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" Philosophy is the talk on a cereal box.

Religion is a smile on a dog. "

     - Edie Brickell

I was raised a Christian, or that's what I thought at the time. I knew all of the bible stories, and read the New Testament a few times over. There was a lot of really neat stuff in there that struck a chord with me, even if a whole bunch of people who read the same book missed the point. If they weren't good Christians, at least they were trying.

        I've seen my fair share of the psychotic kinds of preachers you see on TV, the ones who run around on stage screaming about the Devil and oddly not mentioning forgiveness except for how it applies to Christians from God, without any sort of mention of forgiveness and tolerance of other people by Christians. These people seemed to me to be, pretty much, the reason that many of the (reasonably) intelligent adults I knew were entirely turned off by Christianity. They had encountered it in its most visible form, which also happens to be ill suited to anyone with an iota of independence or reason.

        It saddened me that many people who I valued rejected my faith because of the people who misread its text. I thought the televangelists and the snake handlers, and all the others were not "real Christians". That was also back in the day when I thought that most Southerners spoke "bad" English.

       A funny thing about words, though, is that they mean what people think they mean. In the South, Southern English is perfectly appropriate, because everyone speaks it. A sentence uttered by a Southerner to someone from Great Britain could be nonsense to the Brit, while it makes perfect sense to the Southerner. So while being "Christian" may have meant loving and respecting others to
me, to others, when I say that I'm Christian they get images of people on TV with plastic hair or jumping up and down in back-woods chapels scaring helpless rattlesnakes half to death and drinking strychnine.

       Whether I liked it or not, those people were Christian just because they said that they were and believed that they were. It sucks when one of your favorite words get broken. Unlike toys, you can't fix them-- because the parts are in other people's minds.

        This is probably the largest reason I don't call myself a Christian. The question of whether I am what others would consider to be a Christian or not can only be answered by the others' definitions. (For those of you who are curious, this is mostly for the benefit of my mother, who recently sent me a distressed letter, worried that I might not be Christian, and so the only answer I can honestly give is, "That depends on what you mean by 'Christian'".)

        And with that out of the way, I can write a little about Belief.

        I've seen a bumper sticker that says, "God said it, I believe it, that settles it," or something of the sort (I assume that this indicates that the bumper sticker owner believes that every single word in the Bible is true). I've watched the evolution of the "Jesus fish" into a "Darwin fish,"
and then into a "Truth fish eating a Darwin fish. " I've been stumped by the question, " Do you believe in Jesus?", not necessarily because I didn't know the answer, but because I don't understand the question.

        I realize that my understanding of the Bible, as with my understanding of anything else that I read, is very much like my understanding of the dilemma of Schroedinger's cat. With Schroedinger's cat, you don't know if the cat is alive or dead until you open the box. With the words I read, I don't know, and most likely won't ever know, whether they are "true" or not until I see some empirical proof. It cannot be said, honestly, that I do or do not "believe" them.

        The flip-side to this realization is that it really doesn't matter if the stories are "true" or not. What does matter, is what I get out of the stories. The Good Samaritan was probably not true, but I learned from the story. Whether the Earth and all creatures on it were created in seven days, or our universe was spawned in the Big Bang and we evolved from paramecia, or we are all actually riding on the backs of four enormous elephants which are, in turn, riding on the back of a giant, galactic turtle, I am equally amazed by the fact that we exist.

        Those things which I do believe, I believe not because they are written by someone I respect, but for a more ephemeral reason. I believe in an aspect of existence that could be considered God, I believe that the Truth doesn't always have to be true, and I believe that a lot of the stuff that I've read that's attributed to Jesus Christ makes a lot of sense, as does the Tao Te Ching and the Little Prince by Antoine St. Exupery.

        I believe what I already know to be true. Why I know it to be true, I cannot say-- just that it strikes a chord somewhere in my psyche. It could be because I watched too much TV as a child and have been brainwashed by the media. It could be because it's close to what my parents taught me. It could be because God created man in his own image and thus the Truth is imprinted upon every person's soul at birth, and some people are just more in touch with their souls than others (you've gotta have an excuse for those people who have no clue, never had a clue, and won't ever be in a good position to get a clue).

       Regardless of why I believe, the belief itself is ultimately irrational, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I've had irrational actions and instincts justify themselves countless times during my life. I have many good friendships that started out as a gut instinct that this person is someone I want to know. I don't think that any human's views of "right" and
"wrong", when traced back to their ultimate source, can be attributed to much more than blind belief, no matter how much rational excuse you pile on, but I'm often glad that we make the distinction. Then again, that's just my belief.

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[User Picture]
On August 1st, 2005 02:45 pm (UTC), fauxreal commented:
I'm glad this ain't an apologetics forum. :p
[User Picture]
On August 1st, 2005 05:51 pm (UTC), newsedition replied:
Yeah, my mother has mentioned that she's into apologetics, but never actually bothered explaining what the hell she meant by that. I sort of assumed it was an attempt to "redeem" Christianity, but haven't really asked for a more thorough explanation.
[User Picture]
On August 1st, 2005 06:01 pm (UTC), fauxreal replied:
It's the reasoned "defense" of the faith. More often, it's involved with clearing up misconceptions and setting definitional boundaries than actual defense, though.
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[User Picture]
On August 1st, 2005 06:00 pm (UTC), kiaugh commented:
The idea about words being broken, not capable of being fixed like toys due to being 'parts in other people's minds,' is thought-provoking. Thanks for that. I adore the possibilities of creation--from 7 days to riding on a big ole turtle's back. :) Just because people aren't posting profusely yet doesn't mean they aren't reading here. I'm thinking the new topic over and may return shortly with words, I say, lots of them! I'm all for getting out of hand.
[User Picture]
On August 2nd, 2005 03:46 pm (UTC), newsedition replied:
Yeah. I think the current one is a more fun topic. Lord knows what I'll do for the next one...
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