Let's just agree to disagree.
My sister, Liz, considers herself to be a spiritual human being. She claims to have had many experiences during her life that she attributes to the supernatural. She believes that she is an old soul, recycled yet again because there were still unresolved issues in her previous human incarnations, necessitating another life; a return. We had a conversation last week and exchanged views back and forth, neither getting anywhere. She desperately believes in the higher spiritual forms, afterlife, reincarnation, etc. When I was younger, I tried to believe these things too. I needed to believe them. That was then.
I told her during our conversation that I didn't believe in any of it. I don't; I think it's all crap. I'm fine with the fact that we are simple biological creatures with no purpose other than to live. I also sincerely believe that when we die, we die forever - living only in the memories of those who knew us. I don't believe in heaven, nirvana, the happy hunting grounds, or any other invented eternity, nor do I believe that our existence has a higher purpose. I don't need this explanation; it is of no use to me to live what I believe to be a lie.
Of course, she can't understand how I could think this way, nor why I "bother living at all". In her mind, without having some promise of forever, there's no reason to live a moral life, to be a nice person, or even to exist at all.
I argue that morality and religion (or divine belief) of any kind are not mutually exclusive. I live a good life because right and wrong are very real to me. Killing someone is wrong, stealing things is wrong, fucking someone over is wrong, and being an asshole all the time isn't very cool either. I'm working on that last one, it's the hardest for me. Anyway, I live this way because I choose to, not because of some crusty old bastard in the sky shaking his finger at me and telling me to be nice or else. .
I think all gods are man made, not just the christian god. Is that so hard to accept? Do you believe in god? Why? Do you believe that the Egyptian gods were real? Why not? How about the Greek gods? Why are they not real but the christian god is? They believed in them, and were the two most advanced cultures of the ancient world. Sorry, I digress.
My sister wrote me this email (edited for relevance) the day after our conversation:
Thanks for the call last night. I'm sorry that you seemed to be so annoyed with me regarding out philosophical conversation. I never meant to offend or make you think that I am trying to change your belief system. I know that experience is always the determining factor. Although I sincerely hope you will have an experience that will change your perception someday. I Love you Tim. Keep in touch.
This was my response to her:
Don't worry about it, Liz. I know how you are and what's more, I know how I am. I used to be into the spiritual stuff too, as you know. I'm not anymore, because I can't believe in something that, at least for me, has always come up empty. I really wanted to believe in psychics, homeopathic treatments, acupuncture, religion, everything. I went into checking these things out with a very receptive, even yearning mind. I WANTED so badly to be able to astral project, to find a higher power, to go to heaven or whatever cosmic afterlife, etc., but none of it panned out.
The more I studied it, the more invented and contrived it became to me. Every single aspect of spirituality, the occult, religion, mental powers, etc. left me with questions that couldn't be answered, even by the 'experts'. It changed me. I started wondering: "what if this is all bunk?" Well, when I doubted it, I found evidence that said it was bunk. There was a distinct lack of scientific explanation. When tested, holy people are not able to perform, homeopathic cures and acupuncture don't work, but science does. Does it provide all the answers? Oh, hell no, but it never claimed to. It does provide a lot of answers though, and to me, those answers make sense. I couldn't prove that it existed, but I could make a pretty strong case that it didn't. I know you're sad about that change is me, and in a way I am too, but I've become very comfortable with reality, and science provides me the answers I need.
There are many things that science cannot explain. Not yet. But to assume that because we don't have the technology to explain something it must be supernatural, well, that is a leap that I can't make. I'm open to the possibility that I'm wrong about these things, but demanding proof before throwing a financial and emotional investment in is totally reasonable to me.
I've been erroneously accused of being closed-minded, when in fact it's just the opposite. If you can show me that something works, I'm in. I'm there. I'll believe. But I can't walk down the street, see a car with a "For Sale" sign on it, then go pay for it before I know it works. That's where we'll always disagree. I won't take things on faith. Just because there are things that have happened which initially defy explanation, doesn't mean that they'll never be explained; I can't chalk it up to the divine until a rational explanation comes up.
Here is a very short article on open-mindedness and skepticism. This is where I am right now. Pay particular attention to the third paragraph.
The Open Mind
I love you Liz, and I'm sure that your intentions with your spirituality have ALWAYS been good. I'm not mad at you for trying to share things that you believe in Really, I'm not. I used to believe as you do; I know where you're coming from. As I said though, that stuff never panned out for me. Now, I think it's all woo-woo crap to take advantage of people's beliefs and make money. Like I said, we'll agree to disagree and we'll get along fine.
Thanks for responding to my email. Thanks for the article, I have a much better understanding now. You read me well. Yes, I am sad at the change in you, remembering you as you once were. I still hope that you will have an experience that alters your perception about your spiritual greatness. I have had many experiences over the years that have altered my perceptions and shattered old beliefs. I know there is much more to learn so I explore and seek out information that "rings true" (something that defies scientific explanation) to me. I like to share that information however I can. It is never my intent to push it on anyone. I have come to trust my intuition more and more over the years and I know it to be accurate and trustworthy. I do appreciate the fact that you have an understanding of me, and offer me acceptance regardless of whether you believe or not. I do love you very much and always will. I am glad this does not create a rift between us....I didn't have a good feeling when I hung up the phone with you the other night.
Now who says we can't all get along? She believes, I disbelieve, we go on and keep loving each other anyway.
I think there's a lesson in here somewhere...