I Have Found My Faith!

I’ve often said I’ll debate theology with anyone that wishes to engage in the discussion, but when it comes to matters of faith, there is no point in arguing. Faith, in its’ purest form, is the suspension of doubt without reason. The dictionary definition reads:

“strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence or a conviction of the truth of certain doctrines of religion, esp when this is not based on reason”

You can’t argue faith – I’m not even inclined to try. Here’s a great story:

Back in 1998 I was flying from Amman, Jordan to Abu Dhabi. The gentleman sitting next to me on the flight struck up a conversation. He was Palestinian by birth, a biologist by education, and was, at this time, selling Kirby vacuum cleaners in Abu Dhabi. When asked what work I was in, I responded that I worked for the Defense Department.

In 1998, the Persian Gulf was on pins and needles. America was poised to go back to war again with Iraq; my response of my employer drove many questions. My flight-mate had mentioned earlier in the conversation that he was living in Kuwait City when Saddam Hussein invaded that country in 1990. He escaped to Jordan via Iraq following the invasion, so his next question threw me.

“Why do you people (Americans) care so much about what Saddam does?” [or something along those lines] “why don’t you do something about Israel and their weapons of mass destruction?”

I thought for a moment, measuring my response and replied, “well, I’m not speaking on behalf of my government, but I believe the issues is simply that we fought a war with Iraq, and under the terms of the ceasefire agreement, Saddam is obligated to dismantle his weapons of mass destruction programs and to have that dismantlement verified by the UNSCOM inspection teams (which he had just kicked out of his country).”

At this point, my new found friend smiled and proceeded to tell me how the Western media has been lying to us (Americans). “It is a well known fact that America lost two corps during the Gulf War.” He turned to his companions sitting nearby and their heads began nodding. “These UNSCOM inspections are not about finding WMD, they are finding the bodies of dead Americans killed in the war.”   To put that revelation into context – an American military corps is comprised of 2 to 3 divisions, so to have lost 2 corps is the equivalent of losing 40,000 service members.

I could tell by the look on his face, and of his friends, that he was dead serious and realized then and there that whatever I responded with to his assertion would never change his mind. I could have hooked him up to a polygraph machine (assuming I could find someone who knew how to use it) and he would have passed with flying colors – because he believed what he said! There was nothing I could have said that would’ve changed his mind. I would have had better luck convincing him that Allah didn’t exist.

That was a powerful lesson for me to learn, and yet belief and faith still vex me.

There is a common perception, especially among Christians, that people need to believe in something. Lack of belief is viewed as a character flaw in individuals. Without a belief system, then people lack a moral compass. Without faith in a hereafter, people are free to do anything. Without their soul in the balance to pay for the consequences of their actions taken in this life then the next “life” is at risk. Such is the view that drives inherent distrust in atheists.

So here’s my problem. I would like to believe in a god and the idea of everlasting life – who wouldn’t? But the problem is I can’t suspend reality or reason in order to do so.

But if I did believe, it wouldn’t be in a biblical god, or the god of the Qur’an, or the god of the Torah. If I were to make up a god to believe in it would go along these lines: my god caused the big bang setting the universe in motion and he watches his creation like we watch cable TV. Occasionally he tunes in earth like you sometimes tune in Jerry Springer or the Jersey Shore – it’s a guilty pleasure…

He requires no worship, because he’s not an interactive god. There is no “message” for humans other than respecting his creation (fits into my ecological pursuits). No prayer, no giving big bucks to some televangelist so he can build a megachurch and drive a Benz (no need for hypocrisy). When we die, we rejoin the universe from which we started.

Now if I said I believe this and this is my faith – evangelicals would still insist that this view is misguided and try to bring Jesus into my belief system, but at least I would “believe” in something right? Maybe some would consider it agnostic.

But if I named my god, let’s say BOB* for simplicity (BOB in all caps because my god is an awesome god!), and I put parameters around my belief – rules and such that BOB wishes me to live by – as revealed to me in a tequila-induced vision (hey, that shit happens…), then would my faith have more validity? (Joseph Smith anyone?)

Maybe I could be viewed as a trustworthy person by more people than do so now? When asked if I believe in god (as though that is anyone’s business in the first place!) I could honestly respond, “yes I do!” I don’t have to go into great details on BOB – after all, I’m an American, people will normally assume my god is their god (since we all look alike anyway). Just hope they don’t ask me if I’ve accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior (then the BOB conversion begins!)

Speaking of that whole line of questioning – when did that become OK for people to ask? How absolutely appalling that people feel so incredibly emboldened to ask a stranger or an acquaintance if they’ve accepted Jesus as their savior! What is the point of that question? Holy crap, if you are reading this blog and you engage in that type of practice – please stop! This isn’t the Spanish Inquisition! And BOB has instructed me to wage physical violence on those that try playing god games with that line! (I joke, I joke – BOB doesn’t exist, but his likelihood of existence is probably much greater than the god in books – at least that’s what I believe.)

People believe in all kinds of crap outside of religion.  These beliefs can be mocked at will.  People believe in super intelligent alien life and extraterrestrial visitations.  There is no substantiated proof of this (although there is more physical evidence pointing to it than that which supports religion).  People believe in ghosts, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, midgets, tarot cards, horoscopes – all of which are viewed with a certain amount of disdain and people looking down their noses at (especially midgets which everyone knows do not exist!). 

There is so much to believe in – putting faith above logic.  We’ve had several millennia experience with this phenomenon; only, we tend to call this philosophy.  Even among Christian adherents, theophilosophy abounds.  No one sect can claim to have THE answer to how it all works (actually, they all do).  In fact, amazingly, some sects view others as heretical and hell-bound for not believing in the correct way (did I mention Joseph Smith?) 

Mormonism is a perfect example for BOB.  If I were to proselytize on behalf of BOB, spreading his good word, people would likely think of me as though I was insane – that weird homeless guy on the corner without the World is Going to End sign (BOB isn’t into an Armageddon style scenarios).  Now if I started winning some converts – and those converts did a lot of isolated in-breeding (hey, it happened), then I might be viewed as a cult leader (I think there could be money in that).  Give it a couple hundred years and some decent growth by conversion, I might even be considered mainstream (not enough to win the Republican primary though – right Mitt?). 

Christianity was formed in the same fashion – it didn’t happen overnight.  The first 300 years or so after the death of Jesus (or murder, or sacrifice), there were literally hundreds of Jesus cults proliferating around the Middle East.  It took yeoman efforts by people like Paul to set believers straight on the doctrine – and even that doctrine is constantly up for interpretation (See Calvin, Luther, insert Megachurch leader) and what god wants you to do (send cash – god’s broke).  If not for Constantine formally recognizing the faith and forcing a strict doctrine and choosing of the “right” texts, Christianity today would be an even bigger mess than it already is (based on the number of divergent sects today).

I have faith in my god, BOB, now I just need to refine my doctrine and presentation – I just need some cash for more tequila in order to get my next message! (Little help here anyone?)

 * Not to be confused with the CHURCH OF bob. Notice that bob is all lowercase, while my BOB is all Caps – big difference!
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2 Responses to I Have Found My Faith!

  1. Mr. Dillon says:

    Sean, a friend asked me about the whole Mormon thing, since he knew I was a "Subject Matter Expert". I said, "look, you know the story of Noah's ark, right?" He nodded. Since his approach to Mormonism was so incredulous, I asked if he believed in the Bible. He said he did. I said, so based on many what Christian scholars believe as shaped by the book of Genesis, Adam's timeline is generally accepted as about 4000 years before Jesus. Based on the Genesis genealogy, that places Noah somewhere around 2300-2400 BCE (BC for Christians)… I asked him, if he then also believed that every species of non-aquatic animal was on an ark 4400 years ago? He grimaced…That seems to me to be a bit of a Santa story… so before one goes poking fun at Mormons about the Santa story of Joseph Smith and golden plates, they need to look at their own Santa stories… I would also point out that Columbus called the people he met on Hispanola "Indians" as a direct result of his thinking being calibrated by Old Testament theology. In his mind, and the most of his educated contemporaries, Noah had three sons, from which all of us are derived: Ham, Shem and Japhet. Ham was cursed with black skin by Noah for seeing the old man Noah naked in his tent after the flood. According to common thinking at that time (that still exists today,) Ham is the father of all African peoples. Japhet is where all the Europeans come from, and Columbus would be a descendant of Japhet. But in his mind, where would the natives of the Western Hemisphere fit into this picture? Shem is where the term Semite/Semitic comes from. Semitic people are those in the middle east, but based on the Noah story, there were only three sons of Noah and their wives to re-populate the planet. To the Europeans that were familiar with the bible stories, but were also aware of China and India in the 15th century, they extrapolated that the Semites or Semitic people would take up all of Asia, and not just the Middle East. Thus in the mind of Columbus, he concluded he must have reached the Indies because the people he met were not white (like Japhet's progeny) or Black, like Ham's descendents. The native that he came across must therefore be of Shem's lineage. To use a double negative, there could NOT be a people that are NOT mentioned in the Bible.In that respect Joseph Smith's story covers that base… like Columbus, the Book of Mormon story is that the native peoples of the Americas are Semitic people. I could see my friend had enoguh of this conversation… and maybe you as a reader have, too. My point, to make a long story longer is that every religion or faith has a Santa story. Why one is disparaged over another is somewhat odd to me, but I was a believer at one time as well. It is certainly a crisis to face your belief system and determine the foundation is cracked and not safe for building on. To give it up creates stress.

  2. Mr. Dillon says:

    Think about Galileo Galilei. Many Protestants look smugly at the Catholics over this matter. The Church knew that since man was the pinnacle of God's creation, our home, planet earth must logically be the center of the universe… When Galileo proposed that we lived in a heliocentric universe, the church blew a gasket and put him under house arrest and forced him to recant. Do you believe the Sun revolves around the earth? If I were alive back then it would be difficult to accept that the Sun was the center when one can see with one's own eyes that it is the Sun that moves across the sky… So yes, talk about "holding the center"… the center of the universe changed according to Galileo… now one would have to choose which center to hold, the geocentric or heliocentric universe world view… So, Faith? Yes, Santa goes around the world and delivers presents over night. I also believed like many still do that with out the final judgement, why would people be good? Now I know why. Goodness is what makes life worth living. I try to be good without faith in an afterlife because positive human interaction in the here and now are the best possible and yet often most difficult thing we can do as humans.

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