“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”
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.
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.)