In his recent op-ed on agnosticism, Gary Gutting writes that, “The fault of many who reject religious ontologies out of hand is to think that they have no value if they don’t express knowledge of the world’s causal mechanisms. The fault of many believers is to think that the understanding these ontologies bring must be due to the fact that they express such knowledge.” He makes the point that to disregard the value of religion would be to disregard the value of art, poetry, philosophy, and science, and he says that although science can help us understand why the brain acts in a certain way, it cannot show us the experience of beauty, pain, or love.
I thought that Gutting made some excellent points, and his article reminded me of a speech that I heard from Rabbi Gordon three years ago, as I sat in the same chair where John Lennon sat at the funeral of Brian Epstein at the New London Synagogue.
Although he phrased it much more eloquently than I can remember, Rabbi Gordon said that there are three ways to view the world. The first option is to believe that the sky is blue because somebody painted it that way. The second option is to claim that the sky isn’t actually blue, it’s just an optical illusion caused by the sun’s rays entering the earth’s atmosphere. The third option, and my personal favorite, is to simply relish in the beauty of the blueness of the sky.
(Of course, I live in Seattle, so sometimes it’s hard to relish in the grayness of the sky… but that’s a different blogpost, for a different time.)