Posted by: emjb | November 24, 2006

Retracing my steps is not an option

First things: hey, family! I know you read…so you shouldn’t be surprised if I blog about our conversations!

Anyway. Had a long and heartfelt discussion with some family today, about the state of the world, and partly also about the state of my soul, in general. Which did not bother me as much as it could have, considering I had initiated the discussion by a) writing about it in my blog and b) letting my family know my blog existed. Stuff that I publish on the internets is fair game for my readers.

There are gulfs between me and some of my family, of politics and religion, that would take longer than we ever have to get to the bottom of. I can’t really seem to explain why the religion I was raised in can’t work for me anymore, why Bible study isn’t enough to resolve my doubts. Because I don’t think that’s what the Bible is for, for one (if it is for anything at all). And because I have made my peace with paradox, as much as I can.

For the most part, I do believe in a…person, whom I could describe as God. I cannot in any way prove that this belief is not, in fact, completely delusional. All the religious writers and thinkers of any depth will say essentially the same, that belief in a deity requires faith, and is not something you find from “evidence”, whether you classify that evidence as “intelligent design” or Bible verses.

Intelligent design is a religious theory, not a scientific one–so it doesn’t really apply as any sort of proof.

Bible verses prove nothing but the views, memory, or beliefs of the writers of the Bible. That’s why I can’t be a fundamentalist. The Bible didn’t float down from Heaven on a little fluffy cloud. It was written by human beings, with all their prejudices, ignorance, and limitations. And its rough, patchwork, sometimes contradictory contents show all the marks of many different documents cobbled together over time. None of this is any real dispute. It is imperfect, and as such, is subject to discussion and even dismissal.

Neither of which would prove or disprove the existence of a deity.

I really think a lot of churches have stopped worshipping Jesus and worship the Bible instead.

I would be sad if the Bible ceased to exist, because I think it is a rich repository of the evolution of some particular human cultures, and because it contains some wisdom and truth, some poetry, and some fascinating history. You have to understand it to understand western culture.

But I don’t think it would affect my belief at all if the Bible ceased to exist. Because my belief is not based on the Bible per se, though it is colored by it, since I grew up in the time and place that I did. Though it is fascinating to think what my belief would look like if I’d never seen a Bible.

Anyway–I believe because I feel a need to believe. I talk to God out of need, not out of a calculated desire to avoid hell, or because I know someone is there with absolute certainty. It is quite possible that humanity creates an imaginary God because of a genetic quirk in our brains. But then, our need could be a reflection of some greater reality, a natural desire of a created being to speak to its Creator. I really don’t know. More strangely, to a lot of people, I am ok not knowing, for now. I am not searching for God, so much as listening…kind of like the Very Large Array in New Mexico, listening to the heavens for a communication that may never come.

If it doesn’t come, or can never come, I will live my life the best I can, and I will die, and that will be it. If it does come, presumably it will communicate something to me to guide me what to do.

Every now and then, I think I hear something. But it might just be space static. I can’t be sure, and neither can anyone else, which is why religious wars are perhaps the stupidest kind of all. All we know for sure is this world, and that’s where we have our work. If it exists, the next world can take care of itself–we’ll all get there soon enough, anyway.

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