Posts tagged ‘faith’
God, as a personal deity, is expected to be trusted no matter what. Doubt and disbelief in such a God is mostly seen as an anomaly, as a kind of sickness that requires healing. Fortunately, there are voices that consider doubt a virtue, such as Peter Rollins. He is a rare breed in an arena crowded with voices claiming with all certainty that God is this and God is that.
I once thought that I had God pinned down, and that I had a vital relationship with him. Now, I wonder whether that was just wishful thinking. I really don’t think religion or atheism are right-and-wrong positions (Rollins delves into this beautifully); they are simply conceptual frameworks for identifying with certain positions. Anything – and I mean anything – that is said about God is no more than language, no more than a signifier. If you are experienced with philosophy at all, you may begin to suspect that I am delving into the subjective-objective domain here, and you are correct. But regardless of how technical I get at describing faith and belief (or lack thereof), it does all come back to ideas.
The concept of God is not static. It is a construction over thousands of years involving the mental projections of men and women (primarily men, given the most common gender-typing of God as He). Does the projection accurately reflect the reality of that which it points to?..
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…
I have previously written about whether or not a reasonable faith exists. Today, I’d like to share a few thoughts inspired by the book Finding Faith by Brian McLaren.
In Chapter 1, titled Does It Really Matter What I Believe, McLaren distinguishes between good and bad faith. What I found interesting is that his descriptors for bad faith perfectly label my experience of faith in the churches I’ve attended, while his descriptors for good faith are the things I’ve desired but rarely found. The descriptors for bad faith are as follows:
- Bad faith is based solely on unquestioned authority.
A rather wicked use of scripture for this assertion is “touch not God’s anointed”.
- Bad faith is based on pressure or coercion.
If you’ve ever been to see the production of Heaven’s Gate Hell’s Flames, you’ll know about this one. That is a terrible dramatic presentation utilizing fear and guilt to coerce people to believe.
- Bad faith is often the result of a psychological need for belonging.
This is likely the primary reason why my family came to faith. Churches can be a wonderful place of friendship and potential courtship for singles, particularly given the individualism of our time…
Recently, Rachel posed this question on her post “A Curious Christian with A Few Questions for de-cons“:
Are de-cons open to returning to the faith or is that impossible?
Here are a few of the responses from d-C contributors and readers:
I try to remain open to returning to my old faith, but am seeing less and less possibility as time goes on and searches prove unfruitful.
I’m open to learning new things and changing my mind. However, after studying and seeking for over 40 years, I really doubt that I will suddenly discover that God is real. - writerdd
Sort of like asking Christians if they are open to new religions, is it not? Only in this case we are people who have at least admitted that we are capable of changing our minds on the subject. The problem is that this question implies that this was a conscious decision on our parts. For myself, and most here, it isn’t. If the evidence in support of whatever version of Christianity is strong enough, I am sure I would accept it – as a former apologeticist, I have only found that it fails in every historical and philosophical aspect known to myself. - TheApostate…
In The End of Faith, Sam Harris argues that faith is unreasonable, and the cause of much of our present world turmoil (bar natural disasters). I have struggled with my faith and my beliefs have undergone radical changes in a short period of time. Presently, I have been looking at the nature of consciousness and the purpose of myth, these being incredibly fascinating areas. It took a great deal of time to let go of ‘the God out there’, yet once gone I was not saddened. What I now consider an inferior idea was replaced with the notion of ‘the ground of our being’. I no longer care to seek to experience God in religion, for the experience of life is far more enriching. This means that faith in God is entirely unnecessary, and however I name my experience of life is an arbitrary construction.
As such, I am more and more coming to the position, like Sam Harris, that religion itself requires deconstruction. The whole system is flawed and really should just be pulled apart. Depth and meaning, or sacredness and spirituality, can still flow through the culture without the necessity for institutions to administer it. I was never really into institutional religion even through my Christian years. I viewed my simple faith and pentecostal experiences to be superior to the extra baggage that seemed to be carried in other traditions. Still, that did not make me irreligious, just skeptical of the validity of the other forms. As I moved through my deconstruction process, I have tried to remain as open-minded as possible to the potential good that could still exist in the religious traditions, particularly Christianity. Unfortunately, it seems the negatives far outweigh the positives when it comes to the contribution that religion makes today.
I guess the most pertinent question to ask is, how useful is religion?…
Kieran Bennett recently completed his series on why Christians de-convert. To answer this question, he considered 94 of the 117 de-conversion stories he read on one of the largest archives of de-conversion stories on the internet.
Here is what he found:
- Dissatisfaction with the answers to simple questions proffered by the religion was the most common reason cited for de-conversion amongst the sample (14.89%).
- The realisation that religious dogma contradicted observable reality was
the second mostan equally common reason for de-conversion cited within the sample (also at 14.89%).
- 12.76% of the de-converted Christians in the sample spoke about realising the contradictions within the dogma itself.
- For 10.63% of people in the sample, reading the bible was significant in ending their faith.
- Only 8.51% of people in the sample attributed their de-conversion to the hypocrisy of the church.
- In another 8.51% of the de-conversion stories, people tried to speak to god and they now credit god’s lack of an answer for their de-conversion
- And finally, stumbling across the realisation that many religions were just like theirs caused deep doubts for 8.5% of the sample he read…