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Posts Tagged ‘belief’

division of labour

It must have been about two weeks ago. I felt really tired of carrying  the responsibility of bringing myself back to faith.

“God”, I suggested, “how about a division of labor. You take the responsibility of bringing me back to faith. I take the responsibility of being honest and to  stop trying to believe it if I can’t believe.”

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Some people (...) talk as if there was a continuum: atheism –> agnosticism –> deism –> liberal christianity –> conservative christianity.

I, however, think that agnosticism doesn’t fit into this continuum (and that point is really important to me). Why not?

Because being an atheist, a deist, or a christian is a decision about how to live/act. Agnosticism however is a decision about what to believe.
In the choice about being a person of faith, there’s always two tiers: There’s the cognitive/epistemic level of what to believe (and agnosticism fits into this tier); and based on this epistemic level, there’s the practical level of how to live/act (and atheism/deism/christianity fit into this tier).
It’s like two axes which are orthogonal to each other (remember the x- and y-axis from math classes): On the one axis is how strongly you believe in christianity (from 0 to 100), and on the other axis is how strongly you live christianity (from 0 to 100).

Here are three additional remarks:

  1. What is really under my control, is how I act and how I live. In contrast, I can hardly choose what I believe. What I believe — i.e. what seems plausible or convincing to me — usually happens to me and can only be changed by me in a very limited way. What is my own decision, however, is how I act.
    So, when people talk about choosing faith vs. choosing atheism, they should make clear that we can hardly choose what to believe and that the real choice is about living this way or another.
  2. What I believe, doesn’t predetermine how I should live. On the epistemic level, I could be 80% convinced by Christianity, but still, on the practical level, rationally choose to live atheism (e.g. because I believe that Christianity should only be chosen in case of great conviction and certainty). Alternatively, I could epistemically give Christianity a 10% chance of being true, but on the practical level still rationally choose to live it (e.g. for the same reason that I buy a lottery ticket: the chance is small, but in case I should win, the gain would be huge).
  3. In some way, on the level of belief, all of us are agnostics: Who is 100% or 0% convinced of Christianity? None of us. So, claiming not to be sure or not to really know, doesn’t really amount to claiming something interesting. All of us have to decide how to live under the epistemic condition of being uncertain.
    And in some way, on the level of practical action, none of us is an agnostic: you either pray or you don’t, you either put some hope in Jesus comforting you or you don’t, you either love others or you don’t.

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liberalism IV

There is also a psychological part to my aversion against liberalism: growing up in a rather evangelical environment, the Zeitgeist constantly gave me the impression of being a little naïve and of low intellectual ability to believe something as old-fashioned as the christian story in its more literal interpretation. This engendered the need in me to build up a defense, both intellectual and – since liberalism sometimes has this degrading smile on its lips when it tries to enlighten you about, say, the ridiculousness of believing in miracles as modern man – emotional.

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