hold me to standards.  I’m writing this because I hold myself, and any Pagan leader to standards.  I failed that community through hubris, stepping on people, and making them feel small.  I failed that community by letting my insecurity and emotion rule, rather than stick to what I should have been doing: serving others.  I failed as a shaman, as a Pagan, as a friend, and even as a lover.  This community, rather than saying “Don’t ever come back” is being generous, and willing enough to give me a second chance.  Part of my deal with them, in seeing me through this transformation process from where I am, to where I am better, is to chronicle it.

It may seem odd that they would want to chronicle it, or that I would be willing to write about it.  As I’ve said here many times, I’ve hoped this blog would help people.  Perhaps by writing about what I’ve done, how I’ve hurt people, and how I hope to correct it, I can help other people avoid the mistakes, negligence, and poor choices I’ve made.  Perhaps by writing about what I’ve done, what I’m doing, and what I’ll do, I can help myself heal and make myself a better person.  It may not make everything better; the kinds of hurt I’ve given to people through my action don’t just spontaneously heal.

I’ll be blunt: I’ve damaged my hamingja, my group luck or spiritual force, if not outright destroyed it.  I did trance-possession work on a regular basis with my group.  That eventually became tainted with my ego, and people have seen more of me than the Gods especially lately in that work.  I did trance-possession work for my lover on a regular basis and she feels betrayed by this.  I can hardly blame her; I was supposed to step out of the way, facilitate a true and honest connection to deity.  I’ve failed.  I’ve hurt people, made them suspicious of my motives, and may have damaged peoples’ perspectives of the practice.  To the spirit-workers, shamans, and others out there who have struggled to make a good name for this incredible spiritual work, I apologize, and know that the apology is not enough.  I hope through my work to fix at least some of the damage I’ve done.  I say the same to those whose materials and training I’ve used in my work.  I have also made people feel inferior, hurt peoples feelings needlessly, and demonstrated a lack of caring toward people who, given I am in a leadership position, should be serving and taking care of before my inferiority issues or wants.  Over the next six or so months I’ll be doing a lot of introspection, healing, personal work, and whatever other work I need to do to fix this so it won’t happen again.

I don’t really look to my Gods to forgive me.  Odin, and most of my Gods and spirit allies don’t really deal in forgiveness.  Most of my Gods deal in doing, in action.  Redeeming myself is more important than forgiveness, which, as the Merriam-Webster dictionary points out means “to give up resentment of or claim to requital” and “forgive a debt”.   So these posts will be more geared toward these ideas, thoughts, and actions.  I’ll reach out for commentary from the community around me, as well as the Gods and spirits, to help me do better and be more.

I cannot go onto public forums and cry out about how we need to hold leaders to a higher standard without holding myself, or being held, to a higher standard myself.  As time goes on, I hope to rise to that standard again.  Perhaps in the meantime I will be an example of what not to do.  I hope in the meantime I’ll be an example of healing, not just of myself, but especially of a community with a single leader with his head in the wrong place.