Maybe this is just me, but one of the things caught me a little by surprise when I “left the fold”, was the lack of organization amongst the unbelievers.
Hello Matt ...
I can’t say I was surprised by the lack of organization outside of the Church, I rather thought I was jumping into an abyss. But I can say that I felt very alone at first. I remember thinking, ‘What the hell am I gonna do now?’ As in, where and from whom am I going to get support, for myself, but also for my children. How can I teach them morals without religion? I spent a lot of time trying to find some other group to fill the void and provide a sense of security and community. But I never found one. What I did find was that after the first year or so had passed, the security part was developing within myself on its own. I grew a sense of self-confidence that life wasn’t so scary and I was doing better handling the injustices of life without having the added questions of, ‘Why me/him/her/them, God?’ And as for community, I joined a couple of committees – school governing board, recreational committee, minor hockey association – and found that together, they provided me a sense of community and belonging. As one who naturally and continually finds myself contemplating the spiritual, psychological, philosophical, I satisfy those needs by reading, lots of reading, discussing life with a few family members and friends, and now I logon to this forum! (I also participated in the PBS forum for their ‘Question of God’ series last fall.) So yes, maybe my sources of support are disjointed and aren’t found all under one roof, but they’re working for me.
Hope you’ve got your own concoction working for you ...
It’s weird that now I feel that pity, if not antagonism, that I once gave my roommate,
Me too. I had an atheist roommate and I remember a third college buddy, who was also a Lutheran like myself, drilling her on celebrating Christmas when she and her family didn’t even believe in Jesus. I remember feeling both sorry for my atheist friend that she lead such a shallow life, and put out that she just picked the fun stuff out of Christianity and left all the hard work (to keep the Church going) up to ‘true’ Christians. Needless to say, I don’t feel that way anymore. I am planning to make our Homecoming this fall and revisit the subject with her now that we’re both sitting on the same side of the argument. I shall then apologize profusely for my arrogance.
Isn’t it so much more satisfying to deal with others when we all have to take the responsibity for our actions
I posted somewhere here something called the ‘Drama Triangle’ which is a dysfunctional model for relating to others and is comprised of a victim, a persecutor and a rescuer. The way I see it, Christianity follows this model and therefore encourages codependence, rather than personal responsibility. There is a greater sense of responsibility and urgency assigned to problems, both on a personal and global scale, when God is out of the picture. If there is no guy in the sky feeding the hungry, healing the sick, doling out justice, then I guess we better do some of that work or it’s surely going to be hell for everybody.
We’ve got a problem here since the christian believer is almost defined by what they are compelled to think and do and it’s not always benign.
Benign. That’s the word I was looking for earlier when I was trying to explain the difference between me and my father. He sees that the Church might not be perfect and even that it may be way off track from Jesus’ intended message, but that its shortcomings, though unfortunate, are rather ‘benign’ and harmless. In my view, there ain’t nothing benign about it. Thanks for the word and taking the time to write. And in case God gets the credit for your next success with a patient, thanks for that too ...
Hi again Ordinary. Please excuse my use of words like ‘nutty’ and ‘madness’ to describe your faith-based beliefs, but those truly are my exact feelings on the matter. I don’t intend for these descriptions to jeopardize our discussion, but on the contrary, I hope they indicate to you just how my feelings run on these kinds of subjects - so you know better where I stand. Now if you were to call my belief (and accompanying ‘faith’) in evolution a madness it wouldn’t offend me at all, but it would show me how little you must understand of what I am referring to in that case (because my belief is so strong and unshakeable).
The difference in our prospective positions is that I have studied your evidence (scripture, testimony, deep conviction) and I’m not sure if you have likewise studied the biological and zoological evidence appropriately? (Actually Ordinary, I don’t even know, maybe you are a committed believer in the theory of evolution?)
You have said that you are a PanenTrinitarian - that’s a strange concoction - it only comes up with 11 sites on the Google search and most of those only mention one part or the other part in passing while describing the main thread. As far as I could gather, the ‘Panen’ section is a belief in a god-to-world relationship similar to the mind-body relation - so it is an innate dualism of the Cartesian variety. However, there also exists another (stronger) version that claims the separation of god from world is not so distincive and might be impossible. That’s confusing enough, now let’s go to the second part ‘Trinitarianism” - originally it was the christian sect that believed in the holy trinity as the true manifestation of god, that god consisted of three distinct parts, but yet could maintain a monotheistic stance? This is really getting complicated. Newer versions of ‘Trinitarians’ believe that god is really a community of beings that in effect project only one entity - god.???
Now, can we move along to where you and I both agree that belief is built out of sufficient evidence along with a smidgen of faith to override the fact that complete certitude cannot be attained. So, my belief in the process of evolution can be equated with your belief in a PanenTrinitarian deity. Help me Ordinary, I cannot see the threads of your balloon any longer. Are you still attached to reality? What evidence do you have that has been sufficient enough to tether your belief? Whatever that evidence is, do you actually think that it will be possible to convince me with the same certitude that the evidence for evolution provides? Give it your best shot (quotes from bible are not evidence of the sort required, I could give you quotes that prove without doubt that women are the property of men, enough said. And the notion that god is love - that’s another evasive attempt at reasoning - is love a being a deity?).
Here’s my theory - all christian believers have a big secret that they cannot reveal, but if they could, that bit of information would convert all the nonbelievers. The secret is (don’t pass it around) that each of them believes that he/she is the second coming of christ. Of course they cannot say this out loud because everyone else who believes the same thing would be offended and likely to turn on them like the public did to Rev. Jones and David Koresh. Everyone hopes that they have the Jesus gene (well, they are almost sure of it), but they have to wait it out until the appropriate time when god wants this secret revealed. So they give us other evidence to support their belief in god even when they know that it is not substantial enough, but how does one submit to the ultimate test and give out the proof of god’s existence “Look at ME, I am the way”? It really is a catch22 isn’t it?
Just lost a long post when the power failed. S#$%@
Susan…did see the triangle drama…good points
Ordinary…The definition of faith is important and most of us assume it means to believe without evidence. Hence I would argue that I base essentially none of my life on faith. Everyday we do risk assessment to deal with uncertainties and then hope that we get favorable results. I assess the risks from all that I know about intersections and then hope that I make it through OK. I certainly can’t say I know I’ll make it every time, or even that I have faith I will. I assess the risks of flying or eating food and while most of this is subconscious and based on questionable data on my part, I still do it. Change the data…break the traffic light, report on salmonella, or airline problems and I’ll reassess. No faith involved. Even saying we trust the reports is not faith but an assessment of reliability based on past experience. Without past experience we can only hope that any downside due to our choices is not critcal.
Similarly, I don’t like to talk about believing or having faith in some idea or theory. When a theory has so much good evidence that it rises to the strength of fact, I accept it. I’ll say I know it, but saying I believe it almost implies a choice based on faith, as when someone says they believe in evolution. You don’t have to believe in evolution, you accept the evidence or not. Is the theory that we need oxygen to live a fact or not? Do we know it or just believe it? When it comes to the point that we would bet our lives on a theory it’s pretty close to fact or we might say the downside risk is acceptable. No faith involved. I don’t have faith that diabetes causes vascular disease, I know it does based on evidence.
I would be a little foolish to believe or have faith that panty hose has a lot to do with breast cancer without further evidence, but it could be assessed and we could hope for an answer either way. In the meantime most rational women don’t need to worry too much.
It seems to me then that faith in god is the only real “faith” we need to talk about since everything else is based on some reasoning and assessment of choices based on facts, or evidence, and risks and the likelyhood we might be right or wrong.
Susan - Yes, I do have a support concoction that works for me, although I am not dogmatic about its particulars, and thus am constantly fine-tuning it.
An awful lot of interesting things have been discussed here since my last post, but rather than trying to address them all, I will instead offer the following:
The reason why I believe that Christians are irrational dogmatists can be illustrated by considering one specific Biblical story, its implications, and the contortions that Christian apologists have gone through to maintain that it is, in fact, true and accurate.
Consider the flood as described in Genesis. The basic story states that God told Noah to build a large boat, and then gathered up two of every animal (with a few exceptions that do not impact this argument) and loaded them up to wait out a flood that covered the entire planet. There are, upon careful consideration, many problems with this account, including issues of how much water would be involved, how many animals there would have been, how large the ark would have been and how plants would have survived.
What I find telling is this: When confronted with the various practical problems of the Biblical account, Christians do not say, well gee, that must be wrong, or possibly one of those stories that is meant to be read in a symbolic fashion. Instead we get a series of progressively more complex explanations to help make sure that the story is plausible: The earth was more flat, so less water was needed, Noah did not need every type of animal, only one of each “kind” (whatever that is), the animals were very young - perhaps even in stasis, &c.
To me, this kind of thing is telling evidence of faulty reasoning. An event is assumed to be true (e.g. the flood), and all evidence is interpreted in this light. The fact that the explanation becomes progressively less plausible is ignored because of the first faulty assumption which has resulted in this chain of reasoning.
Contrast this with modern scientific debate, and there is a remarkable difference. Scientists do not run around saying that things are true just because some other scientist said so. While I will happily concede that wrong ideas have (and are and will) been accorded the support of many scientists, and many in the scientific community are more easily swayed by the arguments of people that they respect, note that an absolute appeal to authority is almost never heard in scientific circles. Well golly, Dawkins said that frozen burritos kill brain cells, so it must be true!
The only things that are appropriate to accept on faith (IMHO) and the reasons why:
1. The world is real and all of the people in it are truly seperate individuals who are not figments of my imagination - If they are figments of my imagination, then I have much bigger issues to deal with.
2. Human beings do have free will - If we don’t, then I suppose we will have this conversation anyway, but the outcome is not as important as we think it is.
Thankyou Rod and Matt for your separate posts clarifying the usage of the words ‘faith’ and ‘belief.’ As I was writing my previous post I kept cringing when I said “I believe in the process of evolution” and wrote the word faith in quotes. Now I see that I was simply pandering to the Champ’s semantics and therefore actually compromised what I had to say. Thanks for the advice, we really have to be absolutely clear in what we mean or we end up giving the wrong impression. It’s a critical distinction for a valuable conversation.
[quote author=“Ordinary”]I use the word faith in a pretty general sense, but certainly it includes religious (I hate that word, but don’t know what else to use) faith. When I hear people speak of making decisions on ‘sufficient evidence’, its often assumed that faith then is not necessary. I don’t think that is the case at all. Let me give you an example.
Most of us drive automobiles everyday and for the most part, do it relatively safely. When I approach an intersection where I have a green light, consequently the cross traffic has a red light. As I approach, I have sufficient evidence that I will be safe as I go through the intersection.
I’m glad you explained your take, because I think you’re making the most common error (of those who have moved beyond the emotional baggage and fear that keeps them from really dealing with the matter, anyway).
You do not have sufficient evidence that you will move through the intersection safely to conclude that you will—you have to accept it as a probability. You have to accept a degree of uncertainty. That’s the core of the typical disagreement at this level of discussion regarding faith.
Faith is about avoiding that fact of reality—that there are uncertainties we simply can’t protect ourselves completely from. We have to act based upon probablities and only after we’ve already acted do we have all of the assurances we’d like to have before.
That’s what makes life interesting, but it’s also what frightens the “faithful” into seeking comfort through the self-deception of faith.
Bob… You say that “I have studied your evidence (scripture, testimony, deep conviction)...”. I have to respectfully say, “no you haven’t.” You may think you have because you’ve talked to other believers or perused sacred texts, but you haven’t ever sat down with me and asked, “So why do you in fact believe what you do.” This, obviously, is understandable. You don’t know me, I don’t know you. It is not unreasonable to say, “Ordinary gives himself certain labels so I can make some judgments on his position”, but the reality is you haven’t studied my evidence/reasons for believing. And if your evidence includes many of the other ‘believers’ who post here… I think you know, there a pretty big difference between them and I.
Could I persuade you? I have no idea. I guess that would depend on a lot of things. Just to give you an idea, since the overwhelming majority of biological scientists believe in various versions of evolution, not being one, I have no reason to doubt it. But holding on to evolution as a scientific explanation for why we have the species we do and the such is completely different then holding on to evolution as an explanation for the existence of the world, metaphysically. There are philosophical questions about the existence of the universe evolution can not answer. It is at this level I want to open up dialogue.
And your theory about Christians… I’m not sure what I think about that.
Rod… Thanks for joining in. You may not like talking about ‘believing’ or ‘having faith’ in some idea or theory, but that’s what you are doing. You speak of taking ‘risk’ based on ‘assessments’ and ‘probabilities’, but you speak of the same things that I speak of (in my opinion). Littered throughout your post you use words like ‘hope’ and ‘trust’, but these words are used interchangably in the believers vocabulary. The words ‘trust’ and ‘faith’ are the exact same greek word used in the New Testament and I can’t speak of hope without speaking of faith. To look at a theory that’s ‘pretty close to fact’ means that you must step out and take that leap and say, “I’m going to hold this to be true” even though you can’t prove it. “But the probability is so high, its like ‘knowing’ with certainty’. If I tried to pull that with some sort of argument for the existence of God, you atheists would chew me up and spit me out. Calling it something different doesn’t make it different.
I think one of the reason why atheists don’t get a fair hearing in reasonable believers circles (not saying you want one) is that you won’t admit that you live your life similiarly to those who believe. As I hear everyone say, “well, we don’t have faith. we have….um….calculated movements to high probabilities.” In my opinion, that’s not completely honest and its an attempt to classify a similar position in a different category to gain leverage in discussions with guys like me.
You finish your post by saying, “It seems to me then that faith in god is the only real “faith” we need to talk about since everything else is based on some reasoning and assessment of choices based on facts, or evidence, and risks and the likelyhood we might be right or wrong.” By saying something like this, the atheist is free to classify faith in God in a completely different way than all the other faith that exists. I don’t agree at all. Take from me as a believer, my faith in God is very similar to my faith in a lot of other aras in my life.
Finally, Byron…you say, “Faith is about avoiding the fact of reality.” Boy, I really don’t know what to say here. I’m sure that’s what you hold to be true (along with others), but this is why dialogue is so difficult. I don’t think that at all. My faith is an attempt to try live in this real world, not to escape it. I don’t fear science, nor do I fear others who think differently than me. I am able (to some degree; not perfectly) to understand why some people hold atheistic positions. I obviously don’t believe that, but I can understand why others may. It does surprise me that many here just can’t fathom how ‘reasonable, intelligent people’ can come to conclusions of faith. With the vast majority of the world holding firmly to the belief in some sort of supernatural presence, that surprises me greatly and causes me to question the true openness of atheists to think hard about these things. Not their intelligence because clearly they are intelligent, but there is, I believe, an unwillingness.
In your last post you make the statement
“You say that “I have studied your evidence (scripture, testimony, deep conviction)...”. I have to respectfully say, “no you haven’t.” You may think you have because you’ve talked to other believers or perused sacred texts, but you haven’t ever sat down with me and asked, “So why do you in fact believe what you do.” This, obviously, is understandable. You don’t know me, I don’t know you.”
What I was attempting to do Ordinary was to draw out some of your evidence, but realizing that you hadn’t provided any I simply grasped at the obvious (scripture, testimony, deep conviction) and I also looked up the definition of ‘PanenTrinitarianism’ so that I might better understand your evidence/reasons. However, since none of that made any sense, at least not enought to induce any reasonable person to believe (yes, all believers are unreasonable) - I suspected that it was some very personal, unrevealable experience that led you to “give your life” over to belief by faith - so I concocted that story about you having the Jesus gene. I was desparate to find your evidence/reason Ordinary.
However, I was writing in jest about your expectation of being the next Jesus - yet it must be somekind of forceful , self-fulfilling evidence that prompts you to make that leap to a supernatural deity? Can you help me out there? Can you show me that you are a reasonable person as you claim to be?
Let me quote you back to you, “So why in fact do you believe what you do?”
I’ll try my best to answer your question taking in consideration the context we are in.
Why do I believe what I believe? It really is a good… but hard question because so much goes into what all of us believe. Again, for context purposes, I am a Jesus-follower, so that you may distinguish me from others who believe. Resist the urge to say things like, “But the gospels are all fairy tales! or You can’t trust those accounts because they have been changed by power-hungry clerics.” Take the Gospels at face value for the time being like you accept other ancient texts. The ancient texts of plato or aristotle, because they are old, we don’t immediately say, “They are a forgery! They’ve been doctored!”
First, I believe Jesus and what he said most accurately reflects the core of who I am. Nothing in all my life truly revealed the insides of who I am as a person than Jesus’ words. Likewise, nothing I have ever read pinpointed my true hope like the words of Jesus. Nothing I ever read explained the true condition of the world better than the words of Jesus. So firstly, I believe due to how accurate Jesus pinpoints my heart and (I believe) pinpoints the world’s condition.
Secondly, I think Jesus answers the big questions of life better than any other. The big questions for me are origin, meaning, morality and destiny.
I hope you weren’t looking for “proofs”. I can’t offer you them. Sure, I could say things like “this is why I believe the reliability of scripture….” But what good would that do? You don’t even accept the God behind the scriptures, so why quote scripture?
The truth of the matter is, there are many like me who have reasonable stories of faith. I hope that hang-ups atheist have on scripture, some of those irrational one’s who believe, and some of your own history wouldn’t stop you from truly exploring the depths of faith.
Ordinary ....I get your point on faith more than you think and I agree that we all live our lives in much the same way on a daily basis and I don’t go around making conscious little calculations about every action I take. But I hope you will agree that this does happen at a very basic level in the brain. ( Substitute “have faith” for “hope” in the last sentence and tell me it really means the same thing.) You do yourself a disservice when you won’t even let me define a difference in the meaning of ” to believe based on faith” and “to know based on evidence”. Sure we are all guilty at times of ” littering” our speech with words like trust and hope, but they sure don’t entail faith. Did Reagan mean faith when he said “trust but verify” to the Soviets. I was trying actually to give” Faith in God” a special kind of status as opposed to equating it with our everyday reasoning. If faith is belief without evidence why keep saying that you have evidence? The bible may indeed fit with your world view and that makes it comfortable for you to follow its’ teachings. Who can argue with love and forgiveness? I can only say again, that this is just not “evidence” in the sense that most of us here see it. I “hope” that you can see my point this time
Alright Ordinary - your last post makes a few things a lot clearer and I would say gives a reasonable account of why you would believe what Jesus preached. For a christian, as well as for the atheist, that was the easy answer. Of course no one (or few at least) would argue about what Jesus said on meaning and morality, given the context of his times. Even his ideas about origins and destiny can be taken at face value, given that he was a Jew (radical/revolutioinary) at that time in history. But when you mention origins and destiny, I have to shake my head because science has given us an immensely more believable accounting of both. Even, say 500 years ago, we knew hardly anything about the world, its physical history and the history of life itself, so one could at that time be given a wide berth in believing those myths, but in 2005 - that’s a pretty egotistical drubbing of reason and scientific evidence. How can one dismiss Galileo, Darwin, Nietzsche? For me, at least, I cannot throw out so much proven knowledge for a hope and a prayer of saving my own skin (or immortal soul?). I simply cannot be blind to so much factual information as to dismiss it all for a hope that is impossible.
I’m glad that you mentioned plato and aristotle - their philosophies give us origins, meaning, morality and destiny. And even though they do not place themselves at the pinnacle of their own beliefs (egoism) or give immortal, supernatural beings more than a passing mention, I have also rejected their philosophical systems (especially plato’s). I have also read much about Daoist belief, and I accept most everything from LaoTze and ChuangTze - origin, meaning, morality and destiny. I have also read a lot of Buddhist works and accept much his teachings and, of course, particularly the Zen Buddhist philosophy. Both of these philosophical systems are entirely godless (atheist) in nature, yet they speak to the condition of man and the world in ways that Jesus simply cannot match. Confusianism also gives us origins, meaning , morality and destiny, it has no gods or spirits to speak of, and it gives us a philosophy that is much more coherent and practical than does Jesus.
I think that the words of Jesus appeal to people on a very personal level, all that about divine forgiveness and loving your neighbour, and especially how it appeals to the emotional state of each person, as if each one has a special status in the cosmos and that god actually ‘loves’ each one - those are the things that get to people. But is jesus’ philosophy a practical one - it doesn’t seem so. I find that it builds the ego to the point of supersoul until each jesus believer attains a level of arrogance that is unhealthy. Buddhism and Daoism teach one to surpass the ego - that ego is the thing that must be overcome if one is to reach true enlightenment. I believe in that kind of philosophy.
Anyway, thanks for giving us some of your reasons for believing - I certainly appreciate your candor. Oh, by the way, I say that your admission was the easy one, because you don’t tackle the notion of god to any degree, but rather accept jesus’ version of god. I think most atheists are fairly accepting of the jesus philosophy (even though we reject it) but it’s those other christian staples, god, satan, heaven, hell, immortal soul, life after death that we find impossible to swallow. How is your pallet on those notions?
Yes Ordinary, Jesus preached a good philosophy, and can be admired and respected for what he said and did.
But that doesn’t make him any more the son of God than any other great philosopher does it?
I can admire the man and his teachings without having to believe he was the son of God and all the permutations and distortions of logic and reason you have to make to support this.
In fact, I am kind of insulted on a species level that people insinuate that this kind of compassionate thinking could only come from Outside the human race, and that we are not capable of reaching it on our own.
I am kinda insulted by the entire idea that God created us in his image, and yet we are unable to save ourselves by our own rescources even though we DID eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. What kind of sense does that make?
none whatsoever to me, not only is christianity a religion of egotism, its a denial of humanity to me and a religion of death
Bob…I don’t believe my faith system discounts or ignores any of the scientific discoveries made all the way up to 2005. Nor do I want it to. There certainly is a great divide within Christianty about Darwin. As for me, I’m not opposed to his study. In the very end of ‘on the origin of species’, Darwin doesn’t come to the conclusion that God must not exist if his evolutionary theory is wrong. He assumes there was a Creator. So I want to take into account all that others have shown to be the case scientifically. Why you include in Nietzsche, I do not? While winsome and thought provoking, all one has to do is look at Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and look at the destruction of his influence on the countries who were led by leaders who revered Nietzsche’s writings.
We can’t get into the ‘my god is bigger than your god’ arguement. I certainly don’t think that Jesus is surpassed in his revelation of humanity. You do. So be it. I just wonder how fair of a treatment atheists truly give Jesus and the gospels. You don’t have recognize the gospel accounts as ‘scripture’ to give it a fair hearing. Just read it as you would other text, for face value.
I guess I really don’t want to get into the finer details of the Christian tradition. You don’t even accept some of the basic premises of the faith; to get into the finer details would be fruitless.
Iisbliss…do you have kind of an heir of supremacy that you need to think you can do everything yourself? I have come to learn about myself that I need a lot of help; that there are a lot of things I can’t do on my own. I have come to terms with that. And for me, the blessing of my faith is that God is out to help me in ways I can’t help myself, rather than smoke me for it. Apparently, you haven’t come to see your own need for help in a variety of ways.
When scripture isn’t read as it was intended to be read, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
True Christianty brings people to humility, not egotism. I am grieved to see the vast number of arrogant SOB ‘Christians’. They are not following Jesus appropriately (at all, really).