I don’t really care what you believe in. It troubles me not at all. God works that out with you without my worry, judgment or interest. I may however find concern with what you say and do as a result of what you believe, especially as it affects others. Therein, as Shakespeare would say, lies the rub.
Our journey through life, at least as I conceive is, is one of discovery and ever-deepening abiding in the eternal love of the Creator. We are presented a world and it is our joy and purpose to uncover as much of it as we may in our time here as human beings. Hopefully, in the doing of that, we will gather the threads that draw us ever closer to God.
Two groups trouble me greatly, for they are driven to make us “like them”. They are unlikely bedfellows from their perspective, but not from mine. They are atheists and fundamentalists. I’m reasonably convinced that it is just the luck of the draw as to which such a personality will become. It depends I suspect on the environment that they inhabit.
Both are prone to absolutes yet neither has a single real fact to back up their conclusion. The fundamentalist “decides” that all truth lies within a book called the bible which they tell you happily is the “Word of God”. It is self-authenticating from their point of view. They merrily go along “interpreting” it, but to the rest of it, their interpretation smacks of self-serving rules and beliefs.
The atheist ( I speak of the so-called “new” type, also recently coined as the evangelical atheists), are just as sure as the fundamentalist that they are right. “There is no God” they proclaim, only fairy tales akin to Santa Claus. They play the game of rhetoric–there is no God because it is not their proposition to prove. Since the believer cannot prove God exists, ipso facto, he does not.
Slight of hand proves nothing of course. Neither the atheist or the super believer can prove their point.
The other thing they share in common is the unwillingness to even examine that there may be another answer. They are, as it were close-minded on the subject. God exists/God does not exist, they both are rigid and unyielding. If you don’t believe the bible literally, you go to hell, if you do believe in God, no way of believing is rational; fundamentalist and progressive alike share the same fate of being irrational.
But faith is rational, you can make a case for it. And you can make a perfectly fine case for concluding that “we will never know”. I think agnostics are fine people. They look at the “evidence”, find it all wanting, and figure it’s better to spend time being a good neighbor than trying to fathom what can’t be fathomed. I have little doubt God finds them very okay.
But stubborn adherence to some dogma, whether it is the bible or the litany of “why there is no sky creature” is merely to be stuck on the road. You’re in a rut either way. You make no progress, and you stop learning.
The Fundamentalist misses the fact that the bible, which by its very nature of being a convoluted collection of stories, many of which contradict each other, serves to force us more deeply into our selves in seeking what kind of God there can be. Blind adherence to a private interpretation which has as its basis “God makes no errors”, means you shut your eyes to the dilemmas inherent in the texts. The need to reconcile all these differing visions of the God we believe in, helps us to grow and learn.
In other words, faith matures by seeking to reconcile the conflicts inherent in religion. Notice I said religion. Not faith. Faith, unencumbered by “scripture” probably does just fine on its own. But when scripture is chose (somebody else’s vision of God) as the standard by which we live, then we are headed for the extremes.
We either ignore the conflicts as the fundamentalists do, and remain childlike and immature in our beliefs providing grist for the ever turning mill of atheists, or as the atheists do, remain fixated on the conflicts as proof that the whole idea is a sham.
Scripture is nothing more than the reflections of faithful people, trying to describe their encounter with the divine. As such, it is surely instructive. But we have missed the point if we start to worship it, or if we conclude that it is the thing itself. Given its flaws, in the end, it serves neither well.
It is not anti-intellectual (as someone told me last week) to believe in God. Nor is deciding that there is insufficient evidence of a persuasive nature worthy to offer one’s time to, intellectual. One is drawn to the divine, or one is not. One can be spiritual as hell without ever opening a religious text or offering a prayer. God requires no ritual.
But the journey requires our attention to the questions. The questions of who we are, where we came from, where we are headed, and what it all means are the questions of human kind. They can and should offer us much grace in their pursuit. That we find no answers or at least no ultimate answers, is not the point either. It is the search that matures us, ripens us, and brings forth our truest selves.
I am as put off by the smug retort of the fundamentalist who smirks and says she will “pray for me”, meaning really that she’s sure I’m headed for hell, while she, in her surety of who and what God is, is not, as I am by the smug arrogance of the atheist who tells me I’m lacking in rational thinking. Both think themselves better than me, while exhibiting all the ignorance one expects of those who are sure about most anything.
The truly rational human, it seems to me, should probably leave surety to what René Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” And I’m not entirely sure that that holds up either.
Simply give up all these notions of “knowing”. As Pema Chödrön suggests, learn to live in the uncertainty. For whether we believe it or not, it is all uncertain, and that in reality is the blessing.
Dance in the sunshine just because it feels right.
- Militant Fundamentalist Atheism (roadupward.wordpress.com)
- Effective and Compassionate Atheism (roguepriest.net)