Saturday, July 21, 2007

Religion Editor Dumps Religion



Trying to be fair and balanced here, so I report on the LA Times religion editor, who as a self-described "serious Christian," lost his faith while writing about religion in Southern California. He seems to have been most troubled by the Priest scandals and the excesses of the leadership at Trinity Broadcasting Network.

At the time, I never imagined Catholic leaders would engage in a widespread practice that protected alleged child molesters and belittled the victims. I latched onto the explanation that was least damaging to my belief in the Catholic Church — that this was an isolated case of a morally corrupt administration.


and
I understood that I was witnessing the failure of humans, not God. But in a way, that was the point. I didn't see these institutions drenched in God's spirit. Shouldn't religious organizations, if they were God-inspired and -driven, reflect higher standards than government, corporations and other groups in society?
and regarding TBN
I tried unsuccessfully to get several prominent mainstream pastors who appeared on TBN to comment on the prosperity gospel, Hinn's "faith healing" or the Crouches' lifestyle. Like the Catholic bishops, I assumed, they didn't want to risk what they had. AS the stories piled up, I began to pray with renewed vigor, but it felt like I wasn't connecting to God. I started to feel silly even trying.
You will recognize the major issues that William Lobdell struggled against

The questions that I thought I had come to peace with started to bubble up again. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God get credit for answered prayers but no blame for unanswered ones? Why do we believe in the miraculous healing power of God when he's never been able to regenerate a limb or heal a severed spinal chord?

In one e-mail, I asked John, who had lost a daughter to cancer, why an atheist businessman prospers and the child of devout Christian parents dies. Why would a loving God make this impossible for us to understand?
One can only suspect that there were many among his peers at the Times who were only too happy to encourage his steps away from faith. Without the balance of a Christian fellowship, scripture reading, or prayer, it was easy to slip away.
My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago — probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up. Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don't. It's not a choice. It can't be willed into existence. And there's no faking it if you're honest about the state of your soul.
Many questions for both sides of the debate. Was he ever saved? Did his lack of centering in one doctrinal area get in the way of establishing a set of core beliefs (Catholic, presbyterian, TBN, Mormon?) Do we, as humans, need continuous indoctrination to maintain our core beliefs, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, humanist, or atheist?

Read the entire article here

8 comments:

Hey Skipper said...

Randy:

I think all of your questions miss the central point of religious faith: it makes knowledge claims based upon ignorance.

However, since the Enlightenment, and the consequent emergence from, as Hitchens put it, "the infancy of our species," humans have gained some actual knowledge.

And thereby created this truism: the more you know, the more you know you don't know.

The failure to settle on one set of doctrinal claims is beside the point, as they all ultimately founder upon the same rock. The claim of total knowledge collapses in the face of a little actual knowledge, and the vast gulf of ignorance that lies beyond.

Do we, as humans, need continuous indoctrination to maintain our core beliefs, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, humanist, or atheist?

That sounds perilously close to the atheism of the elites.

Randy Kirk said...

The Bible makes continuous analogies re people as sheep. There may be some who are able to maintain core beliefs in the face of relentless indoctrination by those who would persuade them or just those who may be in the majority in their inner circle. But I suspect the percentage is low.

There may be those who can break out of a group and find a new "truth" even while being continuously indoctrinated by the group, and limiting their exposure to other ways of thinking. But again, I suspect that percentage is small.

Most folks I know on both sides of this debate take very little time to explore alternative ways of seeing the world. And as lively and intellectually stimulating as this blog commonly is, there are 1000's flocking to actually read the other side.

Hey Skipper said...

Randy:

The Bible makes continuous analogies re people as sheep.

The problem is, the Bible says a lot of things that, given the emergence of our species from total ignorance, simply don't wash.

The problem the Time religion editor faced was reconciling his presumed posession of complete truth with a universe that fails to go along.

The Bible gives humans dominion over all other life: birds, fish, animals, etc.

Which worked just fine, until we discovered that bacteria had, and to a significant still have, dominion over us.

There is no squaring that circle.

So the competition becomes between indulging in comfort beliefs, or looking at the world for what it is.

Cordin said...

Was he ever saved?

When I started questioning some of the fundementals of Christianity, the thoughts of no longer being saved crossed my mind.

What was I doing wrong?

Others provided their opinions:

I may be practising some secret sin; my doubt itself was a sin and was creating a snowball effect; I never had been a good Christian and the baptism I underwent was invalid.

I finally realized, after much soul searching, that such attitudes were more the fears of others and free thinking. The Christians with whom I associated were simply protecting their own worldview by creating excuses for my doubts. If my views were different from the 'revealed' scriptures, how could I possibly be correct?

"Was he ever saved?" is one of the ways Christians continue to indoctrinate themselves.

Cordin said...

I finally realized, after much soul searching, that such attitudes were more the fears of others and free thinking.

Oops. Should have read "...that such attitudes were more the fears of others, including that of free thinking."

bernardo said...

"belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don't. It's not a choice. It can't be willed into existence. And there's no faking it if you're honest about the state of your soul."

That's pretty much what I've been saying all along. Either you're the kind of person who thinks that a purposeful universe is simpler than a godless universe, or you're not, and in either case, you select and bend the facts to fit that preferred world view.

As for whether we need continuous indoctrination, I'm guessing "No", since being a believer or an atheist seems to me like a fairly essential part of one's personality.

Well, I guess you'd need constant indoctrination if your goal is to fight that aspect of your personality, when your instinct says one thing but your brain says another. Someone (like this LA Times guy) who intuitively doubts the existence of God but whose brain is "in denial" would need constant indoctrination in order to not slide into atheism. Similarly, many people (like me) who are brought up within a religion develop intuitions about the world that are shaped around that religion, and so they have to work hard (i.e. indoctrinate themselves) to overcome those intuitions when their brain one day allows them to see that it's not a good idea to have faith in the superstitious and mythological.

Randy Kirk said...

Re: Indoctrination. Not sure, Skipper, if it is close to the atheism of the elites. However, we all studied about "group think" in our social psych classes. I'm sure we all wonder at how a relatively normal human being ends up being able to join with and act as a Nazi. Yet we see it all the time.

I was indoctrinated in the "success" cult while in my 20's. Read the books, listened to the tapes, went to the seminars. Then I went back to church and the kind of success that Ringer and Peale and Carnegie were preaching didn't have the appeal it once did.

As a believer in free will (see most recent comment in most recent post above) I hate to admit to being a victim of group think, but alas, why would I be different?

Anonymous said...

Everyone has a gift of faith. its your choice weather or not to use it. I'm so sorry for you, that you lost your faith.