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The Believer's Dilemma

As a teenager, I became curious about the ancient questions. Why does the universe exist? Do living creatures have any particular purpose? Who, or what, would determine that purpose? The most constant answer throughout history has been that origins, meaning and purpose point to an Almighty Creator. Inexplicably, the eternal, unchangeable Creator has shown up at different times and places in dramatically different manifestations. Most human beings throughout history have believed in different deities that revealed different sacred scriptures. If we could prove that the universe was created by a supremely intelligent Creator, would it confirm that any of those gods of religion is real?

What Is the Believer’s Dilemma?

After studying religion for a couple of decades, both theoretically and experientially, it became clear that belief in God requires a leap of faith. Believers make different leaps to reach different gods. Or no god. The choice is not as arbitrary as a coin toss. Believers often feel they have compelling reasons to believe, but their personal leap of faith is explained by a circular argument that makes no sense to non-believers.

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The mind is often equated with the brain, which science has only recently begun to understand, and consciousness, which is still inexplicable. The mind/brain employs neurochemicals and electrical impulses to process thoughts, perceptions, emotions and memories. It is also the centre of personality and intelligence. The brain/mind (psyche) has considerable influence over the body (soma) which produces psychosomatic responses. Inversely, suffering in the body can overwhelm the brain/mind. 

The brain/mind does not experience the world outside the body directly. Information is fed to the brain via sense captors: eyes, ears, nose, tastes buds, and nerve endings. The process is far more complex and indirect that our ancestors could ever have imagined. Seeing in our mind’...
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The body inhabits the physical universe. A tangible entity that exists in time and space, the body is temporal and mortal. Composed of matter and powered by energy, the body obeys the laws of nature. It is subject to powerful instincts and drives, particularly survival and sexual reproduction. The human body is equipped with five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell) in order to navigate the material world, maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.

All living creatures are programmed with a survival algorithm. All life forms die if deprived of food to eat, water to drink or air to breathe. Even single-celled organisms somehow know they need nutrients to fuel life-giving energy. The simplest life forms, lacking a brain and a nervous system, somehow ‘know’ ...
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The will is popularly conceived of as the control centre that processes information from the body and the mind in order to make choices. The will is responsible for ethical and moral choices, for negotiating self-interest versus social collaboration, and short-term gain (pleasure) versus long-term cost (suffering).

Will (volition) is associated with power. Many of us believe we could improve our lives if only we had more of that mysterious thing called willpower. With more self-control we would all eat right, exercise regularly, use intoxicants in moderation, control our temper and our lusts, save for retirement and achieve all sorts of noble goals.

 The scientific definition of willpower is:

  • The ability to delay gratification, resisting short-term...
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Things that can be tested, measured, calculated, repeated and predicted form our reality.  Reality is also defined in terms of existence and substance, as opposed to things that are abstract, imaginary or fictional. Yet another definition of reality is things that can be known factually, as opposed to mere conjecture and speculation.   

The body and brain are physical objects that exist in time and space. They are real until they die and disintegrate, then they are reduced to atoms and molecules. Memories of the dead continue to live on in the minds of the living, until they too die and disintegrate. All real things–every animal, tree, mountain, river, continent, planet, star and galaxy–will eventually be destroyed and reduced to atoms and molecules...
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