Thursday, June 6, 2013

Let's Talk about God Part III

In high school I had considered myself to be a conscious person--cognizant of all the evils and
horrors of the world--and like many youth, I was optimistic and fairly idealistic.  I still believed that there was good in humanity, and that some day, some how, we could bring that goodness to the forefront and make the world a better place.

What better arena to smash such hopefullness than the United States Navy!  I signed up in August of 2011--the 17th if I'm not mistaken.  I was only 17 at the time, so I had to get my mom to sign to allow me to sign my life away.  She did so reluctantly, but she was proud.  I pride myself in being able to say that I did not sign up because of 9/11 (as that was a month away from happening).  So I wasn't part of the wave of young patriots.

During boot camp I started going to the Catholic mass every Sunday.  For the first time in my life, going to church actually felt meaningful and fulfilling.  I was always jealous of those who felt so much enrichment in their lives by participating in religion because I had never, ever felt that way.  A friend of mine once told me that she actually feels better knowing that Jesus loves her, and many people I've known have told me that they truly feel God's presence.

I had never known such a feeling, and so for me to feel the inkling of that was something quite spectacular.  But after boot camp was over and I found myself free of drill instructor oppression, my eagerness to attend church waned.  Why did I care so much then, and why don't I care now?

I wouldn't answer that question for quite some time, but suffice to say, I felt like God had helped me get through boot camp.

I was a cryptologist, and for those who aren't sure what that means, it's a person who specializes in communication intelligence.  My job was to exploit enemy communications so that my command, which happened to be the USS San Jacinto, could gain a tactical advantage from that intelligence.  One of the neat little benefits to having a Top Secret/SCI clearance is having the privelage of access to the Classified World News.

Yes, the CWN is legit.  It's web-based on the military's classified network, and it's a lot like yahoo news, only it has all of the stuff that the average citizen will never, ever hear about.  On deployment, I had the chance to read it every day, and what I discovered is that there are an awful lot of people on this planet that want me and everyone I love dead because we are white, Christian, and American.  And what most people will never know, is that there have been far more attempts to bring us down than we hear about in the regular news.

What an awful place the world truly is, I thought to myself.  It was the first time in my life when I truly felt a sense of hopelessness, and that weighed heavily upon my heart.  The question came up: "how could a god of love and mercy allow for such unmercifully hateful things in his plan?"  My job was to help in killing the enemy.  I was a part of a business whose primary function was to kill as many enemy humans as possible.  How could I ever be worthy of heaven when the world required me, and all humans, to be a party to such sinfulness.

How could God make a world in which to survive, one has to betray what he knows to be right?  What sort of sick, twisted fool makes the way so narrow and the gate so straight, yet creates a world that drags us from the path?  And what about all of those non-Christians?  How about the Buddhists, many of whom who are actually more moral and ethically sound than 90% of Christians?

And what about this Jesus thing?  I don't really believe that God is so petty that he needs a blood sacrifice.  That always seemed like a particularly human characteristic to me, and I had a hard time believing that an all-powerful being would actually trouble himself with such a triviality.  At that time in my life, I was standing on the precipice, afraid to cross out of the fear of damnation that had been ingrained in me since birth.

I saw a terrible world and how hard so many people strive to be good, to be righteous, only to inevitably fail because that is our nature--human nature that God created us to have.  God created us as flawed beings, yet somehow expected us to overcome our every instinct.  And for what?  To love him?  It's all a test to see if we really love him?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the traditional conceptualization of "God" seemed to resemble an insecure teen-ager who had been granted the power to manipulate existence, and saw fit to engineer this life to be a grand competition to discover his most ardent worshippers.  The traditional Judeo-Christian "God" was like an almighty jock creating an exclusive list for the biggest frat party in all of existence: only the coolest of the cool people would be allowed.

Doesn't that seem a little bit . . . stupid?

7 comments:

Silverfiddle said...

Just wanted to let you know I've been reading, Jack.

I enjoy grappling with such issues but since quitting blogging, I do it only in the arena of my own mind.

I'm not going to preach or argue with you. I accept the validity of your searching and I know you are sincere.

I know it seems to be simplistic answer, but free-will explains much.

God could have come down on us like a giant transformer and shouted at us, incinerating unbelievers around him, and that would have whipped us into shape. No ambiguity.

But what kind of life would that be?

Any pet owner knows cats and dogs need stimulation, and pondering the mysteries of God and man and life keep us intellectually stimulated.

Satan is the god of this world, and man, not God, is in control, and if God is omnipotent, it must be by his design.

Here are a few article for intellectual fodder for you. In the past, I would have blogged on them, because I think there is a lot in them worthy of thought and discussion.


http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/listening-to-young-atheists-lessons-for-a-stronger-christianity/276584/

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/05/tragic-worship

My favorite quote is from the Tragic Worship article where the author quotes Blaise Pascal:

Pascal observed the problem in seventeenth-century France when he saw the obsession with entertainment as the offspring of the fallen human desire to be distracted from any thought of mortality. “I have often said that the sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room,” he said. And: “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.”

Not particularly relevant to your discussion, but I found it quite apropos viz our media-soaked culture that constantly craves entertainment.

I say none of this to argue with anything you have said. Just letting you know I'm still reading.

Jack Camwell said...

I truly appreciate it. I'm glad you decided to engage in the discussion.

I agree with what you said about how pondering these mysteries keeps us intellectually stimulated. It's like solving a really complicated puzzle. Sure, you may get a great deal of satisfaction out of it once you know the answer, but the answer itself is not what has the most impact on the mind.

It's the process by which we solve the puzzle that is most stimulating. It's sort of like seeing a movie for the first time, and the movie has an amazingly mind-blowing twist at the end. If it's good enough, you find yourself wishing that you could un-see the movie so you could experience the excitement for the first time allover again.

Jersey McJones said...

Well, Jack, never let it be said that you shy away from controversial subjects!

It takes unearthly philosophical contortions to explain why a God would arrange things as they are. It makes no sense. If we are truly made in his image, and we clearly see the injustice in the world, well, then, what can you say? It just makes no sense.

Then there's that Free Will stuff, which sounds all well and fine until you break it down to the bottom line: you are free to go to hell if you so choose. Not much of a choice!

Then there's God the Loving Father who disowns you if you don't love Him back in exactly the way He demands. Again, we are made in his image, and yet could not imagine disowning our own children just because they don't love us exactly as we demand.

These are the sorts of contradictions we see in the faiths of Abraham that make it very hard for rational people to embrace those faiths.

JMJ

Silverfiddle said...

@ Jersey: It takes unearthly philosophical contortions to explain why a God would arrange things as they are. It makes no sense.

True. To someone who hasn't thought deeply about it.

But to many great thinkers down through the ages, much of it did make sense, but much still remains a mystery. We cannot know the mind of God.

He wants us to search for him, and that is what Jack is doing.

@ Jersey: you are free to go to hell if you so choose. Not much of a choice!

Sure it is. You and millions of others reject the very notion of God, proving that it is quite a choice, and you exercise your free will making that choice.

Silverfiddle said...

@ Jersey: These are the sorts of contradictions we see in the faiths of Abraham that make it very hard for rational people to embrace those faiths.

And see, Jersey, this is the kind of self-serving, make-myself-feel-good, haughty clap-trap that makes some unbelievers like you so annoying.

So you're so rational, huh? Moreso than all those billions of believers down through the ages, huh? All those doctors, thinkers, philosophers, writers, scientists...

They were all irrational suckers, but you, Jersey, sit supreme upon the throne of reason?

Get over yourself.

Jack Camwell said...

Silver,

Thomas Aquinas sat upon the "throne of reason," as well.

Jersey is right: the search for Truth is long, arduous, and it's not for everyone.

One of the things I was trying to convey in this series (and perhaps I do a better job with later installments) is that for me, blind belief is not enough.

My father blindly believes, and I can't stand it. Many religions are full of contradictions, and as such, they paint their iteration of God in a capricious human light.

The Catholic church teaches that faith and reason are not opposed, but what it does NOT teach is that faith and reason are the same--because they're not.

There are some mysteries that no amount of reason can fully explain. So you can be the most rational, well-read, scientific mind the world has ever known, but still have faith in the belief in God because reason only goes so far.

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss him as someone who "hasn't thought deeply about it." It's a bit unfair to judge the heart and mind of someone you only know through internet blogs.

Silverfiddle said...

Jack: As you know, I find Jersey's pompous bluster exceedingly irritating.

Go back and read his comment. He never said what you said he said:

Jersey did not say "the search for Truth is long, arduous, and it's not for everyone."

That is the case you are making, and I support your quest.

Blind belief? Not you. And not me.

It is Jersey who displays blind belief in his own blow-hard pronouncements. No humility, no pause to reflect upon what someone else has said. Just hot air, full blast.

I base my evaluation upon what I've read. Thomas Aquinas was a great thinker, as evidenced by his writings. I've seen no such evidence from Jersey, so for him to place himself upon such a throne (or even the throne of a great atheist thinker like Jean Paul Sarte) is absurd.

You have conveyed your thoughts quite well, Jack. I am following with interest. Jersey's comments don't begin to approach the depth that you bring to this topic.

A trained cigar-smoking gorilla would do a better job that Jersey, and as a bonus, it would actually be useful because it would entertain us.