Monday, December 19, 2011

"I Believe Despite"

In my undergrad Bible college, we had a well-known Bible scholar who penned a defense of Christianity (and the inerrancy of the Bible) entitled "I Believe Because" (still obtainable on It was his class textbook. I had this particular professor, and although I no longer belong to this church or subscribe to this belief system, this professor had a lifelong impact on me, personally, as well as thousands of others.

Anyway, it was the custom back then for the local fraternities, once a year, to do a lighthearted lampoon on the school and its teachers. One year, a fake class schedule was circulated by persons unknown, made to appear completely genuine, but filled with wicked satires of the professors and their classes. And on the fake schedule, this particular Bible professor was scheduled to conduct an entry-level Bible class called "I Believe Despite."

I thought it was hilarious then, and I still do.... because it highlights the problem--and peril--of belief, particularly with regard to systems of belief. It cuts both ways.

It is impossible to believe nothing. It is impossible to navigate the physical world without beliefs of some sort. Belief is a fundamental pillar of our consensus reality. But wise people recognize their beliefs and acknowledge the limitations of them. They constantly examine and cross-examine their beliefs. Belief should be a tool, not a weapon.

It is for this reason that many "believers" (I among them) mourn the passing of a writer that I came to acknowledge as the greatest of my generation: Christopher Hitchens. I disagreed with him on a few things; among them, his dislike of brandy, the existence of a supreme being, as well as an afterlife. But these are minor quibbles in the greater scheme of things. His admonitions critiquing unreasoned religious belief should be required reading of every believer of organized systems of belief. It is said that his only devotion was to the truth, as he perceived it. Ultimately, time will prove whether Hitchens was right about Diety and the afterlife. I am as comfortable in my belief as he was (and possibly still is) in his, although--@almightygod on Twitter had to concede that, after a 30-minute after-death discussion with Hitchens, He was personally persuaded that He did not exist. I don't know. However, if there is an afterlife--or not--what I'd really like to know is why Hitchens disliked brandy. I'd like to hope that, before Hitchens poofed Him out of existence, almightygod asked him this.

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