Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Having your faith and eating it too

Yesterday I got my first actual religious dissenter in the comments. She is, by all appearances, a well-meaning young lady who happens to think that the Big Bang is "fake" (a usage I'm not familiar with -- unless she means the evidence was planted, or fabricated? And if so, by whom?). Anyway, I really do have some less controversial posts in the pipeline, but I want to take a moment to address why I think religion and science can coexist.

Now, as it happens, I was raised secular humanist, and at this point I consider myself an atheist. However, to me, the question of whether there is a God is a lot less important than the question of how the universe works (and, to the best of our knowledge, why it works that way). If we can agree on that -- and there's no reason we shouldn't be able to, since all of science's claims are testable and there's nobody more interested in genuine conflicting evidence than a scientist -- then religious differences should be wholly moot. After all, by the time we really find out who's right, it's too late to change our minds anyway. Personally I don't believe in God because I think that's what Occam's Razor dictates; given observation and experimentation, there's no need for us to multiply causes by postulating a supernatural hand behind every phenomenon. Beyond parsimony, though, there's no real difference between "F=ma" and "F=ma because God made it that way." The important thing is that F=ma. (If your religion is so strict that you must disagree with F=ma, please don't drive.)

My problem with religion, as it seems to be practiced by many Christians and undoubtedly by religious groups with less power and influence as well, is that it appears to be tantamount to intellectual stagnation. Let me explain why that should worry people who aren't intellectuals. In order to declare unilaterally that science must be wrong because the Bible is right, a religious person has to assume that God did not intend the human race to learn anything beyond what he (for lack of a beter pronoun) told us in our cultural childhood. Not only does this seem cruel and contradictory, but it commits the (common) error of telling a supposedly omniscient and ineffable deity what he does and does not expect of his creation. Effectively, it dismisses the entire development of civilization -- which one might imagine an omnipotent creator having some kind of hand in -- in favor of asserting a limited and limiting God, one who does not intend any development or change over his creation's lifespan. This limiting God might be psychologically easier to deal with, since he basically just tells everybody the rules one time and that's it, but he is a creation of the intellectually lazy. The God that monotheists purportedly worship is not thus to be second-guessed.

Listen: there are practical problems with believing that the Bible is the precise word of God, problems involving -- at the very least -- translation through several languages. But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that all dictation and translation went smoothly, and that the Bible as we have it in our respective native languages today is more or less exactly what God transmitted to his faithful scribes (credited and uncredited), two thousand plus years ago. Now, no matter how you slice it, that's pretty far in the past. If we go the parodically-fundamentalist route and claim that the world was created in 4004 BCE, the human race has had a whopping third of our development since the New Testament events occurred. If we choose to date the dawn of civilization back to when humans started wearing shoes, it's a much tinier percentage, but that seems like a pretty loose definition of "civilization." A quick Wikipedia search has the earliest possible evidence of agriculture showing up in the 10th century BCE, the Mesolithic period, so I'm going to go with that: on a very conservative estimate, human civilization has gone through about 20 percent of its development since the events of the New Testament, and much more since the Old Testament was written down. Add to this the fact that key events in human development may be happening at an exponentially increasing rate, and you have a very simple conclusion: We've changed since then.

Why does this matter? Well, God may have transmitted the Bible, but he was transmitting it to people who just didn't know very much. They didn't know very much in comparison to us, and they certainly didn't know very much in comparison to him. Why would we think that he could have managed -- that he would have even tried -- to explain the full range of potential knowledge? Imagine, as an illustration, trying to explain the plot of Hamlet to a six-year-old. I've done it, so I can tell you from experience that it involves simplifications, omissions, and recasting with words and ideas that they can understand. In no way does this change Hamlet itself, or assure that they can't read it when they get older. One shouldn't be constrained to simplifications meant for a child. I'm no theologian, but isn't God meant to be a good and loving teacher? I can't imagine even a bad teacher who would expect a high school student to operate on elementary-school knowledge. Let's say that in fifth grade you learn that the types of matter are solid, liquid, and gas. Then in ninth grade, they tell you that there's also plasma, which isn't exactly any of these. Do you refuse to acknowledge the existence of plasma because you weren't told about it when you were ten? Would a good teacher, counselor, or parent suggest that you do so?

Theology isn't easy, but dogma is. That's the point of dogma. I grew up with a consistent sort of background radiation of science knowledge, so I don't think that being generally informed about science is so tough, but I daresay it's a lot harder to read and think than it is to not read and think. So science is harder than dogma, and maybe it's very tempting to believe you can go the easy way and live out of a single book that you probably haven't even read all the way through, secure in the knowledge that there's nothing to know besides what's already written down. But the way I see it, if you believe in God, then insistently clinging to what he told humanity when we were young and stupid is ungrateful. It underestimates God and shows a lack of respect for his creation. It implies, contrary to what that very same Bible says, that he put us here to learn nothing and to grow not at all. It actively rejects what he's been telling us as we've grown, in favor of what he said when we were young. It won't do its homework; it wants bedtime stories.

I know several good Christians, by which I mean that they're good people and also that they try to actually follow Christ's tenets of love and tolerance. (This is in contrast to the most vocal and hateful Christians that we all have to deal with.) I know good Muslims too, and good Jews, and good pagans -- all of these religions boil down to "don't be a jerk," after all. I know lots of good atheists, since we have to be decent because we think decency is the way to go, rather than because we were told to or because we fear punishment. (I know atheists who don't believe in decency too, of course.) And I have no problems with the religious beliefs of my religious friends. At the most extreme, we find our differences interesting but pity each other secretly; more often, we agree on most things, including the fact that my lack of faith in no way impinges on their faith or vice versa. In fact, most often, I don't even know my friends' religious commitments. I mention this by way of pedigree: I want to establish that I have never told anyone to change their beliefs, or mocked them for their faith. I mock people, but I mock them for their actions -- particularly when they claim religion as an excuse for acting in a way their God, as originally described, would never approve of. Obviously, telling Bobby Henderson that you hope he dies is one of those ways. I believe that rejecting science is one, too.

31 Comments:

Julie said...

Ok- from someone of the religious upbringing and current practice- most Christians who operate this way use Christianity as an excuse NOT to become educated. In our uncertain society that tends to discard cultural traditions, this is a very comforting way to interpret the Christian religion. It basically ostracizes anyone who rocks the boat and allows power-hungry people to take advantage of those who don't have a lot of education.
Sometimes, I really can't blame them- I get just as disgusted with scientists as I do with religious finatics- they seem to rock the boat just for the sake of rocking the boat- this is a waste of time. HOWEVER, let me say this- Christianity is a tool by which many people evolve into a scientific frame of mind. It provides opportunities that are not available in higher education. Often, unintentionally, higher education is only available to people of more privileged backgrounds.If you really get the heart of a group of long-time Christians they are all struggling with the questions of the creation of the world. They just feel too insecure with the secular world to allow themselves to be subjected to its treachery. Academia and education are a scary world- it can take YEARS for some to catch up to post-graduate mentality. (I sound rather snobby right now but it's true)
I think most of the relgious freaks are just really, really scared. We need to make them feel encouraged to learn science. Scientists are not tough, hard-nosed, extremely boring folk. Science is full of design, wonder, art and laughter. Yes, there are some apparent contradictions between the book of genesis and the scientific story of creation but God did not create humans to be able to completely comprehend the earth. I have to assume that the contradiction in the book of genesis lies in the my lack of understanding about some dimension of the world. On some level of intelligence the contradiction makes sense- just not to me.

8/02/2006 9:49 PM  
Anonymous said...

Well said. I have used a simplification of this premise to explain my stance (not that my mother ever listens), i.e. my personal belief is that, assuming there is a god, he/she didn't give me a decent brain just so I could let it go to waste, ignore it, shut it off, let it atrophy, etc.

8/02/2006 11:45 PM  
jess said...

Anon, I like your version... the same basic gist, but on a personal level.

8/02/2006 11:48 PM  
Julie said...

Sorry- I didn't mean to imply that we shouldn't use our brains. Of course we should use our brains. God gave us a basis for which to start exploring our natural universe. He wants us to explore the joy of discovering this earth. He just happens to be omniscient and omnipotent while we are not. This doesn't mean we are stupid and incompetent. It means he is super, super smart- beyond the genius of genius's IQ.

8/03/2006 1:56 AM  
jess said...

Julie, I'm pretty sure Anonymous was refuting his or her mother, not you. :>

8/03/2006 7:26 AM  
JordanBaker said...

This is very, very well written, and I hope the person who inspired it takes the time to read it, carefully.

I like it because it reminds me of the reasons I'm very happy I was raised going to a church staffed by Dominicans rather than another order of Catholic priests--the main lesson we learned in catechism (aside from the whole "the central tenets of our faith are respect for life and commitment to social justice" thing) was that questioning was our job; that a faith that couldn't survive constant, active interrogation was not a faith worth having; that God had given us brains and free will and that he'd be really pissed off if we didn't use both of them.

8/03/2006 9:29 AM  
Lynne said...

I think you're right on the money here. There is a very big difference between 'real' religion and dogma. And if you take the word 'religion' to mean a code of ethics and a means of explaining the universe and your place in it, which some people do (I'm not going to argue whether or not that's reasonable here), secular humanism and atheists who believe in scientific thought as a way of understanding everything fall into this category as well. I think that any system that attempts to explore the way in which the universe works should be scientific in its questioning, whether it calls on a supernatural force to explain the parts we don't understand or not. And anyone who decides that questioning in and of itself is contrary to the way faith works missed the point.

I'm not going to get into the problems with the Bible as a reliable source, because you probably know those arguments already. Suffice it to say that the Bible has a whole lot of serious problems if you take it to be historical (or even as a set of religious guidelines, if you think the parts that were cut from the canon might in fact have provided a more complete understanding of that). But I agree that as humanity develops, it develops more and more sophisticated ideas with which to understand the universe, and so while ancient traditions and ideas still provide a [necessary?] framework for understanding, we cannot throw out newer thoughts by labelling them as heretical and consider that a truthful approach.

A side discussion, but I'd choose to add that while major religious schools of thought - Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. - do basically boil down to "don't be a jerk," they also have an important component that attempts to direct followers (whether all of them or a special bunch) to achieve ecstatic experiences. Dogmatic interpreters and religious leaders have always tried to squash this mystic underpinning, but it is never fully eradicated from any religion. (I suppose crazy intellectual epiphanes/philosophical revelations could fall into this category if you include non-supernatural schools of thought here.) And because of the way experiences like that make a person feel, both during and afterwards, this has a lot to do with pursuing 'truth,' or perhaps with breaking down the sense of separation we feel from our environment and therefore feeling like we 'understand' something fundamental about existence. I know that this is a side topic, but I think it's super interesting, so maybe you should have a post about *that* next time you discuss how religion and science are compatible (or even, I think, just different approaches to answer what amount to the same basic questions).

8/03/2006 11:05 AM  
Guitarragrl said...

1.) Listen up, um sorry that I kept putting the same thing on your blog, I got you mixed up with some one else I know's wife because you guys' name are just alike.

2.) There's things I needed to clear up with her, so forgive me for THAT part!!

#3!.)--I know just what blogger is used for, but who cares!! I didn't know your e-mail address! 2nd, if you were insulting me in anyway, you're lucky that your not in my face, and that i was saved!! Because if God wasn't holdin me back homie, and you were in my face talking to me the way you did on here, You would find yourself on the FLOOR!!--Since I know you're not who I thought though, I'm just going to leave you alone!!

p.s-And no, a person aint gotta know how to spell, or grammer or none of that to get to heaven, they just have to believe that jesus is the son of God and rose again. Also, have to believe in the holy trinity, god the father, god the son, and god the holy spirit. 3 in 1. Its like us, mind, body, and soul.-Peace out-

8/04/2006 12:35 PM  
jess said...

Personally, I don't beat up people because I think it's wrong to beat up people and I have self-control.

But if you need God to do it for you, good luck to you. Thanks for proving one of my points.

Last I checked, Blogger was not intended for making a new blog every time you want to post about something. You have six blogs with one or zero posts each... and that's down from the first time I checked, all of them with piss-poor HTML. Innovative.

8/04/2006 6:37 PM  
jess said...

Sorry, you're now down to five blogs. Maybe it's all coming together for you. Next you can work on being tolerant and patient and turning the other cheek, all by yourself, without having to put the responsibility on God (who I'm sure has better things to do).

Oh, and Jordan... as evidenced here, the original commenter is about 14. So I doubt she'll get much out of it. But I'm glad you guys enjoyed.

8/04/2006 6:50 PM  
JordanBaker said...

Ay-yi. She also apparently missed the day in Sunday school where they teach you that thinking about beating people up for no good reason is as un-Christian as actually doing so. Hope "jesus" (as she so reverently refers to him in her final paragraph) can forgive her for that one.

8/05/2006 3:09 PM  
jess said...

I just watched an episode of Queer Eye that was so heartwarming... it was this trans kid whose parents were born-again Christians but were nevertheless being loving and accepting because, well, that's actually what their religion says to do. (Their Bible was missing the tipped-in page that says "reject and hate your child if he or she does something you don't understand.") He kept saying "well, my mom would probably be happier if I changed my mind, but they just love me so much."

Good to know there are churches like yours, and people like that. The jackasses just get so much more airtime usually... to the point where people start thinking it's "Christian" to be violent and hateful.

8/05/2006 3:20 PM  
Guitarragrl said...

Okay, I am not 14!! I'm older that!! And I'm not perfect!! Christians are not perfect, the only perfect 1 is jesus, everyone messes up.. I know you'renot soppose to think about beating people up, that's why I ask the lord to forgive me!!! So, after this, stop talking about me!!! And I'll stop writing on your BLOG!!OH YEA-I can do what I want on herre!!(Obviously your not that much of an adult or you wouldn't be arguing with me like this, or talking about me..I wasn't talking about you,, so don't talk and assume about me.Thank You..For the record, I didn't say I would have God do anything to you, I said if I didn't believe in the lord, I would prolly beat you up!!!

8/05/2006 4:49 PM  
Guitarragrl said...

o, and 1 more drop, JESSICA-..I've never been in a fight in my whole entire life, but I know this, black girls can fight better than white ones, so I"m just assuming that if you got in my face, and I wasn't a believer I would beat you up..but I wouldn't do that, I just got angry becuase all, I asked was if your were the person I thought, and you started getting angry with me..Plus, I tried apologizing, and you still got stank wit me!Now, I'm not a person who usually causes drama, all I wanted to know is 1 thing!!And YOU flipped out! MY BAD!

8/05/2006 5:11 PM  
jess said...

While we're all waiting for our friend here to follow through on her overdue promise to leave me alone...

Lynne, can you elaborate on the connection between science/religion compatibility and ecstatic experiences? I think what you're saying is really interesting but I don't have enough religious knowledge to see where it's going... I think I need the remedial class.

8/07/2006 11:27 AM  
Horatio said...

You mention Newton and Shakespeare. If religion causes intellectual stagnation, how were they able to achieve what they did, both religious men living in more religious societies than ours?

8/07/2006 2:54 PM  
jess said...

I'm not sure where you got the idea that Shakespeare was a particularly religious man. As for Newton, obviously he did not believe that what God had told us about the way the universe works was the be-all and end-all, and that no further exploration should be undertaken. Some of his exploration was a little weird, but he obviously took it seriously as an imperative. Newton should, in fact, be a model for modern religious folks, in that he was quite devout but didn't think that his faith meant that he had to accept a received understanding of the world. (The folks I'm talking about probably wouldn't take him because of the alchemy and whatnot, but they'd be doing themselves a disservice.)

8/07/2006 3:13 PM  
Lynne said...

Lynne, can you elaborate on the connection between science/religion compatibility and ecstatic experiences?

Mostly I think I was thinking out loud (or, uh, in the comments section). Remedial class: most or all of the modern and ancient religions we know about exert quite a lot of energy explaining, studying, and inducing ecstasy (and/or trances - there's a semantic difference, though it might not be a terribly important one). Sometimes these experiences are considered dangerous or special enough that they are restricted to a special group - priests, virginal priestesses, teachers and their students in certain schools only, etc. - and in other situations trances are induced among the public, or sects or study groups might try to achieve one of these states with only lay members (like most or all gnostic groups). The means by which ecstatic or trance states are induced vary widely, and include drugs, sleep-deprivation, pain, orgasm, or just very long, very focused mind training through meditation (or prayer, or concentration, or whatever you want to call it). Some think of it as separating themselves from their surroundings (socially and/or physically) so they are outsiders, and others attempt to break down perceived barriers between their perceptions of themselves and the world/people around them. I don't think there is a single religion out there where this doesn't form an important element, and in some faiths it is of central importance (while in others, it is actively persecuted by more dogmatic, fundamentalist groups).

I was thinking about how this is done not just because it feels cool, but because people think they *get* something out of it, some insight or understanding of how the universe works. The problem with these revelations is that they are usually impossible to explain to someone who has not had one. The religiously-minded folks who have experiences like these (either by accident, or because they worked towards it) are generally infused with hope and happiness and certainty in a wonderful, love-filled afterlife. It also gives them a sense of oneness with everything around them, or with the divine, however they might describe that. (This is one of the things that has fueled a lot of religious persecution of gnostic or mystic traditions by Christians or Muslims, who are appalled when a person suggests that they might be equal to God.)

I think I was wondering if there is any connection between the sort of insights people seek by these methods, and those that scientists obtain through sudden flashes of insights, or weirder yet, freaky dreams (like, you know, dreaming the periodic table). That's not to say that scientific or intellectual revelation is necessary accompanied by feelings of ecstasy, or that religious 'experiences' of this kind must be divine in origin and therefore as truthful as scientific inquiry. But I was wondering about the connections that could be drawn between the two.

8/07/2006 4:18 PM  
Horatio said...

"I'm not sure where you got the idea that Shakespeare was a particularly religious man"

His plays. Where do you get the idea he wasn't?

"As for Newton, obviously he did not believe that what God had told us about the way the universe works"

It was because of belief in God that he thought the universe was explorable.

But you evaded my orginal question.

8/07/2006 4:56 PM  
BellaDellaLuna said...

Thanks for your thoughts that you left on my blog. I'm always glad to get more perspective on things, so feel free. I've been having a very fema-nazi (that has a positive connotation in my book) day and have been imagining myself telling him to drop dead. It's psychologically fulfilling, even if I never do. Love your blog, btw! Hilarious.

8/07/2006 5:46 PM  
jess said...

Insofar as I "evaded" your original question, I think your original question may have been sort of an automatic reaction to discussions of this sort. I could be wrong, but I think you're seeing a contradiction where actually we're making the exact same point.

Yes, it was Newton's faith that made him think the world was explorable (and worth exploring!). So why the current religious backlash against science, based on the idea that we should unquestioningly accept what's already laid out for us in the Bible? This wasn't the fashion in the Enlightenment, luckily for Newton, so clearly there's nothing culturally fundamental about it... and I can't see how there's anything doctrinally fundamental about it either.

You see, we're on the same side here. Except about Shakespeare. Perhaps we've been reading different plays. (Or perhaps you are equating living in a religious society, therefore having access primarily to religious thought and language, with being a particularly religious person oneself.)

8/07/2006 10:34 PM  
Horatio said...

Even if Shakespeare wasn't religous - and there is nothing in his plays to suggest he didn't share the common religious beliefs of his time - his "intellectual acheivement" was obviously not inhibited by his being in a religious environment. But enough.

8/07/2006 11:10 PM  
jess said...

Less so in the plays, although if you look in a concordance you'll find that the word "god" is usually used in either a pagan sense or an idiomatic sense (e.g. "God grant," "God save the king"). I tend to look to the Sonnets for a more personal take on Shakespeare, and those are curiously absent of Christian religion. When my books are unpacked I'll haul out one of my Sonnets editions and find some critical quotes.

I have a postgraduate degree in English, by the way, so on this one I know what I'm talking about. :>

Anyway, right, but of course there's no reason why a religious environment should need to be intellectually stultifying. The Renaissance and the Elizabethan period are perfectly good examples, as is the Enlightenment. The Renaissance was all about the birth of experimentation, of throwing off received knowledge for the first time and actually observing... and yet this could coexist with religion. (Much has been made of the church/science split on, say, the heliocentric universe, but it's actually been pretty overblown.) All the more reason to believe that current insistence on blind acceptance comes entirely out of fear, and not out of anything inherent in the Christian religion itself.

8/07/2006 11:17 PM  
jess said...

On the word "god": of course there are several exceptions in Henry VI and to a lesser extent in Ricky the Two, but these are in the mouths of religious characters. It doesn't do much for their reigns, it's worth noting.

I do get the sense that Edmund Spenser, a much better person to invoke if you want to play on my emotions, was if not a religious guy then at least a traditional one. Stodgy, even, at times (Proem to Book V, I'm looking at you!). And yet, while he might have had a nostalgic desire for a time when knowledge and morality were more clear and static, I don't get the sense that he thought everything that could be known was already laid out by God and that experimentation was therefore blasphemous. It's just that a corruptible, heliocentric universe didn't really suit his aesthetic sense.

8/07/2006 11:26 PM  
Horatio said...

"if you look in a concordance you'll find that the word "god" is usually used in either a pagan sense or an idiomatic sense"

Now I think you are being silly.

8/08/2006 12:04 AM  
Laura said...

Now I think you are being silly.

Horatio, Jess gave you a thoughtful and detailed response, and this is all you've got in return? It's curious that you're not taking up the discussion; as Jess says, I think you two actually are not contradicting each other, at least on the surface.

Like Jess, I don't really see the plays as a window into Shakespeare as a man or as a believer; I suppose it's possible that we subscribe to different schools of literary study than you do, but in my view what one writes in fiction doesn't tell us much about what one does in church. Do you have any examples to back up your claim that Shakespeare was religious himself, and that it had anything to do with his achievements as an artist? Saying "his plays" is not really helpful, as it begs the question--you're assuming that Jess gets the same thing out of his plays that you do. Which is an odd thing to assume, since you're also assuming that she disagrees with you.

Come to think of it, Jess' original post was about religion and science not being fundamentally at odds; how does Shakespeare, an artist, relate to that argument at all?

Come to

8/08/2006 12:28 AM  
Laura said...

Uh, please ignore the last "Come to." I was not trying to end my post on such a sustained lyric note. Alas.

8/08/2006 12:30 AM  
jess said...

Concordances are a perfectly good way to start an investigation into a question like that. One probably shouldn't base one's entire argument on concordance evidence, but it's an excellent data point.

As Philip Larkin might say..."One of those 'more things,' could it be?"

Anyway, but Laura is right; even if we were disagreeing, extending the discussion into art dilutes the point.

8/08/2006 9:39 AM  
jess said...

Also:

I suppose it's possible that we subscribe to different schools of literary study than you do, but in my view what one writes in fiction doesn't tell us much about what one does in church.

Say what you like; I think the intentional fallacy is the cornerstone of literary theory. SCREW YOU, STANLEY FISH

Ha ha, it's funny cos it's not true.

You know, I only went to grad school in the first place so that I could make English nerd jokes.

8/08/2006 12:29 PM  
BellaDellaLuna said...

Back to what Lynne was saying about religions and ecstasy. Many (if not all) pagan religions of old used psychotropic plants to induce trances/out of body experiences/journeys into the otherworld/whatever term you'd like to use. Native American tribes are known especially for this, but it is prevalent in most pagan cultures. Is this what you were referring to? I've never heard of any correlation to this in Christianity. Is there?

8/11/2006 10:16 PM  
Lynne said...

There is a lot of mysticism in the history of Christianity, yes. A lot of it was, of course, considered heretical by stricter church elements, but there have been mystic Catholic saints, some more open-minded people still consider at least certain groups of Christian Gnostics to be Christians, and the Orthodox Church still teaches practitioners to "meditate" in a rather mystical fashion. Mystic and gnostic and shamanic practices sometimes do and sometimes do not use drugs and psychotropic substances to induce trances or ecstasy. I lump it together with all the other ways that people try to achieve these states - sleep deprivation, fasting, various sexual practices, prolonged concentration and meditation, music, dancing, repetition and conditioning through rituals, etc. I think every religion has some of these elements, and if that's not generally meant to induce trances or ecstatic states anymore, these traditions still probably derived from practices that *did* have that goal, either for all the practitioners or at least for certain individuals. Although most people feel more peaceful and happy after praying or meditating for a little while, and many people think that's the main benefit they can get from it, I think the tradition of praying or meditation originates with the hope of attaining some state that is closer to communion with however the faith in question defines divinity. And those practices that believe that by attaining that state, a person might enact some change in the world (by requesting it of God, or by casting a spell that draws on the forces of nature, or whatever) get some added perks. So i guess there are two benefits to achieving ecstasy - greater understanding, and in some cases, exerting power to alter the universe in some way. Does science also seek to not only gain understanding, but to change our environment for the 'better' somehow? For some it certainly does.

I don't think this search is unique to older or 'pagan' traditions, though you could probably argue that the elements of it that survive in major modern religions derive from the more ancient ones. And I don't know which traditions might still use drugs as an aid in this goal today - maybe an internet search on modern Christian mysticism would turn up something. I suspect that the more mainstream types would shy away from using drugs for this, and would stick to things like fasting and prayer, but you never know.

8/12/2006 3:49 PM  

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