Reflections on believing

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft on Jan 29, 2016 9:04:04 AM

Reflections on believing

In 2016 i would like to start my journey of becoming part of a religion. On this blog, amongst other topics, I will lay out my thought process for debate and discussion. I am looking forward to where this will take me and what I will learn and hope others will learn from it. This is the start. I doubt there will ever be an end to this journey. If you want to help me finding the "right fit", feel free to leave comments.

My opportunity

My parents decided not to baptise me as they thought of it as some kind of religious rape by adults towards infants. They were of the opinion that If I was left to decide on my own once I was old enough, I would find the way to enlightement, shelter or community and therefore some form of religion myself.

As my father passed away quite early in my life he had much less of an impact on my thinking and behaviour than my mother. Both of them were non practising Lutherans from the north of Germany where reformation had the biggest impact back in the days of Luther.

We almost never went to church ( which means less than once a year) and I did not go through the training other "westerners" get in their childhood to go through confirmation and holy communion. Therefore I never really talked to a priest until I went to Gymnasium (the german equivalent of high school or secondary school).

I participated in religion in school. In my school the german system seperated lutheran and catholics while teaching religion as this covered the majority of students.Later in my upbringing more mixed approaches for jews and muslims were available, but most of the times they were free to go during the time of the religion class and did not participate. They stayed in school and did homework under supervision. Once they were old enough to be allowed of premises on their own, they went to get a coffee or lunch when we were attending the classes in christian belief.

At gymansium we got a religion teacher who also was a reformist pastor. His class was interesting and the principles of religion were easy for me to grasp. I always scored high marks on the subject, even though looking back at this being thirty i think passing grades for religious education is a rather strange concept.

During my studies in Stuttgart I did not pay too much attention to the topic of religion except when my mother fell sick with cancer and passed away in 2007. Not really surprising if there is not a lot of a connection anyway to the whole concept of believing and religiona dn you are with a bunch of people in their mid twenties who care about their exams, alocohol and sex mainly (me included). 

This changed when I movedto Ireland as there is a big community of catholics here. I read up about the tensions between the North and the south and how the seperation between northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland came to pass. I would not consider myself an expert on the topic, but I like to think that I know more of this most recent conflict between protestants and catholics in Europe, which, if you think of it in 2016, is actually not too far removed from the present.

What also baffled me is that the catholic church is funding quite a bit of the educational system in Ireland and that the priests have influecne on who is getting hired or not in the interview process. That really struck me as a german, as this would be something completely unacceptable compared to german standards. (which does not mean that it is better to not involve priests, just pretty strange to get used to the idea)

Chatting to my partner I realised that I had a unique viewpoint on religion and finding access to it, as I had not been baptised or indoctrinated at home and still had a choice. Of yourse I am influenced by the christian society I grew up in, still I can go through the process of not having to "unlearn" some direct exposure to a certain form of religion.

Why I believe 

There were some different points in my life, where i personally think that I took the whole concept of religion a bit more serious than others. Now beliving does not mean that I believe in christian god, just to say that upfront. I velieve that there is more between the moon and the stars that science can explain.

When in primary school we went to a synagogue as part of religious education. I was the only one who asked for a Kippa out of respect for the habits of the jews, even though our guide said it would be ok for the small children not to wear a kippa.

When my cousins got baptised mainly for the sake of money when I was about twelve my grandmother wamted to trick me into getting a confirmation and said that I should think of all the money I would get (she always disapproved that my parents did not baptise me and I on't blame her for that, smart move on her behalf). However my reply was that I only wanted to get baptised if i believed in god as i found that getting baptised for the money was entering this "deal" with god for all the wrong reasons. 

Another big impression made the speech of a pastor at a funeral who held his sermon about "U boat christians" (yes i know a german priest talking about U Boat christians has all the wrong conotations to it, but that is another article altogether). He said that there were "U Boat christians" who only appear in church out of the depth of their daily lifes for three occasions, their baptism, wedding and funeral. Otherwise they remained unseen under the surface. I think he had a point and I did want to be a hippocrat, if I was to join the "club". 

So when I was younger I like to think that there was already a tendency to see the topic of religion from multiple angles and I always had a huge respect for someone who has blind faith in something, as it takes a lot of courage to do that. Not believing and poking holes into it as actually a lot easier.

Now, reading up on the topic a few things strike me which make me believe in some higher cause, concept, being, whatever you may want to call it.

The concept of infinity is used in science to create tangible results for the real world. Pi as an infinite number in a function to determine the radius, diameter and dimensions of a circle and perfect sphere would be the easiest applications which I understand. However your phone, space travel and other feats of engineering would not be possible if scientist would not use the concept of infinity in higher maths, physics and chemnistry.

Now if infinity is accepted as part of a function which creates tangible results in the real world, to me personally, the "scientific" here and now is connected to a higher concept which is infinity. If you accept infinity as a given, you also have accepted one of the major cornerstones of the attributes if any diety that ever there was (or made up, take your pick). So that is one reason I do believe.

If you look at it from a physics / astrophysics perspective and take the big bang in a given you have also accepted another attribute of many godlike depictions out there. Accepting the big bang as far as I understand is to agree that eveyrthing there was, is and will be was concentrated in the beginning of time in one point. So here would have the second dimension of most higher beings which is being everything and anything at once.

Another point why I believe is not mathematical but social. As it seems most societes, if not all, have some common believe system which is connected to some higher cause in some form. The Aztecs and the egyptians build pyramids, the greek, romans and indians (the actual ones this is, not the native americans which europeans just named that way) build temples and the cavemen painted pictures. Somehow this concept of what comes after and searching for some sort of order has been with us since we developed the possibility to communicate. I find it hard to deny that such a persistent concept thorugh different spaces and times has not some underlying truth to it.

Last but not least I do believe, because I personally believe it is the option which creates a better environment for us all. If you believe at least there is hope that all of this will make sense at some point or makes sense to someone, somewhere in the infinity of possibilities. If you do not believe everything will go back to be meainingless and the endless struggle of reproduction and fight for resources. I choose the former, as I think it is a better to be hopeful than a cynic. Although people who know me will also know that I am very cynic at some times.


The discussions especially in the US around whether evolutionary theory should be taught at all at school or not and that Darwinism is some kind of devil's worship is in my opinion based on a lack of understanding and not actually reading what the guy wrote.

Direct quote from origins of species:

"The whole history of the world, as at present known, although of a length quite incomprehensible by us, will hereafter be recognised as a mere fragment of time, compared with the ages which have elapsed since the first creature, the progenitor of innumerable extinct and living descendants, was created."

Now of course some smart readers will say "this is taken out of context". If you really go and get this book from your local library and read it you will find that Darwin's analysis comes to following main conclusions:

  1. Everything comes from the same origin
  2. Based on external factors from there different species developed
  3. All of this is extremely connected and balanced

The only things that this does from my perpective is to point out, especially for christians, that humans are not top of the crop of the creation (i get how some poeple can get annoyed about that, especially people who constantly have to be told or justify that they have a given right to rule other beings...) and that time and space are vastly longer and more exhaustive than ever before imagined. 

So in a sense it is a major challenge to the bible and how everything is written down in there, but it is not a challenge to the main overwriting principles which we believe make a god (connected with everything, all knowing and so on).


What you see here is an interview with Stephen Fry, a TV presenter in Ireland and the UK, who is famous for his wit and knowledge. I personally think here you can see what happens if you are an intelligent person and choose not to believe. You become utterly cynic. I respect Stephen Fry for that and I also do not debate for a second the correctness of his assessment from my and his point of view as human beings.
The problem with taking that stance on suffering is that you as a human assume to be all knowing and ell encompassing and therefore able to judge right from wrong in the big picture. This line of argument will not end in me saying "Whatever is in the bible is right and should not be doubted", the poin that I am trying to make is that I doubt that Stephen Fry and I can make a judgement call whether in the fabric of endless times and possibilities a worm eating the eyes of a child out is for the better or worse of the entire system. Humans are just too limited in their existence to have a real valid input into this. 
As this is the case I like to opt for that based on the higher order in the universe which I believe in t all has a purpose, which I admittedly do not understand, but still prefer to believe in as the other option is the abyss of pointlessness that Stephen Fry correctly portrays in his answer in this interview.


I personally do not feel comfortably with the entire idea of an institution / person being the impersonification / representative of god on earth. Usually this is being used to exert power on individuals or extract money from them in the long run as this institution has to be kept running. 

  1. Why do you need to build a church as high as the sky to believe in god ?
  2. Why do you have to travel to Mekka once your life ?
  3. Why do you need a statue of Buddha, Krishna, Shiva etc. on your little altar to worship ?

Well in the end i think this all goes down to that someone will turn a bit of money on building these chruches, providing travel and shelter on the journey to Mekka or making these little relics. I am just not a friend of that idea hwne it comes to believing. I am for rituals and traditions to connect to everybody else who did before you, but why has there to be all this pomp around that ?

 Picking a religion for me

After all of this reflection I personally think the next step is to come up with some criteria of what I think would be principles which I can gree with and that I feel comfortable with believing in and being a part of a community which practices these. After that an analyses of which religion comes closes to those would be bringing me further to my goal of believing in a more structured manner in a group of poeple.

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