The Opposite of Faith is NOT Reason

I understand the limits of language in small spaces; and I understand how language choices on complex topics can be made to make or break an argument.  The word choices in this small article on what Neil deGrasse Tyson said, starting with the title, are unfortunate. [Re: “Neil deGrasse Tyson: Science and Religion Are Not ‘Reconcilable,’ So Stop Trying“]

When it comes to categories, “reconciliation” is a matter of degree, not a statement of absolutes.  Reconciliation does not mean one thing becomes the other or that one is subsumed by the other.  It means there are harmonies, with each component remaining itself with concessions in tuning.  Religion and Science, on the surface of the words, can indeed be reconciled.  And Faith and Reason are made polar and mutually exclusive opposites willfully, not necessarily.

I can certainly sympathize with an argument that reconciliation means something like “make align.”  I favor the definitions that focus on making “exist or be true at the same time.”

For reason to operate, it requires assertions whose truthfulness is filtered structurally (formally) and substantively (informally).  Reason is a faculty, not an operation or machine.  Logic is the machine and operation.  Reason is not science – science, also, is an operation, an approach.  Reason as a faculty is about giving thought to, and due processing and consideration beyond faith in, concepts and perspectives.  It is the ability to comprehend and to make comprehensible.

Matters with more faith than science can be approached reasonably.
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Basic Pathwalking, revisited: Without challenge, there is no growth

A major feature of pathwalking is to make the best spiritual decisions you can in what you encounter within new or even familiar contexts. In that way, one “grows”.

Challenges can be unexpected or they can be anticipated, new or similar to previous.  They can be hard or easy. But whatever a challenge’s form and intensity, it is there to expose assumptions, presumptions, stagnation, and complacency.  If we only ever operated within what we know, we wouldn’t need to know anything else — hence complacency. We’d never learn what we don’t know.

Experts are experts because they learned past the easy, basic surface of a skill or knowledge base and into the atomic details.  In this way, the more they learn of their specialty, the more they know it.  Their familiarity grows ever intimately.  They’ve seen their subject from a wide variety of angles (challenges).  They’ve tested their previous knowledge (challenges) and refined their knowledge.

New contexts. New angles. New twists and turns.  New tests.  New applications.

Accumulated, refined knowledge.  Fulsome intimacy.

Spiritual Expertise is ever increasing knowledge of the Divine, the Creator, God.   And since the Divine is infinite, knowledge of Him has no stopping point.  Our efforts have no stopping point.  Our challenges never run out.  And I don’t mean the same challenges over and over again.

Increasing knowledge is “growth.”  Without challenge, there is no growth.  Continue reading

From Guidelines to Religion

Guidelines are not the same as rules. When a guideline gets narrowed to a requirement, it becomes a rule. A rule becomes dogma when it is enshrined into a belief system, which becomes religion when applied externally, to others.

Lately, when I’ve been thinking about path-walking, I have wondered: how does a guideline become a rule?

It helps to start with taking the word guideline apart. Guide + line. A boundary that lets you be aware of when you have wandered into an area or direction that will not result in the destination you intend.

At some point in being channeled by a guideline, we begin to apply measures to how well we’re operating within it. Measures give you a sense of the current trajectory of your path — how far you are from the ideal center of the trajectory you want.

When we rest on the measures, they solidify to rules. We replace general with specific. We confuse direction with plotted itinerary. We learn to place our steps in a specific way in order to say we’re on track.

You replace learning of the Divine with learning the skills involved in placing your feet in a certain way in order to be called The Way to the divine or to divinity. You obey the rules rather than get the most from what the landscape and obstacles in your course teach you.

You read the words of the specific road signs without understanding the terrain they point you through.

This result is mostly a combination of memory lapse and not understanding what a guideline is. Memory lapse plays its part in not remembering that the rule you derived from a guideline is merely a memory aid of what the guideline is meant to do. It’s a snapshot of a passing landmark as you travel down the path at speeds where you barely notice details.

It’s not understanding that a guideline is a recommendation or general definition of what it means to accomplish thus and such. It is easily confused with rules when we want to codify specific elements of the guideline – create a recipe of landmarks and formalize particular pathwalking navigation skills.

You cannot fail at pathwalking if you maintain a divine-ward trajectory defined by guidelines that allow you to perceive the core.  You can fail if all you’re tracking are the surface rules at the expense of consciousness of the core.

All Paths Lead to God: Transformative Progression

In another one of his cogent articles, the Slackivist (Fred Clark) addresses the question about whether “all paths lead to God.”  His ultimate conclusion is that it is an underhanded question, indicative actually of a path away from God because its focus is not conducive to reaching God.

I get his point.  The “path” toward an omnipresent being is only a “path” in sense of “direction” (trajectory) toward godliness by what one makes of the journey and the elements along the path: transformative progression. After all, how can there truly be a path (linear prescription) to a being that is everywhere?  His reference to the story of the Good Samaritan was spot on as an illustration.

The Slackivist has thought a lot about paths, especially the “nature” of paths in both spiritual and physical senses, where unfortunately the spiritual sense is bound by the physical roots of the metaphor.  The thing that strikes me most is that the paths referenced by his “catechizing inquisitors” (bloody awesome term!) and in his replies (being bound by the inquisitors’ frame) are all established paths.  That is, the “paths” already exist by the time we get there, and that “following” any such path to God implies staying within the bounds of the pre-hewn trail.

So while I completely agree with the Slackivist that “Do all paths lead to God” is the wrong question, it really only goes wrong because of the physical referent (well, besides the pharisaical motivation).  It actually could be a legitimate question — one that opens the door to exploring a walk or journey where a “path” has been already blazed or it is in progress of formation — if one can maintain “path” in the abstract and its destination as more about “heaven” as the resulting condition of knowing God rather than a fairy-tale happy place.

I think that even the teaching that “narrow is the way that leads to life” does not necessarily imply a given trail with prescribed rules for how one places his feet in order to constitute a valid step along a path.  The destination is in the trajectory. Continue reading

Letters to Laurel — Keep Your Eyes on God

The following is a set of responses that I wrote to my ex-wife, Laurel.  I share these letters because they are reflective of the way I think about a topic that is close to me: Homosexuality & Christianity.  I hope that these thoughts will be instructive to others as well when finding themselves needing to reconcile religion & faith to the fact of the homosexuality of a family member. (I’ve changed and deleted personal matter that was either too personal or not directly relevant to the main points I wanted to make with Laurel, in case you were wondering.)
I’ve added section headings after-the-fact in order to facilitate comprehension of the whole.

A life with children … now that’s a full life indeed. No one can say that raising kids ain’t work. And being a “professional volunteer and Mother” — it’s not what I imagined you had planned for your life. But then, I didn’t really know you all that well. You had plans that either you didn’t share or I was too blinded in my selfishness to figure out.

A Little Perspective on Where I’m At

But I’ve figured out selfishness since then. Did a ton of theological studying. Wrote a number of treatise on the subject of sexuality and Christianity. And have been fairly well adjusted since! That’s not to say that my estimation of humanity has changed much. I still think that we humans are pretty much a cancer on the planet, consumed with our petty concerns and using God as a means to get to know ourselves rather than Him, arrogating unto ourselves knowledge of the divine Will that we don’t/can’t possess, and superimposing our pathetic (as in measly) capacity to comprehend over the top of the infinitely divine, hobbling what God can be to the minds of so many.

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Walking off a Cliff: the Progress Blindfold

While watching CNN International, I saw a commercial for a program  “Planet in Peril” that was going to have a discussion about vanishing species, which discussion was taglined (a verb?) “Planet vs. Progress.”  Not unlike the name “Planet in Peril,” which really isn’t the case — it’s life in peril or life system in peril — something about that tagline didn’t sit right in my head.  Part of the commercial talked about “balancing” the needs of a system where layers upon layers of living things depend on each other in order that the system actually be viable…or should I have understood that as balancing the needs of the natural system with the economic “needs” of a human society?

Not too long ago, I wrote a post on this, wherein I pondered (using basic things as examples) how humans, having conceptually divorced themselves from nature, could rationally think that we aren’t harming our environment. I also mused over how humans have institutionalized the conceptual divorce, officially boxing in our perspectives: our economics, cultural institutions, religion*, laws, ways of life have all been inextricably codified and form the basis of all that we seem to know. We can’t easily re-align our consciousness to be part of nature without destroying what we view as indispensable to human society. The notion of “progress” is a significant problem to overcome.

Here now again, I wonder: how can we call anything “progress” if it really isn’t?
I suppose we have to lay out in the open what it is we mean by “progress.” Continue reading

A Spiritual Path

Today on Facebook, I was compelled to post the following:

I do not claim to be Christian, altho I have a long & deeply studied history with the faith & various of its derivative religions. There are some really smart people who recognize that the “path” to heaven involves actual terrain, which merely following lists of rules cannot substitute for. People who understand that spirituality is getting to the core of the divine & not merely trying to mime a facsimile. For that reason, I read Slacktivist. His article on Sex & Money (part 3) is an inspiring example. His intelligent spirituality is inspiring for divinity’s sake.

The fact is, I am not a Christian in the sense that I practice any brand of Christianity.  My problem is that I so abhor how the faith is practiced that I simply cannot subscribe to it and the intellectual stunting that so often results in concentrated congregations of followers.  But I think that, within the guides (to wit, books) of many faiths, there is legitimate spirituality to be learned.   Continue reading