Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Meaning of Life, Part 46

The postman brought me a new book today. It is Jennifer Hecht's Doubt: A History. I really should be doing my sermon, but truth be told, I am having more fun procrastinating.

Are you a doubter or a believer? Take the

The Scale of Doubt Quiz
  1. Do you believe that a particular religious tradition holds accurate knowledge of the ultimate nature of reality and purpose of human life?
  2. Do you believe that some thinking being consciously made the universe?
  3. Is there an identifiable force coursing through the universe, holding it together, or uniting all life-forms?
  4. Could prayer be in any way effective, that is, do you believe that such a being or force (as posited above) could ever be responsive to your thoughts or words?
  5. Do you believe this being or force can think or speak?
  6. Do you believe this being has a memory or can make plans?
  7. Does this force sometimes take human form?
  8. Do you believe that the thinking part or animating force of a human being continues to exist after the body has died?
  9. Do you believe that any part of a human being survives death, elsewhere or here on earth?
  10. Do you believe that feelings about things should be admitted as evidence in establishing reality?
  11. Do you believe that love and inner feelings of morality suggest that there is a world beyond that of biology, social patterns, and accident--ie. a realm of higher meaning?
  12. Do you believe that the world is not completely knowable by science?
  13. If someone were to say, "The universe is nothing but an accidental pile of stuff, jostling around with no rhyme nor reason, and all life on earth is but a tiny, utterly inconsequential speck of nothing, in a corner of space, existing in the blink of an eye never to be judged, noticed, or remembered," would you say, "Now that's going a bit far, that's a bit wrongheaded"?
If you answered No to all these questions, you're a hard-core atheist and of a certain variety: a rationalist materialist. If you said No to the first seven, but then had a few Yes answers, you're still an atheist, but you may have what I will call a pious relationship to the universe. If your answers to the first seven questions contained at least two Not Sure answers, you're an agnostic. If you answered Yes to some of the questions, you still might be an atheist or an agnostic, though not of the materialist variety. If you answered Yes to nine or more, you are a believer....

....Whether you are a non-believer, or you belong to a religion without God, or you are a believer troubled by dark nights of the soul, we are all part of the same discussion. This is because, whatever our position may be, we all have the same contradictory information to work with. Sometimes it feels like there is a God or ultimate certainty, and it would be a great comfort if such a thing existed and we knew the answers to life's ultimate mysteries: who or what created the universe and why; what is human life for; what happens when I die? But there is no universally compelling, empirical, or philosophical evidence for the existence of God, a purposeful universe, or life after death.

Some people may be tone-deaf to the idea of evidence, some may be tone-deaf to the feeling that there is a higher power--we must forgive them each their failing. ...Believers value the sense of mystery human beings can feel when they look inward or beyond; nonbelievers value the ability to map out the world by rational proofs. Yet there is a kind of mutual blindness, as if personal affiliation with one camp or another means more than does interest in the truth. These refusals to consider the opposing viewpoint are in some ways the result of recent history, a still-warm turf war between science and religion that got out of hand. pp. x-xii

Jennifer Michael Hecht, Doubt: A History