Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Faith, reason and truth claims

This summer I read a provocative book called The End of Faith. Given where I am in my journey of faith, it was an important read for me. It took me further down the road of confronting my doubts and examining my religious beliefs with the same rigor I apply to evaluating the factual claims I face on a daily basis in my personal and professional life.

Today I came across this quote on the website of the National Review. It resonates with me as I examine my life, my choices, my faith and my doubts.

I bow before — and therefore “respect” — the aesthetic legacy of Christianity. My life would be immeasurably poorer without Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion, B Minor Mass, and cantatas, or Mozart’s great choral works; it would not be life as I know it but a sad hollow thing. I also recognize that countless men of intellect light years superior to mine have been drawn to the great philosophical enterprise of Christian theology. But I will treat the truth claims of Christianity just as I would any other proposition about the world. The claim that we are overseen by an omniscient, omnipotent God who also loves every human being and treats every human being with justice does not square with the slaughter of the innocents that I see every day. I do not understand why religion should get a pass from the empirical and logical demands that we make towards other factual proposition. Nor do I think that serious believers exempt other religions from such demands. Do Catholics, for example, believe that the angel Moroni gave Joseph Smith a pair of magic spectacles in 1827 with which to read the mysterious golden tablets from God? And if not, why not? Doesn’t it matter whether it is true or not, or is it OK to live in error as long as one is happy?

- Heather MacDonald, NationalReview.com

6 comments:

santorio said...

some people say how can there be a god with so much suffering in the world; i say how can there a god with so much stupidity in world.

given these views of the world, i don't have a lot of knowledge, or faith, just a tiny kernal of hope, duly planted and waiting for spring rains, long overdue.

cate said...

Chris,

Your presence here in blogland has helped me so much and I have grown to really care about you and your wellbeing. Therefore, it really pains me that you seem to be seriously questioning the existance of God. I am not a LDS and honestly have no understanding of your religion, so I can not understand what you are going through. However, I believe that true peace and joy can only come through a personal relationship with and faith in God. I am not saying that it is wrong to question, because He made us thinking, reasoning beings and if we never questioned, then it wouldn't be called Faith.

When you find yourself not feeling His presence or doubting His greatness and love, I present this challenge: Go home and look into your childrens' eyes. Tell them that you love them and hear them tell you back. Watch them do something totally selfless and innocent for another. Remember the feeling that you had when you would hold them as babies. Acknowledge what incredible, magnificent creatures they are. Then ask yourself, could you have really created them by yourself? Are those awe-inspiring little people something that you can take credit for or are they greater than you?

Scot said...

Cate, there must be more options than 1. Chris takes credit for creating (designing?) humans, and all the deep and marvelous emotions we feel or 2. There is a God.

I mean, don’t most all parents, even the most ardent atheists among them, know “those awe-inspiring little people [aren’t] something that [they] can take credit for”? For some people the extra, marvelous, superhuman thing creating us is God; for other’s it’s the laws of the universe and eons of processes for which they can’t possible take credit. Others don't feel they know.

Chris, I’m probably at this same point, and the quote resonates with me as well. As I said in my first post, I’m probably best described as a Christian-y Agnostic :-).

Chris said...

Cate,

I have two reactions to your comment.

First, I appreciate your concern. It is remarkable that the bloggosphere can foster caring relationships among complete strangers, but it does. And I'm grateful to have connected with you.

Second, I cringed a bit when I read your note, though that's not your fault, really.

I want to make clear that I have not decided to reject spirituality or the transcendent peace that comes from communing with the divine and the sacred. In that sense, I still very much believe in God. I believe life has meaning beyond us and I believe in the sacred nature of families. I even continue to believe in the positive power of myth.

But religion, centrally organized and dogmatic, is something that I don't have much desire for anymore. I don't have any desire to live my life according to a series of fantastic and unprovable beliefs that are all to often used to oppress and control people.

I have not given up on God. I have given up on believing people who are certain they know who/what he is and how he wants me to live my life. The truth claims of religions will not get a critical pass from me anymore.

Gay4Good said...

Traditional Religion May Be Bad for Society

There was a study recently published in the Journal of Religion & Society which found that the belief in traditional religion "is not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

"The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

"It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

"Many liberal Christians and believers of other faiths hold that religious belief is socially beneficial, believing that it helps to lower rates of violent crime, murder, suicide, sexual promiscuity and abortion. The benefits of religious belief to a society have been described as its 'spiritual capital'. But the study claims that the devotion of many in the US may actually contribute to its ills."

A news article on the study can be found here:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1798944,00.html

And the study itself can be found here:

http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html

Mike Kessler said...

I wrote something earlier and it disappeared when I clicked the magic button. If that post is still there, please don't bother with this one. Otherwise, I'll try to recall what it was, or to at least write something similar.

Chris, you may want to check out the book "Stages of Faith" by James W. Fowler, which you can conveniently find via a link on this page of our site. Also, you can write to Buckley for a shorthand version, basically a very brief synopsis that will provide a lot of insight.

Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." I think there is a corollary: "The unexamined faith is not worth believing." I would even go so far as to say "An unexamined G-d cannot exist." Not only can the Deity withstand scrutiny, I have always been taught and have always believed that the Deity requires scrutiny. Without examination, doubt, even denunciation, can G-d exist? A chessboard with all the carefully carved pieces in place is merely a chessboard until two players start thoughtfully and consciously moving the pieces around, and then it becomes the artful game of chess.