Same Ideas, Different Language

January 5, 2011

I am an elitist and generally assume I’m smarter than the rest of the populace. Much to my chagrin, I’m actually an idiot in a tweed jacket. As such, I try to keep this writing rule at the forefront of my mind — Respect your reader.

Why? Because readers are smart. I went through this period of existential writing. I thought it was genius. It was crap. Maybe I’ll sift through some of those stories and post them under the subculture category.

I respect all of you, but you’re killing me. Here I am thinking I can spout off about anything, which is my modus operandi at bars, cafés, anywhere really but you’re holding me accountable for my grandiose statements.

I asked why you believe in God. Many of you said you just have faith, which is cool and inarguable. On a basil level, discussing the existence of faith is like trying to convince someone who loves mayo that Miracle Whip is better. It’s impossible, an immovable difference in opinion. You’re in or out. With us or against us.

With Us or Against Us

(This is extreme, but I can’t resist Bushisms)

Some of you gave more in-depth reasons for having faith. I read through and thought about them all. My responses are below.

Reason: You’ve had a personal experience with God.

I can’t say I’ve ever had a personal experience with God, but it really is a miracle that I’m still alive. This is not hyperbolical Ivy either. I look innocent, All American, but I could write a dictionary-sized novel detailing situations/lifestyles that should have killed me. So I can’t say yes, I’ve had an experience with God, but something got me through age 25 and that’s something.

Reason: It humbles your human tendency toward selfishness.

I’m very selfish. I try not to be, but this effort has nothing to do with the Bible or God. I like to make people feel good. Unfortunately, I have to work really, really hard to keep this at the forefront of my mind. I’m not very good at this.

Reason: It helps you love those who are difficult to love.

I don’t understand this. If I don’t like someone I don’t spend time with them so how could I ever love someone I find difficult to love? Is this a big picture question? Like trying to find a place in your heart for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Zetas cartel or this whacko who stomped his girlfriend’s puppy to death?

Sorry, can’t do it. I won’t waste my time hating them, but I won’t waste my time trying to love them either. In the words of my Italian grandfather, “Ah, they’re nothing to me.”

Reason: Faith affects the impact you have on others.

OK. Again, I don’t use the Bible for this but I have three life goals I hope will positively affect others. They are:

a. Broaden my worldview…

b. Use writing as a means to pull people’s head out of the sand (something like that)

c. Improve the lives of those I love?

Dear God. I’ve forgotten them! They’re above the desk in my office but I’m out-of-town. I also believe I’ve temporarily blocked them out for reasons known but not shared.

We have different reasons for choosing to believe/not believe but I think we can all agree on a few things. We’re all flawed and we need motivation to become better people.

So we’re on the same page. We just work within different parameters.


11 Responses to “Same Ideas, Different Language”

  1. Ty said

    Your point here seems to be that a secular world can have the same desirable moral values as a Christian world for reasons outside of a Godhead/deity. So what makes Christianity special or different from any other religion, much less non-religion? Is that a fair summation?

    Your point is accurate. Many secular people act in ways that shame many a so-called Christian when it comes to social decency. I’d say the big difference is that Christians read the Bible as unequivocally true. Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. Messiah was prophesied about (over 100 times) over the course of 1000+ years by a chorus of different authors. Jesus met every single criterion. (See Stephen’s speech in Acts as he lines it out for the Jews from a historical perspective.) The odds of that happening are astronomical. And then Jesus rose from the dead. I believe that happened. You call that faith. In one of your responses to an earlier comment, you say, “I suppose there’s historical record, etc. but I don’t want to get into all of that because for me, when it comes down to it, I just don’t believe.” I think it has to be examined whether or not the Bible is historically accurate or not. Because Jesus was either a liar, a total nut job, or else he is the Son of God. If he is Lord based on historically accurate information, that requires a response, right? The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel is a book you may find intriguing as it speaks to the historical accuracy of the gospels especially.

    You and humanitarikim both bring up a great point about how rough and tumble God seems because of the fact that there is pain in the world. Injustices. Suffering. I can’t agree more. The fact that those things exist makes me miserable. CS Lewis, one of the great logicians of the 20th century (and a former atheist, I might add) wrote a book called The Problem of Pain. While it is a complicated issue, one point that he made that has always stuck with me is that if all things were good, we would never know what good actually is. The sad times make the happy times that much sweeter, if you will. Otherwise, we’d have nothing to compare the good and bad to.


  2. Sarah said

    > I can’t say I’ve ever had a personal experience with God

    Have you asked Him for one? Scary, but productive.

    > I’m very selfish. I try not to be, but this effort has nothing to do with the Bible or God.

    Me too, on both counts. Well, it has something to do with God in that I still have a lot of religious ideas about faith. Meaning, if I’m religious (good, unselfish) enough, I’ll be suitable before God. Unfortunately, this is not what the Bible says. (Rom. 3:23, 10:9)

    >Reason: It helps you love those who are difficult to love.
    >I don’t understand this.

    Frankly, this is a Holy Spirit thing. In an effort not to be dismissive, I’ll say that even to those possessing the Holy Spirit, it’s a journey rather than an epiphany.

    > So we’re on the same page.

    Agreed. We don’t need Jesus, or the Bible, or God as a reason to treat each other decently and humanely. However, to those who believe, it is our calling. (Mark 12:30-31)

    • thumpme said

      It really is interesting how often people find themselves on the same page when they actually have dialogue. This is one thing that frustrates me about extremists, religious or otherwise.

      As for asking to have a personal experience with God….if he exits, he’s saved my ass 1,000 times but I can’t say I’ve ever seen him or anything like him. I did meet this extremely interesting individual in Rifle, Colo. He thought we were soul mates from a past life and that we lived in South America together. Interestingly, talking to him (he was old and had yellow teeth, nothing sexual) was one of the craziest experiences I’ve ever had. It was literally an out-of-body experience. When our knees touched and he said some weird stuff, I left my body. I’ve been able to do this in dreams too but I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s just another form of insanity? No idea.

      Loving and selfishness. Definitely a life long struggle.

  3. humanitarikim said

    Something humorous for the times when you feel your mind is blown. 🙂

  4. Mike Cope said

    Ivy – Thanks for this honest discussion.

    I find sources of belief to be an interesting subject, too. We believers have all the reasons that we THINK are behind our convictions — but there are other reasons that lurk in hidden places. (The same would be true for agnostics and atheists.)

    The story of Mother Teresa is an amazing one. Here is a woman who lived in darkness and doubt (as we learned posthumously through her journal) and yet never wavered in the devotion of her life to God — to the way of Jesus.

    My belief begins before I can even really remember. I was raised in a 3x/wk church-going family in SW Missouri. But as an adult, I’ve explored that faith from every possible angle, especially after the deaths of my daughter and nephew. I can’t escape my presuppositions, I suppose, but I still continue — doubts and all — as a convicted believer.

    While I wouldn’t defend every claim about God that I read in the Old Testament (who can read the herem passages w/o shuddering?), I recognize that they came in a certain world. A brutal, patriarchal, dog-eat-dog world. Even in that world, God’s “chosen” are told they will be blessed so that through them all people may be blessed.

    So why do I believe? Upbringing. Convictions about Jesus. Experience. Then some “clues” out in the world — creation, teleology, morality, etc.

    I recognize that some look at the universe and at our scientific/technological advances and surmise that there is no god. And then there’s a Francis Collins.

    Well, again — your honesty and exploration are a source of joy. Thanks.

    • thumpme said

      Hi Mike. All of that makes sense. I wonder if my views will change as life continues to slap me in the face. I have to say, I’m very fortunate. I haven’t lost a close family member so I’ve never had to grapple with that.

      I’m going to start going to church so we’ll see what — if anything — will come of that. I hope you stay tuned. I’m always looking for guest blogs so if you have interest in combating some of my church experiences, let me know.

  5. Mike Cope said

    Now . . . about Revelation . . . .

    Bad readings of Revelation (think: Left Behind) shouldn’t discourage us from better readings — one that attempt to imagine how this apocalypic/prophetic/pastor work came from the world of a minority. It’s one of those texts that gets co-opted by people in the majority, and it gets ugly.

  6. Mike said

    Ivy – Here’s Bill O’Reilly’s definitive proof of God (summarized by Colbert as: “There must be a God because I don’t know how things work.”):—neil-degrasse-tyson

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