Sunday, March 22, 2009

mental exercise

Here's a question that might be a good way to "get to the point" when discussing religion. Supposing it's possible that one day you and God disagree on something, what do you do? Do you do what God thinks is right, or do you do what you think is right?

Christians sometimes seem more afraid of not being called Christian than they are of not doing the right thing. Jesus cared more about the spirit of the law than the letter of the law, even though he also said that not even a tilda would be erased from the law of God (interpret this however you want). Nonetheless, if it is the spirit of the law that matters most, then it does not matter whether we are Christians or atheists, it only matters if we live with love and careful regard towards all those whom our actions affect. So I'd ask you: how do you answer?


aratina said...

Unfortunately, some people seem to think it is better to go with what God thinks is right. But I think that people I know who do this fail to appreciate just how abstract our consciousness can be; God is in all likelihood just a figment of their imagination. In the end, they are doing what they think is right whether that accords with the spirit of the law or not.

Reflecting on people I know who are religious and good-natured, I also would add the caveat that people are really good at subtly changing just what it is that God wants to fit within the spirit of the law. This is not really a conscious effort, although it may be a critical one that culls data from various religious information sources including clergy and authoritative or inspirational literature.

aratina said...

I just ran across a similar sentiment to mine at PZ's blog. Let me reproduce it here:

I think there is a strong tendency for the religious to blur the distinction between propositions, and what the proposition is about -- so that both become sacred. "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." In order to have faith in God, once must first have faith that there is a God.

If one's belief that there is a God is held provisionally, then it ought to be possible for a believer to give some examples of things that would prove him mistaken, and cause him to change his mind, and become an atheist. But because "faith" slides between referring to trusting in God and trusting in the self, this is often not possible. The "commitment to God" is equivalent to a commitment to spindoctor all possible things that might occur as either consistent with the existence of God, indicative of the existence of God, or even more faith-affirming than that. Faith is not a conclusion that can be revised: it is something that is "lost," or "found."

I think the equivocation between making the "leap of faith" required to believe there is a God, and making the "leap of faith" to trust that God knows what is best -- gives too much power to the believer. Doubting the self, becomes the same as doubting God. They are now both equally infallible.

Keir said...

I finally got email comment notification for my blog. I love it.
But to address your thoughts:

Oneself and one's god are inseparable. Each supports the other and neither should be doubted. Do I understand what is being said in your comments?

In this line of reasoning, it appears highly unlikely that oneself and one's god would ever disagree, as their main function is to support one another to the point of forgiving each other's faults.

Which is why I need Christians to first understand that the "mental exercise" I put forth here is purely a hypothetical question, because to them it is impossible. Of course, they would never disagree with God about basic questions of morality. But what if they did? What would they do? If they can imagine this scenario, then they can begin to see why some people would leave their religion. This is as close as I can hope to get them to see my point of view. I actually asked one thoughtful Christian this question and he dared not answer! Depending on the person, the consequences of answering either way can be quite troubling. Or to someone like me, very interesting.

But then, I see God through his cultural manifestations and the social fallout caused by religion. Maybe someone must first see the damage done before they can begin to imagine ever disagreeing with a diety they have a close attachment to.