27 July 2010

An addendum to seeking truth

As a continuation of some thoughts on the Litany of Gendlin, I have a strong suspicion that fear of being wrong is what keeps most of humanity at odds with one another. Maybe that and love of money and power... and sex... but anyway, just let me run with this for a moment.

Truth is particularly fascinating to me as I journey along on The Quest. One of the things that stuck out to me most when attempting to discover the truth about god is how non-obvious everything suddenly appeared. As a believer I had taken it for granted that Catholicism was simply the "only true religion." Now in attempting to doubt it and prove it back to myself, I find it extremely difficult and confusing.

I found a strong distaste for the alienation I experienced as a result of questioning belief. Most individuals and cultures would whole heartedly support the pursuit of truth, at least if asked directly. When it comes to religion, all systems encourage outsiders to enter fully into their practices and convert. They welcome visitors and inquisitive ladies and gents with open arms. Yet none (or at least few?) encourage exploration into other beliefs for evaluation once already inside the bubble. If one is raised Christian, baptized, led through first communion at age seven or so and then decides as the intellect grows that he or she needs to really evaluate the claims made by the faith... it's practically too late. Sure it's better to do it then than to be confirmed or married (like me), but I can guarantee that the desire to explore and validate claims will not be well received, especially if this is accompanied by a desire to "step outside the box."

Surely this tightly held practice of "bring in everyone you can" but "let no one leave" is not helpful when it comes to uniting humanity toward a common purpose, especially when politics and morals are heavily influenced not by reason but by the prescribed directions handed down from one's religious leaders (though I am aware that many would say, "I'm _____ (fill in religious affiliation) but don't support _____ (fill in typically associated moral/political stance of that affiliation)).

It strikes me as odd that religions would take this approach, though perhaps the likelihood of anyone reaching my point (severe doubt/disbelief/verge of deconversion) is extremely low compared to those who simply "press on" and don't really ever doubt for whatever reason. I say that it strikes me as odd, because for the few that do doubt, it's essentially sickening and terrifying. I felt physically nauseous for about three days when I began to doubt; it only lessened when I finally shared this with my wife. I like Dennet's suggestion to teach comparative religion in school. Let kids know what's out there. Get into their heads that massively contradictory views about who and what god is exist and that millions upon millions believe these contradictory views just as fervently as one's own religion. Encourage them to ask questions. Heck, let two teachers teach the class -- a believer and a non-believer. Or two believers from mutually exclusive religions. Let them see from an early age that every religion tends to have a defense and answer for the attacks and questions of every other religion and vice versa. I think this might at least slightly alleviate the shell-shock of suddenly finding out that tons of people everywhere have arguments--good arguments--against your beliefs of which you were previously unaware!

The only encouragement in The Quest I have received from believers thus far is to not doubt but to suppose that god is true and seek defenses to support this view. That is, in the words of St. Anselm, to "have faith seeking understanding." As many times as this has been suggested to me, I have not been able to identify a significant difference between the original form and my modified translation: "Believe that you may believe more."

I can't think of another area of life/knowledge where this motto holds much water and thus I'm on shaky ground to defend why someone would advance this practice when it comes to religion/faith.


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