Tuesday, May 8, 2012

It's great not to be alone: a guest post

I'm in a rut.  I'm running on fumes for blog ideas, and burned through most of the books I wanted to read.  I asked a few people for book suggestions.  One of the responses I received was so damn encouraging, I think it's worth its own post.  It comes from Stan, who was a friend of my brother growing up at Hinson Church in Portland, and somehow managed to know more about philosophy than I do (and that was my major!  Jerk!).    My response to this is a resounding "ditto"!

From Stan:
I'm reading "Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics" right now, and it's pretty good. It talks about the last century of American Christianity and how far things have fallen.

I don't think I have any book recommendations for you based on where you're at.

For the record, I think it's perfectly valid to question the utilitarian merit of a principle. Basically, atheism is one of the many kinds of "skepticism to degree X in category Y." If likelihood multiplied by utility overcomes X, then subscription is justified. Otherwise, it's not.

Pascal's Wager tries to "cheat" by making utility "infinity," but we're probably agreed that the Wager blows.

In fact, nearly all so-called "God proofs" are terrible, and I'm of the opinion that Plantinga is a ninny. I also think, after 15 years taking this stuff relatively seriously, that I have pretty powerful Biblical reasons to say that homosexuality can be fine, evolution is perfectly cool, and God's not going to endlessly torture anyone. The conservative Christians on Reddit hate me.

And throughout that time, I've also been an off-and-on atheist. I've spent months on end being an atheist. My buddy calls me a "faitheist," because I'm functionally atheist in most ways, except that I find myself "backsliding" into belief and even conviction.

I said before that the "God proofs" are rolleyes. I believe that the only reasonable (in the Kantian sense; obsrevation + logical self-criticism) way by which a man can come to religious faith is by religious experience. And I don't mean euphoria; I mean setting expectations, implicit or explicit, and having things occur in your life that cannot have any reasonable explanation but God's intrusion.

I have gone through droughts. I've spent extended periods of time pretty convinced that God wasn't there. But he always seems to have a way of pulling me right back, if I take the liberty to speak of him as if I'm not delusional.

Even after I've nearly come in for a landing on permanent atheism. Even after due considerations made toward placebo, confirmation bias, Littlewood's Law, etc. A thing will happen (this one was last month) that will make me say, "Oh no way. I can't believe it. It's clearly happening again." And then I'll get punched several times in succession by amazing convergences of events exactly how I needed to experience them, I'll be blown away by the apparent teleology of it all and the pin-point accuracy of its supposed intent, and I'll be right back to where I started.

I'll never be full Christian. I'll always be a schizophrenic faitheist. If that sounds like a fun route for you, just be open to yourself with your own struggles and failings and heart-desires, and maybe you'll find yourself, despite due and prudent self-criticism, undergoing religious experience as well, and it will be either a rekindling of a relationship or a convincing delusion, for better or for worse.

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