I had a really great conversation with a person of faith this morning — about the nature of faith — where it comes from and why it answers what it answers.
It was respectful and genuine in its attempt (on one side anyway) to truly understand why one person believes the world is one way while the person sitting beside them sees the world in diametrically opposite terms how it answers this question: What precedes the words ‘In the beginning’…?
It all comes down to the Ultimate Question, the Ultimate Why: WHY ARE WE HERE? WHY IS THERE A ‘HERE’ IN THE FIRST PLACE?
I’ve argued (in earlier posts) that, at some point, the sacred texts of the Abrahamic faiths, no matter how true and profound the ‘Divine Inspiration’ that compelled them, at some point, to get from the Divine to ‘the Parchment’ (so the Divine could be ‘revealed’ to others and spread), the Divine had to ‘move through’ a human brain — filled with that human’s thoughts, knowledge (and lack thereof), experience & experiences, joys & sorrows, triumphs & failures. And that’s important because every last bit of having lived a Life colors every last bit of every human being’s experience. Which impacts how the thing that ‘inspires them’ gets ‘refracted’ through the ‘prism’ that is their brains.
And, unless the one human (whoever he is) who first sat down — inspired by whatever — to write what the Divine was telling him to write — was 100% perfect, there is no way of knowing if what we got — starting at ‘In the beginning…’ is 100% what the Divine was saying.
Yeah, yeah – ‘leap of faith’ and all but — my understanding (simple atheist that I am) — is that (according to Christian mythology) there has been, through human history, ONE ‘perfect’ human: Jesus.
And Jesus did not write ‘In the beginning…’. He didn’t. Another man did. And I cannot see where it is written that THAT human was perfect too — and therefore absolutely to be trusted. Having played ‘Telephone’ a few times in my life — you know, that game where one person whispers a phrase into another person’s ear then that person whispers it into the next person’s ear until you get to the last person who spouts something that sounds vaguely like the original phrase at best — and we all have a laugh at how a simple message got twisted…
I think of the writers of the bible that way — as imperfect vessels — well-meaning to be sure, but capable of making even the simplest of mistakes — both in the hearing, the understanding AND the reporting…
What struck me — as my theistic friend and I were speaking this morning — was, when you really got down to it — almost every one of our concerns about the world were virtually identical. In fact, we both expressed the same sense of awe and wonderment as we looked out at the world. What separated us, I realized, was actually incredibly simple: As we look up at the cosmos with awe, did we see a ‘Man Behind The Curtain’?
Now — here’s where we get to my problem with theists (and excuse me, fellow atheists for speaking on behalf of anyone beyond myself) — My Theist Friend absolutely sees a ‘Man Behind The Curtain’ — a character (we both agreed) is actually named ‘Yahweh’ (‘god’ being his job title).
An atheist — or, perhaps, more accurately ‘A Cosmologist’ (Cosmology being the study of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the Universe and the fundamental questions about its origin, structure, evolution, and ultimate fate) — would say, ‘Yeah — I see Yahweh standing there — the man behind the curtain… but I also see the little booth he’s standing in — and the room the booth is in — and the palace the room is in and the city the palace is in and the whole rest of Oz.
As an atheist (or a cosmologist), I see that whole picture — The Wizard and the city and country and world and Universe around him — that sorta dwarfs him.
No, not sorta — dwarfs the hell out of Yahweh. And that’s my (and, I suspect, most atheists’) problem with theists. THEY THINK TOO SMALL.
I don’t blame the poor bastard who first sat down, the question of how to quantify the Cosmos in his mind and a very limited knowledge base at his disposal. Not even remotely a fair fight but he gave it his best shot and started writing: “In the beginning…”.
And keep in mind — the man — and men — who first started writing the OT (whose work is the basis for all of Western Culture) knew nothing of germ theory or that pathogens cause disease; they didn’t know that the earth revolves around the sun and that the sun is just a star — one of ‘billions and billions’…
The men who wrote the books that became the bible wrote what they knew. They described it in terms they understood and within the very limited knowledge they had to explain anything. If they were writing their texts with the knowledge we have today, they would have written their texts differently. They would not have written a story about a Garden of Eden or characters named Adam & Eve. They would have written about ‘Lucy’ rather — the early proto-human the Leakey’s found in Africa.
And everything my Theist friend believes would now be completely different.
My problem isn’t that what my Theist friend thinks is wrong, it’s that it’s inadequate — and always was — to describe the incredible Cosmos we live in — and are just beginning to get a handle on.
Keep in mind — even Oz knew there was Life Beyond Kansas…