Thursday, September 26, 2013

Father Abraham

Since my youth I have been fascinated with the men who held the office of President of the United States, especially those of the long past. I love history and I love attempting to place these men into the context of their times even as I wonder how they might fare leading this country during modern times.
Abraham Lincoln established himself as my personal favorite president. His wisdom, character, soundness of judgment and courage always inspired me. I have a good selection of programs and movies about him in my DVD collection and always find myself profoundly moved when watching them.
Lincoln, whose opinions on religion is controversial at best, seemed, at least according to his own words, to have been something of a fatalist. While the case has been convincingly (in my opinion at least) made that in his younger days he was a critic of organized religion in the vein of Thomas Pain, his faith commitment in his later years as president cannot be dismissed without making the man out to have been a total hypocrite. Something I would have real trouble believing.
His fatalism (arguably influenced by his early exposure to Calvinistic Baptists) somehow allowed him to view the Civil War as possibly part of the divine scheme of things, but he was determined to lead the United States to a conclusion of it and a reconciliation of the warring factions:
Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."   (Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.) 
For many of us who are not fans of the most recent President Bush and his invasion of Iraq under the claim of divine direction, who object to politicians and world leaders who use religion this way as a pretext for warring, it might prove comforting to remember how Abraham Lincoln led during the great distress of overseeing the country through it's terrible Civil War.
From painter Francis Bicknell Carpenter's book, published in 1866, we have preserved the following example:
No nobler reply ever fell from the lips of ruler, than that uttered by President Lincoln in response to the clergyman who ventured to say, in his presence, that he hoped " the Lord was on our side."
"I am not at all concerned about that," replied Mr. Lincoln, "for I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that this nation should be on the Lord's side."
As for that terrible institution that was back of it all, the evil of human slavery, Lincoln appealed to the Golden Rule in stating his opposition: In May 1864, Lincoln replied to a letter from a Baptist delegation with the following:
When, a year or two ago, those professedly holy men of the South, met in the semblance of prayer and devotion, and, in the name of Him who said ``As ye would all men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them'' appealed to the christian world to aid them in doing to a whole race of men, as they would have no man do unto themselves, to my thinking, they condemned and insulted God and His church, far more than did Satan when he tempted the Saviour with the Kingdoms of the earth.
One thing I am well aware of is that Lincoln was a master politician. Peppering his writings and speeches with biblical references, the best known religious text of the American people, was undeniably a great method of stirring the emotions of the people. Still, back of it all, I detect a simple faith in the man that emphasized the best aspect of religion: the right should be the basis of the conduct of our lives regarding our fellow humans.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Religion As Child Abuse

Religion is poison; protect children. (1930s era Soviet Russia anti-religion poster.)

Something I'm hearing quite frequently now from atheists is that parents who teach religion to their children are guilty of child abuse. I think the first time I heard it was from Richard Dawkins, and being the influential spokesperson for atheism that he is, what he says often gets much repeated.
My religious upbringing was in a very distinct form of Christian fundamentalism, part of the Pentecostal holiness movement. I think back now on my childhood and weigh whether I think my childhood was one of mental abuse. Certainly my religious upbringing has left an impression on me that continues to this day. But poverty left far more scars than religious indoctrination. My parents were wonderful, loving parents. Not perfect, to be sure, but very caring and concerned that their children grew to be responsible adults.  
Perhaps one of the biggest religious impacts was the holidays. Some parents think teaching belief in Santa Claus is good for a child. My parents always taught us that Santa was a fun myth and that mommies and daddies are really Santa for children. To have done otherwise, they thought, would have been lying. I'm not sure I lost anything of value by this theory. I loved Christmas as child. (Come to think of it, I still do!)
Halloween was another holiday my parents frowned upon. It was too pagan, too satanic in their opinion. But once my parents divorced (when I was 11) and were kicked out of our church, this restriction was lifted. I went trick-or-treating for the first time when I was 12. It was fun, mainly because of the candy and fellowship with my friends. We did other things to compensate for trick-or-treating when we were in church, so again I'm not sure this was a wholly negative thing. I grew up in the psychedelic 60s and not the least concern of my parents was that our treats might be laced with drugs. Perhaps that fear was a bigger concern than the pagan aspects of Halloween. Certainly I recall Mom talking about that fear more than Satan.
When I came into puberty of course it was implied that sexual self-pleasure was against God's plan and was wrong. We were never taught that it would lead to blindness, hairy palms, or insanity, but yes, we were taught that God created sex essentially for two reasons: procreation and pleasure between married couples. But I confess that I took the risk of displeasing God on a regular basis - and I'm certain most youths who were taught as my brothers and I were did the same.
Then there is Hell. Yes, I heard about Hell growing. I remember having at least one nightmare about going there. I mostly heard about it at church during revivals. My parents didn't harp on it. Not only that, they also taught us that it isn't wise to assume this or that person is going to Hell or, once dead, that they did go. We were taught that no one can know what might take place between a person and God before death, so how could we possible know about their final destination? As for people who interpreted religious faith differently than we did, Mom had a saying: "They are walking in all the light they see." I suppose that is somewhat condescending, but certainly much above arrogant judging. 
But beyond all that, even had my parents been atheists and hadn't raised us to believe in Hell, I don't see how we would have escaped the subject. Lots of people believe in Hell or post mortem punishment. There is a deep seated human desire to see bad punished and good rewarded. It is fairly said to be a part of our culture, implicit in many stories, movies, even our cartoons. I remember watching Satan's Waitin', in which Sylvester the cat used up all his nine lives chasing Tweety and wound up there.
So all in all I don't think my parents abused my brothers and me by raising us as Christians. I think religion as child abuse is a rhetorical device, and a rather poor one in my opinion. My faith had a more positive than negative impact on us overall, I believe.
There is one more thought I have about the matter. Once I got old enough to think for myself, I did begin to have questions about the more negative elements of my faith. Once I started investigating the matter for myself, I naturally began to modify some of the things I had been taught. I found there were lots of different ways to look at things. My upbringing was a template of sorts, not a carved-in-stone way of life. It is the responsibility of all of us to become our own person.
Now in no way am I being unsympathetic to those who have been deeply scarred by their religious experiences. I'm merely telling my story and giving my personal impressions. I think the proper kind of religious faith (or spirituality) can be a blessing. I'm also very much aware that the wrong kind can be a curse. But I also hold a philosophy that we should always try to rise above the negative circumstances in our lives.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Even At 80 Mom Continues To Impress Me

It's early Sunday morning and I just get off the phone from talking to Mom. Saturdays and Sundays are her days to be busy in church-related activities. She was calling to let me know that she was running late to her appointments and to assure me that despite the fact the rain and dampness of yesterday has given way to significantly cooler temps this morning (which greatly affects to her major health problems, arthritis and COD), she is fine (all things considered) and she didn't want me to worry if she was late about calling to let me know she had arrived at her destination.
But during our conversation she related an interesting story that happened yesterday while she was working with a a preacher friend of hers and his wife. The preacher (a divine-healing believing holiness preacher) noticing her shortness of breath, slowness of movement, and the fact that she was about to lose her voice, told her he was going to pray for her. That's not unusual for people of that particular strand of faith.
What did interest me was mom's reaction. She told me explained to her preacher friend that, yes, by all means he should pray for her. Still, she said, nature would have to work its course. She told him she of course believes in prayer and felt that God could touch her, but it would likely be over time rather than instantaneously. Because, she said, we are subject to the laws of nature too, and just as we all must die someday in accordance with Nature's Law, infirmities follow a natural course as well.
Now that impressed me. And it seems to signal a change of thought with her regarding prayer. At least I can say that when I was a child and my family were immersed in Pentecostal Churchianity such talk would have been thought to display a distinct lack of faith.  
During the past three years that my mom has been almost next door to me, we have held many conversations and exchanged ideas about religion and prayer. I like to think that maybe I have been instrumental in helping her modify some of her more crude or extreme beliefs.
I know after one extended discussion about prayer I lent her my copy of Jim Carrey's Bruce Almighty. I was impressed with the way Carrey's character, when given a portion of God's power, brought about some very negative results through an unwise misuse of it. For example, when he pulled the moon closer to enhance the romantic mood he was setting up for an evening with his girlfriend it had very bad unintended side-effects. The next day he was greeted by reports of tsunamis caused by the unusual moon activity of the night before. Did that not throw some light on how God should deal with our more misguided prayers? If not, surely the scene where Bruce (Carrey), in a frantic effort to catch up on the huge backlog of prayers, decides to just answer "yes" to all of them rather than considering the merits of each, with again unintended circumstances developing. Everyone won the lottery, just as they were praying to have happen, but because everyone did win, the prize was a pittance once divided among all the winners. 
My mother fell in love with that movie and told me she watched it over and over, laughing out loud every time, before she returned it to me. Then she went to a nearby used book store and bought a copy for herself. I was afraid my main intent in turning her on to that movie had been lost in the sheer comedy of it.
The subject of prayer is a troublesome one for me. It was a childhood habit that I suppose I never really outgrew. During the coldest days of the season of my unbelief I pretty much quit praying - sort of. I would find myself talking out loud, usually grumbling about how sucky the world and life in it seemed to be so much of the time. I didn't then see those as prayers because I had lost faith in a God who could hear prayers and wasn't asking for a damned thing. But maybe those "why, God why?" prayers showed more faith than the God-as-genii prayers that I used to pray, knowing full well I was being selfish and frivolous.
I've noticed Mom doesn't tell me as often as she used to that she is praying for me. More often she just reminds me that she is "in my corner." I know she still does pray for me, but I'm sure those aren't prayers that I win the lottery and such. Mature faith doesn't obsess with God protecting us from the hardships of life which are common to all humans. I think Mom is as faith-full as ever. But I do notice a certain maturity to her thought. Perhaps I deserve no credit at all for that. Perhaps the years of living have done more to ground her faith in reality. Either way, she impresses me still. And I still appreciate her prayers as the expression of love and concern that they are. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Just Try It Sometime

My dribbles have dribbled to a stop recently. I've been busy catching up on some reading projects that were piling up. Among the things I have been looking at are snatches of the everlasting debate between those who believe in some form of belief in a deeper reality (gods or religion) and those who don't. I also have still tried to keep up with my friends with blogs who often do battle in that arena.
I still stand by what I said in my last post. The most outspoken folks in this debate seem to have very emotional reasons for their belief, and argue accordingly, even though they want to appeal to reason. We look at the same evidence and arrive at opposite views of whether life is an accident or intentional.
During the past several days I've made a deliberate effort to clear my mind and be objective as I read every piece - pro and con - on the religion question. I doubt we can do much more than try. As I would read I would feel certain emotional stirrings. For example, when I read a friend's recent post about the problem of evil I felt those old emotions of mine that made me first really doubt God: How can God "stand by" and watch horrible things happen to his creatures? Also I've been following another blog where an atheist friend seems to have become hung up arguing with one of his Christian commenters, and while I found myself somewhat sympathetic to his view I also found myself totally turned off by his arrogant attitude towards her.
Talk reason all we want, it seems the debate can't be engaged without the appeal to emotions popping up. Logic always seems to follow the heart.
I'm moved by those who have had bad experiences with religion. My experience was more varied, with bad things that didn't serve me well as I was coming of age and trying to figure things out, but at the same time my religious upbringing had some strong points that I've grown to miss. I can't ignore the majority of folks who seem to be comforted, inspired, even fortified by their religious faith. But is any of this the stuff of serious argumentation?
One of the most difficult things we can attempt to do is step outside the confines of our mindset and give an unbiased hearing to someone who holds an opposing view. How difficult it is to trudge again through the muck we consider ourselves already to have already slogged through and put behind us in order to go there yet again. Perhaps most are unwilling to even try. 
The thick philosophical tomes investigating the God question are dry and wearisome to work through. It is also boresome to tears sometimes to hear nonbelievers stretching religious metaphor (Father, Mother, Friend, etc.) to the breaking point while their religious opponents attempt to skip breezily over the difficulties of belief with near-meaningless cliches ("it's a divine mystery," "God's ways are not our ways," etc.).
But try it sometime. Try to step beyond the confines of your bias and attempt to listen without engaging your emotions. See how difficult it is. Then understand why believers and nonbelievers usually end up talking past one another and being very unkind in the process. 
Is this religious thing a debate worth having? I doubt it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Belief And Unbelief: Matters Of The Heart?

Not to start with a trite cliche, but ... some of my best friends are atheists. It really is true, and has been for a long time - back to my college days, actually. There was a time in my life, back when I was a fundamentalist Christian, that that would not and could not have been the case. But as I matured and allowed myself to explore worldviews besides my own, I actually came to respect thoughtful atheists. 
Early on I read Ingersoll and was greatly impressed. Ingersoll was technically an agnostic, but he did not believe in God. Then I found myself almost as greatly impressed by the writings of Bertrand Russell and Antony Flew. 
Later I was a coworker and then became a close friend with an atheist. We not only debated theology over beer on the weekends, he also introduced me to some of the intricacies of quantum physics. At this time I was no longer a fundamentalist, but a Deist. He tried but never converted me to atheism.
I say all the above to say this: I like sincere atheists and have been greatly influenced by atheology. Atheists can help those of us who still feel the pull (seduction, some of them would say) of the spiritual worldiew. Atheists, I believe, have helped highlight areas of theology that need more thought and better expression.
Then there is the less helpful variety, the arrogant mocker who patronizes the rest of us by suggesting we just haven't quite outgrown our childhood and need of invisible friends. Ah well, if it makes them feel better....
While reading a newspaper article about an atheist billboard that, as it always does, created some controversy and discussion, I noticed one of the less helpful type of atheists posted the following:
YAY, finally some real advise (sic). God was only created because the normal human being was so scared at the thought of living their life "alone" they created "god" as well as all mythology but decide god was more feasible to believe so it stayed. If you actually took time to do some ACTUAL research, you would be surprised about a lot of things you find out about what you think you know.
I might suggest that commenter should take his own advice. It is possible he might not know as much as he thinks he knows either.  
It seems to me, after years and years of thinking about the merits of the God question both pro and con, that a humble agnosticism is more in order. I believe our feelings about God and spirituality are highly personal, that is we believe or disbelieve in a spiritual worldview primarily for emotional reasons. And then we seek out the arguments that best support our bias.

I find myself cornered into the position of being an agnostic believer. Of course I recognize the strengths of the atheist position. But I don't find them overly convincing. More to the point, they don't jibe with my intuition and deeper feelings. Beyond that admission, I think that all we have emotional reasons for following or dismissing altogether a spiritual worldview. I therefore think it absurd to write off all nonbelievers as wicked or all believers as stupid and childish as is so often done.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Bloodthirsty God?

Perhaps this is an idea whose time has come. Skeptic author Steve Wells (who is also author of The Annotated Skeptic's Bible) has taken the trouble to calculate the exact number of people God either killed or ordered killed (according to the Bible) in his latest book, Drunk with Blood: God's Killings in the Bible. On the back cover of his book he gives in chart form the tally as 2,476, 633. His chart also attributes 10 deaths to Satan, just by way of comparison.
According to a recent op-ed in The Guardian by Rebecca Sabastio, which was the first I had ever heard of this book, "the number is much higher - 25 million people - when estimates in which no number is are stated are tallied...."

Did you know, for example, that God:

Burned complainers to death, forced the survivors to eat quail until it literally came out their noses, sent "fiery serpents" to bite people for complaining about the lack of food and water, and killed 14,700 for complaining about his killings?

Burned complainers to death, forced the survivors to eat quail until it literally came out their noses, sent "fiery serpents" to bite people for complaining about the lack of food and water, and killed 14,700 for complaining about his killings?
Helped Samson murder thirty men for their clothes, slaughter 1000 with the jawbone of an ass, and kill 3000 civilians in a a suicide terrorist attack?
Killed a man for trying to keep the ark of the covenant from falling and 50,070 for looking into the ark?
Killed 70,000 because David had a census that he (or Satan) told him to do?
Believe me, those are just a small sample of his examples So perhaps Rebecca Sabastio is justified in asking at the end of her editorial:

God is unquestionably bloodthirsty, so why is his character so revered? Is it because something in human psychology needs to exist in a state of constant fear? Or perhaps it is because the Bible verses that reveal God as the world’s most prolific mass murderer are conveniently ignored.

I vote for the latter. Most Bible believers are largely in the dark about these more shocking stories. But to the extent they are aware, say as with the popular tale of God's destruction of the ancient world in the days of Noah, they work from the notion that (1) God is just and incapable of doing wrong, and (2) God is master over his creation and therefore has the right to create and destroy life accordingly. But does that makes good sense of especially those last two items above (and others like them)?

Of course if one is not - as I am not - a believer in Biblical Innerrancy, or the idea that God literally wrote the Bible through men, the problem is easier to account for. In our day it is common to hear world leaders invoke God's name in their wars. It is still a common thing for religious leaders to attempt to tie natural disasters to God's anger at human behavior (although why Wall Street, Washington DC or sin-city Las Vegas seem to go unmolested is still hard to figure according to that logic). My belief is that the Bible says much more about the darkness of the human heart than it does about God's alleged bloodthirstiness. It was true back then and is true now. It is we who are bloodthirsty, and some people have few qualms about following or writing about a slayer-God.

I do have a problem with that idea of God. I have no desire to seek or worship a bloodthirsty God. At the same time I have a real problem with bloodthirsty humans, and it is they, I believe, who gave us the bloodthirsty God. Consequently, I don't feel the need to reconcile the bloodthirsty concept of God with that of a benevolent deity- I jettison the former without apology.

It seems to me that Steve Wells has performed a valuable service in writing this book and making it necessary for us to decide whether we should blindly defend tradition or work for compassion.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Does God Get Into The Details?

Once my childhood faith was shattered by the trials of life (not to mention the fact that questions that had been burning in me sense my teenage years began its own erosion of it), I was left trying to make sense out of what was left. That on many levels life seems to be designed always bothered. The fact, as Einstein pointed out, that we are able to comprehend existence has always intrigued me.
Deism was an obvious safe haven for me - at least for a while. It allowed me account for the cosmos in a reasonable way at the same time it allowed me to unload some of the other theological baggage that weighed me down. I was willing to dismiss (sometimes uneasily) as coincidence many of the things that I had always regarded as evidence of God's dealings with me - although this always bothered me a bit. After all, the God of the Deists brought the universe into existence and then stepped back in order to let it unfold on its own.
Prayer became problematic for me. Most Deists don't pray. At least not in the way most theists do. In the delightful movie Oh, God! - which does feature an anthropomorphic and casually involved God (humorously portrayed by George Burns) - there is the following interesting dialogue between God and grocer Jerry Landers (portrayed by John Denver):
Jerry Landers: People are always praying to You. Do you listen? 
God: I can't help hearing. I don't always listen.
Jerry Landers: So then You don't care.
God: Of course I care! But what can I do?
Jerry Landers: What can You do? You're God!
God: Only for the big picture. I don't get into details
Not surprisingly, the movie also address the problem of evil in much the same way, as in another exchange between Landers and God:

Jerry:: How can you permit all the suffering that goes on the world?
God: Ah, how can I permit the suffering?
Jerry: Yes!
God: I don't permit the suffering. You do. Free will. All the choices are yours.

I'm not a big fan of the free will defense. I think it says some things but doesn't get us all the way to a satisfactory solution. Is free will so important that horrendous evil is justifiable? I have never spoken to a person who would admit they would overlook an egregious evil that was in their power to prevent just because free will should be preserved.

Then there is the alternative of a God who is God of the picture but, at the same time, who doesn't get into the details. That sounds a lot like the Deist's God.

Also, there are those who feel they have experienced God in their lives and not just as some abstract principle that explains the universe. For me that doesn't necessarily entail a miracle working God of special providence. It might be a guiding force, that utilizes a persuasive rather than coercive power. (I dislike the idea of special providence perhaps more than I do the idea of the free will theodicy.)

Not only that, perhaps God isn't the best word for what I'm suggesting. It is, however, a handy symbol for what I'm talking about, and is something most people can associate with. I like the old Greek concept of a Logos back of the Cosmos. Or maybe the Emersonian Oversoul. I'm not signing onto to either of those here, but just saying they are more in line with the way my thinking about the matter has turned.

The idea of an anthropomorphic God creates way too many problems and doesn't give enough good solutions. At least not in my humble opinion.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Specter Of Evil

Yesterday's post dealt with doubt and faith in a positive sense. I wasn't really satisfied with it. In fact, I wrote and rewrote it several times and edited it many more times. It's hard to say something when you don't exactly know what you are trying to say. I find myself a part of a cosmos - that is, and orderly, harmonious system - and in possession of a mind capable of analyzing it. Purpose or accident? Is there a grand mind behind it all or is it all just a lucky accident? I can't say for sure. But I hope.
Then last night before bed I was reading a book that contained many stories of people's lives and beliefs. I randomly turned to the story of a woman who survived the Holocaust. Telling her story many years later (the book was published in 1990), she told of how her faith in God was damaged by all she experienced and saw while imprisoned at Auschwitz. She said she tries to have faith in God but that it is difficult. She is haunted by the specter of evil.
The feeling that washed over me as I read, like black waves crashing against a crumbling shore, took me back to the troubling years when I first seriously allowed myself to question my youthful, faithful worldview. I began to read every book I could get my hands on concerning the problem of why God would allow so much suffering in the world. As if to underscore the doubts I was already experiencing back then, I met while in college a young lady - who became a close friend for many years before she moved away and out of my life - who, along with her two younger sisters and their baby brother, had been sexually and mentally abused by her father.
She used to tell me stories of the abuse. It was therapeutic for her. But for me, it further eroded my faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God. The anger against a person I didn't know at all would burn inside me. But also, it burned towards a God who would part a sea in order to allow a bedraggled band of his chosen people to escape an angry Pharaoh and his army, but would do nothing to aide helpless little children. It made no sense to me.
I came into possession of The Pessimists' Guide to History, which collected account after account of "catastrophes, barbarities, massacres and mayhem" down through the centuries. I still have that book and dip into it every now and then in order to keep perspective. I am haunted by the specter of evil.
My thoughts about the possibility of a Supreme Mind behind the cosmos are conflicted because of the very real, very palpable existence of extreme evil therein. Both the beauty of the cosmos and the ugliness of aspects of it pull at me from opposite directions. I can sit here in the comfort of my home, situated in a relatively safe and secure land of plenty, and think "life is great." But when I lift my gaze beyond, it is more difficult to think that. At least that view tempers those feelings.
There seems to be no simple and certainly no completely satisfying answers. The problem of evil is real and it can be devastating.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Sunny Side Of Doubt

Alfred, Lord Tennyson had some thoughts that resonate with me in his The Ancient Sage.
Thou canst not prove the Nameless, O my son,
Nor canst thou prove the world thou movest in,
Thou canst not prove that thou art body alone,
Nor canst thou prove that thou art spirit alone,
Nor canst thou prove that thou art both in one:
Thou canst not prove thou art immortal, no
Nor yet that thou art mortal—nay my son,
Thou canst not prove that I, who speak with thee,
Am not thyself in converse with thyself,
For nothing worthy proving can be proven,
Nor yet disproven: wherefore thou be wise,
Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt,
And cling to Faith beyond the forms of Faith
Do I speak to myself? Does a "Nameless One" speak to me in a voiceless voice that troubles my soul and
unsettles my mind? Perhaps it is just the mature introspection of one who always felt that perhaps there was more to life than what meets the worldly eye. Or perhaps there exists, shall we say, a spiritual dimension.
A "spiritual dimension" ... am I kidding? "Show me that," the skeptical rationalist would no doubt say.
And I can't.
So why even bring it up or even attempt to talk about it?
Well, for one thing, as long as we have had recorded history we have had evidence that humans have experienced a transcendent reality. That isn't proof a transcendent reality exists, but it is proof that those of us who feel we may have encountered it aren't alone. We may even be the majority. It seems to me the best argument for such a thing is experimental spirituality. Of course that won't satisfy the hardcore empiricist, but so what? One has to live his life where he is.
Also, I'm content with the idea that this transcendent reality is hypothetical. If I accept certain assumptions the whole matter can be dismissed as so much illusion and misperception. I can't prove that view wrong, nor do I feel a need to attempt to.
But if I allow myself to cleave to the "sunnier side of doubt" and "cling to the "Faith beyond the forms of Faith" I am free to indulge myself without the burden of proof. Those who have experienced it (or experienced what they though was it) stand with no need of proof. 
Nineteenth century theologian John Caird made a striking remark in his An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion that suggested:
The more completely our notion of the unknown reality is purified from earthly analogies, from anthropomorphic conceptions and images—the more, in short, we approximate to the state of simple awe before the altar of the Unknown and Unknowable, the nearer do we come to the perfect ideal of religion.
Such talk is sheer foolishness to the persons who go by their five sense alone. And I hate to appear foolish in front of a segment of my fellow creatures. But the sunny side of doubt leaves me room to question if the five senses alone are enough to tell me all there is to know about reality.