Saralynn had this intriguing quote on another thread:
Well, I have stopped pondering the God question. I figure millions of people who are a heck of a lot smarter than I am have cogitated about the existence of God down through the centuries and it always boils down to the same thing. No hard evidence, but lots of conjecture. Even if someone has an intense mystical experience, they do not know for certain if they were or were not delusional.
To me, faith is a choice. I have opted to believe in God, even when I don’t believe in God. I base this decision on the revelations of the mystics, the trend of evolution from simplicity to complexity, (from pond scum to Einstein); the laws of the Universe, which suggest an Intelligence in some form; the mystery of consciousness; the creative impulse which has resulted in incredible works of art, music, poetry, etc,,all of which serve no evolutionary purpose and…the most important factor (for me), my preference. I PREFER to trust that, quite possibly, a transcendent reality exists and this reality is good.
If God exists, He/She/It/Thou/ “I am that I am” must be available to all people, from the intellectually gifted to simple folk who are completely illiterate. I am therefore skeptical that an intellectual search for God is useful at all. Besides that, the Universe is big, our intelligence limited.
One of my favorite stories is about Thomas Aquinas, who, borrowing from Plato (I think) created an elaborate system of theology which he wrote about in a multitude of books. Near the end of his life, he had a revelatory experience of “The Living God”, and from that point forward, he refused to write, claiming, compared to his experience, all his books seemed like “dry leaves in the wind.” Or something like that.
So…I have chosen to believe. It’s not a once and for all thing….the decision is made over and over again. It is not based on feeling…it is based on hope. It is based on trust. It hovers at the edge of doubt. That is as it should be. Faith without doubt = brainwashing.
I didn’t want to derail that thread any more than I already had, so this quote is now the subject of a new topic. Is faith a choice? Or do people who believe do so because they are compelled by their nature? I don’t want to get into a Free Will vs. Determinism discussion here, just want to explore why people believe. So, comment on Saralynn’s quote, if you please. Seems to me that her Aquinas story is a little at odds with her position that faith is a choice, but how do you see it?
I always appreciate your elucidations even though I rarely agree with them. Stuff like this can’t really be agreed or disagreed about of course. I think we are all in charge of our personal narrative. The most we can say is that ‘my experience is similar’ or ‘my experience differs’.
I don’t perceive faith as a choice. The belief component at any rate doesn’t seem that way. I can’t think of anything of which I am convinced of the truth of that I can consider a choice. I feel like being presented with adequate evidence is the elimination of a choice. Being convinced of something is simply the structure that my mind has at this moment. If faith transcends belief in some important way as many claim it does I have a little trouble evaluating the other elements. If there is some kind of extra-sense involved I must stand mute. The idea that it represents confidence or trust is something I can think about though. This may be a little more voluntary. We do have some real discretion over what and whom we invest confidence in. As a matter of practical circumstance this is rarely an unambiguously obvious choice.
It’s an interesting question. I will think on it some more.