Thursday, May 3, 2012

The ZigZag Café - May 3

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

Should our experiences in the world have any bearing on our belief in God?


Greg said...

Sterling Field
Absolutely great question Greg. This has been a constant "thorn in my side", but I think you know this. Even after spending the last 2 years studying Theology in depth it still "plagues" me. I think if one were to be as close to true rationalism (be that Christian rationalism or Non-believing rationalism) as possible then one cannot solely rely on their experiences. In fact, it is my contention that experiences tend to muddy the waters on both sides. My life, being wrought with malady and difficulties, would point me towards atheism and did. Someone else, many of whom I went to school with, have had nothing near the experiences I have and so they see God as a fulfilling, kind, gracious protector God who provides for them. Both cases are inconsistent and dangerous interpretations of God. Neither are based on an investigative rationalism, but instead a simple reactive rationalism that reacts to the way one perceives their circumstances and who they can assign that blame or praise too. Let's just say, after 14 years I am having an incredibly difficult time being a hard line atheist based on rationalism and what I have studied, perceived and experienced. I have a very difficult time assigning meaning to moral dilemmas and the world as an atheist, even as a secular humanist. Granted I have the same conundrum with Christianity, but I am really hitting the books and paying attention to what is going on in me, what I perceive going on in the world, and so many other things. But, I digress. How can we trust our experiences? How can we trust our reactions to those experiences? Are they based in rationalism and true investigation? Or are they reactive and coming from a sense of entitlement or what we think should be fair? Hmm. I really like this question.

Greg said...

Sterling, Thanks. I put this on FB Living Spirituality and there's a couple of comments over there. The way I see it is that experiences, positive or negative, are fraught with danger, but equally cannot be dismissed when it comes to belief in God. They play a role that deserves reflection. You pose a very good question about trust of our experience and reactions to those experiences. Sometimes trust is pretty experience based, but not solely. And this is because it cannot be. One explanation for why this is the case is that human beings are not able to trust on experience alone - we're just not made that way. There's always other informers that play a role, even though we may tend to privilege experience over reason or reason over experience. Furthermore, we find ourselves in a world that is far bigger than we are. Not only is it an informer, but it forces itself upon us, whether we comply or not. I don't think reason and true investigation are ever pristinely objective tools that will assure results in the evaluation of experience, as we're always tangled up in both. This doesn't mean there is not place for these, but only means to say that they also need other informers to shape and form trust. I would assume that sometimes our thoughts about what's fair might be trustworthy, but our thought alone wouldn't make it the case.