Christianity as a belief system is strongly focused on believing as a matter of... loyalty, "keeping the faith" so to speak.

This sets up a discordant situation between believers and disbelievers; it's probably a mistake to locate any resulting 'hostility' within one group or another.

They represent threats to one another's world-views, and serious threats at that. The disbeliever can muster the contemporary prestige of scientism, the history of centuries of established "Christianity" and its misdeeds, plus abundant evidence of what's called "The Problem of Evil" at work everywhere on Earth. The believer can't honestly deny these things, but can't let them overwhelm his trust in God's power, wisdom, and benevolence.

The fact that he continues to resist the disbeliever's "natural" resolution to the difficulty is bound to appear "irrational" to the disbeliever, who may not wish to be impatient and patronizing about it--but the alternative, to seriously consider that the believer might own some incredible truth, is quite impossible, and makes no sense to him, and yet he's being expected to take it seriously. The only way that this can look to him is that his perfectly reasonable view of things is being assaulted by victims of a contagious (and repellent) delusion.

Wow! A certain amount of resentment--for having to deal with all this nonsense yet again, seems perfectly natural! ("Why do they keep trying to push this stuff on me!") The unlikely truth--that it's the "reasonable" people who happen to be mistaken--is precisely what a "reasonable" person will naturally reject!

And then there's that "inside" factor. The disbeliever too is a spiritual being, and can not find any lasting happiness without giving his spiritual nature its due! A believer will of course want to help him with this difficulty, and the resulting conflict is not one to be easily resolved.

Views: 71

Comment by Nathan Swift on 7th mo. 6, 2009 at 3:11pm
Hmmmmm. Perhaps the other side of the coin is a need I see expressed for us each to understand where the other "is coming from," to "get" the basis for the language. The problem seems to come when we feel we need to require the "other" to share where WE are "coming from," or possibly when we feel that the "other" is insisting that we share that "place?"
Comment by Forrest Curo on 7th mo. 6, 2009 at 3:52pm
If we don't dare be taken for "crackers," how can we feed anyone?

If believing that "all life" (or at least all 'sentient life, whatever that may turn out to be) is sacred... If that's pagan, then so is Jesus, at least as I read him!

I too see this as a problem for anyone with a spiritually-based worldview, not just Christians. The duty of sharing that worldview with others just happens to be more strongly emphasized in Christianity, with its beginnings as a Judaic theopolitical movement.

Wanting to be understood, yes. Intrinsically being unable to understand where someone else is "coming from" without the effort & skills required to actually visit the place.

It is frustrating, either being persistently bewildered or being persistently misunderstood... Like being alone in a foreign country, yearning to find people one can at last talk with in our own language! Perhaps the "curse" of Babel isn't that unfamiliar language becomes entirely unintelligible (We'd hate a world where "It ain't no use in talking to me; it's just like talking to you!") but that translating seems like too much work? So need, and reluctance, to visit one another's psychic digs, also looks like it comes with being human.
Comment by Charley Earp on 7th mo. 7, 2009 at 12:32am
In worship, in shared decisions, in fellowship, and in love, beliefs can be transcended by the calling to be loving people. I do not wish my nontheism on anyone, it is my reluctant condition. I was once a fervent believer and would be again, but I can do no other than continue to follow the way of love that I find in Jesus, Buddha, Goddess, Gaia, Gandhi, Dr. King, Kropotkin, and Emma Goldman, among others. Most were not atheists in that list, but some were. They are among the "cloud of witnesses" that I embrace. To love equally the "dancing revolution" atheism of Goldman and the "mountaintop" Christianity of Dr. King is my calling in life.
Comment by Jim Wilson on 7th mo. 7, 2009 at 10:55am
It has helped me to understand the dialectic of belief and doubt, or belief and unbelief, by comparing how it works in religion to how it works in more ordinary activities. For example, if I want to learn French baking, or to learn another language, say biblical Greek, belief, or faith, is a prerequisite for actually undertaking the course. If I think that learning another language is simply "beyond me", I won't take even the first step; it just won't happen.

At the beginning there is always this need for faith or belief when undertaking any new activity. I do not actually know, before doing it, if I can be a baker, or learn another language. I have to trust that I am capable, that the activity is worthwhile, and that the teacher is competent; but I won't actually know if any of this is true until I take the plunge and engage.

From this perspective the demand for faith in religion isn't really that different. One can't know ahead of time if Christianity is worthwhile, if it's promise is true, until one actually engages with the tradition.
Comment by Nathan Swift on 7th mo. 7, 2009 at 11:25am
Jim, I'm not sure I'm getting what you are saying about Christianity. It sounds like you are saying that one must have faith in the Christian perception in order to engage and understand it. In one sense this is true, as in your baking example, one may be a baker, but not really "get" the difference of baking in the French style without practicing it, though one might intellectually understand what it is about. In the same sense, one would have to become a Koine era Greek to understand and make the language really a part of the student, but intellectual understanding is possible. Clearly we need not have faith that we can "be" a Koine era Greek in order to learn the language to the extent that we really are capable. By the same token, we can't "get" where the other is coming from without experiencing that place, but we can learn what we are capable of and compare that knowledge to our own experience. I think what we are talking about is allowing each other the space to approach one another in this way and to share how our different percptions work in our lives to make our walk in the Light.
Comment by Forrest Curo on 7th mo. 7, 2009 at 12:41pm
Once upon a time... there was a man who yearned to do good. There were some homeless guys who hung out by the railroad, for drinking & occasional labor, and he would bring them sandwiches.

One day he noticed that his friend Frank was missing. "Where's Frank?" he asked.

"He looked bad. They took him off in the ambulance a couple hours ago."

So he went to visit Frank.

Frank was all the way horizontal, not looking good at all. "Hey, Jim," he said. "I've been phoning my lawyers, these last few hours. You take this to the bank down the street and it's all yours!" He held up a shaky hand, holding a battered bankbook.

Jim took it, stayed by his friend until he died a few minutes later. "Don't you just love these crazy people?" he thought, tossing the bankbook into the nearest trash.
Comment by Jim Wilson on 7th mo. 7, 2009 at 1:44pm
Nathan: My apologies for being unclear. I agree with what you are saying. I was attempting to address the original post about the "root of conflict", which I understood him to say it had to do with the faith commitment of Christianity. I was trying to show how the faith commitment of Christianity isn't all that different from the faith commitment of more ordinary activities. Normally we don't say that it requires faith to begin to study another language, or study baking. But I think it does.

Your example about Koine era Greek is a little of what I was getting at. I meant to focus on the feeling state of someone just starting out on that project. Such a person has to have faith at three levels: that the person is capable of such study, that the subject is worthwhile, that the teachers know what they are talking about. If any of these are absent it simply doesn't happen.

This kind of faith, or trust, does not seem to generate conflict with other people and I have found that by comparing this sense of faith to religious faith it lowers my sense of conflict with others. I'm trying to show a commonality between religious faith and the kind of trust we often experience in more ordinary activities in the hope that such a comparison can function as a means for showing that faith in itself does not have to be divisive. Perhaps this is not a good approach; others can decide.


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