How can I be an atheist?

July 27, 2009 08:39 – 08:39

One of Katie’s dearest friends asked me about my atheism and how it fits into the odd phenomenon I saw a few nights ago. I’ve decided to venture further out onto my limb and blog my response.

I don’t believe in the supernatural. As an atheist, I don’t believe there’s a “God” as described/embraced by Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition. As a Unitarian Universalist, I can accept that there are different concepts one might label as “God”, but that they are largely abstract concepts for love and global community.

But, then it gets complicated.

It’s hard for me to reconcile what I saw with what I believe, since I previously was 99% certain that all of what makes us “us” ceases when the body dies. That would be July 2nd for Katie. Katie was cremated on July 6th, so certainly no biological activity has occurred since then at the latest. So, the question for me is whether Katie’s energy has a “life” beyond what was contained in her biological substance.

What I saw that night was real. I can’t prove it was Katie, but it was real, and it came at a time when I really needed some hope. I want to believe that it was Katie, and I’m mostly convinced that it was. But, how to explain it? Given what I saw, I have to believe that the energy is a real and natural phenomenon—it’s just something that science doesn’t yet understand. We might never understand it until we become part of it.

Author C. Clarke, I believe, once wrote “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I might broaden that to include any “sufficiently complicated physical process.”

I said I was 99% certain. So where does the 1% come from? It comes from other stuff science doesn’t fully understand. It comes from Soviet experiments I read about, and I can’t easily find using Google at the moment.

We know that plants are sympathetic to their caretakers. This has been established in a number of experiments in the U.S., Russia, the old Soviet Union, and elsewhere.

Soviet scientists assigned plants to test subjects and waited until the sympathetic responses in the plants were observed. These were in the same room, so no problem. So far, so good.

They began to separate the plants and test subjects physically. With monitors connected to measure physiological activity and responses, they subjected the test subjects to various kinds of stress. The plants continued their sympathetic responses even when in different rooms or different buildings from the caretakers with whom they had bonded. So far, so good.

They then put the plants and test subjects in increasingly distant locations—different cities, and different countries. Sympathetic responses still occurred. But, scientists were puzzled by the fact that telemetry for responses of the distant plants lagged by a tiny but perceptible amount—as expected—while the recorded times of the responses did not lag, which was unexpected.

To explore this further, they bonded plants and cosmonauts, and the sympathetic reactions in the plants continued… and continued to be instantaneous. That is—faster than the speed of radio waves, which travel at the speed of light.

This is my 1%. This still sends shivers up my spine. Whatever phenomenon is being used for plant-human communications, it is not any kind of electronic communications as we currently understand it. If I move an electron in one part of the universe, there can be a ripple or wave effect elsewhere, eventually—traveling at about 186,000 miles per second.

But, this is not eventually. It’s instantaneous. What happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. What happens in Vegas is felt everywhere else in the universe as it happens. Mindboggling.

Since then, quantum/particle physicists have replicated instantaneity with paired particles, I understand. So, that’s my 1%. That’s the unexplained energy and communications in the universe that gives me hope that Katie’s essence is still with us, and we can be reunited with it someday.

Is this God? It’s certainly not what they taught me in Sunday school. It’s certainly not something that different religions should be fighting over. If anything, it should bring us closer together, not divide us along theologically nitpicking lines of conflict.

So, to distinguish what I believe from how non-atheists characterize their beliefs, intellectual honesty requires that I call myself an atheist. To me, “supernatural” is an oxymoron. If what I believe and what the biblical Abraham believed are the same, then there must ultimately be a natural scientific explanation for it. Not supernatural. Indistinguishable from magic to the naked eye, perhaps, but not magic.

Anyway, I’m now a bit more hopeful.

 

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