Thursday, February 5, 2015

I Wonder

(picture courtesy my good friend Kathy)

I was reading a very interesting article by Emma Barnett concerning belief in God. She made some points that really strike a chord with me and my thinking.

Especially this one. With reference to recent comments about God uttered by comedian Stephen Fry she suggested that he "may feel that “the moment you banish him [God], life becomes simpler, purer, cleaner, more worth living” – but for millions of silent others, the polar opposite is true."

Because, as she correctly points out, "Theism is an intensely personal thing" and also "Fervent atheism is achingly cool" nowadays, it is perhaps impossible to know how many "silent others" there really are.

I wonder how many of us still believe there is something beyond and behind all of existence, but yet can't reconcile that belief with most of the major religious traditions?

Emma Barnett states her faith in this way:

I’m not weird or particularly religious. Nor do I reject reason or scientific progress. I just happen to think that there is an ineffable force at play that accounts for all the things we can, and crucially can’t, explain.

I feel the same way.

I wonder how many others feel that way as well but remain largely silent.


  1. Can't say that I'm one of them that feels that way.

  2. "Theism is an intensely personal thing."

    Very. I don't miss the Christian god AT ALL, but I do miss knowing my life here was just the appetizer.

    1. I think the more firm one's faith in God is, the more persuasive that idea about the appetizer becomes.

  3. " ... life becomes simpler, purer, cleaner, more worth living ..."

    The same reasons that can't find a way to fit in with any brand of religion is pretty much the same reason most atheists/agnostics walked away altogether. Evidence ... we just went a step or two further since there is no evidence to support an "ineffable force at play" any more than there is for the christian god. That's not to say that there may not actually BE "something beyond and behind all of existence" ... but it is an unsupported unknown whose value could be 0 or a million.

    There's nothing wrong with believing that there could be a relevant and influencing value to "something beyond and behind all of existence" but without evidence, it's an academic exercise in unsupported conjecture. Agnostics/atheists jettison this exercise altogether (because there's no evidence to maintain it) - this streamlines and frees time to focus on what is real and tangible in their lives - family, friends, humanity, compassion, actions that really matter and can really affect change and make a difference in their lives and the lives of those around them.

    Atheism might be "trending" but it's not about being "trendy" or "cool", it's about a search for what's true and real in our environment - most atheists would happily amend their beliefs if there was any evidence to support doing so.

    Now if only the religious folk would remain silent and stop trying to impose their will and their god on any and everyone that does not subscribe to their beliefs - then we could all live in harmony despite our beliefs.

    1. Hi Robert. Thanks for reading and taking the time to explain your outlook.

      Of course I disagree with the way you frame the evidence argument. But that's okay.

      Also, I think both believers and unbelievers sometimes go overboard defending their views. Human nature I suppose.

    2. Thanks Doug - I enjoy your writing and perspectives. I agree that both worldviews go overboard with defense/offense - I think the part I have an issue with is when theists go overboard, it can be deadly and/or oppressive, whereas when atheists go overboard they mostly just come off as d!ckheads :P ... but otherwise benign in the grand scheme of things.

    3. And thank you for the compliment. I hope you continue with me as a reader and friend, even if we don't see eye-to-eye on the God issue.

      The real culprit, it seems to me, is when political power is added - as in theocracy or state atheism. I would fear either situation.

    4. You're welcome! :) And yes, I'll continue to read - for the reasons stated above (and for entertainment and fellowship) - as long as you continue to write.

      I concur that political power is influenced by belief systems can be dangerous - I think that is precisely what our Constitution attempts to prevent. We also agree that a theocracy or state enforced atheism should be feared and avoided at all costs. And while it's no secret that vocal, evangelical religions would love to reform the government in their own image (as they feel it's their divinely inspired and sanctioned mission/goal), I don't think you'd find the same motivation and drive among atheists/atheism to enforce a system of non-belief.

      I went back and read the column that was your source for this post and something jumped out at me and I wonder if it had the same impact and weight with you:

      "Theism is an intensely personal thing. You can’t teach belief nor can you accurately measure it. " - emma (emphasis mine)

      I think something VERY important got glazed over here. No, you can't "teach" belief. I think it is an innate, evolved trait in the human animal. It's a primal survival tool that our infant/toddler/adolescent humans NEED for survival. It is important for survival that we implicitly trust our adult humans (the ones close to us that guide us - in short - our fellow tribesmen) in order to survive to grow to BECOME adults. Without this innate ability to trust/believe the word of our elders without question, we'd need to relearn every single dangerous lesson by experimental trial and error. This would have devastating effects on our percentage of survival ... those that instinctively trust their adult elder that the noise they heard is a tiger in the grass have a higher survival rate - those that investigate to learn for themselves, perish at a higher rate because it really WAS a tiger that ate them.

      Theology/religion exploits this. So now, not only must you fear the unseen tiger ... but also the unseen creator deity ... and that might not be a bad thing IF there is a "creator" to fear/believe in. But unlike the tiger - which there is ample evidence to support it's existence ... there is scant evidence to support the creator deity and much suggestive evidence to consider that motivated humans created the concept of a creator that needs to be feared ... I think you can extrapolate the rest.

      Sorry if this comment/post/thought seems incomplete - my girlfriend is pressing me to get ready for the day ... I certainly believe I will survive longer if I follow her "suggestion" :P

      Have a great weekend :)

    5. Hello again Robert. Your post was fine - rich and full. But I agree, you're survival chances are better if you stay on your gal's good side. :-)

      And believe it or not I agree with you that belief is innate and evolved. Of course I approach it differently than you because I believe that fact is intentional, the result of the Creator.

      You write that "Theology/religion exploits this" and again I agree. Except that I would define the exploitation here as making benefit from. A relationship with God is beneficial.

      Robert, I guess we aren't going to agree about religion but I do believe we can disagree on friendly terms

      I can only tell you the evidence in my heart convinces me of the existence of God. That's as real as the tiger to me.

    6. Hey - I survived! :) In case you're interested we spent the day at Solomon's Castle ( with friends - a fabulous, off the beaten path, place.

      I don't think I am posting so much to ferret out where you and I agree or disagree (although it's good to know) but more just to have a friendly conversation about concepts and perceptions of the world as you and I see it. I am certainly NOT trying to "change your mind" or otherwise influence you from what you feel in your heart to be true ... I cannot even say I haven't, at times, felt similarly.

      If anything, I guess I'd like to know generally what your definition of "God" is. Based on what i've read (and I can't say i've read everything you've written) but I'd venture to say your definition is something akin to "a spiritual guiding/creating power that is otherwise an unknown quantity". I don't think (and I could be very wrong) that I've seem you refer to "God" in any context that would make God anything similar to any of the world's most popularly known organized religions ... is that fair to say?

      Because if it is - then it really doesn't matter whether you and I "agree" on the existence of your definition of "God" because that God does not require you to mandate how I think feel and act despite being skeptical. In short - I have very little problem coexisting with that God or his believers since we CAN happily and harmoniously coexist and still treat each other with humility and respect.

      It's only when our beliefs require us to legislate, mandate and otherwise enforce our fellow beings to conform to our way of thinking/believing that it becomes a REAL problem and conflict can (and usually does) ensue.

      Happy Sunday :)

    7. Friendly discussion is always welcome here, Robert. I don't feel I can adequately define God. But certainly you are right in understanding that I do view God as the creating/guiding power of the universe. But I also have this abiding feeling that God is very beyond the finite ken. I hope you have a Happy Sunday, too.

  4. Hi Doug, I think the idea of an "ineffable force" is an attractive one, and explains many things. But it seems to me that a lot of people don't find it a belief that lasts with them. Some do remain with that view, but some go on to become atheists, others, like CS Lewis, go on to become theists. I think there is much in our experience and in the world that suggests personality or mind, and an ineffable force doesn't seem able to address those observations, feelings and aspirations.

    1. Hi unkleE. I do understand your concern. Of course the other problem is that personal theism often leads to anthropomorphism. Once there, it is pretty easy to raise serious atheistic objections that shipwreck faith in God. For my part I'm comfortable with both theism and Ineffable force-ism. I believe the depths of God is beyond the finite ability to comprehend.

  5. Hi Doug. I enjoyed reading your post as I always do but I agree with Robert's comment. He put into words the way I feel.
    Hope your mom and new cat are doing well.

    1. Hi Sylvia. So nice to hear from you again. I think of you often and wonder if you are still there. My mom is doing quite well. She turns 82 next month and still drives and lives by herself (although just a street away from me). And Toonces and I are getting closer every day.

  6. Glad to hear your mother is doing well. She is lucky to have you looking after her. And glad you and Toonces are hitting it off now. Keep sharing your thoughts on your blog. Sylvia

    1. Sylvia, I have to thank you so much for the encouragement. Sometimes I think seriously about ending my blog. I sure would miss my friends like you, though.

    2. Hi Doug, I hope you keep going - I would miss not reading your updates and ideas.

    3. Thanks unkleE, that means a lot to me. I sometimes feel I no longer have a real niche.