I just finished reading Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. I liked it pretty well. I find Dawkins mostly fun to read, and quite talented (usually) at making things like the science of evolution make a little more sense to me than they did before. I also find him sort of annoying and condescending. Though I tend to agree with him on many things, I find that his presentation comes off as a bit too self-satisfied. In that past I have thought he spent a bit too much time harping on how stupid one would have to be to accept biblical creation as the true story. This book seems much the same to me.
The biggest point that I'm left with this time is that he is arguing that we should do away with God and religion. I don't so much mind this proposition (as I understand it) but see no practical way to implement it. Also, he makes a very clear point that people who are "religious" in a fundamentalist sense are often poorly educated, and that fundamentalism is dangerous. He seems to think that we can get rid of fundamentalism by getting rid of religion (by......?) but doesnt' go into what those poorly educated people will do with whatever longing led them to fundamentalism in the first place.
In any case, my real point was more about the personal effect it had on me. Early on he makes a distinction between 'supernatural religion' and 'Einsteinian religion'
The latter being pretty well summed up by this quote from Einstein,
"I am a deeply religious nonbeliever... I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism. The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive."
This actually does a really good job of summing up part of my spirituality. Except for the use of the words "religion" and "mysticism" I myself interpret religion to mean unthinking acceptance of doctrinal or scriptural "rules" or "truth" that stand without evidence to support them. This is clearly (well, I think clearly) not what he meant.
Mysticism, on the other hand, for me, has something to do with transcending the "usual" - feelings of exceptional connectedness, and/or awe, which to me seem completely compatible with nature as God (or any non-supernatural interpretation of "God") Perhaps the meanings of the words have subtlely shifted over time, or simply between the minds of Einstein and me.
I am left, however, sort of high and dry, as usual. I tried to discuss this experience with each of my two exes. One seemed not to want to hear about it because atheism is a big turn off, the other because spirituality is completely uninteresting. Where does a spiritual atheist find a spiritual home?
Dawkins himself does little to address this for me. He himself seems quite ready to find a sort of spiritual wonder in the unravelling of quarks and other scientific ideas that are beyond my understanding, and what's more, mostly beyond my interest.
I find spiritual renewal and excitement in nature - swimming in isolated, clear, beautiful lakes, watching and hearing (and sometimes feeling) a thunderstorm, just being aware of the ocean. These can by mystical (but not religious) experiences for me.
Understanding these things can be kinda cool (why thunder happens, the amazing vastness of the ocean and all the life within it that we don't understand) - but that is not a spiritual experience. Science is no substitute for this God, this wonder, but then the God in the Bible most certainly isn't. I am amazed at how few people I have encountered who share this experience.
I said once, when I was discussing this stuff with Liz, that it's like a baby being born is a miracle. It's not supernatural, we know how to get it to happen, and we know a lot about how it happens (zygotes and embryos and genes and all)- and that doesn't affect the miraculousness of it at all.
At the same time, knowing all that stuff, being a genius to embryology, or unlocking some new key to conception, is not anything like birth.
I don't believe "God" (in the sense of a being with intent) makes miracles happen, and I do believe that given infinite time and resources, science could explain them all (meaning that they are theoretically explicable without "God", but probably won't ever all be so) - but neither has any bearing on the miraculousness of the miracles themselves. To me there's an immense amount of power of spirit there, but sometimes I feel almost entirely alone in witnessing it.