Friday, August 28, 2009

A humble reminder

Sometimes the faithful really make it difficult for me to believe that they're not either stupid or willfully ignorant. Still, every so often I get humbled a bit and learn to not be so full of myself when I meet a thoughtful person who believes in a supreme being. Today was a good example of that.

I wrote a while ago about an online debate I got into. You can find that post here. The gist of it is that the person I was debating credited her healing from a debilitating illness to Jesus. Obviously, I disagreed with this and found the notion of it to be a bit offensive even. Well, today I got a chance to meet up with her, and while I will continue to be vague regarding any specific details, I just want to write a few thoughts about that.

First of all, I over-simplified things when I stated that her reasoning was simply that since it can't be explained, therefore Jesus is the explanation. After talking to her, I still feel that's a factor in her argument, but it really doesn't give a very fair picture of her point of view. I won't go into it, but much of it had to do with the entirety of what she experienced. There's a lot to her story, and there were many things involved that she can't just brush off as being a coincidence. (Even now, I realize that I'm still selling it short. Hopefully my point's coming through though.)

Anyway, it was a really good conversation. I actually did a decent job of listening and hearing her out, and I didn't do anything obnoxious like roll my eyes or sigh really loud. (I wasn't fighting the urge to, but I'm known to do that sometimes.) After that, I tried a different sort of a strategy than I normally do. I figured that it would be a bad move to start nit-picking away at the story - mainly because there's still so much that I don't know, as I wasn't there, so I could easily have found myself barking up the wrong tree on that score. Instead, I just gave my own personal story. I have all sorts of reasons for why I don't believe. Most of them I consider to be intellectually-based arguments, but I even have some emotionally-based ones. I shared a bit of both.

So, was my mind changed? No. At least, not yet. I find that most of the things that have led me to change my mind over major issues took some time to finally sink in. Still, all of my original objections haven't gone away. What I got out of it was a deeper appreciation for the nature of faith and the reasons why people have it. Because in all honesty, if my experience was the same as hers, I'm not sure that I wouldn't be a believer too. (And vice-versa might very well be true too, I suspect.)

It's easy to turn people into caricatures, but it takes effort to get to know them as people.


Janelle said...

I think this was a very thoughtful posting. The nature of faith is so complex and differs from person to person. And since faith is a solidly human institution, it is flawed. People are diverse, and faith can mean so many different things to different people, which doesn't really help someone who is doubtful or unsure about their beliefs or someone who is skeptical of faith entirely. Because my faith is different from anyone else's. I consider myself Christian, and I take it seriously. But I don't adhere to every belief that my Church preaches, I don't always even adhere to my own. I still have utter faith in God. But not in the same way some other people do.

I know a girl from Church who dumped her boyfriend, because her grades were failing. So since she was doing badly at school as a result of spending time with her boyfriend instead of studying, she declared that the Devil had put this boy in her path as a temptation to lead her away from God's plan. A week later, she decides, no, God wants her to be with him so they got engaged and married within another 5 months (after meeting at a religious college, and getting married only 10 months after meeting). My faith doesn't really work that way. I don't attribute every minor thing in my life to God. And I don't really expect just to sit here and wait for God to do things for me or make my life better. But that's just me.

My preacher spoke about the interaction of faith and science, and gave some scientific evidence for the existence of a supreme creator to the Universe. I can give you the link to the sermon if you'd like.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

People like the girl you described are the ones I have a bigger problem with. They basically justify all of their decisions by crediting them to the will of a higher power. That can get downright dangerous once you take it past trivialities like who your boyfriend is.

As for scientific evidence for a supreme creator - well, if you're looking for that, you don't exactly have faith, do you? No offense, but I've seen a lot of this so-called evidences for faith before, and they usually just demonstrate that the person making the argument doesn't understand what constitutes as scientific proof.

But hey, maybe I'm wrong and this guy has something legitimate. I'm willing to hear it.

Matthew said...

Good post. I often forget that I learn the most from the people I most disagree with. I just seldom take the time to listen to them.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

Well, sometimes they're a bit difficult to actually talk to. Every now and then, you can find somebody reasonable.