Monday, August 14, 2006
  Journey to Belief (Intermission)

A lot of interesting points have come up in my comments. Ones that I hadn't thought about addressing originally as I detailed how I came to my beliefs. As I always do, I'm also questioning why I wanted to share these thoughts, making them open for discussion, and then questioning why I wouldn't want to share them.

It all comes down to being human. Like all of us social creatures, I want to be understood and accepted. I guess I feel the need to explain how I can be skeptical, and still believe in God and be deeply religious. Perhaps I am still fighting the ridicule of that fellow student from all those years ago. Do our insecurities ever really change? But also, I always wonder if my thinking has been clear, logical and precise enough to pass a rigorous test. Will some large oversight be pointed out to me, wreaking havoc in my carefully constructed set of arguments, causing me to start over again? Will I ever, ever be satisfied?

Probably not. Not until the bright flash of death reveals or does not reveal the ultimate answer. But then, isn't that how we should approach knowledge? Never satisfied that we are Knowledgable. Willing to give up what we thought was true in exchange for something that is more true, and yet making this exchange conservatively, unwilling to let our opinions drift with the prevailing breeze.

C'est la vie.

(part 1)(part 2)(part3)
Ahh...I think your last paragraph details the difference between knowledge and wisdom. You know the saying, wisdom is knowledge rightly applied.

I often like to think that the more we learn in life, the more we realize that we don't know. So don't ever be afraid to continually re-examine your beliefs. If we don't, then I think it is easy to take them for granted...perhaps that is when we just look at the plans to our house again and listen to the warm fuzzies...until we snap out of it and get to work sawing, hammering and painting that house. But always remember it is your doesn't matter if anyone likes the color you paint it as long as you are comfortable there.

I think what is interesting to me is that you started out an apologetics (and I use that term formally not derogatory) for your conversion. And one of the things that I was interested in was to see if you could do it without throwing in the need for a belief in the after life. There a essentially two types of people. Those who believe that death is final and those who don't. As a doctor and a son, I have no doubt that when my patients or my father died it was forever and that's why I fight so hard to keep them alive when there is any reasonable chance for them to have a quality existence. I realize that others do not feel this way and I respect their feelings, even though I don't believe them. However, I believe that the underpining of western religion, whether believers want to admit to this to themselves or not, is a deep seated need for death not to be final. I have watched too many parents come unglued when their faith has been shattered by the death of their child not to have this forced down my throat (particularly those practing religions that believe in the power of prayer as an intervention for medical crisis). There really is no room for debate between agnostics/weak athesists/true atheists and believers on this specific point. It is a wedge issue and if you had started with this, you would have probably gotten zero comments from non-believers.

What had me intrigued about your piece was that you seemed not to be going in that direction, but rather were trying to make the case that one might choose to believe independent of the after-life trump card (at least until you pull out Pascal's gambit).

I think anyone who is really questioning their religion, which is something I too once did, should ask themselves the question I asked. It is the question that allowed me to finally break free of my faith (after a lifetime of Southern Baptist Indoctination), so you may not want to read on.

Would I care to believe even if God were real and all the facts in the bible were historically accurate, but there was in fact no after-life and that death were final? Would I want to believe if the after-life was in fact a fictional contrivance designed by God to ease our pain on earth, created out of compassion but not real? What would that say about my relationship with God?

Every time I watch a baby die, a creature with no reference points for memory or relationships, no understanding of self or awareness; I am certain that the judeo-christian version of the after-life is a well-meaning but sad fabrication. It happens every minute all over the world. Death at birth has been the most common cause of death throughout human history, more that war, disease and pestilence put together. What would heaven be like filled with those newborn souls? I am not capable of believing in such a design.

Why you might ask would I bother to explain this? Because it is the ones who are questioning their faith who are shattered by events in my NICU. In a sense, I think those who deep down inside believe that death is final, are better off reconciling themselves with it sooner rather than later. Those who have a strong faith seem to do better, they cling to it and tell themselves that they will meet again in the afterlife. I do nothing to disuade those beliefs and in fact I actively support them. I guess blogging provides a freedom I can't afford on the front lines as a physician. When a child dies, it is not the time to tell parents what you really think. You tell them what they want to hear.

In the end, I think I just want people to be true to themselves. I don't like indoctrination. If people need God fine. If they need to believe in an afterlife fine. But it's the need to metastasize their beliefs to all those around them that I find distasteful. I think the Omish have one of the most ethical systems of religious conversion. They send their children out into the world for two years and let them decide if they want to come back or not. Now that is free will.

What does LDS do? They send their youngsters out to convert others (both non-believers and believers alike in other denominations) for two years. You can see the contrast.
I'm not touching what my hubby said up there. We came to our positions on belief/non-belief down different roads. His is much more interesting and insightful.

However, I am disturbed by your description of carefully constructed set of arguments. Really, I'm quite disturbed. Carefully constructed?

I suppose in my mind it is either belief or not. With religion, carefully constructed has shades of "trying to talk myself into this belief". Perhaps you don't really believe.
You might like a book by Robert J. Sawyer, titled "Calculating God". Although I'm not a fan of intelligent design, it had some interesting points and speculated a biological basis for the physics of universe creation.

In any event, time is a bit tricky in the soup of particles that could have existed at the creation of the universe and 10-33 seconds from our reference point could be an infinte time to tinker with a physics/biology experiment.
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A Mormon housewife who loves truth, science, rational thought, and reasonable action.

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