Posts tagged ‘belief’
It’s been two years since I finally admitted to myself that I was not struggling with doubt any more; I no longer believed in God. The creed below is what I can say with some confidence that I believe in today. I got a little silly with the language, and I did so on purpose, to help me remember to hold my new beliefs lightly. Feel free to argue, challenge or question me, or the entire concept of an unbeliever having “beliefs”. As for me, atheism only defines what we don’t believe in, leaving us a wide variety of beliefs we can still hold onto. I invite you to post your own beliefs in the comments.
Proposition 1: I believe that there is an objective reality; that what is, is; that a = a.
- Clarification of the above Proposition: I believe that what is, is neither as good, as bad, or even as easily defined or comprehended as it first seems.
- Corollary of the above Clarification: I believe that labels, like all nouns and symbols, are useful tools- if you remember they are not what actually is.
- Addendum upon previous three statements: I believe that observation, experimentation, reason, and logic are the best tools we’ve yet found to learn what actually is.
Proposition 2: I believe that actions have consequences.
- Corollary on Proposition 2: I believe that what we think, say, do, and choose matters.
- Conclusion drawn from above Corollary and previous Clarification: What we think, say, do and choose matters, but rarely in the manner we expect or intend.
- Corollary on above Conclusion and previous Addendum: We don’t really know what we’re doing, but that’s no reason not to do our best. Please refer to Corollary two statements previous.
Proposition 3: I believe that value is extrinsic.
- Addendum on Proposition 3: I believe that we attribute value through ritual and sanctification (blessing, or intentionally making sacred/holy).
- Corollary on Propostions 1 through 3: I believe that we create what meaning and purpose there is, and can, through changing our choices, change what meaning and purpose we create.
- Addendum on above Corollary: I believe that empathy, introspection and reason are the best tools we’ve found yet for choosing what meaning and purpose to create, and that the ethic of reciprocity (popularly summarized as the Golden Rule) is the best starting point from which to employ our empathy, introspection and reason, with special attention paid to the resources we have to draw on and the needs which we can fill (including, but not limited to, our own).
Overly simplistic, yet still valid Conclusion drawn from everything said thus far in this creed (much to my pleasant surprise): I believe in love.
- Quester with thanks to all the support, fellowship and inspiration I’ve received on this site over the past two years!
I realized sometime ago that I don’t talk to you like I used to. The most praying I do these days is the same nighttime prayer I’ve prayed since I was a child. I don’t even say grace before meals anymore. Not out loud, anyway. It’s just the little rhyme Mom taught me, and it’s usually when the first forkful is already in my mouth.
I don’t even know if I miss you. I don’t know who I’m supposed to miss.
Somehow, though, I still believe in you. Somehow, I still hope that you care and are doing something about the state of the world. It would be nice to know that you loved me and really did do some of the things they say you did. But I won’t hold my breath.
I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way, but I guess you know that. I mean that I’m not going to hold out for a sign from you before I live my life. I don’t think I’ll ever fully know or understand your will, so I don’t really see a point in continued attempts to grasp it through prayer and biblical interpretation. I’m just going to keep going, and keep hoping that it will all be okay with you in the end.
You might remember the conversation I had with M. (We’ve been going out. Fellow agnostic theist. It’s been awesome, thanks. :D) We were talking about heaven, hell, and judgment. And I said that a usual scare tactic is a Bible verse about the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” by the people who are shut out, in darkness. Nobody wants to spend eternity weeping and gnashing their teeth, right?…
Several months ago, someone I love dearly, Frank, underwent major surgery. Given his advanced age (he’s 83) and general poor health, there were some doubts as to whether he would survive the surgery. He did survive and has spent the intervening months in a nursing home, where he has been receiving physical therapy. In a recent meeting with his therapist, Frank and his wife were informed that he will likely be an invalid for the rest of his life.
My emotional response throughout Frank’s illness and rehab has been sorrow. Every time I visit Frank and see him in his wheelchair or bed, I can’t help contrasting that man with the younger man who cheered as I played softball, the man who joyfully wandered around a zoo with my young children, the man who drove 4,000 miles across North America to visit my family. I feel overwhelming sorrow that most of Frank’s days will now be spent in the confines of a nursing home. A man who has traveled around the world now finds that a wheelchair journey down the hall is a major event that draws upon all of his physical resources. How can that thought not make me sad?
The emotion that I have not felt throughout Frank’s ordeal is anger. At what or whom would I be angry? There is no god to blame for not intervening in Frank’s life and healing him. There is no god to implore for mercy, no god to whom I may inquire what Frank could possibly have done to deserve this fate after decades of faithful, loving service to his god. This is a sharp contrast to the anguish and anger I felt 25 years ago when I was a Christian and my Christian father was dying of cancer. My siblings and I were called to my father’s bedside about three weeks before he died. We spent two days visiting with him and my mother in the hospital in which he later died. When we said goodbye, we knew it was the last time we would ever say those words to each other…
Fear is a powerful emotion. It can completely change the way our brain functions. When an animal is running for its life from a predator, it’s sympathetic nervous system takes over and changes the functioning of its body. The brain hopped up on fear shuts down regular functions such as digestion. It raises the heartbeat, dilates the pupils, and directs blood flow away from other organs and tissues and toward the lungs and limbs. Suffice it to say, it’s difficult to think clearly during fearful situations, let alone rationalize.
When we experience fear, we lean toward automatic reactions. That’s been programmed into our brains thanks to our instinct of self-preservation. Our brains tell us “Don’t think! Just be safe!” and that is why making decisions based on fear is not always a good idea. If your being chased by a mountain lion, then by all means, don’t think–just run away. But what if the thing causing your fear is less concrete, empirically speaking, than a charging cougar? In those instances we have to tell our sympathetic nerves to shut up for a second while we asses the situation. We have to examine the basis for fear before we give in to it.
Many of the arguments for putting faith in God are based on fear. Pascal’s Wager takes advantage of fear by claiming it is better to believe in God just in case, so that we can avoid the punishment of hell if, by some chance it exists…
“Belief cannot argue with unbelief, it can only preach to it.”
The above quote is by Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian who died about 30 years ago. He is revered among intellectual theologians and Popes alike. I love this Barthian quote. In fact, I find it self evident and quite enlightening.
I have a number of conspicuously un-read books on my shelf – most of which are there to make me look intelligent and learn-ed and to hide my Harry Potter books! One of these, which I bought a few of years ago during my “re evaluation,” is Twentieth-Century Western Philosophy of Religion. To be honest I no more than skimmed it, but I recently dug it out to look at this quote.
The writer expands Barth’s quote.
Religion is a matter of conversation, not argument, and there is no logical transition from unbelief to belief. Religious belief is not dependent on any philosophy it stands on its own terns. If the atheist claims that religious belief fails the test of rationality and then no rational person should accept it, religious belief can only confess its content and appeal to its authority…
The mountains were cypress-green and breathtakingly beautiful. Spiros was standing in one of the most impressive parts of Greece. On a brilliant spring morning he was at the foot of Mount Parnassus, a few miles from Corinth. In spite of the beauty, all he could think about was the problem of the boat which had become stuck on the sands of his mind for some weeks now.
Should he buy it, or shouldn’t he? If he didn’t decide soon, it would be too late. He had the money. Some had been left by his father; the rest had been painfully saved over the past ten years. But now, at the moment of decision, he seemed paralysed, unable to jump. It was such an important decision, such a lot of money, and he urgently needed a message from the gods. His wife had sent him to Delphi because her sister had been helped. Rumour and family superstition or experience had combined to help Spiros half believe that the Delphic Oracle would make the divine will known.
And behind all this Spiros was driven by factors that were working at a less conscious level. Of course, he missed his father dreadfully, and at night, or alone in the harbour, suppressed questions surfaced. Was there life beyond the grave? Would he be good enough to please the gods? Would he ever see his father again? Were the gods really in control? Did the gods really exist?…
Well, I must say that I did not quite expect to get as many responses to the questions on my previous blog, A Curious Christian with a few questions for de-converts, as I did. Wow. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. After some careful study of your answers and thoughts, here’s what I think and what I think I hear some of you saying.
Some of you struggled with leaving your faith, others of you left easily. Some of you were happy as Christians, some of you were miserable. The Bible, for most, is not authoritative in any way, but instead full of contradictions and fantastic stories. Most of you have nothing against Christians, you just think that many of them are misguided. No one seemed to have a problem with Jesus (I can only think of one post where that was an exception). The hypocrisy of the church turns some of you off, the feeling of being lied to for others.
Some of you felt deserted by God and some of you just awakened from an untruth you thought you had been told, similar to finding out that Santa Claus wasn’t real. In some way you couldn’t reconcile conflicting parts of your faith so you decided that maybe the reason was that God wasn’t there to begin with. One of the most heart-wrenching statements I read was that you prayed for God to help your unbelief and He didn’t answer. Some of you feel like the foundation of your former faith only stood on the slippery slope of personal experience and not on fact.
Am I hearing you correctly? I hope I am. Please let me know if I missed something…