Monthly Archives: September 2014

What I (don’t) believe

 

What follows is most of an email I sent to a friend today. I’ve talked about my very-nearly-reversal on faith/religion before. When I read this again, though, I decided that it’s pretty close to the best job I’ve ever done explaining my position (particularly to an audience of believers). So, I decided to post it on my web log (which, probably most importantly, syndicates to my Facebook page). This will likely be a big ol’ batch of “knew that already” to most people, but I think there’s good info there for people who are sincerely curious.

 

Keep in mind that I (as always) reserve the right to do anything I damned well please to any content that shows up on my blog. That being said, you can probably tell that me and said friend don’t agree, but I’m posting this anyway. I’m quite tolerant of dissenting viewpoints, as long as my impression is that it’s being shared for some purpose other than simply to show me that I’m wrong (and/or to explain what’s right). Newsflash: I already agree that I don’t know, and I think that’s the biggest thing that’s happened to me since I was a card-carrying believer: I’m okay with not knowing.

 

The point of this isn’t to convince anyone to change his/her mind. The point is to clearly and plainly express my own beliefs.

 

Okay. disclaimer out of the way. I’m going to quote from the email now. I won’t be using the “blockquote” tag, because that apparently prevents me from being able to italicize text.

 


I’m struggling quite hard right now with my past assertion that I have no desire to change your mind. I’ve realized that’s not completely true. What is true is that I don’t relish the thought of creating conflict. I realize there is such a thing as “healthy debate”, but that depends on both parties being willing to be convinced to change their own minds. While that’s technically true for me, the kind of argument that would convince me is something that I think every believer would say, “isn’t the way God works”.

 

Also, please understand that the text below is not intended as an “attack”. It’s merely the only way I know how to express what I believe in the presence of the huge “gulf” between me and a believer.

 

According to them, it’s a case of me not being willing to believe what they think is obvious. My mind goes back to Mandy Patinkin‘s line (as “Inigo Montoya”) in The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” While I completely agree that it’s possible for someone to “refuse to see” something that’s “obvious” to most people, the thing they refer to as “obvious” invariably requires an interpretation which depends on an already-existing belief in God. Basically, the things they identify as reasons for believing in God are dependent upon a belief in God. I’ll take “circular logic” for $1000, Alex. I think that the primary problem is that my state of non-belief isn’t remotely similar to what most believers are used to dealing with. Most believers proceed from looking at my background as a former Christian and the shared experience of growing up in a part of the world where belief in God is all but assumed. I try to be like someone who has no prior knowledge of God (mostly because I have no reason [other than the desire for comfort] to believe in what I was taught), and I’m very skeptical about any “truths” which do not flow directly from things I can observe myself.

 

As a matter of fact, every believer that has been willing to talk to me on that level has said (in effect) that there is no such evidence. They’ve said that belief in God requires a “leap” beyond the logical. My opinion is that someone who created my brain and is “all-knowing” should know what would convince me. The fact that I haven’t experienced anything that convinces me of such a being’s existence says that 1) I’m incredibly unobservant, 2) that being doesn’t exist, or 3) that being has specifically chosen not to reveal him/her/itself to me. I think my life so far has been a demonstration that 1) isn’t true. If it’s 3), then this being is such an incredible asshole that I don’t want anything to do with him/her/it, and that’s pretty much equivalent to 2), which I believe is the real answer.

 

So, what that “translates to” for most believers is an unwillingness to be convinced. If you don’t see it that way, then I would be quite willing to continue the conversation.

 

It’s always about DragonCon

With my injury and recovery, I’m not capable of doing the job I used to yet. However, I’m still considered a “room lead” at DragonCon. The room is just much smaller than it was. It has always seemed that my most positive moments tend to happen on the Monday (last) morning of ‘con, and this year was no exception.

In my room that morning was a single event. Somehow never having gotten involved in the role-playing game community (I have no idea how I missed out on that), I didn’t recognize the nickname “Lord British” (or his real name: Richard Garriott). For others who also don’t recognize it, Mr. Garriott is the author/creator behind the Ultima series of computer role-playing games.

Anyway, as I listened to his talk, I heard all kinds of similarities to my experiences growing up. Like me, Mr. Garriott got involved with computers as a kid (he’s about a decade older than me, so his experience with computers happened just as they were becoming common). I recognized the initiative and enthusiasm he described. Unlike me, however, his most serious early PC experience (meaning doing type-in programs from magazines, of course) was with the Apple II series machines. In addition to the age advantage, though, he has a serious creative streak that I don’t have.

Throughout the talk, though, I recognized a bunch of thoughts and character traits. :) I somehow never got involved with RPGs growing up, but I was aware of the concept and existence of the games. Before my junior year of high school, I spent a number of weeks at a workshop for future engineering students at Tennessee Technological University. While I was there, I remember hearing from some of the other students about the “moral” backlash from some of the highly-religious about role-playing games. I was quite mystified that such a harmless source of fun could be seen as “evil”. Of course, by that point, the seeds of the growth that would later lead me away from religion had already firmly taken root. ;)

As I listened to the talk, I considered trying to talk to Mr. Garriott after the event to learn more about how much we had in common growing up, but I decided for a number of reasons (not the least of which being my extreme awkwardness right now) that I wouldn’t try. I really hope he enjoyed the event, though. Monday morning ‘con audiences are usually quite well-suited for more contemplative events like this. The people who are serious enough to get up early on that last morning tend to be the more serious people. I think that morning, I finally began to feel like I was “finding my place” again (much like today at work was, actually).

If you go back and read my first post on the previous web log, I’m betting you’ll see a lot in common with this post. :)