"In her book, "Fingerprints of God," Hagerty tries to answer a question that has plagued her for years: Is there more than this? She couldn't accept mainstream science's answer that we are 'a collection of molecules with no greater purpose than to eke out a few decades.' Instead, she sought out spiritual virtuosos (people who practice prayer, religiously), as well as neurologists, geneticists, physicists and medical researchers who are using the newest tools of science to discern the circumstantial evidence of God.
Her research led to some startling conclusions that have caused no small amount of Sturm und Drang among those who believe theirs is the one true way. She found that whether one is a Sikh, a Catholic nun, a Buddhist monk or a Sufi Muslim, the brain reacts to focused prayer and meditation much in the same way. The same parts light up and the same parts go dark during deep meditation.
Apparently, we have a 'God spot' and 'God genes.' And though some are more generously endowed than others, spiritual experience is a human phenomenon, not a religious one. Different routes to the same destination.
Understandably, these are not glad tidings to some. Centuries of blood have been shed for the sake of religious certitude. But transcending the notion that only some prayers are the right ones might get us closer to the enlightenment we purportedly seek."
So far, so good. Indeed, this section could easily pass for content on this very blog, so closely does it hew to the notion that religion is simply an illusion created by humans to divert their gaze from the meaninglessness (and capriciousness) of reality.
However, the next sentence literally left us agog: "Hagerty is optimistic that science eventually will demonstrate that we are more than mere matter."
Honestly, we sat staring at the page, mouth hanging open, for more than a few seconds. Here was someone who devoted a significant portion of her life to searching for an answer to this question (including taking a leave of absence from her job to research and write a book about it!); yet, when all the evidence (not 75%, or 80%, or even 99.99%) pointed to one inescapable conclusion, she...dismissed it. Good. Freakin'. Lord.
Let's be clear. This is not some discussion of opinion, this was a woman who embarked on a planned and scientific expedition, theoretically in search of the "truth." But when all the evidence points to one (and only one) conclusion, she...decided to ignore it. As she put it: "I have concluded that science cannot prove God--but science is entirely consistent with God." Ah.
To be fair, we have not read the book (and have no plans to do so). However, it seems fairly clear that Hagerty (who was raised a Christian Scientist and now considers herself merely a Christian) was not, in fact, looking for truth, but rather to advance her own point of view. No harm there, of course, but we do find it fairly consistent with regard to people's reaction to the absurd.
The question is, why? The answer, as we see it, is that to deny the existence of God (ie, something beyond the physical) is to also deny the existence of the self. If there is no afterlife, no greater power, no "other," then the concept of the self simply fades away into ridiculousness.
This is actually a pretty simple concept to understand. In fact, we had an interesting window into it a few years back when our dog died. We "adopted" her when she was six weeks old, so she essentially lived with us for her entire life, and she was a wonderful dog--sweet and playful, if not particularly obedient...So where, we wondered, did this personality go when she died?
See, this is the thing. The illusion of the self is so powerful, so all-encompassing, so vital to people's ability to function, that most people simply cannot conceive of life without it. Thus, we invent ever more elaborate schemes to justify our belief in something for which there exists not one shred of empirical evidence. This, of course, is what religion has always been about--believing something for no good reason (i.e., "having faith") to make ourselves feel better.
This is why Hagerty's "project," to be frank, bothers us (yes, smart-ass, we realize we don't exist either...) - she was basically attempting to put a scientific sheen on religion, and when that failed (when she could not, in other words, come up with a single thing to which she could point and say "See!"), she simply redefined the terms of the game. Oldest trick in the book, actually (God works in mysterious ways...), but others should not fall for this transparent (and, ultimately, kind of sad) sleight of hand.