There and Back Again: A Journey Into and Out of Faith January 15, 2012 | 02:00 pm

The gods forgot that they made me
So I forget them, too
I dance among their shadows
I play among their graves

(David Bowie, “Seven”)

Science tells us we are merely beasts, but we don’t feel like that. We feel like angels trapped inside the bodies of beasts, forever craving transcendence.
(VS Ramachandran, cognitive neuroscientist)

For the last few years, I have been a seminary student. Although hardly “evangelical”, I entered seminary with a strong faith in a benevolent God that I attached to Christianity. During my time in seminary, my experience with the Society of Friends (Quakers) and my (notably extracurricular) reading of Leo Tolstoy’s presentation of Christianity strengthened my faith quite a bit. I believed that an incarnated God had laid out a proper mode of life and that the right focus for life was transformation into the unsullied image of that incarnated God. It was a standpoint that I was very comfortable with and very excited by, and it shaped how I made decisions and where I placed value. For more on those beliefs, see my other blog and my Ask a Quaker guest post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog.

At the end of last semester, however, that all collapsed, and I am left as a kind of weak atheist. The post mortem of my faith is a complicated narrative: there is no simple cause of death. Many people who leave seminary as weak atheists (including Bart Ehrman, who teaches at The Other School), entered as evangelicals or fundamentalists. When their self-authorizing and monolithic interpretation of the Bible is pummeled to dust and the faux-rational Christianity is revealed to be a mess of paradox, their faith becomes shaken and they end up leaving seminary as atheist-materialists, often with the same evangelical zeal for atheist materialism that they had for Christianity. Although that’s a common story, it’s not mine.

My Christianity has not been fundamentalist or evangelical: instead, it has been an on-again/off-again relationship. I became an ardent atheist as a teenager, even self-identifying as a LaVeyan Satanist at times. This came from recognizing only two kinds of Christianity as a child: a kind of weak Protestant liberalism on the one hand, and a kind of overbearing Protestant fundamentalism on the other. The first did not seem to actually require anything distinctly Christian, and the latter did not seem to actually engage reality. Yet even in my most atheistic of moments, I had a sense of spirituality—a sense that the modern narrative of the utterly isolated individual was somehow wrong, and that the union of individuals was holistic and synergistic. In college, I encountered a moderate liberal Christianity in the “neo-orthodox” vein. Its arguments convinced me: Christianity taught a proper ordering of the individual, which is truly to be in a properly ordered community.

Despite neo-orthodox teachings, though, simply going to church and doing the nonproductive repetition of the liturgy didn’t seem to satisfy that spiritual aspect. I joined Freemasonry (eventually becoming 32nd degree in the Scottish Rite) and continued to study esoterica, including the (publicly accessible) teachings of the A∴A∴. At this point, my Christianity began to wane into a kind of Calvinist-flavored deism. That’s when things suddenly changed.

Up to this point, I never had a real sense of relationship with God. Prayer had never established a “relationship” with God, except in the kind of one-sided relationship that I have with my favorite TV or book characters. (Sarah Howell has an excellent blog post called “Prayer Doesn’t Work“, and it sounds exactly like my thoughts on the matter…but with more apparent faith remaining.) For some reason, however, I suddenly had a sense of “calling”. This was not the kind of “calling” that comes from careful reasoned thought and the recommendations of others: this was a strong sense that something beyond me was calling me into seminary. It was a profound and constant pull, and it did not seem to originate from within me nor did it seem to be under my control. The feeling was amazing and profound, and after some time I had no choice but to relent to the calling—it was that powerful.

I moved to Durham and started attending seminary. While there, my faith was transformed but did not weaken. Without a doubt, however, I was challenged. There were a number of things I had taken on faith because it was where “all scholars agreed”. These points, however, were rapidly removed as I discovered just how little agreement there is among scholars, and how artificial the points of agreement are: in theology, there are certain axiomatic claims that are required in order to be a part of the conversation (e.g. get published in a particular journal), and these axiomatic claims then become the points of seeming universal agreement. Similarly, I discovered just how contextual and utterly Western the creeds are, which reduced my respect for them down to effectively nil. That wasn’t the hardest blow, though.

Most damaging, however, was discovering just how interested the church was (and is!) in reifying and reinforcing boundaries between people-groups—a horror especially when contrasted with the church’s relative disinterest in helping the poor and actually behaving like Jesus taught. This was a major problem for me, because the core assertion of neo-orthodoxy is that the church somehow contained and embodied the right interpretation of Jesus’s teachings. Yet the practices of the church (both historically and presently) and the places where the church spends its time are so utterly different from the model of Jesus that I could no longer trust in the tradition of the church. In the history of the church, the truly holy—even those obviously aspiring to be truly holy—seemed to be the rare and precious exception, not the norm. How could I trust that institution to teach and transform me into holiness if it consistently failed to do so for everyone else?

At the same time as I encountered these struggles, I encountered the tradition that I draw from Gandhi’s Christian followers (e.g. J.C. Kumarappa), Martin Luther King, Jr., Leo Tolstoy (esp. What I Believe), Christian agrarianism, and the early Quakers. These people had an alternative take on Christianity focused on the Sermon on the Mount. It was a spiritually and socially conscious Christianity, and it seemed to be the true tradition of Jesus. This became the Christianity that I identified with, although I eventually quietly dropped the active use of the “Christian” label because of flak from Christians who thought I didn’t meet the minimum requirements for it. That fight rapidly became exhausting, and the benefits of keeping the label were rapidly offset by the annoyingly constant challenges.

The end of my faith, however, came through the study of cognitive science, and especially the cognitive science of religion. Through all of this, my faith was backed up by that sense of calling. No matter what else happened, no matter how else I made sense of reality, I had to account for this experience of being moved by something beyond myself. However, through studying cognitive science, I discovered an entirely reasonable explanation. From David Eagleman’s Incognito (and reinforced by VS Ramachandran’s The Tell-Tale Brain), I learned that the mind can experience an emergent subconscious as being an utterly alien presence.

The clincher, however, came when I read Harvey Whitehouse’s Modes of Religiosity. In there, Whitehouse lays out (with strong empirical evidence) how the ideas contained within repetitious and ritualized practices become “sleeper agents” in the brain, surfacing to make sense of strange or disquieting experience. This expression of the practices’ ideas are experienced/interpreted as spontaneous expressions of divine presence or ordering.

This was, in short, exactly what I experienced. My only experience of the divine now had an entirely this-worldly explanation. Without that support column, my faith rapidly crumbled. My Tolstoy-Quaker religiosity was all stipulated on the existence of God, and I no longer have any basis to believe in the Christian God. Although some are more than happy to be a part of a religious community that affirms something they don’t actually believe in, I am not. I am still processing my relationship to Quakerism, but in terms of my relationship to Christianity, I’m out.

Now, at this point in atheist conversion narratives, people sometimes start to talk about how free they felt and how great it is that they were no longer shackled by the expectations of their faith community. This is definitely not my experience. At the end of the day, I am a child of the Enlightenment: I have a commitment to rationality and to living my life in a rational way. All systems of rationality, however, need their axioms. Nietzsche and the existentialists showed that there is no intrinsic value in the world, but Christianity was a counter to this nihilism, providing a set of axioms and a guiding methodology for life. Without Christianity, I am back to the world of nihilism. Rationality no longer has a foothold by which to guide life.

Asking around, the only advice I find from atheists is to “do what you want”, but what should I want? Like all humans, my desires are utterly mutable—the very existence of marketing and psychotherapy is because of this fact. (Not to mention operant conditioning! I’m reminded of The Big Bang Theory on this point.) If I don’t take control of my desires’ mutations, I am simply submitting yourself to the vicissitudes of corporate marketing departments and political spin-meisters. Like the Machines in The Matrix, politics and capitalism are constantly consuming humanity and feeding us illusions. Evidence suggests that playing into their illusion is a path to a life of quiet despair, yet with no values, there is no guide about what desires actually are good or bad to pursue. Satisfaction and reward are both stipulated on accomplishment, which itself presumes a set of values.

Worst of all, though, this idea that you should “do what you want” seems like it is an utterly un-rational punchline to an extensive pro-rational argument. Be rational and doubt everything. Be rational and be a skeptic. Be rational and seek the truth. But once you do all of that, forget being rational, because it can’t help you anymore. I was happier and more satisfied as a Christian: it was a sick trick to lure me out of that joyful place with rationality, just to drop me in a place of nihilistic disillusionment and then tell me I should abandon rationality and seek a joyful place.

This frustration is compounded by the fact that I have little in common with evangelical atheism and its promissory materialism. I find most self-proclaimed skeptics to be annoyingly un-skeptical, but instead committed to their own particular materialist dogmas (e.g. Michael Shermer, as I discuss in this book review). The problem of qualia still prevents me from buying that the only thing that exists is the “physical world” as science constitutes it, or from taking the only philosophically defensible materialist stance—namely, that subjectivity doesn’t exist (e.g. Daniel Dennett, as I discuss in this book review). I am inclined towards John Searle’s “biological naturalism” conception of consciousness, but it’d be nice if we had any idea how physical material could produce whatever it is that qualia are. The question of “the mind’s eye” (which some people don’t have!) might be an interesting angle of attack, since it puts the question in sharp focus…

Since subjectivity exists, I still have space for a kind of hollow “spirituality”. Surprisingly, little has changed on that front: God is now absent, but God was never particularly present before, despite my earnest desires. Since the Bible drops out with Christianity, my interpretation and expression of spirituality is now more purely phenomenological rather than theological. The existence of mirror neurons and the human ability to have a theory of mind means that I am still able to have an intersubjective spirituality, as well. This has actually sharpened my interest in the spirituality of sexuality, which has been a long-running interest of mine.

Right now, I am struggling to re-situate myself. I am haunted by Camus’ question: “In a world without God, why not commit suicide?” (For his answer, see here.) I am reconsidering all of the projects, dreams, and relationships that I used to have, trying to see if they can still retain some kind of joy and impetus in the face of my epic disillusionment. I have continued on with the projects which are hold-overs from before the disillusionment, trying to retain some kind of momentum. But ultimately, I now live in a world which feels flat, and I am living a life without direction. Thanks a lot, Rationality.

[Editor’s Note: This post has a follow-up at Back Again to There.]

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  • Javery

    “do what you want” is very poor advice indeed.

    Some of you may know that I am neither Christian nor Jewish nor Buddhist, nor a conventionally religious person of any sort.
    I am a humanist, which mean, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I’m dead. My German-American ancestors, the earliest of whom settled in our Middle West about the time of our Civil War, called themselves “Freethinkers,” which is the same sort of thing. My great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut wrote, for example, “If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?” I myself have written, “If it weren’t for the message of mercy and pity in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn’t want to be a human being. I would just as soon be a rattlesnake.” – Kurt Vonnegut

    I would encourage you to explore Humanism if you haven’t already.

  • http://robertcfischer.com Robert Fischer

    Tolstoy is about as close as you’re going to get to Humanism in the 19th century. On what basis should I consider Humanism? On what basis can I judge Jesus to be good? Without the foundation of God, it seems like Nietzschean self-interest is about the only reasonable tactic, and those parts of my mind which praise weakness are simply symptomatic of a systematic flaw in reasoning…where “flaw” is defined as “source of unhappiness”.

    Secular/atheistic humanism just strikes me as utterly bizarre. And non-secular and non-atheistic humanism requires more axioms than I am willing to grant right now.

  • Anonymous


    Secular/atheistic humanism just strikes me as utterly bizarre. ”

    Bizarre in what way?  I’m just asking because not long ago you believed in mythological beings and didn’t think that was bizarre at all, from what I can gather.

  • Sarahrobbins7

    G-d is greater than your present understanding. Surely He knows a way to reveal Himself to you if you ask.

  • http://www.robertcfischer.com Robert Fischer

    Sure: never under-estimate the ability of the human mind to make sense out of senselessness. In my case (as I described above), I had a piece of evidence which I accounted for that way—no other description was readily apparent to me. (I didn’t get into why Christianity based on that particular experience, but suffice it to say that it was a product of circumstance and a fondness for crosses.)

    The problem with secular humanism is—why? Why would that be a philosophy anyone should cling to? I just don’t see how you get to “human beings have intrinsic value” and “I should sacrifice myself for the greater good” without some kind of magic pay-off or unquestionable mandate.

    I mean, if humanism just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and happy inside, then go for it…but let’s not pretend it is a rationally defensible maneuver.

  • http://www.robertcfischer.com Robert Fischer

    Do you think I haven’t asked? Do you think that has not occurred to me? And if you are willing to grant I’m not a complete idiot and I have asked, then what is the point of this comment?

    BTW, the whole “G-d” thing cracks me up. Even when I was Christian, the idea that you don’t write out “God” is just silly. I mean, God has a name, and if you don’t want to write it out to avoid accidentally taking God’s name in vain, then that’s fine and I get that…but God’s name isn’t “God”. And even if God’s name was “God”, are you really avoiding saying God’s name when you write it “G-d”? Do you not know what that means? Doesn’t it just read as “God” in any case? It’s like writing it “Gawd” or something. What’s more, people don’t write “J-s-s” or something, but “Jesus” is a whole lot more God’s name than “God”.

  • http://robertcfischer.com Robert Fischer

    Do you think I haven’t asked? Do you think that has not occurred to me? And if you are willing to grant I’m not a complete idiot and I have asked, then what is the point of this comment?

    BTW, the whole “G-d” thing cracks me up. Even when I was Christian, the idea that you don’t write out “God” is just silly. I mean, God has a name, and if you don’t want to write it out to avoid accidentally taking God’s name in vain, then that’s fine and I get that…but God’s name isn’t “God”. And even if God’s name was “God”, are you really avoiding saying God’s name when you write it “G-d”? Do you not know what that means? Doesn’t it just read as “God” in any case? It’s like writing it “Gawd” or something. What’s more, people don’t write “J-s-s” or something, but “Jesus” is a whole lot more God’s name than “God”.

  • http://robertcfischer.com Robert Fischer

    Sure: never under-estimate the ability of the human mind to make
    sense out of senselessness. In my case (as I described above), I had a
    piece of evidence which I accounted for that way—no other description
    was readily apparent to me. (I didn’t get into why Christianity based on
    that particular experience, but suffice it to say that it was a product
    of circumstance and a fondness for crosses.)

    The problem with secular humanism is—why? Why would that be a
    philosophy anyone should cling to? I just don’t see how you get to
    “human beings have intrinsic value” and “I should sacrifice myself for
    the greater good” without some kind of magic pay-off or unquestionable
    mandate.

    I mean, if humanism just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and happy
    inside, then go for it…but let’s not pretend it is a rationally
    defensible maneuver. And responding to my struggle to live a rational life with a recommendation to look into secular humanism makes just as much sense as responding with a recommendation to look into Christianity.

  • http://robertcfischer.com Robert Fischer

    Sure: never under-estimate the ability of the human mind to make
    sense out of senselessness. In my case (as I described above), I had a
    piece of evidence which I accounted for that way—no other description
    was readily apparent to me. (I didn’t get into why Christianity based on
    that particular experience, but suffice it to say that it was a product
    of circumstance and a fondness for crosses.)

    The problem with secular humanism is—why? Why would that be a
    philosophy anyone should cling to? I just don’t see how you get to
    “human beings have intrinsic value” and “I should sacrifice myself for
    the greater good” without some kind of magic pay-off or unquestionable
    mandate.

    I mean, if humanism just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and happy
    inside, then go for it…but let’s not pretend it is a rationally
    defensible maneuver. And responding to my struggle to live a rational life with a recommendation to look into secular humanism makes just as much sense as responding with a recommendation to look into Christianity.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, there’s nothing warm and fuzzy about it all.  It’s all about enlightened self interest.  It’s about trying to create a world you want to live in.  So, a secular humanist will do good things (or at least not bad things) because he/she wants to live in that world.  In short, secular humanists recognize that we’re responsible for creating the world we want to live in.  It’s that simple — no magic.

    I think what people in your shoes get hung up on is this notion that life has to have some kind of purpose or meaning.  It’ doesn’t.  This is standard issue human hubris that other creatures don’t have to suffer with.  We think we’re meant for something special and we’re not (at least not intrinsically).  Whether you become something special or whether you have a special purpose is decided entirely by you and the talents you’re born with.  If you want your life to have a purpose, it will.  If you don’t, it won’t and (possibly more surprisingly) whether you believe in god or not has no bearing on that.

    People make life far more complicated than it is.  Just like every other living thing on this planet, you live and then you eventually die.  Everything in between is entirely up to you (plus a few curve balls life will throw at you just to keep things interesting).  All this complexity people come with is completely imaginary.

  • http://robertcfischer.com Robert Fischer

    The problem I have isn’t on a “purpose” or “meaning”. It’s with the emptiness: nothing constructive seems worth doing or interesting to do. The grand narrative of Christianity provides a depth to life and a mandate for constructive forward development. Without that narrative, things seem flat and hollow. And that’s really disappointing.

    Also disappointing is that this arbitrariness at the end of a long path motivated by reason. Reason, which is the reason I left Christianity, is now self-defeating and discovered to be just as baseless. So why did I follow it and leave Christianity again? Unfortunately, you can’t un-ring that bell.

    What’s the “human” in “humanism” refer to? My impression of humanism is that it presumes a value in human beings, even apart from my personal engagement with them. I don’t see how you get there.

    If humans don’t have value, then you’re back to Nietzschean will-to-power (i.e. will-to-security) as basically the driving goal. In which case humans are simply tools, no more worthy of being the subject of the “-ism” than a house or anything else that makes you feel secure. Efforts to “create the world we want to live in” is baseless nonsense, insofar as it mandates self-sacrifice. Why put more in to something than you are likely to get back? (i.e. If I won’t end up in poverty, why worry about the plight of the poor?)

    Now, *infiltrating* the humanists and getting them to do all kinds of good stuff for me because they are so excited for self-sacrifice…that’s a totally reasonable move to make.

  • Brad Rhoads

    Hi Rob,

    I was bit sad when you left Grails behind, saying that,  “you just don’t care anymore.” But I’m heartbroken to read this, even though I can relate.

    Hermeneutics was a crisis of faith for me.  I don’t remember a lot of specific things that I was struggling with, but in general, it was the differing opinions of scholars and a lack of precision that an engineer needs.

    But in whole, all those questions are about peripheral issues and not about essentials (http://equip.org/site/essentials).

    May I suggest you consider what your presuppositions are. In this post you said, ” Since the Bible drops out with Christianity, my interpretation and expression of spirituality is now more purely phenomenological rather than theological. ”

    I start with the essential that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. And I eventually came to embrace mystery. And I can do that because the most important mystery has been revealed: Jesus is the Messiah!

    I really appreciate your honesty and it seems you’re still seeking; keep thinking and praying. If you ever want to talk, skype me anytime.

    God’s Love,

    Brad
    Skype:braddrhoads

    P.S. Don’t forget there can’t be an infinite regression; something has had to always exist. And of course there’s Pascal’s Wager that you don’t want to lose.

  • http://robertcfischer.com Robert Fischer

    Two things first off….

    1) You remember when I left Grails? That’s sweet. It warms my heart to know that people actually noticed. Thanks for that.

    2) Pascal’s Wager presumes a binary choice: Catholicism vs. No Faith. In a world of plural (often mutually exclusive) faiths, the necessary wedge of the wager breaks down.
    Now onto the meat of the comment…Hermeneutics really isn’t the problem. The problem is that there is no “Christianity” — there’s just all these bickering groups. There is no real “Christian spirituality” — there’s just self-help and people telling you to take sacraments more often, with the occasional effort to hijack meditation under the rubric of “contemplative prayer”. Three years into seminary, I’ve discovered that tere’s just no “there” there, despite the promises of teachers, writers, and scholars. But even that really isn’t the problem.The problem is that I don’t have a belief in God — at least not in a God that is in any way personal or engaged. Without that, covenantal theology breaks down, so most of the Old Testament is gone. Paul is out the window. Jesus-as-revealed-in-the-scriptures has to be put through such a ringer that you might as well demote him to the position of Aristotle or the Buddha. Tolstoy does almost precisely this (Feuerbach and Harnack in their own ways, too), but I just don’t understand why that effort is necessary or warranted.

  • Sean Hogan

    The main thing I would say to the depressed me of fifteen years ago is:

    Yes, everything seems pointless now, but like Mark Twain said

        in one, five, fifteen years time “you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

    Also, it is easy to lose your sense of humor, so do a fart in a meditation class or drop your pants and swear in church (my wife’s perennial threat). And if you can’t laugh at jokes then at least say “Actually, that was pretty funny.”

    If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. If you can’t cycle, then swim. If you can’t swim then cycle. Remember that running combines the leg-workout of cycling with the speed and humidity of swimming, so only take up running if you are already like running.

    All the best.
    Sean

  • Pingback: Back Again to There: A Nontheistic Statement of Faithiness

  • Steve Tuckner

    As an atheist since 10th grade, I can say that I have struggled with this for a long time. I too was somewhat devout before I became an atheist. By nature I am an idealist or utopian. Certainly there is no objective grounds for a purpose or moral direction in life. We are creatures of biology and evolution with needs and desires that evolved out of our need to survive as a species. Even our yearning for religion or God is a product of that. That may make it seem empty, but there is a wonder (for me) that this all emerged out of random chance and the elegance of mathematical systems and feedback loops. That we can enjoy the pleasures of life: eating, drinking, sleeping, pondering, connecting with friends and lovers is an amazing legacy of that evolution.

    For me, I need to have a purpose beyond mere pleasures and survival. What I have found is to focus on the billions of people on this planet who struggle every day with just meeting their most basic needs. Beyond that there are other organisms who are struggling against the combined weight of all these humans on this planet taking away their living space. I have the luxury of pondering life’s meaning and where I fit in the world where many do not. My meaning is to somehow effect that situation to try to help people get beyond a struggle to survive so that they too can ponder life’s meaning.

    It may not be much but it works for me.

  • http://robertcfischer.com Robert Fischer

    My point — really, my issue — is that such claims are utterly unrational. So you start with a presumption that rationality is important, and then end up in a place where you’re left with just arbitrary and rationally baseless claims. This is, in fact, a damnation of the very project of rationality in the first place.

    Now, if you’re an atheist just because you don’t care to believe in a deity, then yay for you. But if you ever make an argument about belief in a deity being irrational (e.g. “The God Delusion”), or if you ever justify your disbelief the supernatural via a predicate of rationality, you’re fundamentally inconsistent. It’d be hypocritical but for the fact that it’s usually an unintentional double-standard.

    This is the problem that I ran into, which is the entire content of the original post.

  • JustMe

    Do you argue that a belief in a deity is or can be rational?

  • http://robertcfischer.com Robert Fischer

    That entirely depends on what you mean by “rational”. I’ve certainly don’t assert that the belief in a deity is going to be internally coherent: at least not the Christian stance. I’m deeply influenced by Kierkegaard in this respect.

  • Chris H

    Hi Robert,
    Thanks for this article. I would not presume to offer advice.
    I have indeed asked similar questions and I think that any honest person would have to agree with your implied conclusion that there are only two rational options to being: full theism or full nihilism. Everything in between is fantasy and wishful thinking.
    I find the answer to the riddle of being in the book of Ecclesiastics where the Preacher draws a distinction between that which is under the sun and that which is under heaven. Both nihilism and theism are true. The problem is finding the bridge that crosses the divide between the two.
    Sorry if this doesn’t make sense. I’m trying to type it on my iPod Touch while on holidays. But I really believe there is a huge paradox there that is being missed in our rush to be seen as rational skeptics.

  • An

    Chill Rob, when we strip things away, all we REALLY want is to live happy, meaningful, positive, loving lives. We wouldn’t care about an objective meaning if we had the happy etc etc life. You certainly wouldn’t be ruminating with all sorts of questions like this either!

    I know it wasn’t an issue for me when I were 3, 4, 5, 12 years old and certainly isn’t an issue for my atheist friends who also acknowledge the liberating truth about life that without God, there is no objective meaning. (Only God serves as a competent agent for objective meaning).

    The problem scientists make is that they almost become autistic (figure of speech) in their thinking. To scientists, the only important thing is that we’re biological creatures, just chemical chunks.
    REALITY as things are right now,
    But the human being knows that that is not the only way to look at ourselves. Yes we’re chemical chunks, but we’re not limited to that, as these chemical chunks have been formed in a way to make us human beings in all our ‘glory’ so to speak. We are philosophical beings, we have wants/goals, we’re spiritual creatures and want that bit of us fulfilled. In the same breath, let’s look at the next comment:
    ‘never under-estimate the ability of the human mind to make sense out of senselessness.’ – Reality leads us to make sense out of everything. You’re already interpreting it as senselessness in the first place lol Such an ignorant comment.

    ‘I mean, if humanism just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy and happy inside, then go for it…but let’s not pretend it is a rationally defensible maneuver.’
    Seeing us as meaningless, chemical junk pieces is not a rationally defensive maneuver, it limits our humanity, it is a part of NO rational solution to anything whatsoever, it is just based on ‘everything is meaningless’ empty sulk philosophy. If you want to stay as a life denying fart.
    ‘On what basis do I have to judge Jesus to be good etc.’ The typical sprawl from religious studies classes at age 16. Truth is, where there’s no objective meaning, there is no objective basis. But in the same breath, if we appeal to our nature as human beings, we’re naturally inclined to LIVE our lives (hence we are are human BEING), and so the need for laws over sustainability of life is a necessity. So it takes things from ‘thinking mode’ to ‘let’s deal with reality!’ Asking these questions is nothing but a waste of time, its an insult to your own intelligence. It’s not an intelligent question whatsoever.

    What is the point of rationality? Well, what is the point of caring about where rationality leads you then? What is the point of this, what is the point of that, Dr. Rumination?

    Suicide:
    Dr Rumination: What is the point of living? What is the point of suicide?
    lol on a serious level, suicide serves no purpose in reality. You’re not going to be alive and present to feel glad let alone relieved about your decision to kill yourself. There’s no neurones that go to your brain to signal for the release of feelings that make you feel relief or anything positive or have any sort of opinion that is in favour of act. You’re not going to be like ‘YES! that was a great choice, it feels like such a relief!’ (in atheistic view, you will just be nothingness). You may as well just learn to reframe thoughts etc. if there’s anything that needs to go, it’s the narrow mental construct within you that wants to die, which will mean removing the weighting/sting of the thoughts that create that construct.

    Now back to a light hearted level, you would be in deep trouble if you found your convictions about God to be false lol

    Atheism/Theism – it’s a psychological thing in the end of the day. Science can only take you so far. It explains what is. But never touches implications beyond what is. Opinion is unnecessary even if reasonable and plausible under the sole umbrella of the limited 21st century god that lies at the other extreme end serving as another collective need for validation, science.

  • http://www.robertcfischer.com Robert Fischer

    First of all, have you seen my faithiness post that follows this?

    Second, can you edit your post and make it more coherent? It’s genuinely hard to read and make sense out of it. You can use rudimentary HTML formatting to give it a bit more structure, if that helps. Even better punctuation would go a long way.

    Third, responding to your initial driving point: “all we REALLY want is to live happy, meaningful, positive, loving lives”. Two points. A) If this is the case, then why advocate for atheism? Religious people are happier and less stressed—this is proven time and again in studies, and it’s one of the things that atheists seriously need to address. B) How does one construct a “meaningful” life in a world without objective reality? How do you generate a sense of meaningfulness based on an arbitrary decision of what’s meaningful?

    Fourth, the point of suicide is not to feel good. The point of suicide is to avoid feeling bad. It’s to eliminate the stress and the guilt and the frustration and the disappointment that is so ubiquitous in life. If the cost-benefit analysis (where “cost” is suffering and “benefit” is enjoyment) comes out to decide that the cost is more than the benefit, then why not commit suicide?

    Finally, the core point you seem to be making is that there is some inherent sense of order or meaning or whatever in the universe, and that to question that is somehow ignorant. Well, maybe I’m an ignorant person. I’m just painfully aware of how little I know, which puts me in good company (like Socrates). So if you’d like to enlighten me about the inherent meaning of the world, I’m all ears.