Thursday, April 24, 2008

Revisiting Atheism ... again

The next installment of Jen's interview with The Cynical Christian is up.

Interesting questions to ponder:

When you were an atheist, what could a Christian have said or done to change your mind, or at least get you started down that path, any sooner than you eventually did?

and

As a Christian, having seen both sides, how do you now approach atheists?


Jen summed things up nicely when she said:

God has done so much in my life, it takes my breath away to even think about it. If I could just share with others even a drop of the peace and joy that he has showered down upon me, I think it would be better than 1,000 good arguments.

This is not to say, however, that there's no place for pointing out the logical reasons to believe the Christian claims are true -- as an atheist, I couldn't have even considered exploring this religion until I understood that I did not need to set aside science and reason in order to believe its claims.

This is so true for me, too. (Can I just keep saying, "Yeah, yeah ... what she said,"?)

It's not about arguing an atheist into belief, or about besting one's opponent or coming up with the most clever argument. It's about the hope that I can communicate the ineffable peace that I've found. After a certain point of reasoning through all the "sides" and "arguments" there really isn't a logical explanation for that peace. But when it arrives, you exhale and think, "Oh ... so that's what this has been all about."

In other words, there are reasonable and logical explanations for everything, but the explanations aren't everything.

I truly hope to get back to this thread very soon, because I have so much to say, and have had so very little time to say it, but perhaps this discussion will spur me to work on a project I've had in mind for a long time, which is to chronicle in much greater detail the part of my conversion that involved moving from atheism to belief.

8 comments:

Simon said...

Peace is seriously overrated.

Karen E. said...

Lol!

Darron S said...

It is my humble opinion that people go to religion to attain a level of deep emotional comfort in a world where so little is guaranteed. Regardless of how the world around us twists and turns, having solid faith in something, anything, brings a quieting sense of calm to a person's being.

It is my hope and humble opinion that science and reason will soon replace faith and religion as the foundations upon which we place our hopes and dreams. Subconciously, most of us already have gone down this road. It's now just a matter of finding the courage to look at the world with open, honest eyes. Honest, scientific inquiry is the road to our future; unfalsifiable religions will soon be childhood memories of our young species.

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
If I wanted to get high or attain a feeling of inner peace, I'd take Prozac. Seriously- it makes you feel so gooood isn't really a sane reason.

Karen E. said...

Darron, you wrote:
"having solid faith in something, anything, brings a quieting sense of calm to a person's being."

Hmmm ... I don't quite agree with you there. :-) There were times in my conversion journey when I certainly *wished* that this were true. I wished that I could simply choose to have faith in the most comfortable version of God that I found. But, that wasn't the case. It was much more demanding than that.

I'm reminded of a quote from C.S. Lewis:

"If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair."

It truly was not *comfortable* for me to become a Christian, and later, to be fully initiated into the Catholic Church. "Comfort" just isn't the right word. "Peace" is also inadequate, though it's closer. Because even when things are uncomfortable, challenging, or are plainly a painful cross, there's still an underlying confidence that transcends the ideas we have of comfort and peace. Defies them, really. And yet it's there and it's not left me since my conversion. Not a happy-go-lucky, smiling-no-matter-what's-happening-around-me kind of confidence. That's too simplistic. It's a sure knowledge, rooted in both my faith and my reason, a knowledge that defies simple and limiting labels.

you said: "Honest, scientific inquiry is the road to our future;"

The Catholic Church supports you in your quest for honest, scientific inquiry. Faith that is rooted in truth need never fear science. There's no conflict between faith and reason. Have you read John Paul II's encyclical, "Faith and Reason" by any chance?

Thanks so much for stopping by here and commenting!

Karen E. said...

Samuel,

You said, "Seriously- it makes you feel so gooood isn't really a sane reason."

I agree, which is why I wouldn't simplify my position in the way you just did. :-)

Anonymous said...

Samuel Skinner
The reason you gave was peace and joy. Similar feeling can be achieved with mild eutrophics. Or sex. Or stuffed animals. Or pets.

Unlike religion they don't require turning off your mind and declaring arguments and evidence unimportant. people who do that are the same ones who say "lets split up" in horror movies after the people start getting attacked by the monster. You idiots- stick together!

Anyway that is one reason evidence is important- not dying in horror movies. In addition reason will protect you from con men, cultists, politicians and others who want YOU not to think. Now for 4 easy payments of $9.95, you too can get your own sample of reason! Run, don't walk to your phone and dial...

Okay, that was over the top. Seriously enough, reason, evidence and skepticism helps prevent screwy stuff from happening to you. Just saying that clear thinking is useful- more useful than happiness. It is fast acting and lasts longer... dang it- commercials are stuck in my head.

Karen E. said...

Samuel wrote:
The reason you gave was peace and joy.

Yup! And, I also wrote about logical reasons and explanations, about faith and reason and about there being no need to fear honest scientific inquiry. So, let's be fair and note that I did say more than just, "I feel so good/peaceful/joyful. Yippee." :-)

You wrote:
Similar feeling can be achieved with mild eutrophics. Or sex. Or stuffed animals. Or pets.

You must have much better stuffed animals than I do. :-)

And I don't think you meant to use the word eutrophics. However, you're onto something about sex.

God made sex. He thinks it's great. He made it not only to give us a nifty way to reproduce, but as a way to give us a glimpse into the Divine. Try reading up on the Theology of the Body: a good place to start might be some of Christopher West's articles.

Okay, now let's see where we can agree:

*Stupid people in horror movies?
Check. I'm with you. They're always idiots.

*"con men, cultists, politicians and others who want YOU not to think"

Check. I'm with you. Many idiots among that lot, too.

"Seriously enough, reason, evidence and skepticism helps prevent screwy stuff from happening to you."

Check. Agreed. A Catholic is not required to check her brain at the door.

If you seriously want to look into the relationship between faith and reason, read JPII's encyclical, "Faith and Reason." It's here and is quite accessible.

"Just saying that clear thinking is useful- more useful than happiness."

Check. Agreed again. Clear thinking is more than useful. It's necessary and vital.

Let's keep our word choices clear though, because you're jumping from "peace" and "joy" (which are part of the equation, but not the whole thing) to "happiness."

I never said "happy." :-) I can be miserable, or in a lot of emotional or physical pain and still have "peace." That's a paradox that I never understood as an atheist, but which makes perfect sense to me as a Catholic.