Religion, spirituality, and gravitational lens flaring.

Chaz StevensSci/Tech0 Comments


There’s a cultural war brewing in America, and I’m a lucky atheist who happens to be in the foxhole.

Recent surveys indicate about 20% of our population self-identifies as “none of the above” when it comes to religion, and that trend is growing with the younger crowd. In great numbers, America’s youth seem to be turning away, taking a left turn (pun!) from organized religion.


Screw you religious right and your co-opting of the spirituality issue. We’re no longer going to buy into the notion that if you’re not religious, then there’s no way you could be spiritual.

By the way, what is spirituality?

Is spirituality defined by some white bearded dude who lives in the clouds? If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus (whatever the f*** that is), are you then bankrupt in the spiritual department?

Editor’s Note: And no, I don’t hate Jesus. I don’t hate something that doesn’t exist. But I do hate all the shit that’s been done in his name. Shit that usually involves telling someone else how to live their life and/or killing them.

What exactly is spirituality? How do you define it? Up until now, I never really gave it much consideration, and only after I decided to start pushing back on this issue, did I find the need to clarify my thoughts (and definition).

Turns out, a former AA Board member, a dude by the name of  Dr. George Vaillant, already figured it out:

[I propose] that eight positive emotions: awe, love (attachment), trust (faith), compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, joy and hope constitute what we mean by spirituality. These emotions have been grossly ignored by psychiatry. ……I will argue that spirituality is not about ideas, sacred texts and theology; rather, spirituality is all about emotion and social connection. Specific religions, for all their limitations, are often the portal through which positive emotions are brought into conscious attention.

I like the idea that spirituality is based on a set of common emotions such as love, trust, compassion. Given this, there’s no need to look upwards in the clouds, rather these are innate properties of the human experience.

Spirituality is something everyone has.

F*** you God.


Now, onto gravitational lens flaring.

Way back in the day (circa 1912), Albert Einstein predicted the bending of light by a gravitational body.

“Huh Chaz,” you say.

Allow me to explain.

Suppose there’s an extremely large mass that’s between us and a distant star. Einstein proposed the light from that distant star would be deformed by the gravitational force of the large mass. In effect, instead of traveling a straight line, light would bend (warp) inward. We would be able to see behind that large mass.

Mind = blown.

In 1936, a Czech engineer named R W Mandl stated, “Of course, there is no hope of observing this phenomenon directly. First, we shall scarcely ever approach closely enough to such a central line. Second, the angle β will defy the resolving power of our instruments.”

Queue the Hubble Telescope and the University of Manchester, which discovered the first complete Einstein ring, designated B1938+666, in 1998.

This example personifies the Scientific Method at work — which normally consists of six steps, but I’ll condense to three.

Think, test, prove.

In the case of gravitational flaring, it took nearly 100 years, and a shit load of technology, culminating in the Hubble Space Telescope, to prove Einstein’s assertion.

Go science. Go science. Whoop whoop.

Keep this in mind, as you do battle with those Christian Right Wingers. Don’t mix up scientific uncertainty with scientific doubt. Make sure to differentiate the two.

It is okay, in fact it is the basis of the scientific method to have uncertainty — that’s why we test, and test, and test.

But don’t let uncertainty be used to cast doubt on science in general. Stand tall, and weather the storm. And when the moment arises, turn the tables on them by applying the scientific method to the bible.

Don’t be afraid, go ahead and do it.


HST_Lockheed_Integration“We must be on guard against giving interpretations of Scripture that are far-fetched or opposed to science, and so exposing the Word of God to ridicule of unbelievers.”

– St. Augustine


Did you know the roots of the Hubble Space Telescope come from the KH-11 (Keyhole) Spy Telescope?

The KH-11 KENNAN is a type of reconnaissance satellite first launched by the American National Reconnaissance Office in December 1976. Manufactured by Lockheed in Sunnyvale, California, the KH-11 was the first American spy satellite to use electro-optical digital imaging, and create a real-time optical observation capability.

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