Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Nice View

During lunch a few days ago I had a conversation with a good friend/colleague of mine. I’m not sure how it veered off of the secular path but I think it was I mentioning that the cause of my rough mornings was due to frequent late night reading sessions. In fact, I just finished Christopher Hitchens’ book ‘god is not Great’ in just a few days and have moved on to 2 others that I’ve been working on that we can discuss later.

Asimov's Guide to the Bible: - Isaac Asimov
The Blind Watchmaker: -Richard Dawkins

OK, back to lunch.

Apparently satan loves Chinese food because we had QUITE the anti-religious discussion (me and my coworker, not me and satan). My friend and I share similar beliefs so I can’t claim him as a conversion, although, it would have been a good day for a baptism.

Straight-forward as he always is, my friend asked me, “What are you searching for?”

Wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this one. Usually from Christians --- since this is their standard hook. Ironically, I always wonder the opposite. “Why aren’t YOU searching?”

But still, it’s a good question and for me it’s easy. Logical answers.

Answers to questions I never asked. Answers to basic questions that actually explain the unknown by the known. I spent half of my life with a typical belief in the infallible word of god and frankly, I feel like I wasted those years on nonsense. I assumed any contradictions were the result of these translation inadequacies.

Warning: The following contains a dangerous premise. Skip this section if you want to avoid evil ideas.

From my past religious experiences I believe I can honestly conclude that most Christians will not (subconsciously or otherwise) allow themselves to experience free thought. They do not search outside of scripture or scripture related discussion. They rarely question -- lest they exhibit a weakened faith or doubt. This is not a hard and fast rule but it generally applies.

For example: Pursuing a line of questioning that would could cause you to doubt:

>Is the account of “X” historically accurate?
>Why does one writer’s account of “X” not agree with this writer’s account of “X”?
>Does Genesis’ account of the creation of the universe/earth/mankind make sense?
>Does an account of a worldwide flood/ark make sense?
>How can I reconcile a merciful god with the millions of killings (by god) accounted for in the bible alone?
>Why would we rely on tales from ancient Sumerian leaders and legends from 4th generation account to formulate a perfect, inerrant doctrine?

Asking the core questions like these lead to many, many other questions. So I wonder, why aren't Christians asking them honestly?

Some are lazy and content. Some have no idea what/why they believe and sheepishly refer to this as faith or a “personal matter”. And those that I consider real theists (and who I do have a respect for even though I do not share their ability to bridge that chasm by ‘faith’) fall into another category – those unable to set aside the assumption of inerrancy to examine their faith.

It wasn’t until I allowed the presupposition of inerrancy to be put on hold that I honestly examined my belief system. Then, in the blink of an eye, the proverbial house of cards collapsed.

OK, you can pick up here.

I’ve seen countless definitions of faith - many with cute anecdotes and implied noble undertones. Regardless, everyone can agree that it is the glue that holds it all together. Faith is the foundation of religion. Faith has to be built on something and when that something is examined with an unbiased perspective it will, in my opinion, fall apart at the glued together seams.

When we speak of inerrancy one might refer to translational contradictions. Yes, this was and is a reasonable stance. Contradictions in this sense are plentiful. One could write for days on verses that could account for translational inconsistencies. In fact there are countless collections of these that can be found anywhere you look. Many are legitimate question marks (and would/could be explained somehow) but many are also stretches, to say the least. I haven’t the life-force or time to begin to examine any of these nor any obvious genealogical contradictions.

Yet there are contradictory verses that I would question the translational inadequacy aspect. For instance, one that has always stuck in my mind relates to the general understanding of a people at the time.

Matthew 4:8-11
8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only."
11Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Now notice that Matthew didn’t say that the devil (by the way, I love the idea of a devil with horns and such, sounds very Halloween-ish) took Jesus up to just any mountain. It says a very high mountain. The writer’s view was still that our world was flat and floated on the waters gathered below the firmament…and that one, if high enough, could take in the whole view. Sounds pretty absurd to those who understand the curved, spherical nature of our home. But this was the concept of our world at that time….even through the days of Augustine.

Can the bible be perfect and divinely inspired if the tools of communication were men obviously ignorant of general science? And ones who, consequently, blessed us with this ignorance. Would god allow his words to be marred with absurdities?

I think we encounter a catch-22 in any dialogue concerning inerrancy. As a non-believer, I’ve stepped away from the premise of inerrancy to determine the legitimacy of such claims. Believers, though, cannot set aside that premise because it is contrary to the fabric of their faith. And then the entire discussion reverts back to faith.

Again, what am I searching for? You might say I have a “god-sized hole”. But rather, I’d say I have a hole created by “god” that is being backfilled with logic.


Stacy said...

Apparently we are right...freethought is a VERY scary thing. Perhaps the red text warning was taken literally. We know who has read this blog since your post, and no one has said anything about it. I'd just like to see someone give merit to the idea by saying they don't want to or can't try to give up their ideas for a moment to consider the possibilities...

Kent said...

Hold your horses... some of us are trying to get to it, but life beckons.

angie said...

So, the short version is you are wanting black and white answers filled with logic or it is all a bunch of BS??? Well, sorry not gonna happen. It's impossible. You want to take the faith (i.e. canned little Christian word) and spirituality out of it...which is taking the very "thing" away.

Stacy, if you have not learned yet and Jared maybe you have forgotten, but my dear sweet husband Kent is a perfect example of what I am trying to say. You know (or should know by now) that that man is going to have an answer for EVERY SINGLE thing you can blog, ask, etc. And IF he had the time to devote to it that he would like, he would. I still am not sure it would matter because the "situation" can be made to be as complicated as one would like to make it whether they have clear answers or not. Let's take homosexuality as an example (No, I am not a gay-basher...Jared can attest to that). One might argue that this is a "religious" issue. Whether "religious" or not, the proof is so unbelieveably clear...a penis does not go with a penis and a vagina does not go with a vagina. However, I'm sure we could argue/debate until we are blue in the face or even start a blog about whether it is "right" or "wrong" BECAUSE it is made to be more complicated than the proof we do have.

I am a simple minded person. You aren't going to find me writing LONG blogs with big words. It comes down to two things for me:
1. Either there is a God or there is not.

2. Either Jesus is THE Jesus or he is not.

And my guess would be that you are not going to find the "answers" to these questions by jokingly "going to church" at Starbucks to do crossword puzzles or going to the "late service" to sip margaritas.

Love you!

Oh, by the way, stop throwing all of us "believers" under the same bus (Wish I hah a dollar every time a "non-believer" does this). I question, I search, I doubt, but what I CHOOSE do with that is what matters.

Stacy said...

Taking the faith and spirituality out of "it, the thing" is the point; it's about seeing from a different perspective than the one you're naturally inclined to have. This isn't about getting black and white answers filled with logic, it's about seeing that there is gray BECAUSE of logic.

We do, as humans, tend to make situations complicated - you are right. I'm not sure if you said Kent will have an answer for every single thing we ask because he's stubborn (I even know this) or because you think he is just that intelligent (which I won't argue, I know he is very intelligent). To say he doesn't have the time to devote to "it" is to say he's given up on "saving" us, which I'm more than glad to hear. :)

I'm not sure why you chose homosexuality as an example of something we have made complicated...the sex acts of others are not really the complicated part. Reducing homosexuality with your "logic" down to "a penis does not go with a penis and a vagina does not go with a vagina," is very shallow, indeed. Homosexuality is not about sex. Did you get married for sex? I personally plan on NOT getting married so I can always have great sex! :)

The complicated thing about homosexuality is the emotion involved, and it is only complicated to someone who isn't a homosexual or doesn't have any close relationship with someone who is. I'll go gay here for a second (punny?) and give you some George Michael lyrics, and if you still want to say homosexuality is about penises and vaginas clashing, well, that's yours to deal with.

"You are far
When i could have been your star
You listened to people
Who scared you to death, and from my heart
Strange that i was wrong enough
To think you'd love me too
I guess you were kissing a fool"

Ever heard that song? I love it. It's very passionate; filled with sorrow for lost love. Not lost 'light-saber' fighting.

(By the way, in case you missed out on gay-sex-ed, the penis seems to fit into the exit ramp hole somehow.)

If I've used any "big words," I apologize. I learn them from all my Starbucks crossword church time. You know that was tongue in cheek, right? We don't actually go to Starbucks looking for salvation. I just thought anything you did on Sunday mornings should be called "church" because that's what you're supposed to do on Sunday.

As for the proverbial bus, I'm not trying to throw anyone anywhere. I believe Jared made it clear that he was generalizing ("This is not a hard and fast rule but it generally applies."), so if you felt thrown under the bus, then stop putting yourself into the general category of Christians.


stef said...

How can such smart and logically thinking people have such disagreement on such a paramount issue? (Theism, not "light-saber fighting.") I just don't get how we can have Sam Harris and Ravi Zacharias in the same world. I don't get how we can have Jared and Jarrod in the same world. Baffles me - but it does make for interesting coversations and exchange of ideas.

Stacy said...

My 'light-saber fighting' comment was a metaphor for a penis doesn't go with a penis. Sorry, probably a visual you didn't want. :\

You're right though, such differences in this world...there's got to be a thread of commonality in all of it, which is why I think the more we know about everything, the better conclusions we can draw for ourselves and our society as a human race.

stef said...

I understood your light saber comment... and it made me laugh, because I remember thinking that that's what they did with each other when I was first introduced to the idea of homosexuality.

Lesa said...

I don't find the presupposition of inerrancy to be the biggest obstacle to free thought. I find that people simply WANT to believe. They will do everything they can to avoid the stress of abandoning mainstream beliefs. Let's face it -- it is stressful to swim against the current -- especially if you have kids. I think a lot of Christians suppress their own doubts because non-belief is a tough road to travel and it seems harmless enough to carry on down the trodden path.

Jared said...

Lesa -- I believe cultural memes are a major factor in the production of inherent beliefs in an inerrant bible.

Thats generic I know...but determining what the biggest obstacle actually is to forming beliefs based on fact, reason and logical principles would be an interesting topic.

Thanks for the comment!