Monday, April 23, 2007

The God Disillusion

From the New York Times... I just read a review of the book Easter Everywhere, the memoir of a woman whose father was an on-again, off-again Lutheran minister. He had serious doubts, and out of his own uncertainty would never give his daughter a straight answer when she tried to get his input on difficult theological questions. He'd give her some candy, or change the subject. As a result, she spent years trying to resolve the problems herself. It is sad to see the sort of confusion we artificially pile on when we assume theology is a proper explanation, and yet can't make heads or tails of how it really explains the world. It seems to force adherents to block out contrary evidence and cling to fundamentalism, or embrace a wishy-washy faith that doesn't even care to ask tough questions and challenge assumptions. I can't tell you how many Christians I've heard say, "I don't really care how the world was created." What? You don't?! Why ever not? Are you made of wood?

This is one of the reasons that I care enough to keep talking with believers and writing blogs and whatnot. It's less a matter of who's right and wrong; rather, who has given up the desire to fight and struggle for understanding.

The God Disillusion (Thanks to Scott for the link)


Michael said...

"It's less a matter of who's right and wrong; rather, who has given up the desire to fight and struggle for understanding."

As a former theology student, and one that has indeed wrestled with many of the questions the author has, I find the above quote interesting. With regard to my own disillusionment, I have found no really satisfactory answers. In fact, I almost drove myself crazy being my own devil's advocate. I have simply hit the wall in that regard. I didn't and haven't discovered how to answer the many "hard" questions modern Christianity (or modern religions for that matter) gloss over. Faith is always the answer it comes back to. But really, how can blind faith honor God? How does intellectual dishonesty celebrate a God that purports to delight in truth? At this stage I'd say its less about wanting to give up the fight for truth and more about lacking any credible resouces to which to turn. Ideas?

Ross said...

Hi Michael, I totally agree with your questions, "How can blind faith honor God? How does intellectual dishonesty celebrate a God that purports to delight in truth?" They remind me of a quote from Thomas Jefferson: "Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear."

We can't and shouldn't force ourselves to to believe anything; that's just dishonest to our intellects, and an omniscient God would see through such posturing anyway. It is encouraging to me to see that you haven't settled for easy answers.

My suggestion to you would be to look at some of these problems (the problem of evil, the actions of angels and demons, salvation status, the nature of the afterlife, etc.) and consider that they may be entirely false dilemmas. Just because a phrase can be constructed in the English language and concluded with a question mark doesn't make it a valid question. Richard Dawkins offers the example, "Why are unicorns hollow?" Such questions should not bother you, if you recognize them as human constructions. Consider that certain responses like "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed", "God works in mysterious ways", or "God's foolishness is greater than man's wisdom" may simply be clever tactics to keep us from questioning too much or straying too far.

If God doesn't exist, it doesn't change anything about the reality of the world you live in; only the way you've been looking at it. Sunsets will still be beautiful, teaching a child will continue to offer the same joy and rewards, and relationships will still be infused with meaning and happiness. So don't be afraid to consider the possibility and take a leap of evidence. Sometimes it's particularly hard to do, as so much has been invested in faith (especially since you've studied theology), and often relationships are built on the premise of there being a God. From my own experience I'd say don't worry; there are ways to convert these vestiges of belief and use them to your advantage as you lead a compelling life without God.

If you're looking for resources, I'd recommend Carl Sagan's "Demon Haunted World", Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell", or Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion". There's a lot of other good resources out there, but these are a great place to start.

DennisDiehl said...

Being a "seeker" can wear one out. I was a pastor for 26 years and have yet to answer why a unicorn is hollow? I simply don't know :)

I loved that comment! Perhaps an "aha" moment that I need after much anxiety and loss over the past few years since stepping outside the box.

I can no longer engage those who are merely Bible readers. Anyone can do that. Being piously convicted but marginally informed is the best definition I have of most I know. They seem happy to be stuck and yes, when one questions, all you get back is "my ways are not your ways." Ever notice how God can't lose in the Bible?