Friday, April 3, 2009

Religion in 20XX: Part 1- The Evolving Universe

Within the last month I've become intrigued by the vast amount of sci-fi books that mention religion. Outside of the Dune series I had no idea that sci-fi writers would even acknowledge religion let alone interweave them into the plot. Sci-fi, as a genre, has enormous potential and room to grow. It can take us to worlds we can only dream of and envision possible futures for humanity here on Earth. We must always keep in mind that even though the future is not set in stone we must learn to guide our race towards peace so that we can live to see it unfold.

My first Robert Sawyer book was his 1999 novel, Flashforward, where the consciousness of every single person on the planet jumped 23 years into the future and had a brief glimpse of their own future. It's a thought provoking book that has introduced me to new theories and ideas on Free Will, the nature of the universe, and human identity. I recently read Calculating God and although it reads more like a debate between an Atheist and a Theist than a novel, I was still intrigued by introduction of various new ideas which I'll spend my free time pondering. Calculating God follows Tom Jericho, a Canadian paleontologist, as he works alongside the first alien visitors who claims that God has been actively involved in the evolutionary process by causing five simultaneous cataclysms on three different planets.

I had asked in a previous post if we made contact with aliens what, if any, religious beliefs would they hold? One of the novel's major themes deal with the evolution of sentient life on each of the planets. Two alien species from two different planets come to visit Earth in search for evidence of a Creator, the Forhilnors and the Wreeds. During our simultaneous evolution both Forhilnors and Humans evolved with the ability to count and master mathematics. The Wreeds, on the other hand, struggle with mathematics because their bodies evolved differently and never had any need for math. The Wreeds have a single black 360 degree strip at the top of their torso which acts as their eye that allows them to have a panoramic view; basically, they can see in all directions at the same time. They are physiologically unable to concentrate on any one object but "they can predict without explaining-their logic is intuitive, not deductive". Although lacking mathematical skills their intuition allows them to "know" how to build and plan beautifully structured cities on their home world. This intuition also allows them to determine and solve moral and ethical problems that we struggle with in the 21st century. Take the moral issue of abortion for example. The Wreeds would say that if a race has methods of contraception then abortion should not be an issue, if one does not desire to have a baby the logical solution would be to use contraception. In case of incest or rape the Wreeds would consider these as exceptional cases occurrences and "general principals should not be based on exceptional cases."

The Forhilnor's know, not believe, there is a Designer that designed the parameters, properties, and laws that govern the universe. They came to this conclusion by studying the universe itself. They believe in a First Cause God that created the universe (or at least this universe) and they are searching for proof that God had been meddling with the evolutionary process.

The Wreeds, because of their intuitive minds, seem to be more mystic than scientists. They intuitively know that there is a God and they spend a good portion of their time trying to communicate (not pray) with God through a method of meditation. They believe there is nothing more important than a lifelong pursuit to communicate with God.

The three species, although differently intelligent, have evolved to become the sentient species on their respective planets, and even though they disagree on certain matters of genetics, origins of life, and God they understand that each of them think differently because of their environment and origin. What does this tell us about those who think and believe differently than ourselves? Would you strive to understand them or just brush them off as ignorant, backward, or even lost? This is where the critical moment of inter-faith dialogue comes into the forefront. To share your belief, your piece of a God-Sized puzzle, with others is a beautiful process, connecting with your fellow man, binding ourselves to one another as we journey through our short existence in this reality. But, looking down on others while holding beliefs of religious superiority ("Your beliefs are backward and ignorant, mine are better.") taints the hopeful spirit of your message and drains the validity of your words. It is better to understand your brother's belief in the context of their environment and origin than to humility them into accepting your beliefs by considering them inferior. This is true of ANY AND EVERY message be it from an Atheist, Sikh, Christian, or Pagan. If they see a glimmer of truth in your message it is up to them whether they consider it to be truth regardless if you do.

If man is to progress, to adapt, to evolve in the 21st century then we must overcome our tribal nature. This doesn't mean that we must discard our differences, but strive to remove the violence, anger, mistrust, and misconceptions that can arise because of our differences. We must learn to live within our smaller tribes while always remembering that we are part of a larger universal tribe.

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