God sometimes you just don’t come through

27 10 2009

Goddammit. Time to write the goddamned God post.

Bad way to start? Too. . . insulting? Too glib-without-being-funny?

Look: Two lines in and already I’ve succumbed to the meta!

Okay. Let this post be born again. . . . All right, all right, I’ll stop.

Long discussion over at TNC’s joint on atheism and belief and who’s better and worse and why [not] believe, et cetera. As Emmylou sang, Yet another battle in the losing fight/Out along the great divide, tonight.

Ta-Nahisi Coates writes a great blog, and he attracts great commentators, but this thread follows the usual  progression:

  • God kills!
  • No He doesn’t!
  • Yes he does!
  • Well, okay, maybe, but so does Hitler/Stalin/Mao
  • It’s about ideology
  • It’s about human nature
  • It makes no sense to talk about atheists as a group
  • Then why are there atheist groups?
  • Those are activist groups. Atheism is simply a-theist, i.e., without god(s)
  • To not believe requires faith
  • ????
  • ‘Lack of belief is not a belief. True. But belief in a lack is.’
  • ????
  • Religious people are mean
  • Atheists are mean
  • Mean people suck
  • Flying Spaghetti Monster!
  • Faeries!
  • Unicorns!
  • [sigh]
  • You need to read more
  • No, you need to read more
  • You’re dumb
  • If I’m dumb, you’re super-dumb [Oh, wait, that was a couplet from The Brady Bunch, Jan to Peter]
  • Can’t we all just get along?

In other words, same as it ever was.

[Tho’ as an aside, can I vent a wee? To state that ‘is’ and ‘is-not’ are, in fact, the same, is a kind of infuriatingly useless word game. If you don’t believe in God, then you believe in a no-thing, which is itself belief, which means atheism is a form of religion. If all you’re doing is engaging a Wittgensteinian wit—for which that actual Wittgenstein would probably eviscerate you—fine; but if you think you’re making a serious point, you’re not. These arguments are not simply about the formal structure of language, but the content contained, however unsteadily, within that language. And yes, at some point, I’ll probably bore you with another post about why this distinction matters.]

Ahem.

So. I’m a-gnostic (lack knowledge), which may have a-theist (lack god) implications, but I’m not particularly dogmatic about it.

I doubt, and I’m fine with my doubt.

When I was a kid, I believed in God. I was an altar girl (the first, which somewhat discombobulated poor Father K., tho’ to his credit he brought me along) at the local Episcopal church, and, overall, I thought God was pretty cool.

Jesus was fine. I liked looking at the various crucifixes in the church, but, honestly, I thought more about God than Jesus. (I clearly lacked an understanding of the subtleties of the Trinity.)

I read a children’s bible. I wore a cross. I prayed. I mostly didn’t pay attention, but when I did, I thought it was all good.

Things changed, of course. Everyone has his or her own [de-]conversion story; mine has to the do with the rise of the Religious Right, and my disdain for any belief that could be connected in any way with the Moral Majority.

Have I ever mentioned that I started reading Ms. in the eighth grade?

Anyway, baby, bathwater: Out!

Things changed, again. I never really believed, again, but I did start to think about religion and belief, to learn more about its varieties—to pay attention.

Oh, so, so much more to this story, but let me, pace Lenin, telescope my history: I got to like hanging out in (empty) churches, a close friend and her husband became much more deeply involved in their faith (they don’t like the term ‘born again’), I read a grown-up bible, I had some good conversations with a local (NYC) Episcopal priest and. . .

. . . I still don’t believe.

Let me amend that: Some days I believe (in a non-specific way), some days I don’t, and some days the belief and unbelief is layered on top of one another.

Faith, however, I completely lack. That there may exist a God does not mean (S)He wants or has anything to do with us.

Faith seems to me far more dangerous than belief, tho’ I’m not sure why. Perhaps it seems more uncontrollable to me, or more personal, or that it is far more often deployed as a weapon than belief.

Okay, I know: stop making sense.

C. might argue that, insofar as I accept the information gleaned from scientific processes, I have faith—if only in the reliability and validity of those scientific processes. And Karl Popper (the great orthodox-science defender) admitted that one cannot use the logic of the sciences to defend the use of the logic of the sciences; at root, he noted, there is a leap.

A leap of faith? I dunno. Seems more like a jump-start to me: it’s up to the engine [science, reason] to actually move the vehicle along. If one’s methods don’t work—if they are neither verifiable nor reliable—then they are to be abandoned. Faith won’t see you through.

But religious faith, it seems to me, is itself the engine—the faith is itself the point. And while some might seek natural justifications for supernatural faith, such justifications are kind of beside the point. They might have a role, but, again, they won’t see you through.

A few weeks ago I blew out a bunch of words about Legos and coins—those of us who seek to put their lives in lock-step, and those of us who cobble bits together, precariously. As a coin-er, I’m not much troubled (there are exceptions) by gaps and inconsistencies, unknowns and uncertainties.

I can’t be, given how often my ground shifts.

Is it faith that keeps me going? Doubt? I don’t think it matters. I am no longer pained by the fact of my existence, by the justification of my self.

I just go.


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7 responses

27 10 2009
pelagian7

You hit the nail on the head, atheism and theism are both beliefs. You obviously have more going on upstairs than you let on. Might I suggest you doubt the naysayers and if a God exists and it did bless you with intellect then use it.

If you were God and created everything, would you inspire a bunch of inherently mistaking humans with writing your message or would you implant into their DNA a conscience and morality?

Unfortunately Christianity encourages us to doubt our own instincts. The evidence they offer, their sometimes odd interpretations of scripture, are manufactured. I have studied the scriptures and found what many scholars find, as opposed to apologetics, that they are basically myth.

Do they offer some benefit? Of course they are reworked truths used over and over. The best message comes down to Jesus’ two commands: love God with all your heart and treat each other as we would want to be treated. Now the Jewish God was a single God, however, other Gods are named in the Old Testament. So what was Jesus referring to, the oneness of God and all things. One, as used didn’t mean just a single solidarity, but a solo perspective. So, in the end Jesus gave the same message as the Buddha, Plato and many others.

28 10 2009
Christine

I’ve been drinking, so…. grain of salt.

BUT, I prefer Alan Watts’ interpretation of what happened to Jesus. That he discovered that he *was* God. And that, if he’d been living in India at the time, others would have said to him, Yes. You have discovered the Truth. We Are All God.

This requires no intercession. There is no difference between God and Us. There is no bearded man in the sky, judging our actions. We behave or we don’t behave. It’s just what happens. We are what God is doing, because we are God.

I need to write an essay about this.

Atheism is not a belief. Humanism is a belief, and a logical step once one has accepted that organized religion is BS, just another attempt by one group of people to control another, larger group of people. Humanism says, we are kind to each other because we create the world we want to live in, every moment. Not because we’re afraid of being punished. That’s so childish.

Scientific method is just another activity. Yeah, you can explain a lot of shit, but show me the science on Love. On Compassion. On hatred and cruelty. I prefer Science to Religion but there are some things that will never be explained. And Faith as a weapon – yes. But Science can also be used as a weapon.

I like the Hindu myth – it’s a drama. We’re acting all this stuff out. In the end, what is, just is. Sit with that.

28 10 2009
pelagian7

Yes, if a God exists it is the summation of everything, including us. I agree with almost everything you said and likely semantics are the cause of some variation.

However, your interpretation doesn’t provide an avenue for power seeking individuals. Therefore, it will be called heresy and condemned. For our own good of course. I still think atheism is a belief. Their position cannot be proved any more than the opposite. Agnostic positions allow for an open mind.

And yes I know how ridiculous the Zeus style God sounds. That is not the only definition of God, in fact, any definition can be applied. I tend to credit God with a collective consciousness of all, if it exists.
Pelagian7

28 10 2009
absurdbeats

Pelagian: I guess I could go with atheism as a belief system, for those who do impute a positive program to it, but I know more than a few atheists who simply don’t believe in god/s/ess/es, and don’t much think about it. It is simply a nullity.

Christine: I like your distinction between atheism and humanism which, I agree, is a positive program. But I think we still disagree on the issue of science.

Sure, science can be used as a weapon, and scientism is the dogmatic version of science. (Scientism: more-or-less the posture that all that can be known can be known by science, and that which cannot be known by science cannot be known. Obnoxious in the extreme.) But a properly conscious science, i.e., a science which recognizes the limits of its own methods, and allows for other forms of knowledge, might have a thing or two to contribute to, say, the biological underpinnings of feelings of love or faith without necessarily reducing the phenomenon of faith or love to those biological underpinnings.

Unfortunately, scientism and phenomenological reductionism [as distinct from a proper limited-but-robust methodological reductionism] often travel alongside science. Like religious fundamentalism, these other two -isms are the imperial versions of the activity itself.

Which brings us back into agreement: Imperialism sucks, no?

29 10 2009
Christine

Yes.

Well said, re scientist and religious fundamentalism. To my mind the true scientist is agnostic about everything. But too many are just as dogmatic as any bible-thumper.

Re the proving of atheism – you cannot prove a negative, i.e., the non-existence of god. It’s a logical absurdity.

Also, Christians, Muslims, and Jews are all atheists -1: There are tons of gods they don’t believe in. Atheists just don’t make any exceptions. Does a Christian have a positive non-belief in, say, Zeus? Is that a faith?

29 10 2009
pelagian7

Your last thread got me thinking, thanks. I researched Christianity and its origins. Before I began I had some theories that didn’t fit the dogma. Some ideas were reinforced others were proven unlikely.

I have a belief that is defined by quantum interactions, maybe. My path has taken several detours. Some coincidences seem impossibly unlikely. Rather than imagine Zeus creating destiny, I wonder if the interaction of particles can provide an essence of collective wisdom? So shared knowledge or gnosis is how I view God. No matter what face a certain religion attaches to their experience I am comfortable with the idea that they are seeking the same thing. Happiness and serenity. Therefore, by simplifying religion to basics I think I can worship anywhere and with anyone.

[I agree with the similarity of some in science and religious beliefs. Accepted theories become almost revered by some.]

That was the first time I tried to explain my belief. It was difficult, as I am open to new revelations. I have dismissed the idea of a Zeus style God.

31 10 2009
absurdbeats

To the extent that I think of any after-life, I think in terms of knowledge. As in, we’d finally get the chance to learn things that are beyond us, now. That, more than anything, is why I’d like there to be something after our deaths.

Of course, others think in terms of love or gold or happiness. Seventy two virgins. The joy of watching others suffer.

Regardless, I think our beliefs for any after-death-life says more about our desires & psychologies than that post-natural/mortal reality.

But yeah, Zeus? Ah, no.

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