Yesterday I went to a friend’s church thanks to her invitation. I am agnostic, so this may seem peculiar but being schooled early in life in Catholic school and that it was not the first time I did such a thing, I went anyway.
What is different this time was perhaps scale – the place was much bigger, much more modern — in fact, it may have looked too modern that I would not be surprised that if some people may find that place no longer look like a church. After all, there are definitely traditional churches which will feel completely different. Furthermore, the atmosphere is almost too “open”: people showering praises and prayers as if not saying them out loud is not right. It lasted two hours, and it was interesting since the one who preached then was a dean from a very well-known theology school in the US.
That said, funnily enough I found the “essence” to be the same. People still want to be saved. People want to have a pillar of support. People find it peculiar if the world has no creator. This is to be expected — we humans are “weak”. I can neither prove or disprove existence of the higher power, but certainly if it exists, it would most likely be the most reassuring support one can ever find. Also, interestingly based on my limited knowledge, many arguments against faith made by atheists are flawed anyway.
During my travel, I visited many cathedrals and churches and found them to be very grand and imposing. I thought it must be that these became a symbol of power which provide a psychological pressure for people in the past to succumb to higher powers. Church will naturally then gain very powerful role as a leader of people. I know not much about the history of the church, but the scale of the church I visited made me feel something similar, that maybe the scale and size helped people in reinforcing their faith because the larger, the louder it is, the more overwhelming it is as a psychological pressure to make our mind succumb to divinity. And there is nothing really wrong about this; just as human skin is a bad thermometer, maybe such “pressure” is simply helpful rather than being an ulterior motive of sorts.
My main takeaway in the end for myself was that I reaffirmed my intention to be agnostic. I could not bring myself to believe the same way as they do. Most of them I believe will turn out to be good people anyway, since their faith seems to me a very strong source of moral compass. Some of them expressed concern that something is holding me back, perhaps an inner “fear” from embracing the Creator. But that is fine — this tendency to convert, if I look at it another way, is not about being pushy; humans have the tendency to share the joy the experience, and in finding their Guide, they want others to share the same kind of gain. Nonetheless, I have my own reasons — ironically, one that is not due to “proving existence”, but something more personal. And so after I bid farewell, I did mention that it would be the last time I enter that same church.
I will probably visit many other churches in future for their services. Probably once for every church I step into. I want to see how in so many different places, faith unites some and breaks others apart. I believe that for many, even those who might have committed certain violence in the name of their faith, they simply wanted to do something right and make the world better (I may be wrong, of course). It’s just that most of us disagree on what is the right way to do it and how some things can be more correct than others. But really, this pertains more on human nature than the faith itself. Humanity has gone very far, but not far enough to understand each other.
I hope in the next few decades of my life, the world will nonetheless progress better. This sentiment is something I thought of recently in light of recent local political issues in my own country. Heh, not often do I actually wish for the world to be better.
P.S. I hope I can get far enough in my reading on spinors. It turned out quite difficult even for me who is to some extent used to index notations in general relativity. Just for the record, I think I need to at least know how to construct the spinor equivalent of Levi-Civita symbol , which is obtained from the usual (totally antisymmetric) Levi-Civita tensor in general relativity.