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Two Sides of the Same Coin

A pristinely clear and cold stream flows by at my feet, its brown and reddish stones burnished by the fresh current and glistening in the sunlight. A woodland hawk soars through the bare branches of the oaks and sycamores, and alights on a branch near the bank on the other side.

belief in godThough the park is merely a quarter mile wide strip cutting through the middle of this rapidly growing college town, the only sounds I hear are the current gurgling by and the wind through the nearly bare trees.

Three laborers—young men in florescent jackets and hooded sweatshirts—pull up across the creek in a truck and trailer loaded with gear. They grab their lunches and walk the 30 meters into the picnic site. The roughest looking one, with sunglasses on and hood up, looks across at the man sitting incongruously in the sun on the opposite bank. He stares for a few seconds, I wave, and he waves back in a surprisingly friendly manner.

A meditative state ignites, and a strong feeling of affinity and affection for everything surges through me. Indeed, it seems to flow into and pour out of one at the same time.

Someone wrote me recently and matter of factly stated she was an atheist. Since I most often meet up with believers who think I’m a heretic or apostate, I asked what she meant by atheism, though she didn’t ask what I meant by the numinous.

To my mind, belief in God, or non-belief in God are two sides of the same coin. Neither has anything to do with discovering the truth of the matter.

Christians believe God started the whole shebang, and is letting things play out in a mechanistic universe, with humans having “free will,” and God intervening from time to time.

Does atheism mean not believing in such a separate ‘Creator’ or ‘Supreme Being?’ If so, I understand and am in accord with this kind of ‘a-theism,’ since I’m sure there is no such deity.

Or is atheism the belief that the universe is simply a completely random, mechanistic, and deterministic interaction of particles and waves, which means there is nothing beyond the mind of man? To my mind, that, as much as any belief (for indeed it is a belief) is a projection of thought, maintaining man and self at the center of the universe.

Doubt is the most important quality, both for a scientist and for a genuinely spiritual person. It means the capacity for continually questioning oneself, and remaining with the challenges of life.

Of course doubt can go too far and paralyze the mind. Doubt, I once heard, is like having a dog on a leash; you have to know when to let the dog run, atheism 1and when to put it back on the leash.

Few people however, whether secular or so-called religious, sustain such doubt. The human mind has a need for certainty, which very often comes at the expense of truth, leading to a fixed set of beliefs and ideas, whether theistic or atheistic.

Even the mindset that “it’s all relative” (that is, personally subjective) is a belief system that closes out inquiry, insight and inward growth. Can one live that way—questioning everything, settling on nothing?

Having regularly experienced something beyond thought since my late teens, I’m sure there is an infinite immanence that is inseparable from nature—and only separable from humans because we live in the habitual separativeness of thought. My doubt has been whether that immanence cares about or is utterly indifferent to humanity.

Sentient creatures such as humans, creatures such as us in whom the power of ‘higher thought’ has evolved, pose the greatest riddle of all. How can the universe evolve a creature at odds with its basic nature?

The universe is an incomprehensibly vast, infinitely layered movement in wholeness, in which so-called disorder and randomness play a part. But humans, who evolved along with all other life, represent a deep contradiction, since we are generating true disorder, and destroying this beautiful planet.

Does humanity’s ultimate fate matter in any way to the universe? Given that there is an immanent cosmic intelligence beyond thought, and the human brain has the capacity to perceive it, it stands to reason that the answer is yes—to a point.

The human being can awaken intelligence within, and resolve this existential contradiction inwardly, not just intellectually.

Martin LeFevre

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