Friday, June 10, 2005

Conversations with Angie: Angie responds

You must keep in mind that I'm cutting out some emails. I'm also cutting out parts of emails. I just want to stick to the meat of our conversations. Here's Angie's response:

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Sam,

I've taken so long with this response that you've a right to expect something incredibly insightful and full of depth! I'd like to accommodate, but to be honest, my thoughts are kind of jumbled. Hopefully I can make sense anyway.

First, I'd like to point out a seeming contradiction in your email. You say: "It seems to me (and you seem to agree) that there's only one thing that's relevent to whether or not a person should be a Christian, and that's whether or not it's true. If it's true, then they should be, but if it's not true, then they shouldn't. It's as simple as that. A person has only to find out if there are any good reasons to think it's true. Everything else is irrelevent."

Then, later, you go on to talk about how it is not necessary to be absolutely certain that it's true. While I agree with much of what you said - obviously we live everyday with many uncertainties - I can't quite buy the argument in relation to Christianity. Truth implies a certainty. If truth exists, and if something is true, then it is one hundred percent true, whether I believe it or not.

With this in mind, I'm not sure that I understand why you say, "Belief in Christianity is reasonable to me in the sense that it's a justified belief that falls short of absolute certainty." What I mean to say is, despite your fleeting thoughts of doubt, at your core, you do believe that Christianity holds the absolute truth. And, if you're like others I've known (including myself), you attribute those doubts to your human nature, all the while believing that God is true and absolute and all-knowing, etc. In other words, you believe with certainty that Christianity is true, and that this truth exists apart from your struggles with doubt.

If that didn't make sense, ask me to clarify, and I'll try. For now, I'll move on to the next point.

You asked me to clarify why I require so much certainty. This is the response that took me so long. I thought about it a lot, and could not come up with an answer. I guess I eventually realized (by examining the evidence that I'd seen) that I had to admit that Materialism is just as likely to be true as Christianity. I would not go so far as to say that all belief systems are just as likely to be true, but I felt that Materialism was. I was in a place where I honestly could not conclude that one was more likely to be true than the other. I thought, "It's quite possible, even likely, that they are right, and God does not exist. Of course, it's possible that God does exist, and they're wrong, too." So I was kind of stuck right in the middle. At that stage, I continued in my congregation and basically tried to pretend that I still felt conviction, because it was my life. All of my friends were in my congregation and I was comfortable there. Beyond comfortable, I loved it. Eventually, though, I admitted to myself that I was thinking more and more that it is more likely true that God doesn't exist, and that I couldn't force myself to believe. I became very tired of pretending that I still believed. I felt very false and very hypocritical. So I began to distance myself from my congregation and my friends.

A final comment on your statement: "After all, it's impossible to be neutral. You either dedicate your life to being a Christian or to not being a Christian. You can't be a Christian and not be a Christian at the same time and in the sense." I disagree. Everything is not black and white and as clear-cut as we would like. I agree that you can't "be a Christian and not be a Christian at the same time..." I know it doesn't work - I tried it! But no one dedicates their life to not being a Christian. What does that even mean? I no longer believe that Jesus was the Messiah. I no longer believe that he was raised from the dead. But that doesn't mean that I've now dedicated myself to being the antithesis of a Christian. I never made a decision saying, "Now I'm going to be a non-Christian." I simply let go of a belief that was no longer alive in me. Now, I'm just trying to live my life as well as I can.

And now, I'll be off to sleep. If I wait any longer, I won't be able to get up for work tomorrow!

Take care.
Angie

Conversations with Angie:  Ontological and epistemological certainty

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