Update: where I am

Prior to a post I made earlier today, it had been over two months since I had last posted, and prior to that it had been spotty. Part of the reason is that my previous frequent posting was quite therapeutic for me and helped me work out a lot of stuff I’d been pinging around in my head. Another significant factor is life — work, kids, etc., plus I’ve entered the phase of my life where I’m now completely conscious of my unbelief and I’m taking it all in — observing and trying to reflect on what it all means.

I’m gradually becoming more confident in my unbelief — I’ve told more and more friends and I’ve been going to mass less and less (I’m at about 50/50 on Sundays). My oldest son will be starting kindergarten at a (albeit very relaxed) Catholic school in the Fall, so I’m interested to see how that goes. Speaking of my son, he’s been asking a lot of questions about god and the universe, and it’s been interesting trying to answer them without throwing other (religious) family members under the bus.

Additionally, despite all of unbelief, I’ve been appreciating some (non-fundamentalist) spirituality and ways of appreciating Christian metaphors (see links below).

Some topics I’d like to post on in the relatively near future, assuming I have the time and energy:

  • Talking to my children about god and the universe when they get religious fervor from other family members
  • How Eastern Christianity played a role in my questioning of Christianity
  • Dealing with conservative Christian friends and family as the culture wars heat up
  • Expressing frustration with basic Christian concepts while not being fully “out” as a nonbeliever

Some links to interesting stuff I’ve discovered recently:

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Reflection: Is there an argument for God’s existence?

The other night I got into one of those internet “black holes” where you endlessly click from one link on a site to the next. Somewhere along the way, I came across this post from J. Cecil’s Progressive Catholic Reflections (a seemingly defunct blog) in which the author offers some defenses of the existence of God from well established philosophers with some commentary on the weaknesses of the arguments. It was brief, but still fascinating. One thing that caught my attention was the section from Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae. I read this section of the Summa when I was exploring Catholicism, and I thought of it then as a pretty solid defense of the existence of God. Of course, I was coming at it from the assumption that God exists. Here’s the passage: Continue reading

“Santa Claus isn’t real” and sorting out reality

I didn’t have an “aha moment” on Santa Claus as a child – I gradually pieced together the evidence, and one Christmas I didn’t believe in Santa Claus anymore. But, the fact that my parents went to great measures (my dad even managed to leave behind stray hairs from a white beard) to lie to me about something did a number on how credible I viewed my parents’ information. In the long run this was probably a good thing, but it didn’t please my parents that I no longer took what they said at face value. Since then I’ve had a fascination with the cultural phenomenon of Santa Claus – it’s not like Halloween where we dress up and pretend – it’s expected that you perpetuate a factual falsity for the “sake of  the children.” So, it was no surprise that I was fascinated by an article from last year in Psychology Today about Santa Claus and his offspring “Elf on the Shelf”: Continue reading

Human value and protecting God

I came across this post on Rational Doubt from a former pastor on how praising God often comes at the expense of denigrating humanity in many Christian circles.

I’d probably sung the song a hundred times, swaying to its gentle melodies with arms uplifted and eyes closed.  It was one of those praise choruses evangelical Christians love to sing, a few words repeated over and over again –

“You alone I long to worship.  You alone are worthy of praise.”

We sang until we were oblivious to our surroundings and open to the Spirit.  Having practiced this form of spiritual reflection often, I was startled when my inner voice said, “That can’t be true.”

[…] Every human life had worth.  Nearly everyone did something worthy of praise.

[…] Of all the religions I’ve studied, Christianity has the poorest opinion of human nature.  Christian theology, rhetoric and music often praises God’s magnificence at human expense.  According to orthodox theology, we are born into sin, doomed from our first breath.  Though Christianity says we were created in God’s image, that image was quickly and irrevocably broken and twisted by sin.

[…] When my children were born, I didn’t look at them and despair[…] While I knew they would make mistakes, I saw this not as a moral failing, but as a necessary process.  What I expected from them was not perfection, but eventual maturity, the ability to live life with wisdom and sensitivity[…] Eventually, I realized my opinion of my children was more praiseworthy than God’s opinion of me.

This was something I grappled with growing up Evangelical. Why do good things happen if humans could do no good? If no one could do good, why do we spend so much time shaming certain acts? If no one could do good, why do we spend time pushing for laws to try to force people into good acts? Why should I trust that my parents, or teachers, or pastors if they’re depraved humans like me? Continue reading

Sunday reflection: what God has done for me

Despite my functional agnosticism, I still attend an Eastern Catholic parish (side note: if you don’t know much about Eastern Christianity, you should learn about it – it will expand your world as to how broad Christianity really is). During the announcements at the end of Divine Liturgy, our priest always says something along the lines of, “Have a blessed week, and tell someone what God has done for you.” I normally let this go in one ear and out the other, but today I asked myself, “What has God done for me?”

Both growing up Evangelical and later as a Catholic, prayer was very much emphasized. As an Evangelical we were supposed “pray in the spirit” – i.e. the Holy Spirit would supposedly give us the words to say, which apparently included a lot of emphatic sighs and using the word “just” as much as possible (“Lord God, we just come to you to day to ask you to just help [insert person and concern here]”). As a Catholic, prayer was more repetitious – the rosary, ancient prayers written by saints, etc. – even my more free-flowing prayers included the sign of the cross and one or more common Catholic prayer. The thing is, while the emphasis was different, both were simultaneously personal and formulaic in their own way. And, in both traditions, prayer was a big deal. If you want to be closer to God, pray. The adverb “prayerfully” was included in any major (and sometimes minor) decision in your life. And, I prayed. Although, I was very careful to do my best to only pray for “important things” (health, salvation, etc.) and not be so presumptuous as to pray for “stupid things” (football games, parking spots, etc.). Continue reading