Posts Tagged ‘theists

25
Feb
09

Taking the Leap

the-big-leapNo surprise to regular readers that I have semi-regular discussions with atheists and agnostics on this blog and at others. I don’t try to covert them, because I’m not clinically insane nor masochistic, but I think it’s great to make sure we all understand each other. Much better than one side calling the other a bunch of superstitious idiots, while the other side is calling them narrow-minded secularists.

In fact, TitforTat and The Word of Me have probably been my most frequent foils lately (and I mean that in the nicest recreational fencing/dueling way possible). In terms of longer dialogs, though, TWOM had a conversation with me here with regard to a Mrs. Blue post here, and I’m trading thoughts with him over at one of his postsover at his blog right now.

It’s good stuff, and I like the conversations. As long as no one gets to calling me an out-of-touch looney-toon, all’s good (that hasn’t happened often, and most of those people I don’t even try to engage again). But I have been thinking a lot lately about what divides a spiritual believer from a non-believer, and it strikes me that as much as we intellectually can appreciate each other, it is hard to truly explain ourselves to each other. For both sides, it seems self-evident that our position is the correct one, and it troubles us on some level that the other side hasn’t broken through to our way of thinking.

This struck me in particular when TWOM recently posted in one of his comments something to the effect of “I’ve read the Bible and I’ve tried to understand it and believe.” I’m probably misquoting him a bit, but that was the gist as I recall. And it’s been said to me before by other agnostics and atheists that they have tried to read the Bible with an open mind and “just don’t get it.”

And this is precisely where the rubber meets the road: Faith vs. concrete facts. Intellect vs. surrender.

This is not to say that the faithful lack intellect nor that the doubters and atheists lack any kind of “spiritual” or moral core. Far from it. But here is the best example I can come up with as a person of faith:

Imagine a person who decides to go skydiving. There are a few likely scenarios.

She completely freaks out with fear and doesn’t go to the skydiving takeoff point at all. This would analogous, I believe, to someone who says “Yes, I’ll consider your points and/or read that Bible thing” but never really tries.

She goes to the site, freaks out, and just cannot get on the plane, or she gets on the plane but cannot get herself out of that seat until it lands again. She never jumps, but she at least went to where it would all start. I liken this to the person who does give some consideration to it, but never really turns off the literal/concrete parts of their brain. I mean, I personally enjoy and respect (and use) critical thinking, but you cannot think your way to faith.

She makes it to the door of the plane while it is in midair, but she cannot make the jump. She sees all that open sky beneath her and feels the excitement and fear in her gut. She has a visceral and emotional reaction, but making the leap is just too much. She goes back to her seat. Here we have a person who has managed to open their heart and might see a glimpse of what the faith believer sees, but on some level, the thought of letting go is too much. Whether because of fear that it might be true, and a desire not to find out and have to consider answering to a higher power, or whether fear that faith will lessen them somehow; reduce their intellect or spin them too far away from provable reality perhaps.

She jumps out of the plane and goes for the ride. This would be the person who does make the leap from purely temporal and rational thought to faith. It is a wild and scary ride sometimes, and the person might regret it in some ways. The person might even decide one day to reverse course and deny that faith she tasted or decide not to embrace it fully, but the leap was indeed made, whether for a short time or a lifetime.

None of this is to suggest that atheists or agnostics are cowards. Fear isn’t altogether a bad thing. And they, in turn, could accuse someone of me of being fearful of considering that there isn’t anything beyond this life; that there isn’t any intelligence guiding the universe. They would argue that I am afraid to let go of a comfortable superstition.

Myself, I don’t feel fear at the possibility there might not be a God. I have considered it. Hell, I spent most of my life ignoring spiritual things and the church and might as well have been an agnostic or even atheist, despite having been a baptized Catholic who occasionally went to church. I still find myself at a crossroads at times when I ask, “Am I spiritually delusional?” In the end analysis, having made the leap and feeling the swell of my spirit and sensing things beyond the physical and intellectual, I simply cannot conceive of there not being a God.

It is, to me, as clear and as unassailable as the existence of gravity. That doesn’t mean I don’t doubt some of the specifics of the Bible or wonder if my spiritual path is the right one. But for me, taking the leap wasn’t simply a transient thing. I live in a world where God exists, and I can no more deny Him than I can deny myself.

19
Aug
08

Two-fer Tuesday: Spiritual Healing by Deacon Blue

As Miz Pink pointed out a few days ago, I had a small issue with some comments some folks were making at Deus Ex Malcontent. No flame war or anything like that. Not much brawling. No hard feelings (at least not that I’ve noticed so far, though I think there is some lightly gnawing irritation among certain parties); in fact, I think the discussion that was sparked was a good one on both sides of the issue. But as I thought about the whole affair and the comments back and forth about whether religious folks just “haven’t grown up and joined the 21st century,” I started to realize where there is a major gap between the atheists and the theists.

I mean, other than that God guy…which of course is the primary gap between us.

Now, I’m going to confine myself to atheism vs. Christianity specifically, partly because Christianity is predicated on God’s plan to save souls from damnation, and because this ties into today’s topic on spiritual healing, at least for my take on the topic. (No, as much as you might have thought otherwise from the title, I won’t be posting on faith healing or anything like that.) And I realize that some folks, like Votar, who has been vocal in the discussion I noted above at Deus Ex Malcontent, don’t necessarily think of themselves as atheist. Humor me. I’m already about to use a metaphor, so let me deal in extremes, too. And don’t jostle me. This is volatile stuff and I don’t want it blowing my head off.

Basically, I see a large part of the atheism vs. Christianity debate like this: We see the problem of making people (and the world at large) healthier a lot differently.

Being Christian doesn’t necessarily make you a good person. There are some real losers, assholes and arrogant folks within the Christian ranks. But what gets Christians knocked by atheists almost as much as the hyprocrisy we often show as a group is our desire to “save” other people spiritually and to keep focusing on spiritual right and wrong.

This is, I think, part of why atheists often want to write off Christians as being stuck in a 2,000-year old program of supersition. The atheists don’t like the idea that Christians think they need saving. They feel (or so I think) that we are labelling them as deficient. And so the reflex is to label us as deficient for believing in the “invisible man in the sky.” And it works the same way in reverse: Christians don’t like being made to feel like fairy-tale-believing rubes, so they often label atheists as inherently arrogant, mean and tunnel-visioned.

As I see it, though, we’re both often missing the big picture. When trying to make people healthy, there are two major things a truly great physician will do: Relieve the symptoms and locate and treat the main underlying problem that lead to the ill health to begin with. (See, finally I get to my spiritual healing theme and my metaphor)

Problem is, atheists and Chrisitians don’t see the disease state the same way when it comes to human nature and human dealings.

To atheists, we Christians are ignoring the problems of this world. They think that we are only focused on souls and praying for deliverance to the exclusion of trying to fix economic, social and geopolitical problems (and many of us really do behave this way, frankly, so they aren’t all wrong in their belief).

To Christians, atheists are ignoring their souls and their eternal salvation by being so focused on believing only what can be proven that they don’t even consider the possibility that there is a spiritual realm as well.

The truth is (coming from the Christian perspective which is, of course, my own) that the real disease is sin. The basic underlying problem is our sin nature and our rejection of God’s way. And the result of that disease is some nasty consequences in the afterlife and some here on Earth too. So what Christians try to do is to get people to realize their sin nature and deal with it so that they are set for eternity.

Problem is that we sometimes forget that there are very real wordly problems that also need to be dealt with. We forget that we need to be good stewards of the planet. We look toward the bye-and-bye and the fact that all our problems will be solved when we leave the planet and kind of fuck around too much while we’re still in the flesh.

And so, in focusing only on the core disease, too many of us Christians forget to alleviate the symptoms and just go for trying to administer the painful cure. We also forget to treat the “co-morbid” conditions that were either created by the sin nature or that were exacerabated by it. In trying to get to the heart of the problem, we leave the patients still suffering a host of other ailments that we refuse to acknolwedge and we give them no pain relief. In other words, we may save the patient, but at what cost? Certainly, it puts our bed-side manner in question, if not our basic human decency.

Atheists, on the other hand (again, in my humble opinion) are so focused on the most obvious and visible diseases and in relieving the painful symptoms that they ignore and fail to recognize the core problem (sin) and leave the biggest disease untreated. And so the biggest threat is left unresolved, but the physician and patient think they’ve dealt with all the problems. Folks feel better, but are still sick.

Metaphors are always an inexact science of course, and leave out many subtleties. So this post is hardly going to put any nails in the atheism vs. Christianity debate. Just some thoughts, though, in terms of ways to view our respective persectives, by using the medical model, with which I am well acquainted as a healthcare and medical journalist for a number of years.

Of course, I also thought my post on atheism as a religion was harmless, and look what trouble that got me into…Lord only knows what this one might spawn.

(Miz Pink’s post on today’s topic is here.)




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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