So what's really going on?
haribol acharya wrote:Reading different religions and making comparisons, doing analyses and drawing conclusions get one across a great field of knowledge.
I most certainly agree. There is knowledge to be gained by rationally and critically analyzing belief systems, specially when they are compared.
In a post on another forum, I recently proposed the idea that empirical knowledge might be best regarded as Dependable Certified Belief (as opposed to Justified True Belief as it has been since Plato). In the context of this thread, the key is dependability.
While Science excels at that, it does so at the cost of a rigorous, elaborated and intellectually expensive process, which leaves several non-trivial areas of inquiry out. I like to think that Science is a bit like biological evolution: is rock solid, but is a slow process that takes a whole lot of time to get anywhere. So, while I'm convinced Science will eventually put its hands on all areas of empirical inquiry (including Consciousness, free will, right and wrong, life before and after death, God, and so on), is far from there yet (and I think it needs at least one significant paradigm shift to steer on the right direction)
But we humans, most of us at least, do depend on our own ideas about these areas in which Science has yet to leave its mark, so, we turn to belief systems. Although many religious institutions (which isn't the same as religious belief systems) purposely demand their belief systems to be dogmatically accepted, that reflects a problem with the institution, not necessarily with the belief system itself (even if, as a logical consequence of the physiological process of construction of said system, the more dogmatic the institution the less rational the system becomes, specially over time [consider that, for example, the Bible, is set in stone nowadays, but in its time it was a work in progress])
(IMHO) When one manages to lift the veil of dogmatism one finds belief systems that are dependable to various degrees, and possibly somewhat certified. That is, one finds knowledge, by my account (even if is not scientific knowledge)
What works for me is to do the following:
(i) Separate the belief system from the institution that carries it: this helps you avoid having any feelings towards the institution bleed into the critical analysis of the system itself.
(ii) Break down the system: Dogmatism pretends that the whole system is to be taken or rejected, but that is plain false. Each proposition has its own value of truth.
(iii) Adopt it by adapting it: Re-write your own version of the ideas, don't take it literally. Science can afford to do (sort of) that because it goes to the trouble of using a dedicated formalism that allows language to match the propositions as best as possible. That's not the case with ordinary belief systems.
(iiii) Make it personal: External objective belief systems (say, the Bible) are not supposed to be regarded as tokens that you just take. They are to be integrated into your own single personal belief system (which includes, or should include, Science). It is in the details of this integration process where the adoption of a belief system passes through the filter of critical thinking and rationality, specially if scientific knowledge is at the core of it.
haribol acharya wrote:I am interested in both epistemology and ontology simultaneously, physics and metaphysics together. I do not care where I will reach at the end. I do not care whether I will see a ray at the end of the tunnel or a whirlpool of confusion and a hole of darkness. I am just interested in reading books pondering. I do not know whether I will arrive at a conclusive end. Life is short and domains of knowledge are vast and ever expanding.
Good. Human inquiry is a journey, not a destination.
Make sure to read on the history of the religions too, not just their doctrines (I personally recommend reading on the historical development of any area of knowledge, Science included)
I would like to recommend these 3 belief systems as part of your research:
(a) Theosophy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosophy
(b) Anthroposophy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthroposophy
(c) Spiritism: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritism
WARNING: The wikipedia articles I linked above are significantly biased towards skepticism, specially on the last entry, by unfortunate but undeniable historical reasons. Make sure to form your own opinions from actually reading into the philosophies.
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