Religion need not start with belief, but rather with an understanding that encounters with holiness in the world demand— and have always demanded— a metaphorical structure to contain them and give them meaning.
– from What the Angry Atheists Get Wrong, by Scott Korb and Peter Bebergal
Certain ideas have been stewing lately in my mind, and several events have transpired to put them in the brew together. Two events have been primary, though. The first is that someone dear to me recently sent some Christian tracts in an effort to reconvert me to Christianity, after my abandoning it some years ago and their having recently deduced my absconding. I know the attempt is well-intentioned, and, though I couldn’t help feeling incredulous and insulted at first, the gift ultimately made me want to explicate my own philosophy. I wanted to know if I could explain ‘what I think about myself and about the world’ clearly and thoroughly enough for someone who is the utter inverse of me philosophically, with utterly different presumptions about ‘oneself and the world,’ to understand. So I sat down to explain why I was not a Christian, how the doctrinal specifics of Christianity versus everything else are hardly a matter about which I am concerned or capable of being persuaded to accept when I don’t believe in God in the first place, etc. In trying to explain all this, though, I ran into wall after wall— all my words were inadequate, incorrect, mis-representative; or I was forced to understand more rigorously exactly how various beliefs of mine coalesce in order to explain or modify them. The other event was that, while attempting all of this, a friend of mine wrote a post in which he discussed William James’ essay “The Will to Believe,” and how his own definition of faith and belief has been changing recently in a way that remarkably paralleled my own.
The two extremes— learning how to express my current beliefs, with the aid of someone coming from a similar position, to someone coming from a position I once held but that is now utterly foreign— along with the reading I’ve been doing recently, has proven a very interesting dynamic. One of the many things I’ve come across that were striking in their relevance or eloquence was the article from which the opening quote is taken.
Read the rest of this entry »