Posts Tagged ‘agnosticism’

I just finished reading Frank Schaeffer‘s memoirs Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back. I knew of Frank and his father Francis Schaeffer but arrived on the evangelical scene after the rise of the religious right was in full swing. I could not put this book down for a week. It details the childhood and adolescence of Frank in the Schaeffer home of L’Abri in Switzerland where he grew up and the rise of his family in the evangelical community. It is brutally honest, eye-opening, at times laugh out loud funny, and heart breaking.

I enjoyed the book most for being a personal story of someone else on a similar journey as my own, for the same reasons I enjoy de-conversion.com. It is incredibly helpful and psychologically healthy to know that I am not alone in my questions and struggles with faith, doubt, and reason. While all of us end up on different ends of the theological spectrum between devotion and atheism, we share a common journey, common experiences, and a common voice.

I appreciate most from Frank’s book his acknowledgement that this is his life’s story as he sees it now. He recognizes that all our perspectives are skewed knowingly or unknowingly and always written or told from the vantage point of the moment. He says asking the question “who are you?” is insufficient. The necessary question to follow that is “when?” He realizes that as individuals we are in a state of flux throughout our lives and likely to be very different from even ourselves at various times in our lives.

Near the end of the book Frank discloses that he is plugging away at faith, in part, through his conversion to the Greek Orthodox Church mostly because he says, “the Orthodox idea of a slow journey to God, wherein no one is altogether instantly ‘saved’ or ‘lost’ and nothing is completely resolved in this life (and perhaps not in the next), mirrors the reality of how life works, at least as I’ve experienced it.” That makes a lot of sense to me, and while I vascilate daily between belief and unbelief, mystery and reason, life is, if nothing else, a journey on which I am trying to grow and learn and become all that I can while I can. This book is a welcome stepping stone along the way.

I recently finished reading Why is God Laughing? by Deepak Chopra with a foreward from Mike Myers. The book peaked my interest because I saw an episode of Iconoclast featuring both of them together some time ago. The book is also ficiton.  A comic comes to grips with the death of his father and all of the big questions that haunt us with the help of a spiritual mentor of sorts. Both characters seem like alter egos of both Chopra and Myers interestingly enough. I recommend the book as an easy, entertaining, and enlightening book. At the end of the book there is a section called “The Path to Joy: Ten Principles of Spiritual Optimism,” which I enjoyed as much if not more than the whole book. One section made me think more than usual:

Can a loving God  really supply us with life’s good things one day and pain the next? Most people who feel grateful to God tend to deny that he is also responsible for disease, calamity, and death. yet an all-knowing, all-powerful diety can’t be responsible for only part of what goes on. Either he sustains everything or nothing.

The way to escape from living under a God who brings pleasure one day and pain the next is to realize that God isn’t a person. We only call God “he” because our minds resist thinking of God as a total abstraction. In truth, being total, God has to be abstract. you can’t wrap your mind around the All. Instead, we wrap our minds around the things we notice, and choose to believe in.

I’m not really sure what to do with God anymore, as I’m sure he doesn’t know what to do with me either, assuming either of us are really real. This thought provoking excerpt challenges the assumptions that I grew up with. I have never read or heard Deepak say anything that would disavow the existence or presence of God in our lives, but he regularly challenges our preconceived ideas in order to stretch our imaginations. To think of God as a person like us completely baffles my mind. If he is a person like us, he is either powerless, ignorant, or a bigger prick than anyone can fathom. The problem of human suffering is one of the biggest hurdles to the argument of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God. K + P + L ≠ G in any conceivable way to me. Evangelicals reconcile the problem by blaming us for our own misery, i.e. sin. I don’t have the time nor the stomach to go down the road refuting apologetics at the moment. Suffice it to say that most of the classical theological positions don’t measure up to science, common sense, or even common decency that one would expect from an all-loving God. It seems that many of the problems I have and maybe others is that we think of God as a person and try to force our expectations and assumptions upon that image. 

In both this book and others Deepak talks about God as the All, the unifying force creating and sustaining everything we know as reality (my words not his). That helps me to think about God in a different way, albeit more distanced. I’m still not sure if I believe in a unifying force in the world that we tap into, ignore, or abuse at our peril, anymore than I do the Judeo-Christian view that many of us were raised with. The jury’s still out on the subject for me, but I appreciate being challenged to think about God in a different way before giving up on the idea altogether.