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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

schizophrenic?

First: Sorry for not showing up on my own blog! I messed it up.

I realized how difficult it is to write and respond regularly on the blog; and so I decided this week (against my initial goals) that instead of constantly having a bad conscience about not writing regularly, I’ll just change my goal: I’ll write when I feel like it and I won’t write when I don’t feel like it (the latter is more likely once I don’t work as much overtime as I do at the moment…)

Recently, somebody opened my eyes regarding my troubles with faith. He observed that the things I say about my faith are anything but unified.
On the one hand, I am extremely critical of Christianity and I feel unable to believe the story. On the other hand, I feel so much drawn to it and I like going to church and when there’s christianity-bashing going on on TV I am outraged and I can talk about theological ideas not only from a detached perspective but as a spiritual insider and when I am in church I feel like I’m in the right place, in “my father’s house” so to speak, and I place much importance on attending church regularly.

Realizing that I’m kind of schizophrenic was almost an epiphany to me.

I always wondered why I have so much trouble giving up faith even though I obviously don’t buy into many of faith’s doctrines. I always thought that I have so much trouble giving it up because walking away from faith would cost me too much (less emotional comfort, broken relationships, …). But now, I realized that my hesitance to give up faith is not only weakness, it’s not just that I stick to something cozy even though I know it’s wrong. No. It’s rather that different aspects of my personality are in conflict as to whether sticking to Christianity is the right thing for me.

The friend who opened my eyes suggested that I aim at unification: If the different voices in me are in tension, I ought to aim at integrating them, bringing them in line, becoming a “whole” person.

Even though I am very fond of this advice, I am only convinced of it to 90%. There’s a 10% doubt in me that asks: Isn’t it a sign of strength and honesty that I am able to endure these multiple voices in me? So many people simply hammer and squeeze the confusing variety of their experience into a neat picture rather than accepting the difficult fact that being open for reality leads us to a perplexing cacophony of impressions and a dazzling variety of evidence pointing into all kinds of directions.

But, all in all, I am very fond of the advice. In particular, bringing the different pulls within me in touch with each other will help me decide where I want to go.

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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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510391Even if all intellectual obstacles preventing me from reconciliation with the Christian faith were resolved there would still remain a host of emotional obstacles. These emotional tensions might possibly have more force than my intellectual burdens.

For this series of posts, I first aimed at a neat list of the objects making up the emotional landscape within me. But I realize that a neat and tidy account does not really match the nature of emotions. So, I’ll go for an unsystematic picture. Here are some things I observe (particularly related to my reactions to the thought of imagining myself reconciling with Christianity):

I’m angry at those Christians who put me in a certain “box” when I’m doubting. These are the Christians who always know in advance where my problem must lie. Sometimes, these are the more fundamentalist Christians who think, for example, that I have too much confidence in my own philosophical musings or who think the problem is only that I haven’t experienced God. But very often these are the more liberal Christians who immediately diagnose my problems with Christianity to be rooted in my naïve approach to faith. They all have their prejudices of what must go wrong in someone who can’t believe. They are so certain that if I just had their paradigm and their presuppositions (which they are so sure must be the right ones), then my pitiful misled thinking soul would come to the same conclusions they do. Or they are so sure that if I just had experienced something as intense as they did, then I wouldn’t have doubts.

It makes me angry when people pretend to know me better than I do. (Interesting – what is it about that that should make me angry?)

It makes me angry when people think it’s just all my fault for being where I am now.

I long so badly for Christians who take my skeptical arguments without immediately scanning them in order to find the fault in them but who first try to understand my perspective. It’s awesome when people first appreciate that there might be much good in my perspective, that there might even be something to respect in my journey (a quest for truth and honesty) before they start to treat me as a patient to be helped. It’s something beautiful to feel treated as someone who might have something of value to offer in his search. It’s awesome when people feel my problems with faith might be worth being understood (rather than only cured). When people acknowledge that I am not doing this out of fun (but rather suffer badly from this crisis), they might realize that I only pursue it because I feel it is something important.

(to be continued)

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child-prayingIt was a big eye-opener for me, when my girlfriend recently asked me “On a scale of 1-10, how much would you like to be a Christian?” and even after reflection, I was  still fairly positive that my spontaneous answer of “10” was right.
I want to be able to continue the kind of life I’ve started, the relationship(s) I’m in, the hope that there’s someone good behind this universe, the sense of belonging to a home like the church, the trust in a foundation for my fights for justice, etc. I’d be so incredibly frustrated to have to give up that kind of stuff. Of course, there’s also lots of “anti-emotions” (to be blogged about soon) but overall, what I want to be is a Christian. Exclamation mark!

This “10” also worries me. Because I know that I am so eager to be a Christian, I grow evermore suspicious of myself. Everytime I find a reason to re-start my faith, I become skeptical of this reason and cultivate the suspicion that its root might be found in my wishful thinking rather than in my honest sense of what’s real.

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My girlfriend also asked me how much I long for God (as something separate from “wanting to be a Christian”). And there the answer was not as clear. I long for God but I couldn’t give it a 10. No.
I want to be a Christian for many reasons that are unrelated to longing for God. Such reasons are: Staying with the friends I have, Living in an enchanted universe, Enjoying a traditional marriage ceremony, etc.
I think I wasn’t able at all to give a 10 to my longing for God because I think life without God would be bearable. It would definitely be extremly frustrating to loose faith and I’d feel empty — but I have the impression that it would be bearable. I’d be really annoyed — but I wouldn’t fall into depression. I am blessed with so many earthly good things (good job, good family, good food, etc.) that I have the impression that I would only be incredibly upset about loosing faith — but not completely broken. It seems like I wouldn’t fall into a hole of cosmic sadness. I’d just be frustrated so badly. (But, of course, this is partly guesswork).
This was different when I lost faith 8 years ago: Deep within me and far below the surface, I felt such a tremendous inner sadness and brokenness about life back then, that being desperate by itself was enough reason to long for God.

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can you believe in “a” god

Here’s a basic dilemma I’ve carried with me for many years:

  • I consider it more plausible than not that there is a God.
  • For every single specification of God I know of (Conservative Christianity, Deism, Mormonism, liberal Christianity, …), I find it more plausible than not that it depicts God wrongly.

So, I’m stuck: I tend to believe there is a God. But it seems that if I believe there is a God, then I have to believe that there is a certain specific God.
But: I cannot believe in any specific God – i.e.  I don’t believe in any of the historical proposals for painting a more concrete image of God (and neither can I come up with my own plausible specifications of who God might be).

An analogy is the following: It’s my co-worker’s birthday and he believes that I will bring a cake to the office. At the same time, if someone asked him whether he would accept a bet (which will cost him a pound in case he’s wrong and give him a pound in case he’s right) that I bring a chocolate cake, he wouldn’t go for that bet (because he thinks the chance is less than 50% that I bring a chocolate cake). Neither would he go for the same bet on an angel food cake. Neither would he go for the same bet on a lemon cake or any other specification of a cake. He only believes that I bring a cake; but for any given cake, he doesn’t believe that I will bring it.

What should I do? If I’m right that I cannot give my life to “a” God but only to a certain specific God (such as the Christian Trinity), then both seems irrational: to believe in some such God and not to believe in some such God.

I’m stuck. I offer a prize money of £5 to the person who tells me either what to do in this situation or else what’s wrong with my depiction of the situation.

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back in the game

It’s Easter and my blog is now resurrecting 🙂

I’m sorry for the long absence. I had the stupid idea in my head that spending the last 12 years at the university made it necessary for me to gain some practical experience in the so-called “real world”. However, this just meant working way too much and dealing with really difficult people out there, in that real world.
…A friend of mine was in Africa, these last months and she wrote that when she would walk in normal speed on the sidewalk, people would turn to her and remind her: “Tranquillement!” So, that’s what I told myself, too, and I therefore let some things in my life, such as this blog, go less well than they should.
I know that this is not the way to go for a blog… It is my intention to now start blogging again with a certain regularity.

Easter was a special experience. My girl friend and I went to a Christian retreat up in the mountains. I liked it. But I also made a bitter experience. Even as a person whose faith has gone bankrupt, I could follow a lot of the program: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Stations of the Cross, Songs, Prayers, etc. They all meant something to me and they were interesting to follow, observe, go along. But when it came to Easter Morning, I crashed. On Easter Morning I wasn’t able to be truly happy, joyous from within (not that surpising, given the state of my faith). I didn’t manage to believe the “big thing”, i.e. the resurrection.
I could follow other spiritual activities much more easily. They were activities that one could follow half-heartedly and with doubt in my mind. But Easter Morning couldn’t be followed half-heartedly: I had to face the fact that the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus doesn’t make me euphoric. And since I couldn’t go along with it half-heartedly, I turned to the complete other side, emotionally speaking.
(Maybe it also had something to do with celebrating at 5.30 a.m. This is a time of the day when I usually am very grumpy (VERY grumpy) regardless of what I’m doing…)

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sorry, dear potential blog readers, for being so absent.

I was offered an internship two months ago which I – most stupidly – thought I was able to additionally cramp into my already tight schedule. This proved wrong and now I need all my energy to work, sleep, eat and lead life and have no energy at all left over for written reflections about life. I am not doing too well. I feel like I have crossed the thin line from being a Christian who is dealing with doubts to being a Confused Earthling who has lost his faith (and would like to regain it). For a long time it felt more like I was constantly “oscillating” between being able to believe and not being able to believe.

Here’s a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip I liked.

blog

BTW, I am not claiming that I see all sides of the issue. But after intensly staring at my faith and intellectually circling aroud it for a year, I sometimes cannot help but wish (just like good old Calvin) to lose some perspective.
One of my good friends also asked me whether my problem possibly is that I take the diversity of opinions too seriously. He asked me whether my problem was that as soon as someone (Christian, Buddhist, Agnosticist, Hedonist, …) made a claim I give it some plausibility and take it into serious consideration – which seems like a sure recipe for being puzzled in the end.

BTW, I recently wrote about reading Blue Like Jazz. Here is a statement of one of the best images/points in the book (in the book it’s longer and better put into words). I also finished reading “Simply Christian” by Tom Wright. It’s a lovely book and it presents one of the most attractive versions of Christianity I can think of.
It is symptomatic, that at the end of the book, I wrote down for myself “But is it all true?” – i.e.: I like the faith he so beautifully talks about, but I’m not sure whether I trust this story to be reality.
It brought to my attention something he himself writes about: In some way the story of Israel, Jesus, the New World etc. is so peculiar, unique, extraordinary. Based on your natural faculties of judgement alone you could never have the feeling: This must be true. For this it is much too special. Our secular, “two-dimensional” human common sense tells us that a thousand other stories might be true just as well. If it ever does deeply convince us, it must make sense to us in another way. If it does  capture our intellectual allegiance, it must be our spiritual eyes who cannot but embrace it. Wright himself compares it to being overtaken when watching a beautiful painting or hearing a symphony – you just cannot help but say “That’s it”. In fact, that goes well with how Wright begins the book (the book has three parts: first, reasons why there could in general be a God; second, the story of the Bible and Church; third, how the Christian life looks like). He begins the book by pointing out how we are so familiar with a voice calling us, so familiar with longings which point to something, so familiar with desires for justice, beauty, relationships and spirituality. This he takes to be our homesickness and awareness of God (That was very rough).

A large part of what convinced me of Christianity in Wright’s book is what convinced me in any apologetic writing: Not primarily the content of the book itself, but rather the fact that such a wise, smart, educated, sharp-minded (and in Wright’s case: cheerful and life affirming) person does manage to be a Christian.

OK, so much for today. I will quit my internship latest by the end of March and I hope to start to reflect and answer more systematically again.

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