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.