Value is always subjective. Different people value different things. We know that, yet we are always slightly aware that the things we value are a little more important than what others value, and because of this awareness, we associate with people who value the things we do. When values are sorted out on some sort of imaginary top ten (or so) list, we call that a value system. (Oddly, because it’s not particularly systematic.)
Because value is subjective, the ranking of value is always more or less arbitrary. But for the value system’s practitioners, it’s not arbitrary; it’s self evident. This results in a lot of exasperation, confusion, and distrust for practitioners, non-practitioners, and both, respectively.
Example: people believe in God because they value the god hypothesis. To them, God is self evident. To them, everything thing that exists, and every idea about existence, is in and of it self evidence. They get very frustrated with people who don’t see the world that way. To atheists, God is not self evident. They demand falsifiable statements (which they don’t generally receive) and get very frustrated too.
The deist thinks the atheist must be purposefully ignoring the clear evidence of God for some (sick) reason. The atheist thinks the deist must be purposefully ignoring the clear lack of evidence of God for some (bizarre) reason. Sanity is a gradient expressing ones communication with reality. Those who are deeply in touch with reality are sane. Those deeply out of touch with reality are insane. So, each side views the other as, more-or-less, mentally ill.
I bring up God mostly for the opportunity to talk about atheism, (and maybe build some report between atheists and theists/deists) but my real point is to talk about value systems.
1. Value is relative.
2. Value systems are formed by “self evident” beliefs.
3. As such they are totally arbitrary.
4. This “Its self evident/No, its arbitrary!” can cause a huge amount of friction.
A note here. I have no social friction with people who chose to value me and disregard in their own lives, my values, nor do they get any from me. The trouble is when people assume because they do not value another group or person’s views, they must also devalue the group or person.
For instanse, I support the right of homosexuals to be recognized as married, join the military, and do whatever other people get to do, because they are just that: people. However, I think homosex is disgusting, and it takes regular effort on my part to remember that people who value an act I find repugnant are OK.
Social peace = seperating the value of the person from the person’s values. Social friction = not seperating the value of the person from the person’s values.
One of the most difficult things I have found in the transition from Christian to deist is my loss of my surety. As I often do, I’m going to beef about the kind of Christian I was. This doesn’t mean all Christians are like this. It’s just what it looked like to me when I was there.
When I was a Christian, I was so sure, so certain. Let me give you a list of the things I knew better than the people in charge of them
(1.) Global Foreign Policy: We needed to stop being the policeman of the world and fix our own problems.
(2.) Welfare: We need to stop paying people not to work
(3.) Penal system: We need the death penalty, harsher prisons and harsher sentencing.
(4.) Drugs: Drug dealers are the most evil people on earth.
(5.) Budget: we should balance the budget like a checkbook. The Government doesn’t need debt.
(6.) Immigration: We should turn back the Mexican immigrants by force.
(7.) Science: Scientists are really not that smart. Once a person believes in evolution, they’ll believe anything. They are therefore also wrong about: the hole in the ozone, man made climate change, spanking’s effect on a child’s psyche, and saturated fat.
This is just a sampling of the things I believed. In retrospect, I am amazed by my ignorance. Since the Bible was authored by God, it could not be argued with. I had read and studied the ultimate source of human knowledge, thus I was privy to divine secrets that other folks were not.
I am just staggered by my audacity. The last three years or so, I have remained as passionate about the issues of welfare reform, government, and economic policy as I always was. I read maybe 10 or 15 books a year on each these subjects. And I still don’t have many answers.
I am at the point of education when one finally knows enough to merely phrase the questions.
Back in the day, it would never even occurred to me to that maybe, just maybe, people who have dedicated their lives to understanding the best way to design, say a modern government budget, might know just a smidgen more than I do about the job.
When I was a Christian, I shot my mouth of about subjects I didn’t understand. I did so because I truly believed I did understand. After all, didn’t I know what the Bible said about it? Now, if an opinion is important me, I establish it very carefully after months of studying peer reviewed documents, and their source documents.
Humility is…”the defining characteristic of an unpretentious and modest person.” Humility, like most components of character is not revealed in what one says, but what one does. Isn’t it more humble to spend months in careful study reading many authors conclusions, and checking their source documents than to assume that you were correct about what book God wrote and quoting it wherever applicable?
Proverbs 11:2 “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” So, aren’t I more blessed with wisdom as deist then I was as Christian, since I am more humble?
Today, was my first full day in Germany. I woke before sun began to shine futilely on the fog. Drinking my morning coffee on the balcony, I watched the cars cut through the mist on the road in front of my suite. It was a bit chilly, low 40’s to me, around 5 to them. I went to various offices to receive and give out various bits of paper.
At the end of the day, I took a walk. Fine, black gravel paths weave in and out of the stands of trees and woods that spring up all over the base. The paved paths are hexagonal cobblestones instead of plain concrete. They curve and twist instead of going in straight lines, complimenting rather than dominating the landscape.
I stopped under a stand of trees where some birds were calling into the gathering night, listening to their music intertwined with the whisper of wind in the trees. Far away I could here the roar of a jet being getting a test run. Its a throaty, rich noise, full of power and the possibility of menace.
As I stood there, I experienced something I am not sure that I have ever felt about a place before. Instead of wanting to change this place, I’m just happy to be apart of it. I don’t want to be the boss here, I’m happy with here. I just want to be me. I just want to live.
Its an awesome feeling, in the old sense of the word, like standing at the base of a mountain, or the top of huge waterfall. I began to have this feeling when I stepped out of the plane. The Frankfurt Airport, was enormous, bustling, and silent. There was an “at-peaceness” that hung over the place like a cloud.
It’s my first day. Some of this will pass; I have a very mercurial personality, which is on the upswing right now, but first impressions are so important, and Germany has made an enormous first impression in me.
I wonder what I will learn here. What spiritual journey can I have here in the crisp air and beautiful land? What can this culture teach me about what it means to be a human, an American, and ultimately myself? What meaning and purpose can be purchase by a man without religion? And at what cost? How will my atheist world view and deist theology serve me in this new place?
I been excited for the future before and rarely excited for the present, but this something special and wonderful.
I’m going to talk more about me/my wife/sex/honesty/feelings etc. My point in this is not just to write for therapeutic value, though I do find it therapeutic. I am opening my life up here to tell my friends and family (as well as anyone else) what its like to deal with issues of personal failure without Christianity.
It’s not, in retrospect, quite as serious as the previous post made it sound. I do dumb, hurtful stuff sometimes. I have conversations that I shouldn’t, and sometimes the things said mean more to me than they really ought too. Becky is aware of this, and since it is such a problem for me, I told her about it when we were dating, least it surprise her at some point in the future.
I was pretty upset when I wrote the previous post, and I hadn’t had the time to process precisely why I was so upset. It’s taken me a bit to figure out why I was disappointed with myself. I’m not disappointed with myself for having the feelings. I’m not even disappointed in myself for the action I took. In a different context, it wouldn’t have even been a big deal.
What bothers me is the context. Had I sat down with Becky and said, “You know I am stressed out and the only thing I know that numbs that feeling is macking on girls I can’t sleep with.” she probably would have said something a lot like this.
“Honey, I think that is a really stupid idea. I think its a terrible precedent to set, and I am concerned about your emotional health if that’s how you feel. I’m not going to forbid you to. We don’t forbid each other. You’re smart enough to cover your rear and not get caught, if you choose to anyway. I am really uncomfortable with it and if you do it, there will be some consequence to us.”
What bothers me is not how I felt. What bothers me is not what I did. What bothers me is the underhandedness of it. I have the coolest wife in the world. I could have done this in a context of total honesty, but I choose not too. My failure here was not an issue of sin. It’s not about feeling bad, or how I did this because I don’t have Jesus. (I did stupid, hurtful things when I “had” Jesus too). The point is understanding my failure so I can not do it in the future.
Now, let me clarify here, what I did was not right, it was wrong. But instead of just instead of having done wrong honestly (which is bad) I did wrong underhandedly, which is worse. The best thing would pretty obviously been to not have done it in the first place.
I guess more than anything, I must say to my Christian friends, I still have a conscience. Growing up a fundamentalist (and darn near a christo-fascist) I thought the only thing that makes people do good things was the holy spirit. I believed that if I didn’t have the holy spirit I would go on a horrible, sexual, and violent rampage. My urges would master me and I would die slowly and painfully of venereal disease, alone in a Chilean prison. Turns out, not so much.
In this case, I did something really dumb. I talked all sexy with a friend of mine. According to normal Christian, Dobsonite thought, as a atheist/deist sort a guy I should have no reason not do anything that feels good. So I talked all sexy with my friend and it felt really good. And you know how I felt 3 minutes afterward? Like shit. And you know how I felt when I told my wife? Like shit. And you know how I’ve felt when ever I thought of betraying my wife’s trust like that again? Like shit.
So it turns out that treating my wife badly, even in a very passive and not-so-quantifiable way makes me feel really bad. The friendship is now somewhat awkward for the three of us, and will be for awhile. The cost to benefit ratio on this is totally not favoring doing this again.
Like I said I did things like this when I made a big noise about being a Christian too. My character, never changed by Christianity, is not especially different NOT believing in a personal relating to me God. What is different, is that for the last couple days I have felt dirty, and lame instead of suicidal and despondent.
Even with setbacks like this, life not believing in a personal god who can magically solve my problems continues to be richer and better than life believing in a personal God who could rescue me when I sought Him.
Or I fuck up just like I used too when I called myself a Christian, but feel free to talk about it.
I don’t really understand stress. If you ask me “Do you feel stressed?” I would say no, by that I would mean that I don’t feel the crushing panic of impending doom that something isn’t done. You know, the feeling you have that you are at the end of a conveyor belt and it is running too fast for you to keep up. The sort of thing that makes non-smokers take up the habit, makes you hands shake, makes you sweat in a cold room. To me, that is stress, and I am not feeling that at all.
On the other hand, I’m having a hard time sleeping. My stomach is constantly churning, and I am am really bitchy. I hate being bitchy. Men are not supposed to be bitchy, but I am right now. I have some constant bit of nastiness to say or do at every juncture. I get mad far to quickly and hurt far to easily.
Plainly, this is a response to stress. What do I have to be stressed about? Well, I’m leaving my current job, selling everything I own, packing whats left up to be seen again in 3 months, and taking my family to Germany. Once there, I will be starting my new job, while living in a hotel and finding a place through a language barrier. I am not stressed about the fact I am stressed. This is a very stressful and somewhat abnormal situation, and I think, in general, I am dealing with it quite well, aided by the knowledge that many thousands of servicemen have done this before me, as well the support of my wife, and the support of my friends.
I have only one real problem. This is the problem I always have when I am quite stressed. I don’t know why my mind and body feel this way, but when I am stressed I want to have sex with most every woman I see. Now, I am a man. As a man, I think about sex a lot. I might see a woman and have a scattered and unfocused sexual thought, something a bit more than “Say, what a lovely pair of breasts.” but a good deal less than “I want you.” I think that is perfectly normal, and not what I am talking about here. Noticing that a woman is very attractive and wishing I could see more of her is what makes me straight, which in turn is part of what makes me who I am. I am pretty happy with I am, so I make no apologies.
No, this stress-response-horny thing is, in the words of John Cleese, something completely different. I see a woman tossing her hair over her shoulder at the checkout line. Suddenly, I am completely submerged in her. Alone with her at last, I gently lift the hair from the nape of her neck, kissing the soft skin between the zipper of her dress and her hairline as I pull the zipper down, her breath drawing sharply as I… I shake my head. I’m not in a candle lit room. She’s not in a little black dress. She doesn’t know me, I don’t know her. She’s just some girl.
If to my lonely readers this sounds like a lot of fun, its not. Its sort of involuntary, like shying from a bug bite. I see a very large woman and her butt suddenly becomes magnificent rather than just “huge”. And inch or two of cleavage suddenly becomes a whirlpool, drawing me in. Suddenly cleavage is not something I notice, the way you notice the name of road when you go through an intersection. It becomes something I notice the way a starving wolf notices the scent of blood. Sometimes, I can even step out of it and laugh at my hunger. Holy crap, man! She not only not pretty, she’s not even bathed! When bag ladies look good, maybe you should hurry on home. It’s very unpleasant, but not terrible. Its not any worse than being 16 again, and there are certain benefits to having the life experience of a 27 year old with the drive of a 16 year old, which my wife and I both enjoy.
The worst part is how I feel about my friends. My wife and I are both in our 20’s. We have about as many single friends as married ones. The thoughts about random strangers are, as I said, not that bad. But the thoughts I have about my single female friends are very different. These are our friends, people that Becky and I really care about, some of them even love. With them, because I love them, I don’t want some random encounter in a hotel. No, with my female friends, the ones I really love, I want to take make love to them. I want to take them home, give them back rubs, undress them slowly and lovingly, and slowly make love to them. All of them. One at a time, all at once, in pairs, anyway at all. And right now, in the stressed state I am, not only is there this feeling that I want to do this, there is this feeling that if I do it, it would be so beautiful and so right. It seems as if the all the clouds in the world would blow away, and the whole world would be one of those perfect summer evenings if I could just get them all naked.
I lived with these desires my whole life, so I know enough not to act on them…but, last night…
Last night chatting with a friend, I let her know how I felt right then. She’s a kind hearted person and only wanted to help (she’s also pretty lonely). We both knew that nothing was really going to happen so we really let ourselves go and talked pretty explicitly. For both of us, it was a poor substitute for what we wanted, but it seemed at the moment better than just facing that empty, sick, lonely, hunger I feel whenever I am stressed out.
The next morning (today), I felt so icky. In a way, it’s not a huge deal. Neither one would actually take anymore action that we did. We aren’t going to sleep together. And in much more intelectual, less emotional conversations, we have mentioned that we have feelings for each other, they can’t be resolved, and thats just part of life, so nothing new was said. But in another way, I really fucked up. I, a happily married man, gave part of heart away to a woman that I am not married too. Yeah, I kept my pants on. There was no physical contact, we weren’t even in the same place, but I took something of my wife’s and gave it away without asking. I feel dirty.
Of course, I told my wife about it. I’m not that stupid. In addition to the physical intimacy, my wife and I enjoy a very emotionally intimate relationship. She knows all about these feelings, has for years. She knows that sometimes when I feel this way I do indiscreet but not horribly dangerous things. (ie, I’ve never done more than rub another woman’s shoulders.) She’s understanding, and a little disappointed in me, and a little disappointed in our friend. (I’m sure some ignorant fool will read this and tell me she should throw me out on my ear. Bullshit. All men have these struggles at least once in their life, and some don’t struggle, they just give in. She’s a realist. She has moments when she has feeling for other men too. That life.)
It is at this moment this blog becomes another deist-atheist-what-ever-the-heck-I-am blog. I want god to be a personal God right now. I want there to be some divine plan that I fell out of last night. Then I could just pray “Oh, Lord, please forgive me.” and magically, having felt like I took the step to put myself back on the road o’ righteousness, I would feel absolved, clean again.
But I don’t believe in a personal relationship God. I believe that belief is a comforting fantasy. In the real world, where I live, I can’t magically make this right. I have to accept the fact, that having done it once it will be easier to do again, and easier to do worse next time. (Which is of course, is what my wife is disapointed by) Accepting that, I have to figure out what I am going to do about it on my own, then, I, out of my own willpower I have to do it. The real issue is not that I violated some 4000 year old book, or that I was unfaithful (I didn’t and I wasn’t.) The real issue that I ultimately failed my own values, and in so doing failed my best friend (Becky) and our mutual friend. That sounds like a huge amount of work to fix, and wish I could just pray the magic prayer and have everything be good.
Old habits die hard.
So, I just got back the place I normally live. (I will not call the Gulf Coast home. This miserable little skid mark of settlement holds no claim on me. Home begins at the threshold of my apartment.) Drove for one day, hung out for one day, and drove for one day back.
My Christian friends have sent me many encouraging little notes that they are “praying for me”. I tell myself this is their way of saying they care and are concerned about my plight. But inside, it annoys me a little.
“Oh really? You can do that? You can plead on my behalf before God? You can appeal the laws of cause and effect just for little ol’ me? Why the hell did you wait for a hurricane to start doing that?”
OK, maybe it annoys me a lot.
My wife and I are safe for a variety of reasons. (1.) I have a fantastic employer. I get very frustrated with the bureaucracy sometimes, but the my company just paid me about 30% more than I normally make for three days so that I would have the money for gas, lodging, and food for the time I was gone. (2.) My supervisor choose to call me 8 hours before the evac order came and tell me that it was coming at 6AM. (3.) My wife is the best woman on earth, bar none. She has had a suitcase packed by the door since Gustav went to hurricane status. When the evac order came at 6, we ate breakfast, grabed the irreplaceable files, the hard drive, suitcase, and sleeping child. We were on the road and rolling by 0615. (4.) We were obscenely well prepared. We mapped four separate routes to Little Rock. One all interstate, one all highway, one all country road, and one shortest time, this was tucked into the atlas. In the car was 3 gallons of water and four nonperishable meals for my daughter. In the bottom of the suitcase was two backpacks: one to be cut into a child carrier, one to carry gear. This was in case we had to walk out of a situation we could not drive out of. We had our standard survival kit which includes among other things, plenty of toilet paper, and ways to make potable water. We stopped for gas every time we had to stop for any other reason, so that we always had a full tank. None of this was survival stuff was necessary of course, because Gustav was not a Katrina, but if the crap hit the fan we had multiple plans.
But to my Christian friends, it its not my fantastic employer which saved me (many companies down here told people if they missed work because they left town it would be counted as unexcused absence.) It is not my supervisor, who with no requirement to do so, gave me an eight hour heads up. It is not 2 weeks of skillful planing, or a lifetime of learning the skills necessary to skillfully plan. It is not God, because he apparently planned on killing me with a hurricane. (If he meant me no harm, then why pray for me?) Nope. It was their amazing prayers.
But then, tonight, before I wrote this blog, I wanted to write a blog about going to Germany. We have had our out-processing time cut short by the evacuation. We now have two and half weeks to shut down the hundreds of little details that make up day to day life and make them all start up magically again in Germany.
And my first thought was to write a blog a lot like this:
“Hey all, we’ve really had our time cut short with this Gustav thing, please pray we can get all this crap done…”
I may resist the urge to think that way, but the fact is, I still do think that way. I really resent people attributing my hard work to God, but when the chips are down, my first reaction is the ol’ cosmic vending machine ploy.
I’m disgusted with myself, on one hand, but other hand, I have more compassion for my friends who are telling me they will pray for me. It’s so natural. “I have this thing that I am completely powerless to change and that makes me very uncomfortable. I will pretend that I am so special to God that my hopes are important to him, then I can call whatever happens his perfect plan for me, instead of just accepting the fact that some things occur completely at random.”
It’s so very easy. Of course, it’s crap. If God really did anything besides give people warm fuzzies there’d so much evidence you couldn’t walk to the grocery store without tripping over some. (Note: I’m not saying God doesn’t deliver warm fuzzies. I am saying that objective, peer reviewed, academic journal style proof is pretty obviously not his cup of tea.) So, I sigh.
Often, like in my last post, I talk about how great it is to approach life as if there were no god, and often it is. But, I confess, I miss believing that the universe could be bent to my whim, even if just a little. I miss having the ultimate “friend-who-works-there” benefit. I really do miss that paradigm sometimes.
However, I don’t miss the constant disappointment of God occasionally doing exactly as I prayed, occasionally doing the exactly the opposite as I prayed, and most often of all, doing something between. Almost as if… Horrors! The actions of God were a totally normal scattering of points on bell curve!
Reality is, it turns out, not entirely unlike my home: a sort of crappy place where nothing works as well I want it to, but special because it is truly mine. Sometimes I look wistfully around it, and wish I was comfortable carrying more debt, but I would rather own something real than pretend to own something false, but much more pleasant. I would rather believe in the obvious fact of a God who (if there at all) is largely indifferent, than the comforting idea of a God who really cares.
A bittersweet goodnight, from the huricane swept coast.
October 1949 is the official birthday of the People’s Republic of China. Any student of history can tell how poorly planned economies work. One needs only to look at the Great Leap Forward to see how badly planned economies can fail. And yet, for the first few years after the Communists won, things went better. Why?
Well, it’s not that Communism is that great. It’s not. It’s simply that the system of overlapping warlords it replaced was so truly awful that anything, even Maoism, was a distinct improvement. Within about 5 to 10 years, Chinese Communism had reached its systemic limits and began to deeply hurt rather than to help China.
The point here: it’s not that Communism was so good, it was that the existing system was so bad that even Communism was an improvement.
Atheism is not a perfect fit for me. I can’t honestly say I am an atheist. But I can honestly say that not expecting God to help me with day to day struggles and challenges has been one of most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I am thus, presented with a conundrum: I believe that God is very likely but find the less I have to do with Him the more joy and happiness I experience.
So why believe in God at all? Why do I wish to believe in God? Well, to be honest, though intellectually weak, one reason is because my parents do. I’m not pleased with that as an answer, but honestly, if my parents were conservative Muslims instead of conservative Christians, my philosophical struggles would be of a different nature. Had my dad been an astrophysicist and golfer with a penchant for tintinnabulation instead of charge nurse and Sunday school teacher with itch for IV Demerol, I would be a very different person. So if I am going to be honest with myself, at least one of the reasons I believe in God is because I always heard it at home. I can’t reorder my intellectual DNA anymore than could my physical DNA.
I shave the stubble of my brain with Occam’s razor. To quote Wikipedia… “This is often paraphrased as ‘All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.’ In other words, when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities. It is in this sense that Occam’s razor is usually understood.”
Occam’s razor applies to two instances for me.
The first (the objective one) is the huge amount of evidence for the big bang theory. The big band theory is not a perfect explanation for the the origin of the universe. It is certainly not nearly so complimentary as the idea that the whole universe is a vast and complicated diorama created with humanity in mind to help them mark the changes of seasons and draw their attention to God. Regardless, it is the best available theory.
Its weakness is that parts of the theory seem to operate in a manner inconsistent with the laws of thermodynamics. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, yet the matter had to come from somewhere. Until further evidence is available, I say God seems a likely candidate. Yes, I know this is the “God of the Gaps” theory; that we invoke Gods to explain things we don’t understand and if we do, those Gods’ jobs gets smaller every year. So what? To me Occam’s razor says, considering the evidence, there was most likely some force which existed before force existed. That sounds like the realm of the Divine to me.
The second and final one, is an answer to a prayer I received. I know this is subjective, but subjective doesn’t mean false, it just means subjective. You see, after many days of some really horrible experiences that I am not going to detail here, I pulled into a grocery store parking lot. I needed to get another week’s worth of groceries, but I couldn’t make myself get out of the car. To me, at that moment, buying another 7 days of groceries would be saying that I could carry on for another seven days, but I couldn’t, not alone. So I prayed for a friend. I needed a friend whom I could trust enough to be myself around. Someone who would love me and let me love them. Someone I could be vulnerable with. Someone I could hold and touch and be held and touched in return. So I prayed for it. I prayed for the love of a kindhearted woman.
And having prayed that, I walked into the grocery store. And I met this beautiful checkout girl. We’ve been together for almost 8 years now.
Now, I could believe that my subconsciousness did this and that, and that in an infinite number of universes representing an infinite set of possibilities that this is mere chance. I asked an invisible being for something and got it 30 seconds later. I take 3 possible routes with this.
(1.) Pure coincidence. (2.) Invisible workings within me. (3.) Invisible workings outside of me.
I find the first to be unlikely. So, it’s a battle between the second and third. To me, the second seems unlikely because I have the happiest marriage of anyone I know. I work hard at my relationship with my wife with enormous rewards, but I had worked hard on my relationships with the girls I knew before her, too, and without the rewards. My (now) wife had prayed earlier that week for a man to really love her. It seems like this relationship was very special, from day one. To me, Occam’s razor here again says God.
So now I must admit, I believe in God. But despite me belief in God, I believe that my life goes best when I live like there is no God. I believe in God, yet persist that the atheist perspective brings freedom.
Well, I wrote the blog before to complain about a world of miracles. This was the world I tried to inhabit before, a world which was influenced by my beliefs themselves rather than how my beliefs affected my actions. It was a horrible place to live. Everything bad was my fault, for not believing right. Everything good was a miracle I could not claim credit for.
Every single negative thing in my life became my fault for not believing right. Every good thing was God working. I could not like myself for what I did right, only hate my self for my constant failure. I wasn’t poor because I couldn’t get a good job. I was poor because God had something to teach me. I needed to suffer more to get enough of God to be happy. I wasn’t unhappy because my life sucked, no, no. My life sucked because I was unhappy. If I had only had the discipline to make myself be happy when my world was spinning apart then my life would be great. I would be OK that I didn’t make enough to feed my wife and daughter, because God would provide. It would be OK that we couldn’t afford health insurance because God would either heal us or miraculously provide for us.
When I was eight I prayed that God would make mommy and daddy stop screaming, would make mommy stop breaking things, would make daddy stop hitting sister, would make mommy stop hitting daddy, would make brother stop cutting himself. Home schooled and living in the country, I would pray for a girlfriend, so lonely for human touch that I would have panic attacks when I saw two girls hugging. Later on, a charismatic acolyte, I prayed for a paralyzed woman. Marked her forehead with olive oil, laid hands on her and prayed she would walk. I am to this day haunted by the vacant, pained look in her eyes as she sat and tried to get up (“Raise up and walk, in Jesus name!”) and found herself no more healed than when her husband laid her in the chair.
Researching afterward I found that God’s likelihood of “healing” someone is directly proportional to the likelihood of spontaneous remission for their particular disease. Spontaneous remission is not the same as placebo, and is most common among “debilitating and progressive diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis.” But totally unheard of for people with amputated limbs. Not surprisingly there is no verifiable case of limb regeneration, leading some to ask what God has against amputees.
If there is a God out there, as I believe there probably is, he has enormous respect for entropy, physics and freewill. Such that 99.9% of the time it’s just like he’s not there at all. I leave 0.1% for highly subjective experiences like mine, and other experiences that I have heard of from people.
But one does not dare trust 0.1% to save their life. I don’t think God’s 0.1% miracles are enough to protect us from our own stupidity. I don’t earn a lousy paycheck and expect God to foot the rest of my bills. I used to. Thats how I ended up $12 G’s in debt. (Which I worked my ass off and repaid, btw.)
Further, if we, as a species, are looking for improvement, it will not come from any number of prayer meetings or prophecies. They will come by working really hard for change. The early church (which changed the world) was different from today’s church, not primarily because of belief, but because of behavior. They didn’t have canon to argue about. They didn’t have a professional clergy sponging off the laity. They didn’t have buildings to pay for. In short, they focused on being loving and easy to get along with and taking care of their poor. They were the change they wanted to see. The early church only trusted God to take care of the poor after the the church’s money had been spent.
Now, if the world around us will not be changed despite sincerity of belief, can we ever change it? What comfort can there be in an indifferent universe? How ever much we choose. True, physics will not be bent for you, though you may pray frequently. True, God either does not act or will not act (if you are are a Deist) or does not exist (if you are an agnostic or atheist). But we choose whether we will care about our fellow man. If the world is indifferent to our suffering it is because, by and large, people have chosen to be indifferent.
Does this mean I am saying I put my trust in man, rather than God? A qualified yes. History shows God cannot be trusted to stop wars, famines, and plagues. Though man can be trusted to start them, he can also chose to fight them.
So, I am a weak Deist. I believe the only sane world view to have is that God pretty much leaves this earth alone and I reserve the right to say he may influence people’s hearts once in a while. But when someone tells me they have message from God, I will respond with Luke’s famous line to Vader in Robot Chicken, “That’s very… unlikely.” I will not trust God to do anything for me. I will not give him credit for the good that happens to me, nor blame him for the evil.