Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Early Faith: The Coroner's Report

As you might expect, I've read my fair share of arguments for and against the existence of God. A favorite counter to certain atheist arguments is, "That's just the crazy fundamentalists. Even most believers don't believe in that God. You should read some sophisticated theology."

Well, I've read my share of theology, and every argument I've seen boils down to cherry-picking. This is not to say that fundamentalists don't cherry-pick, because I think you have to with the Jewish and Christian scriptures. It just seemed like these "sophisticated theological arguments" could all be said as, "Ignore the parts you don't like."

Let's take that sentiment to its logical conclusion, shall we? Say someone gives you a novel and tells you it's the best book you'll ever read in your entire life, but oh, you might want to skip this paragraph, this chapter, etc. But this book is the gold standard for all books. Is it, if you're having to skip portions of it? Sounds more like a book in need of a competent editor!

I'm not inherently opposed to the "ground of our Being" God-concept. However, I don't think there's acknowledgment for that in how Christianity is usually practiced. That seems a bit odd, because I'm willing to bet that there's a lot of individual Christians who believe that way, but I don't think there's a real institutional framework for that mode of thought (as opposed to most Eastern religions, where that pretty much is the framework). I don't really know what such a church would look like, but I'd think it would have to toss out a lot of the old hymns and rituals, or at the very least approach them differently.

Since that church doesn't exist, a lot of people have to make big compromises for the sake of community. And I understand that everyone makes some compromises when choosing to be part of a larger group. But that seems like an awfully big one to me. While I do find some of the Gospels' teachings inspiring, it's not enough to enable me to sit through songs with militaristic overtones and being preached at like all I need to do is read the Bible more (or its flip side with watered-down hymns and a message I could get by watching Oprah). And frankly, I find just as much inspiration in texts from other religions as I do the Gospels.

Once opened, you can never close the gate of "psychologically true." The trick is where to go from there, and I haven't seen much advice from theists in that regard (you can probably guess what an atheist's advice would be). Don't worry, I have some issues with atheism, too, which I'll discuss soon.

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