Well, the purpose of this is to open myself up a little bit and get some feedback from friends (or strangers) about what I am thinking. For the past several years my faith in the Church, God, Christianity has ebbed, flowed with doubts, questions and analysis. Some of the erosion of my faith is a delayed reaction to thoughts and ideas I have had for years and simply ignored. But at this point in my life I feel that a reconstruction has been delayed to0 long and I should start rebuilding and really searching for what I believe about God and spirituality and its meaning in my life.
I have essentially delayed talking about these issues for numerous reasons that many of us who have been a part of a community in a serious faith and then have had serious doubts: you don’t want the judgment, you don’t want to push your doubts to others, you want to be the guy to figure it out before talking about it. I suppose for a number of equally complicated reasons I am at the point where I feel the need to talk about these things. (Plus blogging makes it so convenient to let it all hang out for someone as lazy as me). So, for all of those invited, and those not. Please let me know what you think, be as painfully critical as you can since I very much enjoy constructive criticism compared to any sort of praise or support.
Ultimately, the reason I need to do this is that my experience has told me that these questions are the stuff of life and critical, and I have to be as honest as possible with myself and recognize that I don’t have them figured to my satisfaction and I do not think I can progress without working them out in a more satisfying form. So I will try to lay out all of the thoughts and questions I have here so I can get feedback from those who care; give it publically here, anonymously,and/or privately, but please give it.
I will try to be as open and honest as I can and hope for reciprocation since, if I have told you about this site, I deeply respect your perspective and trust in your charity.
I thought I should begin by laying out my beliefs to show how I am approaching the subject of religion. I draw on the thoughts of a lot of philosophers, prophets, thinkers etc. I give links and quotes to show my influences rather than to argue from any authority that the sources may have.
My goal with these “Articles” give a concise, if cryptic, picture of what I believe prior to approaching religion, how we understand what is real. They are my basic observations about the nature of life with relation our capacity to believe and have knowledge of spiritual truth. Most of these are not articles of faith since I believe that they are demonstrable by experience rather than “unseen” truths (see Hebrews 3:11). I think these can be embraced, believed and lived whether or not you believe in God:
- I have tremendous sympathy with the “pragmatic” understanding of truth explained by James, Pierce, Dewey, Habermas and their ilk. I.e. Truth is that which “works” with respect to our collective our capacity to know and understand the world. As Pierce wrote-” The opinion which is fated to be ultimately agreed to by all who investigate is what we mean by the truth, and the object represented in this opinion is the real ” How to Make Our Ideas Clear, C.S. Pierce
- The concept of “universal” truth about the world and events is limited to those things which people can maintain a consistent perspective on. There are some limited “truths” that can only be defined only from a particular perspective.
- People are the type of beings that take a stand on their own existence. We never fail to do so, but it generally takes significant effort to avoid the “quiet desperation” that characterizes most lives. (“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. . . .But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” Walden, chapter 1, ¶ 9 H.D.Thoreau)
- Because we are conscious we ultimately must make choices about how we view ourselves and the phenomena of our lives and who we are.
- There are things we cannot chose about who we are, what and how we think and what we can understand
- We are ultimately and irreparably limited in our capacity to understand make sense of and and recognize a clear picture of all reality due to the limits of the way we experience the world- (This concept is explained in various ways by Kant, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, among others)
- Notwithstanding the above, People do have some limited capacity to grasp recognize and understand what is real
- Our intuitive capacity to understand reality most often exceeds our ability to give an adequate explanation of what is real to us and why.
- Discussions of reality outside the world of common experience are limited by the limits of language, but there are some things that cannot be said but can be shown. (A similar point radically made by Wittgenstein- in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus)
- People are generally positive and confirming with regard to what they think, and generally believe what they think
- People are unequal in their capacity to understand reality
- People have an unlimited capacity to create, believe in and follow fiction as if it was reality
- Because mistake, delusion, self-deception, and the propensity to affirm one’s own thoughts is so prevalent, a radical open-mindedness is a requirement for an honest search for what is real as well as a tolerance for divergent ideas in others.
- We shouldn’t believe everything we think. A recognition of the tights limits of our knowledge is necessary to wisely seek knowledge. Doubt of our current positions an essential and healthy part of the process of gaining new knowledge and understanding (Echoing thoughts of Socrates and Confucius that knowledge is meaningful only if we recognize the limits of our knowledge.)
- If we can maintain an open mind, we should revere our intuitions and estimations of truth from our perspective and place some trust and reliance on our powers to discern reality. I have strong sympathy with Emerson’s thoughts in is essay Self Reliance.
- Love is a precious thing with revolutionary capacity and it is worthy of worship (1 John 4:8)
- Evil and suffering and weakness are fundamental positive realities that shape our existence and love grows when we embrace this fact. (An optimistic view of the pessimistic observations of Schopenhauer. An idea that correlates to teachings of Moroni regarding the need for salvation.)
- Resistance to evil can hamstring our capacity to love. Jesus in Matthew 5:39
- Happiness may be “the object and design of our existence” (Joseph Smith, Jr. in a letter echoing Democritus, Epicurus) BUT “Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.” (George Orwell) Happiness is not a destination but a product of pursuing a path that leads to happiness.
Thats enough for now.
I would be happy to find out if you think any of these are off base— or if any one of them is also part what you believe.