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Old 09-03-2007, 06:51 PM   #81
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^

There's so much in your post to respond to, and I'm on deadline with two different projects (pages due to a producer this week and picture lock Friday for another), so I may not to get to respond to this all in depth anytime soon, but a book you might want to check out is "A Search for What Is Real: Finding Faith" by Brian McLaren. He's got a whole bunch of thoughts in here written as a Christian who is genuinely trying to engage people with questions. It's a really good read, and he doesn't duck the hard ones. (In my personal opinion.) I'd love for you to read it and get your thoughts. (If I had your address, I'd send you a copy.)

http://www.amazon.com/Search-What-Re...863232&sr=8-10
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Old 09-03-2007, 08:31 PM   #82
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This is the kind of discussion that keeps me coming back to FYM. I feel ill equipped to really bring a fresh view to this one, but I find the discussion and viewpoints on both sides very thought provoking, and well stated.

On a lighter note:

Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
okay -- so you do think that sin is like a swear jar?


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Old 09-03-2007, 09:23 PM   #83
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as for my closet atheism, which isn't actually true, just keep in mind that i'm arguing a point, and i actually agree with two fundamental points made by the religious -- God really cannot be understood in human terms (which, to me, kills dead the notion that he's loving and listens and cares and loves and wants a relationship), and, two, that atheism is an article of faith. we can't *know* one way or the next.
And I take issue with the second point in that it is a technicality, living in a world where there is no God or one that the existence or inexistence of God is moot because it is impossible to prove or disproove is the same.
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Old 09-03-2007, 09:37 PM   #84
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
it's in these moments of sheer horror that the actual emptiness of it all, the fact that there just might be no "there" there, that fills me with dread.
It's ironic that the burden of these questions falls on the survivors, the "lucky" ones (though that can certainly include the sufferers in some cases). We need each other to know and resolve and realize what our worth here is; it's much more frightening to think that people can lose their faith in the value of humanity than that they can lose their faith in God. So it's chilling to see the potential of a life brutally and senselessly laid waste, not because the person is dead--we're all headed there anyway, and in some sense the vulnerability and finiteness of life is precisely what inclines us to value it--but because to find value in others is to honor, in them and oneself, what the nature of their death seems to call into question the honorability of. I can accept, at least to a point, that "nature" itself can't really be accused of such betrayal--the ocean means no harm when it rears up and sweeps people away, any more than it means good when providing us food and safe passage; it knows and values nothing, itself included. But how people can lose sight of that worth in each other, what it means that that seems to be so easy for us...sometimes "humans are sinful; that's what they do" just doesn't cut it, and neither does "life is cheap; bad shit happens."

I can understand where nathan's frustration is coming from, though. It almost comes across as if what you're "really" looking for is faith=invulnerability, something no religion claims to offer. All of us and everyone we care about will die, and that's pretty much the essence of vulnerability, isn't it? Why be so preoccupied with the particular manner in which it might happen? Does a peaceful and painless death somehow make the life that preceded it more worthwhile, or herald a better afterlife? I wouldn't want anyone I love to conclude that, if I happened to die in some violent and painful way tomorrow--the responsibility and opportunity they have to keep working for a better world, to bear witness to that possibility everywhere and in every way they can, which to me is the essence of faith and the 'image' we share, would remain the same. Would that nice thought make last moments filled with nothing but blind terror and agonizing pain any "better", no, but I don't think that hope comes from coldness or indifference to vulnerability; rather the opposite. God to me is a partner who seeks our help in that process of transformation, not a master puppeteer, perhaps even vulnerable (though in nothing like the way we are) insofar as God has chosen to manifest, to know and be known, a longing that requires submission of a kind to fulfill. You can't have that without vulnerability, I don't think, just as you can't have compassion without pain.
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Old 09-03-2007, 10:17 PM   #85
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Quote:
Originally posted by yolland

I can understand where nathan's frustration is coming from, though. It almost comes across as if what you're "really" looking for is faith=invulnerability, something no religion claims to offer. All of us and everyone we care about will die, and that's pretty much the essence of vulnerability, isn't it? Why be so preoccupied with the particular manner in which it might happen? Does a peaceful and painless death somehow make the life that preceded it more worthwhile, or herald a better afterlife? I wouldn't want anyone I love to conclude that, if I happened to die in some violent and painful way tomorrow--the responsibility and opportunity they have to keep working for a better world, to bear witness to that possibility everywhere and in every way they can, which to me is the essence of faith and the 'image' we share, would remain the same. Would that nice thought make last moments filled with nothing but blind terror and agonizing pain any "better", no, but I don't think that hope comes from coldness or indifference to vulnerability; rather the opposite. God to me is a partner who seeks our help in that process of transformation, not a master puppeteer, perhaps even vulnerable (though in nothing like the way we are) insofar as God has chosen to manifest, to know and be known, a longing that requires submission of a kind to fulfill. You can't have that without vulnerability, I don't think, just as you can't have compassion without pain.


this has been a sprawling discussion, so i can understand why several different strands of thought can get tangled together.

i am basically saying two things:

1. my agnosticism comes not from the fact that bad things happen, but in the lack of anything redeeming i've seen in the bad things that do happen -- in the very deadness of a murdered person, in the turning of man into meat, what i see is a lack of some kind of overarching, guiding force to the universe, that Bono's wrong, there is no love and logic behind it all. this feeling can go away when we're given the opposite side of this coin -- the birth of a baby, basic kindness -- but the fact remains that it's there, lurking, and we're all vulnerable.

2. i don't think that faith = invulnerability but people who walk around talking about the importance of being Saved certainly do. it's not that bad things won't happen to them, but that God is always in control and is in the cockpit so we just accept and praise and realize that, yes, God did want that 15 year old girl's arms to get ripped off and she'd bleed to death in the street. and that's where i take issue, and that's when i ask them why such bad things happen to good people, and that if God were the puppetmaster in all this, and if you chat with him on a dialy basis, then please ask him to do something about Darfur. it seems that this is a rather cruel God who intervenes when we pray for help on the algebra test, but seems indifferent when the ocean swallows 250,000 people.

so, two different thoughts going on. sorry if my posts have muddied the waters.

ultimately, i think Melon's view of God is one that i find most compelling, and it seems the most logically sound.

for now.
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Old 09-03-2007, 10:23 PM   #86
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Quote:
Originally posted by nathan1977
^

There's so much in your post to respond to, and I'm on deadline with two different projects (pages due to a producer this week and picture lock Friday for another), so I may not to get to respond to this all in depth anytime soon, but a book you might want to check out is "A Search for What Is Real: Finding Faith" by Brian McLaren. He's got a whole bunch of thoughts in here written as a Christian who is genuinely trying to engage people with questions. It's a really good read, and he doesn't duck the hard ones. (In my personal opinion.) I'd love for you to read it and get your thoughts. (If I had your address, I'd send you a copy.)

http://www.amazon.com/Search-What-Re...863232&sr=8-10


have got a busy week ahead (spent my Labor Day laboring), but i'll see if i can't order it and try to read it at some point soon.

thanks for the suggestion.
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Old 09-05-2007, 07:26 AM   #87
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Quote:
Originally posted by nathan1977


I always like the dialogue, Irvine. Sorry I'm not around as much. (I personally miss the posts of people like nbcrusader and maycocksean.)


Well, thanks for that nathan1977! I've missed being around. I promise to jump into the discussion soon, but around page three as I realized this entire thread appears to be weighty, thoughtful responses, and there's no way I can give each of the responses the proper reading they deserve and still go to bed at a decent time.

So. I shall return.
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Old 09-05-2007, 07:27 AM   #88
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I should also say I read the TIME cover article on MT last night to "prepare myself" for this thread. Very interesting.
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Old 09-06-2007, 08:07 AM   #89
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wow. One of the best threads in FYM in a long time. I really enjoyed--and was challenged by--everyone's thoughts.

To be frank, I respect Irvine's refusal to buy into God, at least the way he describes Him. I wouldn't buy into that sort of God either (though perhaps Irvine might suggest that's exactly what I've done). Pain and suffering demand answers, and I believe religion in large part exists as a way to answer the question of pain, suffering, and death. Still, I have yet to find any religion that "adequately" answers the question (and believers that insist they have one usually sound pretty foolish, in my opinion--the whole "well I guess it was the Lord's will" thing). I don't know that there is an "adequate" answer out there. What would an "adequate" answer look like anyway? More importantly what would be the consequences of an "adequate" answer? Would we no longer grieve because we had the "answer" which made it all okay? Or would it just make the grieving more bearable? And in that case, don't some people already have answers that-to them at least--are adequate in that they make the grieving and loss manageable somehow. Is it possible that the adequate answer for one person is woefully inadequate to another person?

I'm not really sure of the answers to any of the above questions, but I can say what I believe about the idea of God and His involvement, at least to the extent that I feel like have at least a "half-answer" (which I concede is, again, inadequate).

1. I don't think that when bad things happen, it is "God's will."

2. I don't know why God doesn't intervene to stop tragedies such as the tsunami. The most I have is vague ideas including:
--the concept that sin is more than "bad things that people do", there's something more "story-like" about it--a virus, a sickness that human choice brought into this earth that now operates and extends beyond the strict boundaries of human cause and effect (See the "What is sin" thread for more details on this theory). Thus things like the tsunami may not be the direct result of any "particular" sin, but are the result of living in a world that's basically broken (which contradicts Melon's theory of all of this, though I have to admitt even so, that I REALLY dug his ideas).
--I'm not sure to what extent God is supposed to prevent tragedy without it wandering in to the territory of Him preventing the "bad results" of bad decisions on our part. If he stepped in to prevent all natural disasters (assuming that my above half- theory is wrong) or miraculously saved all human lives (and shoot their houses and stuff while He's at it) when they happened, and also stopped all disease, would that be enough for us? After all His suspending those "Acts of God" would still leave us with the Holocaust and Rawanda. Should he just make sure that only the guilty suffer? But if only the guilty suffer than what, really, would sin be beyond people getting what they deserve? And what kinds of actions in which no innocents suffer would be actually guilt-worthy? The argument, perhaps boils down to this: A loving God would make it impossible for humans to do anything wrong. I'm not so compelled by that argument.
-- I tend to feel that death (and often the attendant suffering) is the default setting of life and not the other way around. Each day that I'm alive and healthy, I consider to be a miracle and a gift, and the day that I'm not. . .well, I suppose that's the conclusion that we're all meant for all along anyway. I know that sounds horribly harsh and callous, and while I can say it intellectually, you can be damn sure I'll fight tooth and nail to keep life and health (as hard as you did, Irvine). There'll be no going quietly for me, no quiet acceptance of that reality. Because deep down, I think most of us know the default setting we live (or die with) is WRONG. It's just wrong. In a weird way, that is why I am a believer. And the wrongness is not being fixed by God now so holding out hope for a "future fix" doesn't seem so unreasonable.

As a side question: Why do we find it so horrible when many die at once but seem less inclined to react to the death of an individual. Would the tsunami have been any less horrible if only one person had died? Aren't thousands dying even as I write these words, even though it's not necessarily, together at one event? Are their deaths somehow more "fair" because of their seperateness than those who perished in the tsunami?

Again, I don't mean to be callous towards suffering and I sincerely hope I'm not coming across that way. I've been very fortunate, so far, to have not had to deal with horrific tragedy up close and personal which is probably why I can come across so dispassionately. I can't say how I'd respond if (or when) I do experience deep tragedy personally. I don't know if any person can know whether their faith (or lackthereof) will survive the crucible of horror.

well, those are some thoughts, for what they're worth. Again, I really have appreciated this thread.
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Old 09-06-2007, 08:14 AM   #90
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511


i'll paraphrase something that i remember Bono saying, but i believe it was an Old Testament story -- i've had two glasses of wine, so name escape me -- but it was (Abraham?) who was told by God to bring his son to a mountaintop and to kill him in order to demonstate his faith. and so, he did, and just before he killed his son, God intervened, said it was a test, and let them both go, and thus, this is the faith we should have.

and Bono's reaction, and my reaction, is: what a fucking asshole.

Yes it was Abraham. And I've been uncomfortable with this story for years. The conclusion I've recently come to, though, is that Abraham knew all along he wouldn't have to actually kill his son. He just didn't know how God was going to provide an "out." He just knew He would. Believers of all three "Book" faiths tend to tell this story as if the take-home message is Abraham's unquestioning obedience, when to me it's become clear that the message is God's provision and Abraham's radical trust in that. (I wrote an essay about this on my faith issues blog www.movingfaith.blogspot.com if you care to check it out).
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Old 09-06-2007, 09:28 AM   #91
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Quote:
Originally posted by maycocksean
As a side question: Why do we find it so horrible when many die at once but seem less inclined to react to the death of an individual. Would the tsunami have been any less horrible if only one person had died? Aren't thousands dying even as I write these words, even though it's not necessarily, together at one event? Are their deaths somehow more "fair" because of their seperateness than those who perished in the tsunami?

Again, I don't mean to be callous towards suffering and I sincerely hope I'm not coming across that way. I've been very fortunate, so far, to have not had to deal with horrific tragedy up close and personal which is probably why I can come across so dispassionately. I can't say how I'd respond if (or when) I do experience deep tragedy personally. I don't know if any person can know whether their faith (or lackthereof) will survive the crucible of horror.


thanks for another thoughtful post. there's so much to respond to, but in the interest of time, i'm just going to focus on this part.

the reason why i focus on tragedy is because it makes frighteningly real for us the precariousness of it all. when great-grandma finally succumbs to pneumonia at the age of 94, well it's sad, but it feels like a "natural" passing. i think, in many ways, we are okay with death. it is a part of life. we've seen grandparents and perhaps parents pass, and we miss them and mourn, but there's not much that feels "unnatural" about it. we have the "why" answered: because people get old, they get sick, and they die. and the cleanness of a "natural" passing is easy for us to digest and fit into a "God's Plan" paradigm.

it's when tragedy occurs that things don't fit as well, and the questions begin to get asked. one thing i think i've tried to do is take both mass tragedy -- the tsunami -- and individual tragedy -- the victims of violent crimes i've mentioned -- and used both to question whatever notions of "God's Plan" might be out there. in regards to the tsunami, inexplicable mass death due to a shifting in the earth's plates seems so sudden, so out of the blue, so unexpected, that it upends any sense of security or normalcy that we have. it is, as many called it, "Biblical" or "of Biblical proportions" -- and i think that's an important word to keep in mind. and it also begged the question of why those who were the most vulnerable -- the elderly, the children -- died in greater numbers. if we were to personify nature, as we do with God, the human quality associated with the tsunami would be cruelty. Holocaust-like cruelty.

when i talk about murder victims, or victims of accidents, or any death that isn't clean and pallatable, it's not such much the end result as Yolland pointed out -- we all die, that's not my issue -- but it is the process by which someone died, and the visual effect of seeing someone who has died in a messy, messy way that, at least to me, reinforces the idea that we are just big bags of water on a rock that's floating through outerspace. when you see whole lives reduced from living breathing thinking loving people into meat -- or when you see someone's insides on the outside -- it's profoundly upsetting. spend some time talking to EMTs, doctors, police officers, firemen, and once they get past the numbness that they've built up in order to do their jobs, you'll find, in my experience, that there's a piece of them that has, for lack of a better word, died as well. that their instincts, when faced with abject death, is to round up their family and take things like safety very, very seriously, because they know there's no rhyme or reason to the randomness of violent death and no amount of prayer is going to protect you. these people are very keenly aware of the profound randomness of life, and they're all a little bit upended. and many take it upon themselves to impose an order on this messy, messy world, and they do it through the precise professions i've just mentioned.

so ... not sure where to go with this, but i just want to underscore, again, my suspicion towards "God's Plan," and if we are to personify God and talk about relationships, or if we are the kind of person who asks for God's help on a calculus exam, or who thinks that God speaks to them at a U2 concert, or who works under the assumption that every rock they turn over and in every breath they take -- and all anyone has to do is go to TGIS to find some examples of this brand of faith -- that God is there and looking out for them, a co-pilot, then i think it is incumbant upon them to ask why God is there to help you with your test, but he's not there to stop waves from washing away hundreds of thousands of innocents.
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Old 09-06-2007, 10:34 AM   #92
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Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511

if we were to personify nature, as we do with God, the human quality associated with the tsunami would be cruelty. Holocaust-like cruelty.
I don't know. To my knowledge, most people in the tsunami died rather fast. In the Holocaust, most people died slowly.
So, nature in my view showed more mercy there than men did in the Holocaust.
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Old 09-06-2007, 10:56 AM   #93
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I don't know. To my knowledge, most people in the tsunami died rather fast. In the Holocaust, most people died slowly.
So, nature in my view showed more mercy there than men did in the Holocaust.


drowning is a terrible way to die.
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Old 09-06-2007, 11:01 AM   #94
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Hmmmm.
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Old 09-06-2007, 11:51 AM   #95
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Quote:
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drowning is a terrible way to die.
OK, that's right, who didn't die instantly had a hard way to go.

But I don't blame the nature for anything.
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Old 09-06-2007, 09:47 PM   #96
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Almost feels like a derailment at this point to ask, but has anyone in here got the book yet, or plan to?

I'd like to read or at least skim it myself at some point, though that may have to wait until my next break.

From an editorial in the Calcutta Telegraph a couple weeks back:
Quote:
...In a way, the irony seems too sharp to grasp. Her life was dedicated to the poor, the homeless, the old and the sick of the city; it is what she did for them that made her what she was. Yet it is here that she doubts the existence of the soul, of god, of Jesus, and feels that saving souls has no attraction. She is the first to call herself a hypocrite and her own smile a “mask”, for she speaks of god’s love continually without finding it. It is almost as if the suffering of the poor makes her question the existence of god; yet her deep faith forbids her mind the terms of such a question.

There is also some irony in the publication of the letters that the writer herself had wanted destroyed. The church wanted these preserved, in anticipation of her sainthood, and the volume has been edited by a proponent of her canonization. It may be that agonized doubts are an essential part of a saint’s life, but Mother Teresa’s “dark night of the soul”, spokespeople from the church admit, cannot be so easily contained in the traditional structure. By making them public, the church too is opening a window, even if for a moment. For lay people and unbelievers, Mother Teresa can now be seen as a hero like many other heroes, a great human being who struggled tirelessly for others, with a trust in life and hope that could not bank on faith, and for whom spiritual suffering was the greatest spur. She is great but familiar, for a moment shorn of the rhetoric of the church. A ‘secular’ heroism is easier to understand. Those Calcuttans who resented the fact that a nun should become famous by “saving souls” among the poor in their city may feel differently now.
So, apparently, if MT herself ever reflected on her doubts and feelings of despair in the context of seeing the kinds of issues we've been discussing here as the "trigger," it's not reflected in the book.
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Old 09-07-2007, 09:22 AM   #97
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I think I will read the book.

Honestly the prevailing thought I had when I read the Time article was that she might have been suffering from some clinical depression as well as having doubts about her faith.
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Old 09-07-2007, 11:39 AM   #98
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Hey Mommy T, take a number for those who question the invisible person in the sky that decides who the sports champions are going to be.
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