How we lost faith
In this essay, I will describe what divinity is and how it is represented in many areas of
thought. How recognition of that which we consider divine develops into religion using a
philosophical argument around the hard problem of consciousness.
Then I will propose that through time religion got confused and became the basis for
thinking about the divine and that through this faith has been lost.
Religion is an attempt at describing that which is divine in the universe.
That which is divine is that which we experience emotionally, phenomenologically and
sometimes through direct experience. Some cultures pay homage in an attempt to
experience the divine through dance and ritual. Shamans and psychedelic explorers alike,
try to induce altered states in consciousness to attempt to go inwards to that which is
considered divine. Some traditions such as yoga spend a lifetime of inward
phenomenological study and practice to connect with it. Psychologists like Carl Jung have
attempted to map a similar process via what he calls individuation and recognizes the divine
in the collective unconscious and archetypal symbolism.
Many people consider love divine. Or even the ability to love (consciousness), as we
express it, as humans, is divine. The philosopher whitehead considers experience and ideas
as divine as they are delivered to us from the world, we do not conjecture about them first.
He expresses this as such “a young man does not initiate his experience by dancing with
impressions of sensation and then proceed to conjecture with a partner, the man is first of all
in contact with his dancing partner and only afterward... formulates skeptical epistemic
conjectures about his partner’s status as a collection of colorful shapes projected upon his
The above, I hope, people do not have massive disagreements with. Many people through
the simple act of love can find divinity within it. But when this love is a gift from God, a
miracle from the big floating man in the sky. People scoff. But what is a religion if not an
attempt at comprehending that which is divine? The question I will tackle soon, why is it if
people lose faith in religion they lose faith in considering anything divine?
Religion then is an attempt at describing that which is divine. It is an approach to
understanding those very first interactions that seem so divine upon the first experience.
Within these first interactions, the divinity has been found to be an all-pervasive feature
within the universe. There are many paths to the recognition of this all-pervasive feature or
connectedness/unity that is often hinted at within the universe. I will describe one of them
through philosophical means.
The first step comes in what is known as the hard problem of consciousness. The hard
problem of consciousness is why do sentient beings, such as me and you have conscious
states of happiness or pain and experience of qualia (colour, sharpness etc).
Part of the problem comes from the fact that we are seemingly made up of non-sentient
physical parts but have a property that them parts do not have
how is it that X --> Y (Y comes from X) but Y contains something that X does not.
While it may be possible to explain all of the physical processes and why we react the way
we do to the environment why is everything we do accompanied by a feeling of experience?
One possibility is that consciousness is actually part of the physical constituents that make
up reality. This idea is called pan-psychism. Pan-psychism essentially states that X, as in the
previous example, does have the properties of experience and that Y (sentient beings) is a
collection of these conscious building blocks that constitutes something that can experience.
Pan-psychism does have it's own problems. For example the combination problem. Why is it
then that our specific combination of atoms and neurons in the brain gives rise to
experience. Why, does something like the sun not seem to experience things. That is, after
all, a large collection of supposedly conscious atoms.
The step here can then be to bite the bullet and adopt Whitehead's pan-experientialism
which is the same as pan-psychism except the pervasive feature in everything is not
consciousness, it is an experience itself. The concept then is that experience is a pervasive
feature throughout the macro-micro processes composing the world. Whitehead when
attempting to explain these things draws to certain phenomenons in nature such as
Spatio-temporal relativity, quantum non-locality and self-organization in cells.
What I have tried to highlight here is one line of philosophical thinking that is attempting to
highlight what the divine could be in the universe. Is the divine this all-pervasive
consciousness/experience that is fundamental in everything? When yogis dedicate their lives
to connecting with the universe is this what they are connecting with. Is Jung's collective
unconscious the very same feature. Can it be simple to say that this all-pervasive feature is
Perhaps I am jumping ahead of myself, without in-depth explanations of such theories it is
likely these words will fall on deaf ears. However, belief in such a feature does not take you
far away from pantheism, if divinity is recognizable by us all is it not all-pervasive? And if the
universe is connected through experience is that very far from saying god and the universe
Just as I have tried through one philosophical path to grasp at the divine in an explanation,
so does religion. Religion goes one step further than pantheism, after recognition of the
divine into pantheistic thinking questions arise as to, why are we connected in such a way?
is this connectedness part of a purpose, was this divine connectedness created by a higher
power? Does this higher power have a consciousness like ours? Is it all-powerful? If it did
create everything, why did it do it?
Thus religion is born out of divinity. But somewhere along the way ideas got confused,
religion became its own entity. It became a practice, a political tool, and a weapon. Through
these changes, divinity was lost in religion. Religion went through structural transition after
transition until finally when Nietzsche recognised that any structure had been dissolved
completely he declared religion dead. It had in fact been turned upside down. Religion
somehow has been placed as the building block to divinity and with this, the separation of
the two was finally complete. Theists like Richard Dawkins thus no need no longer argue
from a phenomenological basis as to why there is no divinity in the universe. They merely
need to disprove the metaphorical thinking that religion had last left us with. Let me remind
you of what was said earlier, we first experience the world through interaction, interacting
with the divine and turning this into mythology and stories. From here we develop it into
more comprehensive thought. But now, our foundation has been flipped and religious
mythology is the foundation for thinking about the divine, not the other way round. All that is
left to do is to disprove the mythology and you disprove everything.
Religion, or theology as I should more accurately be using, was creating a mythology to help
understand questions such as did a higher power create our divine-connectedness? But
when this description is precisely at the stage of mythology and this mythology, is now the
building block for divine thought, you only have to disprove the mythology as is so commonly
done. The people who are left believing religion then, have their faith only in the
metaphorical floating man in the sky, who casts miracles. Not in the divine nature that led to
this mythological thought. Unfortunately, it is true that religion is so lost that a lot of believers
have not gone through the process of experiencing the divine in any sense, religion is now
often taught from the mythology up to the divine. Because of this faith is so easily lost. Faith
comes from the feeling of divinity. Kierkegaard's knight of faith is precisely one that is in
touch with the divine in the universe. His knight of faith “takes delight in everything he sees,
in the human swarm, in the new omnibuses, in the water of sound... He is interested in
everything that goes on”
Faith needs to be restored. Perhaps firstly religion needs to be understood in terms of a
description of the divine. Perhaps religion is not what is needed in these times. But with the
nihilistic age of anxiety and depression that we have entered into especially in the western
world maybe we need to take a simpler approach to go back to experiencing the world. We
must go back to dancing with our partners and conjecturing with what this experience means
to us. The divine does not have to be understood as something given from a higher power.
The divine is that new interaction and how you experience it.