I had an interesting conversation with a new acquaintance a few weeks ago. I haven’t really thought too much about it, but I thought it would be worth sharing. Our conversation, of course, started with small talk, but for some reason, we both felt very comfortable with each other, and I found out in a fairly short amount of time, that this person was also Christian.

The interesting part of this is that she and I had very different views of things like science, philosophy, mythology and logic going into the conversation. It also turned out that she and I came to faith through very different means, had different upbringings, and were part of different denominations within Christianity. All this being said, I want to explain, in particular, my view of science and logic, as well as some broader sociological issues from my personal Catholic point of view.

As I mentioned in a recent post, there was a time (mostly through middle and high school) when I was Catholic in practice, but Agnostic in belief. I went through the motions without actually knowing what any of it meant. A lot of this has a lot to do with where I grew up, who I hung out with, and what my education was like.

I grew up in a suburban town in Massachusetts where the political standpoint on many issues tends to be relatively liberal, and the line between church and state is drawn boldly. When I was a kid, the most important things in my family’s life were our extended family in Maine, and my education, including the cultivation of my imagination. Often, these things superseded God entirely, so our church attendance was infrequent, and we didn’t really talk about God at home.

My education as a kid was delivered from an atheistic standpoint. I went to public school, and no one, kids or teachers, talked about God. Therefore, my initial understanding of Truth was from a scientific and mathematical standpoint. 1 + 1 = 2. The Big Bang created the Universe. God was there somewhere, sure, but at the time it didn’t really matter to me. Then when I got what you might call the equidistant of an internship in high school developing a disability advocacy program, I ended up working with a devout Jewish guy, my brother’s age, and a Muslim woman, ¬†who I’d guess was in her twenties, and it was interesting to work with people of other faiths who were also far more invested than I was.

Then I went to a Christian college, as I have previously mentioned. Although we were saturated with the culture and Christian worship, I ended up taking a few philosophy classes where the whole point was to think logically and atheistically. All of this comes back to my conversation a few weeks ago. My acquaintance was surprised that I put so much faith in physics, for example. However, this also relates to another question she asked me. She asked, “So how do understand Greek mythology, since it was once an actual belief system?” I told her that this was a belief system based on what was inferable and observable at the time. I put faith in science because it can prove what is inferable and observable to be true. I also explained that I have never thought God and science were at odds, and that God often works through, natural, scientifically verifiable means.

One last thing I would like to add is that I have come to understand that a belief system has stages, and is personalized invariably by everyone. What I mean is that the primary stage of one’s belief system informs their secondary, their secondary informs their third, etc. Specifically this refers, in my case to my understanding of science through Christianity, my understanding of politics and culture through both, and my understanding of economics through all three. In other words, certain beliefs hold priority over others, but they all inform each other to some degree. If science can help me understand what God is doing, then great.

Before Mountains Were Mountains

Mountains were mountains before we called them that. Then we claimed them and gave them names and the wonder was lost. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be the first person to see a mountain, then to climb it and say you did it? We named mountains and rivers after our heroes: Mount Washington; the Hudson River.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for the early humans to discover desert and jungle and tundra? As we gained in knowledge, as the maps filled in, we lost in amazement and in imagination. Fish were fish before we knew we could catch them and even keep them. Once upon a time we were the hunted. Now we are hunters.

What is left to explore? What is left to find? What is left to imagine and amaze and destroy? Can it destroy us?

We flew a spacecraft to the moon. Now that’s done and we’re on to Mars, the war god’s planet. Will we find any signs of life, or did they make our same mistakes years and years ago?

Have you ever tried to count the stars? I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have a lot of time and a long, long night. It’s like trying to count molecules or cells under a microscope; little signs of life. The universe pulses with breath and heart beat. We see it in our dreams. We hear it in melody. We sometimes fall asleep to the beat, beat, beating of waves.

What is it you believe? How did we get here? Why are trees so inherently tree-like? Why is it true that 1+1 = 2? Do oysters make a sound? The world is not just chaos. We didn’t start with maximum entropy. Do dogs bark because they should or because they evolved to? Could it be both? What is right and what is random? If there is an order to things, then someone must have ordered it. God made sunsets pink and said it was good. God gave man poetry and the Big Bang Theory and the invention of internal combustion engines.

We are borrowers of big ideas. We are discoverers of the unknowable, unclaimable, untamable and great. We choose what is given; we are given free choice. We see freedom and we will it to be.

Star Wars, Spirituality And Sibling Polarity

It’s really quite funny and interesting to see the things that drastically different people have in common. Last night my brother and my friend and I spent several hours talking about Star Wars and nerding over untold story that isn’t shown in the movies. We did watch episode 1 last night, but before that we went to Barnes and Noble and got a couple books that explain a lot of stuff about Jedi and Sith philosophy, fighting techniques, etc.

The 3 of us had sort of forgotten how awesome Star Wars is until a couple weeks ago when my friend and I randomly decided to watch episodes 4 and 5. Since then we’ve been looking up back story and insights about the new movies.

The reason I bring this up is because other than Star Wars and a few other things, my brother and I have nothing in common. Last night I asked, “What do you think, Sam; Jedi or Sith?” (implying the question, which side would you be on). He said Jedi right away, and it makes perfect sense. Sam is very calm and analytical. He’s not super emotional, and he doesn’t really get super attached to things or people.

I said Sith because I am a very emotional, impulsive person sometimes, and I get very attached to people. I also don’t particularly like rules and I have a tendency to break them when I think they are stupid and it won’t hurt anyone to break them.

When we finally stopped talking about Star Wars last night, we got talking about physics because my dad had been watching a video about how to fix something on YouTube earlier on the night, so Sam decided to look up a slow motion video of a gun being shot underwater. The guy who shot the gun then explained the physics behind what was happening with the bubbles and I got a bit lost.

Sam said, “You don’t find that interesting?” Actually, I find physics incredibly interesting. I just can’t wrap my head around a lot of it. Trying to explain physics to me is like me trying to explain anything to Sam. I’m not good at explaining things for a couple reasons. I often use sound effects instead of words, and I use metaphors and analogies that only make sense in my head.

Somehow we finally got on the subject of God and I asked, “What do you think about God?” I really had no idea what my brother believes. I had tried to ask that question many times before, but for some reason I just thought it would sound annoying. Sam said that he believes that there could be a God, but he has no evidence to prove it or disprove it, so he has to leave it at “I don’t know.”

I’m not ecstatic about it, but I’d rather him say I don’t know than absolutely not. I don’t know means that at least he’s not opposed to the idea of God. The thing that bothers me a little is that God doesn’t seem to be a fan of the whole evidence thing. We shouldn’t need solid, tangible evidence of his existence because we have faith.

I guess the difference between Sam and I is that I’m willing to believe some things based on a gut feeling or things that I’ve experienced that seem to point to something supernatural, and I was looking for God. I was willing to believe that he was real because I wanted him to be. I think faith requires some imagination, not much of which Sam has. I don’t mean that in a mean way. He just finds the “real world” much more interesting than anything spiritual or fictional, which seems so backwards to me.

Compared to what I can read about or even just make up, the real world is awfully drab. It’s also too unpredictable. What I like about fiction is that you can count on the good guys to win; at least most of the time. Maybe that makes me an escapist, but I think it means I’m creative and I’m an optimist.

I think that truth and inspiration can come from fiction and faith where Sam thinks that only science can reveal all truth. We don’t talk about this stuff too much because we’re currently at an impasse and I wouldn’t be surprised if we always will be. When it comes to Star Wars, though, we are completely on the same page.