Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Don't doubt, just believe.

I find myself dealing with a sense of frustration of late, and I think it’s bleeding into my online “tone.” One of the difficulties I have with religious claims is that it ultimately comes down to a matter of faith. How often have we heard that it doesn’t matter if we don’t have the answers here, they’ll be available in heaven? Or a contradiction in the Bible isn’t really a contradiction, even though it appears that way? It just requires more study, or will eventually be a non-contradiction in heaven. If someone has doubts, they are to pray to God until those doubts are removed. I’ve seen some of the methods used to harmonize the Bible and they don’t work for me for two reasons – some are a huge stretch, and if the same principles were applied to another religious text, I don’t see that the harmonizations would then be accepted. Rather, the harmonizing would be seen as … well, along the lines of grasping at straws.

Am I stretching the point? Perhaps. But I doubt it. It’s along the same lines as saying that another religious text can’t be from God because of all the violence, and yet saying the Bible is divinely inspired and directly from God, even though the same type of violence is in the Bible. Violent acts that would persuade someone that the book wasn’t of divine origin in any other context.

The standards just seem to be relaxed when applied to religion (well, to be more precise, conservative Christianity), and that’s the frustrating part. Take a math equation – you can’t say to someone that they don’t need to actually resolve the contradiction, or it will be revealed at a later time, or having the answer doesn’t matter. You do need to solve that contradiction, or the math equation doesn’t work. If you’re basing lives on that equation, you’ll get those lives killed. You can’t tell someone to pray to remove the doubt: the doubt is removed through receiving an answer that either proves the equation, or shows that the equation needs to be re-worked.

Or determining that someone is good: we do that based on lifestyle and behavior. If someone kills another person over a pair of shoes, we would conclude that person A is a bad person. However, when I’ve asked others how they determine that God is good, it pretty much comes down to “God is good because He says He is.” Okay, but that is not the method we use to determine if a person is good. (There have been variations onto this, in that God’s very nature necessitates Him being good. But we know this based on … God saying so, because God is the one who describes what His nature consists of).

And this is after I’ve asked how one determines that one is actually following a good God. What criteria is the judgment of good based on? And before anyone starts saying that I’m imposing my own fallible moral code onto God, I’m not. I am taking what Jesus says is good – behavior that Jesus says is just like God’s behavior – and checking if that is consistent behavior throughout the Bible.

The resolution to this is basically to just have faith. And that reasoning works for a lot of people, and they find it acceptable. Herein lies the problem, though: the people who say to just have faith are the same people laying claim to an absolute truth, and that those of us who aren’t like them need to have this absolute truth right away.

A claim of absolute truth should be associated with the idea that the person has researched, and investigated all sides. I don’t see this coming from those who say to just have faith. Rather, I see the investigation as skewed: all facts are interpreted through an already-established paradigm, and rather than doing independent research, one relies on others for facts.

11 comments:

smj said...

Hello -
I know what you mean. I have friends that repeatedly try to "save" me. One of them asked me, "Why can't you just believe - just in case??". ?? She was practically pleading with me. I understood, as an ex-born again myself, where she was coming from. She, did not understand where I am coming from at all. I asked her, "how do I MAKE myself believe something that makes no sense to me? If I asked you to just believe in -whatever-, could you?". This same friend, who was NOT brought up religious tells me that I am being narrow minded... thinking small term and just about this life. Of course, that's not how I see it at all. Our debates go into the wee hours sometimes... It's amazing we are still friends. She even told me she feels liks it might be her "mission in life to save me"... ?? Wow. I told her she better find a better mission....

Heather said...

Hi, Smj.

**It's amazing we are still friends. **

I can very much relate to that. I've gotten to the point where there are some friends I simply don't talk to about religious issues. Plus, it just usually seems as though I know more about historical Christianity than they do, and it oftens ends with them saying they need to research, and then it's never mentioned again. Which is also frustrating, since they are trying to convince me of the absolute truth.

**She even told me she feels liks it might be her "mission in life to save me"... ?? **

How much of your friendship do you think is sparked from that -- you being "unsaved"? Because there are days when I wonder how much of my friends' friendship with me is driven from fear due to my being "lost."

Mystical Seeker said...

I think it is probably true that a lot of irrational dogmatism does go hand in hand with a lack of desire to really investigate the truth. Many people who object to evolution, for example, trot out the same tired old arguments that circulate repeatedly in fundamentalist Christian literature, most of which are based on untrue assertions or are otherwise just plain ignorant; when you turn to questionable authorities for your sources of information, it does become a kind of intellectual laziness.

StaCeY said...

I actually see this as rather the way of mankind in general. Be it religion, politics, "education", "news" ...

First off people usually "seek out" information that SUPPORTS their own "beliefs" bents and predispositions. (which is not the same as SEEKING).

Secondly people TRUST (their)leaders. (pastors, presidents, media, "experts"- all trained and "raised up" within varied levels of the same world system)This blind trust is a VERY dangerous business (if you are a seeker of truth and life).

Jesus was out there TOUCHING PEOPLE! Doing the IMPOSSIBLE! Restoring and renewing... the poor... the downtrodden... the ones with nothing. The nobodies.
Who were poor nobodies BECAUSE of the effect of man's (kind of) leadership on the world. Jesus refered to the leaders of the "law" as serpents. vipers.

Who is worthy of trust?

And faith? Is faith just some kind of "blind belief"?
Or is FAITH... THE WAY WE MOVE... and love... and live... touch the world... and find our being in the ONE we call Father. When you know Him ... walk with Him in the living moments of each day... He is not a matter of "faith". He is a glorious and supernatural amazement to behold.

SocietyVs said...

"I’m frustrated by seeing people proclaim an absolute truth when what they say indicates how little they know, and their behavior indicates sub-standard research." (Heather)

Agreed. It is hard to have a deep conversation with some Conservative Christians since they limit their thought processes in many areas - they don't want to be open-minded because if they are wrong their faith 'falls apart'. I am like 'let it fall apart then' - what kind of faith system falls apart except one not worth having?

"I’m also frustrated by watching people accept claims simply because a tradition says so" (Heather)

Agreed. I know I am going to have to call some people on their faith beliefs sooner or later - and they my beliefs - but I think this is the correct procedure (discussion). There are a lot of things out there that truly bother me - I think I could write a thesis on it to be honest - but I am game to challenge these ideals also (and the church structure).

Mystical Seeker said...

I think Societyvs is on to to something. The fear of losing your faith can make you cling very hard to dogma.

And given that fundamentalism is so irrational, its adherents have to cling very, very hard.

Heather said...

**The fear of losing your faith can make you cling very hard to dogma.**

I think it even goes farther than that -- for some, faith is the person's whole life. They see and interpret everything through the lens of the Bible. Without the Bible, it's like they can't function, and so some do react in fear/anger when that faith is questioned. IT's not just losing faith, it's losing an entire way of life and no replacement. I think we've all come across people who have said that if there isn't a literal 6 day creation, the entire Bible falls apart, there's no salvation, and life is pointless.

Society,

**There are a lot of things out there that truly bother me - I think I could write a thesis on it to be honest **

You and me both. Our blogs are like thesis-in-the-making.

Mystical Seeker said...

think we've all come across people who have said that if there isn't a literal 6 day creation, the entire Bible falls apart, there's no salvation, and life is pointless.

Yes, that all-or-nothing mentality definitely infects a lot of fundamentalist thinking. I was taught that myself as a child, which was why when I realized that I could not accept the Bible as literally true, I became an atheist. It took me a long time to recover from that and to realize that the all-or-nothing idea was limiting and dogmatic and just plain untrue. When I recovered, I was able to rediscover religion again. So I can definitely understand the mentality involved here.

Heather said...

Mystical,

That's understandable. And I'm glad that you were eventually able to see shades of gray. :)

Robert said...

wow heather could you please get some depth and challenge to how we think on here instead of fluff and lightweight discussion?? *note heavy sarcasm here* You are an agent provocatgeur indeed heather I hope you do publish a thesis someday or write a book or several. Have you researched the position called *realized eschatology* or preterism at all?? I think it provides a healthy way to deal with the blind literalism you have mentioned in your comments. Wish you had been in some of my seminary classes lol oh i can only imagine the exchanges!!

Heather said...

THanks, Robert. :)

**I hope you do publish a thesis someday or write a book or several. **

That would mean going back to school, and I got got my MBA while working full-time ... and that took around three years.

However, there is a large part of me that really wants to go back and get a degree in Judeo-Christian history. I've read a lot of books by other people, but I feel like I'm reaching the point where I can only learn more if I get more in-depth about it.

**you researched the position called *realized eschatology* or preterism at all??**

I haven't, but I will.