Posts Tagged ‘Karen Armstrong’

Faith

Monday, October 19th, 2009

dinosaur extinction finally explained

The thoughts of this person are worth sharing.  There is a book called The Case for God by Karen Armstrong.  Ms Armstrong spent seven years as a nun in a Roman Catholic order.  The italicized commentary is from a person known as “Johannes”.

Johannes says:

October 6, 2009

There’s a tendency to disparage people who believe in God as weak, groveling sheep. Kindness is often equated to weakness. It’s easy to debunk evangelical Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Quakers, Gnostic tradition or Episcopalians. But let us not forget that Western mathematicians Goedel, Newton, Gauss or scholars like Emerson, Kierkegaard, and more had their own particular way of discovering what God meant to them. Kierkegaard was an affluent depressed Danish philosopher who wrote some very interesting papers on faith. He loved his woman so much that he didn’t marry her.  He didn’t want her to have to deal with his depression.  He wrote that faith can only exist where there is doubt. You don’t have to have faith in a table because you can see it and feel it and put stuff on it.

Ralph Waldo Emerson lost his memory in later years and it embarrassed him.  I once read that fish have no memory and that is why it is OK for them to live in a bowl.  Every time they swim to the other side of the bowl there is a whole fascinating and undiscovered world.  I had a betta fish in a bowl on my desk here. I was so sad when he died.  I used to put a mirror next to his bowl sometimes and he would try to fight his reflection.  No one taught him to fight it was just innately in him to do so.  I think some people are like that.

I’m getting off track.

 Christianity is more complex and God was often viewed as aphotic (dark, nebulous, somber)  than  as a paternal deliverer of goodness to your prayers.   One of her main points indeed is that both logic and myth have their place in thought, just as reason and emotion have their place in humanity. otherwise we’d be conformist robots.  We’d run around killing and pillaging those who don’t think like us. I think they call that religious wars.

If you ever studied advanced mathematics (beyond the standard calculus or linear algebra), there are places where “logic” becomes less insightful — Russell’s paradox is an example or invoking Zorn’s lemma just to create something as basic as counting (natural) numbers. What does it mean to the mind that there are different sizes of “infinity”? Yet Cantor, who formalized set theoretic foundations of all modern mathematics, proved that indeed we do have different orders of infinity. when you look up Bertrand Russell, Max Zorn, and Georg Cantor you read some pretty heady stuff.  Brilliance and depression seemed to hang out together.   Most of us can be glad we’re not that brilliant.

Blanket rejection of faith in such a smug, strident attitude is rather sad and unappreciative of the beauty of a free mind engaging in something fully outside the limited realms of “self.” I think Johannes is trying to tell us to “step outside our own box”;  But, do we then step into the box of someone else?

Yes, there is doubt, but faith without doubt is mere credulity as Kierkegaard posits. Faith is not to simply overcome doubt, but it, like love, transcends rationality. Religion ought to be more than just a set of logical beliefs, as music is more than just notes on a page and dry theory or mere vibrations or life is more than books, theories, and philosophers. The theory came after the experience, to explain and justify and to share. I love what Johannes says here. Love is something you can’t see or prove, the color yellow is something you can’t describe to a blind person, yet they exist.

Religion is embodied in practice, in action, in process with something greater than yourself. The existence of God is not so much a falsifiable hypothesis, and the semantics of language obfuscate much communication. Religious zealots, the oil industry and the GMO industry hire lobbyists who do an incredible job of obfuscation. Show me where “love” exists. Show me where “music” exists. Show me where “beauty” is. There are many things outside the faculty of logic and language. Be humble and grateful that there is more. I am

 


I’m glad there are scientists and philosophers busy trying to find out why a pear smells like a pear or why the beautiful colors represented in this photograph happen.  I guess it all fits in the periodic table somewhere.

My point is Faith should not be mocked because it is based on doubt.  Faith is the driver for scientists and activists and incredible discoveries that people have made through all the recorded eras.  Faith and prayer saved my son.  I believe in the incredible power of faith.

http://knopfdoubleday.com/2009/09/22/the-case-for-god-by-karen-armstrong/

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