July 31, 2014
“There is no better method.” I agree.
I suppose the challenge is that, despite the “wonder” (or awe) we may experience through humanity’s use of the scientific method, it’s still not as personally satisfying for a lot of people unless “God” is considered to be a part of our reality.
But this is where I think humanism also plays a strong role in the lives of the non-believer. It’s about encouraging ourselves (and others?) to seek and find what is personally satisfying in our natural world. And it’s more than just satisfying our fives senses. It’s also about finding new perspectives in life that change our priorities or highlight different values.
The longer we live, the more we see that personal satisfaction is not always easy, or simple. Discovering our own place in the bigger picture of inclusivity and diversity leads not only to finding purpose and meaning for one’s own life but also leads to an awareness of various de-humanizing actions against one another. Being faced with a myriad of social responsibilities are overwhelming and not something we had in mind when seeking personal satisfaction.
Hope in a “God” may ease this burden for a lot of people and inspire them to keep moving forward – a result that I think is worth appreciation. But what also needs appreciation is how non-believers build up the courage to move forward without that ethereal belief.
We find hope in all sorts of places for all sorts of burdens. It can start with simply hearing the words, “It gets better” from those with similar burdens, similar stories that can help us get through the next day. We may find hope by taking action, getting involved by creating public awareness, and supporting a grass roots movement to bring about change. We may find hope through the pursuit of educating ourselves, learning more about the burdens we face, where they came from, who’s involved, how has the matter evolved over time. We might seek political change through our votes, and letters to our representatives. Or maybe we just need to step back a bit, read a book or go to the lake, have a beer with friends and then return to face our burdens with a little more strength.
For a lot of people, no matter how unrealistic “God” may seem to be, he is still the ultimate default in times of trouble, the cherished “go-to” when things get tough. God may not be the only go-to, mind you, but anything else is too weak for personal satisfaction. Maybe it’s all just a different version of “stepping back”, an escapism or respite from the natural world? I don’t know. The result is that people find a way to move forward one way or another. And that’s nothing to scoff at.
In the end, when we feel less burdened, I think we need to remind ourselves to reflect on the different means we turn to in order to gain new found courage. Because it’s an opportunity to evaluate and keep in mind our best options for seeking inspiration and hope during those times when we need it most.
Not surprisingly, I prefer the natural reality over a supernatural one, and I encourage others to do the same. Because, along with the scientific affirmation of it’s true existence, we know it works. We know that somewhere, in our natural reality, we can find hope, and so can anyone else.
January 7, 2014
When I saw this meme, I contemplated what might be the best responses I would hear from a believer. The first one that came to mind was, “Atheists’ standards for proof are too high.” And then my atheist response to that was, “Does anyone need proof of the existence of earth? Why can’t God be as recognizable to every human being as the earth we stand on?”
And then I thought of another believer response to the meme…
“It’s not that God can’t prove his existence, it’s that he chooses not to. From my experience, God wanted my natural need of him to seek him out.”
I have to admit, I felt a sense of accomplishment when I came up with this one. It asks the atheist to think of a personal need for God, and according to the believer, whatever pops in the atheist’s mind would be personal evidence of God reaching out to the atheist!
But then, what kind of God would an atheist need? I don’t think any atheist like myself would need any biblical version of a God. So then “God” really isn’t any particular supreme being. “God” represents the cliche “wish fulfillment”.
Sure. I “wish” there were a lot of things different in this world of ours. But then I have to think realistically about my desires. What kind of change is worth hoping for? And it’s this question that becomes less of a cosmic pursuit for me, and more of a social, humanist pursuit. For me, “God” doesn’t fit into this practical pursuit.
December 9, 2012
I REMEMBER struggling, as a christian, over the subjectivity of one’s own mind. I struggled with the basic facts that we are fallible and ignorant. And my response was: how do I know anything I believe is true? I can make a mistake about my beliefs and/or I might lack crucial information that would drastically change my perceptions of reality (or as I use to call reality: “The Puzzle”).
It’s like trying to count all the stars at night. What are the chances you over-looked or imagined a bunch of stars that were or were not there? And who said you could actually see all the stars that are out there anyway?!
There were many times when I was humbled by another believer’s insightful knowledge. And, the more I read from thoughtful believers about the faith we shared, the more I realized how little I knew and didn’t understand about what I thought I knew. And yet, I had so much to teach!
More and more, I became uncertain about many of my religious convictions. I became less attached to them as I use to be, some more so than others. After all, I felt I needed to prepare myself to let a belief go if I was shown by others skilled in the knowledge of the bible/theology that I was wrong.
But I wasn’t gonna hand over every belief of mine to be tested. Not just yet. I maintained my belief in God and the bible as God’s revelation. Even though I didn’t know how I could justify those beliefs. All I could say was: “I just know because I have faith“. And then I would find myself struggling over the subjectivity of one’s own mind, again.
Sure, I wasn’t the only person who said their faith gave them knowledge, but everyone’s faith is different. And, more likely then not, one’s divine knowledge contradicted with another’s divine knowledge (much like the writers of the bible). So, I reminded myself that no one has all the pieces of “The Puzzle”. But that reminder didn’t make it easier for me to preach across the pulpit about the meaning of one Puzzle piece without knowing what the whole Puzzle is about.
Then I wondered: how does God, even God, know the whole Puzzle if The Puzzle is never finished? After all, The Puzzle is always changing over time. And even if there was a beginning and end to The Puzzle, and therefore time itself, wouldn’t there also be a beginning and end to God?
“But God is beyond time,” is the cliche conclusive response I’m use to hearing in the church. But they couldn’t explain to me what that statement, they used, actually meant.
Time is the measurement between the beginning and end of a movement. If God is beyond time, then God is beyond movement. How can a non-moving God be alive? And how does a non-moving God create anything?!
Lewis doubted his thoughts but he wouldn’t doubt his feelings about the thought of God’s existence?
And are all thoughts equally distrustful?
And isn’t “upsetting a milk jug” a mistaken analogy for natural selection?
June 13, 2012
There was a time in my christian past when I was afraid to be *emotionally* swayed by evil ideas.
But, eventually, I became more confident “in Christ”, rejected my fear of views opposed to christianity (I deemed them unworthy of my fear because I had faith in a greater power), and started studying what atheists thought about christianity — not to test my faith, but to make it stronger, deeper. I wanted to use “my God-given mind” to be intellectually intimate with God, not just emotionally intimate.
Most of my life I studied what/who I was or wasn’t by reading from Christian voices. But I believed I had reached a point of maturity in my faith where I was ready to contemplate what non-christian voices had to say about my world of belief. It was long overdue! After all, I was an evangelical! I should be able to hear from those whom I wanted to evangelize (share the knowledge of Jesus) with. I should be able to *explain* to them the obvious truth of the Christian reality.
The more I read about atheism, the more I adapted my explanations in an attempt to present a more reasonable one. And as a result, my theological views slowly moved from a more conservative leaning to a more liberal leaning, and eventually becoming an atheist myself. Some may think this is reason enough for them to not contemplate the views of atheists, and that my faith wasn’t as strong as I had thought. I disagree.
“Faith” is one of those words that believers (in my experience) put far more meaning into than any dictionary could (or would?). One aspect of faith is the kind of willpower to maintain a commitment — no matter what. Another is the relational/emotional attachments like love. Here, faith in God is more than just a choice. It’s innate, inevitable, a part of the unconscious core of your being. These two descriptions alone show how “trust” is not a proper synonym for “faith” in the mind of a believer, and probably why we often hear the cliche, “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” (To me, this just explains how all religions can be claimed as ‘relationships’.)
So, was it my lack of willpower that lead me to apostasy? No, it didn’t weaken. My willpower was as strong as ever until I purposely pulled it away from my commitment to Jesus. Then, was it that I fell out of love for God? Had I neglected this spiritual relationship to the point of ruin? No. I was more devoted at that time then I had ever been.
The problem was, next to the abundant willpower to commit to God and loving devotion I had for God, my relationship with God lacked an intellectual intimacy that could satisfy my conscience. I couldn’t get close to proving God’s love unless I ignored gratuitous suffering and biblical genocide. I couldn’t prove God’s existence outside of anecdotal evidence from a Christian society. I couldn’t even make the christian ideology seem like the most probable explanation for our reality. I couldn’t provide a reasonable explanation of the belief I had dedicated my whole life to. My theology seemed so lame compared to a materialist explanation — even though a materialist explanation didn’t explain everything.
I know I shouldn’t expect reasonable explanations to legitimate all my life experiences. But reason is an important part of the human experience. And I just couldn’t live the rest of my life like so many of the faithful over the centuries before me, who had embraced the unsatisfactory ineffable stance that, however indirectly, justified ethical dilemmas within the troubled Christian theology. I NEEDED a reasonable explanation. My moral journey required it.
And so, despite the strength of my former faith in God, for the good of my soul, my conscience, it was necessary that I break away from this being who I loved more than family and friends but couldn’t entrust my life with. It was necessary that I reject my commitment to: a God that seemed irresponsible and a belief that seemed intellectually unlikely. And after I rejected this spiritual relationship, feelings of love for “God” did remain, although, the feelings grew more and more nostalgic while “God” shrunk into the size of an imaginary friend – what I now accept “God” to have always been.
February 20, 2011
However, if peoples’ highest priority is wanting to believe in something they think is more worthy than believing in it’s competing beliefs, good debaters are needed.
Good debaters realize they have more to address than the part of the mind that collects and compares information. “Pathos” and “Ethos” are just as important as “Logos” when communicating/relating with others (a lesson I’ve been learning from my favorite rhetorician). And good debaters make good use of rhetoric to counter-act whatever misuses of rhetoric the opposition employs…
February 15, 2011
Numerous times, I’ve heard Christians (mostly leaders in churches and bible schools) directly or indirectly quote to me 1 John 4:7-8, pompously communicating to me that God has a monopoly on love, and whoever knows God knows what true love is like.
Of course, my internal response is, “How dare you presume such elitist, exclusionary and condescending position!” Well, to be honest, that’s not exactly how I articulated it in my mind. I meant those words, but my mind used a different dialect. My thoughts actually sounded more like: “FUCK YOU!!”
And then there’s this pro-atheist picture I stumbled upon today, the day after Valentine’s Day.
My immediate response was remembering the moment I saw my little girl for the first time. It’s sappy (and subjective), but my eyes tear up every time I think about it. Much to my surprise, my first Daddy experience felt as if more room for love was made instead of sharing the love I already had for her mother. It was such a new experience for me. Various overwhelmingly emotional feelings seemed to appear in my mind out of thin air and I was a different person, a person that took some time getting use to.
So, when I think about this pro-atheist picture and the pro-Christian views of love, I can’t help but think, “No, it’s not about challenging how ‘true’ another’s experience of love is, nor about challenging how much greater another’s experience of love is. Instead of claiming anothers’ experiences of love to be a shadow of our own, maybe we should just consider the possibility that no two people share the same journey of experiencing different kinds of love… ..whether it be for ideas, people or God.”
And, it just might be a healthy exercise for all of us to question ourselves: is the person or God we love, in some way (or every way), just an idea of some kind of person or God we want to love?