Midway through 2007, my first encounter with the God Delusion had moved to the back of my mind, but my faith in the Church as a guiding light for my life was pretty much gone.
Even so, my belief in a higher being held steadfast. I didn’t know exactly how, but I had no doubt that some god created everything and gave souls to humans and kept in touch with us through some kind of energy. And for those of us who sincerely tried to be nice and unselfish, to seek truth and learn and work hard, we would be connected to this higher being, and this connection would continue after we died, forever.
My reasoning was that the Catholics and other ancient religions may have gotten the details wrong, but their general perception was right. They all probably experienced a similar feeling of connectedness to nature, to each other, and to something higher, then tried to make sense of it and resorted to a story that kind of made sense and started telling it to their kids, who told it to their kids, until someone eventually put it in writing.
Many uncommunicated religions came up with relatively similar stories of how things started and then bridged that to how people should behave, this seems to further support the idea of connectedness. Even in modern times it seems people are still going through this process with new religions… Scientology came to be in the 1950’s and has some pretty far out stories about extraterrestrials and pure souls creating the world we know, and of course a path to enlightenment and eternal happiness. The fact that they got a relatively large number of people (25,000+ in the US according to Pew Research Center, 8-15 million according some Scientologists) to believe in this and back it up with investing money and time in it says a lot.
But how would I separate what these religions were getting right and what was bullshit? I definitely was done with blindly following Catholicism, but how could I find out how our creator really connected with me and how he wanted me to live life so my soul could live happily ever after?
Lucky for me, I received a double whammy of explaining god through science: the book The Tao of Physics, and the documentary “What the bleep do we know!?”, along with other sources full of experiments that seemed to prove that the supernatural not only existed, but could be proved with science.
Tao of Physics goes into quantum physics phenomena that point to a connected universe. One chapter explains that when two electrons of the same atom are in the same energy level, one will have a positive “spin” and one will have a negative “spin”. When one of them changes its spin, the other will change it instantaneously, even if they are separated over a long distance… proving there is an energy we cannot see but keeps things connected. Other similar experiments in the book convinced me that there was a scientific way to explain phenomena that pointed to an energy that connected objects, and that our own energy could affect other people or objects.
The documentary seemed even bolder. One experiment explained that the wave-particle properties of quantum particles could be manipulated by the observer. So depending on what the observer was looking for, the particle would change its behavior.
Another experiment showed a Japanese physicist (Dr. Emoto) that took water samples, froze them, and observed the ice crystals that were formed. He found that crystals made from water that was taken from peaceful places formed more beautiful crystals than those from water that was taken from stressful places. Water from test tubes that were labeled with words such as ‘beauty’, ‘peace’, and ‘love’, yielded beautiful crystals, while water that was labeled with ‘hatred’, ‘suffering’, and ‘fear’, didn’t produce crystals.
Another experiment had a computer randomly sending clicks to a right or left earphone. A subject would be asked to bring consciousness to either side, and then the number of clicks of each side were measured. When measured, the scientists found that humans could statistically influence or predict which side the next click would go to.
Finally, there was the Ganzfeld experiment, where two people were put in separate rooms and then one would send images to the other via telepathy… when given the chance of choosing one out of 4 images, the recipients were able to identify the correct one 32% of the time.
This was great! Scientific proof that god existed! Maybe not exactly as described by our religions, but if a force that can be altered by human thought exists, that would go a long way in explaining why religions exist. Maybe people with special sensitivity would feel these forces and use metaphors and allegories to explain it to their friends and their children.
I went online and shelled out $25 (plus $15 in shipping, handling, and duties to Guatemala) for the What the Bleep extended version: more than 5 hours of footage and in depth looks at the experiments that proved that the supernatural exists, and that us humans are special in this energy and can change it and influence it. Like the Jedi.
This made so much sense to me: we are all made of protons and electrons, the energy is passed from us to the environment and back, we are one. Kind of like the bible could be interpreted: this energy spurred evolution and out came us humans with our great brains and, more importantly, with the power to harness this energy and communicate with it, and through it to others!
I was extremely excited by my new discovery! Why was this not known by everyone? It’s science! And not that difficult to understand. The water crystals are proof that the environment feels us and reacts to us, the tape experiment evidence that our brains can manipulate the environment, the Ganzfeld experiment showed that we can communicate telepathically.
So, for the next couple of months I kept reading on these topics, very happy and convinced that I had finally found enough evidence to stop doubting the existence of god. “Dad! I’ve been learning about these experiments that seem to prove that humans can communicate telepathically, and there’s this one where people influence random clicking sounds that a computer makes.” “Great, son” a bit of an eye roll… he was not amused. I would’ve thought he’d be happy because in a way this would validate his catholic beliefs, but on the contrary, he seemed upset that I was looking outside the church for truth. He completely downplayed it, the way parents do to teenagers when they get overly excited with some rebellious cause (except I was 28 at the time). I was a little offended that here I was dedicating time to finding how god worked and he thought I was wasting my time.
I was on my way to finding happiness through new-age science religion, determined to merge it with the good parts of the catholic religion. I say I was on my way, and if this was 1997 I probably would’ve gotten there, but this was 2007. And where in 1997 weak arguments could pass as strong for a long time, in 2007 weak arguments were destroyed in seconds by the greatest weapon smartasses could ever ask for: Wikipedia.
I don’t know why it took me so long to look for outside opinions on my new beliefs. Looking back, I’m a little ashamed that I was supposed to be the great seeker of truth, but here I was reading this stuff and taking everything at face value. When I finally did go online to validate my sources, it took only minutes to completely destroy every bit of confidence I had on the Tao of Physics, the Ganzfeld Experiment, and my $40 investment in What the Bleep Do We Know… Down the Rabbit Hole, Extended Version.
The Tao of Physics is trashed by respected physicists for oversimplifying the similarities between physics and Buddhism, and for sticking to some theories included in his book that have since been disproven. My favorite quote criticizing the book comes from Jeremy Bernstein, professor of physics at Stevens Institute of Technology: “At the heart of the matter is Mr. Capra’s methodology – his use of what seem to me to be accidental similarities of language as if these were somehow evidence of deeply rooted connections. Thus I agree with Capra when he writes, ‘Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science but man needs both.’ What no one needs, in my opinion, is this superficial and profoundly misleading book.” (Wikipedia, 2016)
The Ganzfeld experiment has been widely criticized for its faulty experimental practices and has not been replicated with clear success. (Wikipedia, 2016)
What about What the Bleep Do We Know? Where should we start… it was co-directed by three members of Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment, a spiritual sect established by JZ Knight, who claims to channel a 35,000 year-old being. The “experts” quoted in the movie include JZ Knight, “scientists” from weirdly-named institutions such as Institute of Noetic Sciences, Maharishi University of Management, an anesthesiologist, a couple of theologists, and one pissed off actual scientist that was “outraged at the final product” because he felt the film was edited in such a way that it misrepresented his views.
So here I was, a little disappointed that I had put all these hours into going deeper into Catholicism, into the basic pillars of Christianity, then into new-age religious pseudoscience, and the more I delved in, the clearer it seemed that none was based on true foundations. I was scared shitless… how was I going to continue living and being happy if there was no god and (especially!) no afterlife? But also, how the fuck did I not see any of this before? Why do religious people not see that their beliefs are based on things that don’t make sense?
I don’t know about rest of them, but I can tell my story.