Seeking Truth Requires Internal Courage

Yes, conversation is possible even with those persons, religious or otherwise, who believe that they have a monopoly on the … Continued

Yes, conversation is possible even with those persons, religious or otherwise, who believe that they have a monopoly on the truth.These conversations would be difficult, but the potential reward great.

This is so because serious conversation always provides the opportunity to enter into another’s world, and to glimpse from that other perspective the one truth to which we all seek to respond.

The difficulty of such conversations is that when a person is convinced that they, and they alone, possess the truth, they effectively isolate themselves. This insulating layer of self-certainty cuts them off from real conversation and the potential which it always holds out.

However, there is an antidote, a way forward, and that way forward is courage. Any person who truly believes that they have a monopoly on the truth can be challenged to find the courage to share that truth with another, in respectful conversation. In that process of conversation the possibility of mutual engagement is always present. It is that mutual engagement that holds the promise of people meeting as human beings who share in a desire to find the truth that we all seek.

My optimism that such conversation has rich potential is based upon my conviction that the struggle for the truth, toward which all people are drawn, is not a matter of possessing a correct idea. The struggle is, rather, to find the courage to yield ourselves to the encounter of truth as a living reality, a living reality that is beyond us but lays claim upon us. It is in the embrace of that living truth that we discover in ourselves and all creation. That is the truth that invites us to find our life in all its infinite recesses.

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  • Rick Miners

    Bishop Sisk’s perspective gives clarity to difficult communications regarding faith. Courage and optimism are emotions that always help regardless of the situation. Together they assist us in confronting the unknown or even the unimaginable.

  • jordan

    I dont understand all of the platitudes that this guy just crafted carefully. Ok I do. He is avoiding this issue very guilely — like a politician would. What is he saying in all that ‘we should all seek truth and not be isolated’ crap: he is saying that yeah its nice to have a conversation or whatever, but only chrisitians are going to heaven and the world was created in 6 days and I dont have the balls to admit it because i know how ridiculous it is and my pride wont let me change course. This guy, like almost all of the religious people who are writing in, is completely transparent and not addressing ANY important issue. He is just saying something that sounds nice and doesnt draw any negative attention towards him. But I would be interested to hear what he thinks about the ‘souls’ of non-believers of christianity. Please tell us kind sir.


    Donald J: Inherently dogmatic? You gotta be kidding?! It’s only dogmatic if you recite it and it means nothing to you. When you’ve lived through some things and your spirituality got you through AND helped improve things on the other end, there’s nothing dogmatic about it. Your statement assumes that people of faith are not and do not possess a personal knowledge and experience that transcends what they’ve been told. Your assumption is indicative of a prejudice that you may want to look into before you jump to such conclusions.


    One of the HUGE obstacles to a meaningful discussion of faith is the general ignorance of the premise ACCORDING TO THE SACRED BOOKS of most faiths. Most people are not well-versed on other faiths, some not even their own. It is rare to find folks who take the time to diligently study a faith before making conclusions. Anyone who doesn’t take the time to understand the larger concepts and progression of a faith ought not be so quick to speak on it. Reading a a chapter or two is just scratching the surface.You can’t get a good idea of Christianity without reading both the Old and New Testaments. It’s difficult to understand contemporary Judaism without reading the Old Testament, Torah and other sacred readings. In-dept reading of the Qu’oran and the Hadith are a great start to gain a truer sense of Islam. Most Americans take some philosophy or comparative religioun class in college and consider themselves learned when they are not. We really need to read carefully before putting our two cents out there.

  • Dustin Hansen

    “The difficulty of such conversations is that when a person is convinced that they, and they alone, possess the truth, they effectively isolate themselves.”Yup. That’s religion, all right.I don’t really see why it should take courage to seek the truth — seems like an inherent tendency, what should be a natural process for all thinking and curious beings. If you have to summon up “courage” to seek/accept the truth, that shows that you’re dangerously self-deluded and are maybe afraid of the truth?Just a thought.

  • Bruce Broome

    I think some people are missing the point. The whole point of discussion is to reach the truth. The courage needed is to be willing to put your beliefs up for argument and have a desire for true spiritual guidance and not just some tradition your parents or church taught you was law. Nobody is right about everything and very few aren’t right about something. It takes COURAGE to admit that you were wrong.

  • Brett Allen

    The problem is faith. Faith is something that requires you to believe in one religious flavour or one idea or one dogma. Faith can’t withstand a discussion as you would have to admit that your faith may be wrong or at least a little bit wrong. As soon as there is doubt faith dies. The other problem is that the religious have faith in things that can’t be verified in reality, hence, opposing opinions on how many fairys can dance on a pin head can’t be resolved except to say my faith says this and your faith says that. The only real truth is that you will die. Compared to that everything else is subjective. A good atheist knows this and knows there is no after life so he will only ever experience the last moments of his life and life is nothing to fear. Believers in a after life, religious or not, make death something to truly fear as they will experience a death and hence experience being ripped away from everyone they love and everything they know. No wonder they attempt to grab on to a Godly faith to counter that horror.

  • brian

    to the good athiestbrian

  • Joseph Marchante

    I disagree that religious people are drawn toward truth. In reality, they run away from it believing “unbelievable stories” of apparitions and miracles on which much of religion is based. I am a religious person (see “ERCIAN TESTAMENT” published free at arrived at my beliefs first through reason (logical arguments), and then through faith. I only claim “knowledge” for my logical conclusions on those arguments I consider sound. Through them, I believe to prove NO RELIGION HAS “The Word of the Ultimate God.” For those beliefs I have acquired through faith, I do not claim to have “knowledge,” I just provide the evidence I have for those beliefs. Most religions do not do that. They camouflage “beliefs” as if they were “knowledge,” and that is lying to oneself and to others. Truth is objective and either empirical or logical proofs are necessary to claim one has the truth on a particular matter. Reverend Mark Sisk, I reject your idea that one can find truth through a “living reality,” because that lends itself to “extreme subjectivism.” Everyone who (through faith) believes they can, for example, communicate with God, will lift their arms up in the air, close their eyes, and cry “Alleluia” having (in their minds) “emotionally” experienced the truth they believe in, the one (whether true or false) without which their lives would become meaningless or hopeless. All these people may find a “living reality” that is “conceptually false” if they are, in truth, holding false beliefs. The only hope for the faithful is that a personal conscious God truly exists and listens to their prayers, even though no religion can truly claim to know the nature of that God. To learn my complete position on this matter, again, go to and read my book “ERCIAN TESTAMENT.” Take care.

  • Donald Jenner

    Naaahhh, bish. As you observe, any “faith” perspective is inherently dogmatic, in the precise technical sense of entailing a subsumption of particular cases under ostensibly universal interpretive schemata. To have the dialogue you natter on about entails a suspension of dogmatism. The two are mutually exclusive. This is the first horn.The second horn is moral: A “faith” perspective inverts performative criteria of duty, apparently of necessity. That is, duty to oneself becomes fulfillment of one’s own felicity; duty to others becomes acting in ways likely to make them better and more likely candidates for Divine Grace (or something). Cf: the story of the Canaanite woman. Dialogue in this context is therefore reduced to “Repent!” — more a monologue. The third horn in this trilemma may be more fundamental: A “faith” perspective is proximally and for the most part emotional; I am increasingly certain that any epistemological connection between knowledge resting in faith and knowledge resting on reason is tenuous at best; I have good authority for that view in the >action< of St. Thomas, inter alia. Such faith-based knowledge is — as you rightly note — inherently personal, value-based and commonly the foundation of an entire value-totality. Dialogue entails discovering what is common (not merely personal), objective rather than merely subjective, and multilateral, not hierarchical and totalitarian. This is implicit in the definition of human being as "logon echon", rational, having the ability to express concepts in speech. Faith is, if you like, inexpressible. So, an inescapable trilemma of logical, moral and epistemological problems, and no blithe wave of the Episcopal lituus will sweep it away.

  • Brett Allen

    Brian:Yes religion is turned to in times of adversity, extreme pain etc. That is a quite intelligent response to when things seem hopeless, to grab onto something, anything to get you through. Your brain is wired to keep you alive in all or any circumstances. Some people do become believers after such experiences, but they are drawing the wrong conclusion. Before, during and after the crisis the unreal is still not real. Your faith is real but the object of your faith is not. If it can serve as tool by all means use it, but do not feel you owe it your life because religion takes too high a toll on your real life.That toll lies not with the idea of a magic, invisible, non-existent God but in the truly horrible idea of an after life. Once you buy into that, death, as I said before, becomes something to truly fear. It also devalues your real life as it becomes just some place to mark time in before you embark on your much better after life. But your real life is the only one you get and you should cherish and fight for every moment. That is where you focus should be not on some perfect, non-existant after life. Lets face it the only purpose to worshipping a God is to gain some leverage over him so he will let you into that perfect after life. But once your lust for the after life rules your real life the pursuit of truth is lost in sea of faith based phantoms.

  • Derek

    GODMA: That only half answers the question but I understand your point. So I will answer you by point. War on drugs has a financial, violent, and devestating effects to not only the people who take them but to their freinds and familly as well. Personally I think some drugs such as cannibus should be leagal and taxed like alchol is. I do not see how Crack is anything but bad and I see not real religous conotation to that. Stem cell research is fine with me until you start talking about cloning. I think you are starting to tread on ethical and moral issues that could be summed in a very bad horror film. The other two points I am actually a beleiver in personal choice and that you have been given free will to do just that. My view is that God and Christ have given us a path to chose or not chose. That to me is the essence of faith, I choose to believe and know that God will help me make the right choices.

  • Jeff

    My parents were intellectual agnostics and, until age 25, I also was a good and humble agnostic (I didn’t know if God existed, but I would never say that he definitely did not exist). I toed the agnostic/relativist party line: what is true for you may not be true for me. But in spite of my humility, I KNEW that Christianity and other religions were a joke and a crutch for the weak. And even though I had never read it, I KNEW that the Bible was a mildly interesting collection of fictitious stories. (As an aside, I find it fascinating that in our society, a person is expected to have actually read a book before he expresses his opinion about it–with one exception: the Bible.)When I was 25, the last thing I wanted to be was a Christian–especially a devout, conservative, “fundamentalist” Christian. And yet, when God granted me spiritual life, and when he revealed to me (both intimately and transcendently) the truth about himself–primarily in the person and work of Jesus Christ–I had no choice but to acknowledge that truth, repent of my sins, thank him for the forgiveness that comes through the atoning death of his Son, love him, worship him, and hunger to know him more deeply.While I am interested in learning what another person believes, the reason for my interest is to learn about who that person really is. In this sense, listening can be a worthwhile and loving act which produces understanding and compassion, and interfaith conversations can happen. But with respect to learning the truth, I am not interested in hearing viewpoints that are contrary to God’s revealed word–the Bible. The all-knowing Triune God has spoken, and it is utterly foolish to argue with him or tell him that he’s wrong. (I speak from experience.) So in that sense, an understanding of the truth is a conversation stopper.

  • C. Atkinson

    It is the truth that sets us free. Believe (have faith)in truth. The “light of truth” gives meaning to living. “By grace, you are saved through faith.” It is a gift. God is very visible, and that is good! Blessed are the pure in heart!

  • Britton

    Godma, You list suicide and abortion, but what about murder. Everyone (almost) would agree that cold-blooded murder is immoral and wrong, but where is the empirical evidence for that? That belief is based on an age old understanding of the sanctity of human life, but there is no ’empirical evidence’ for that. What ’empirical evidence’ is there that one woman/man’s life is more valuable than another woman/man’s right to choose to murder her/him? Without some sort of absolute truth (which is who and what God is), all morality and ethics are a wash. Your statement about ‘causing suffering’ reveals that ultimately you place value on each individual’s right to choose for themselves what harm will/will not be done to them (self-inficted or otherwise). Where is the ’empirical evidence’ for that? That is almost universally accepted truth, but based on what? How can science (or anyone) ’empirically prove’ someone’s right to be choose their own course? It cannot. Most laws, not just those currently being contested/proposed, make some sort of value judgement the are ultimately rooted in some potentially arguable belief. Belief and/or faith in some sort of absolute truth that is greater than each individual human and their ‘right’ to choose, even if that truth is ‘the common good is greater than the individual’ or the Christian ‘the Lord reigns’ is the only basis for laws…though governing bodies necessarily dilute absolute truth under the weak and transparent guise of general ‘morality’. Additionally, I do believe it is possible to legislate a society without forcing individual’s to subscribe to beliefs in some absolute truth (God).

  • linda marie

    Brett,I don’t agree with you that once you have doubt, faith dies.I see faith as something that grows.If my ultimate faith is in God, why would I worry about getting to know Him (Her) better? Aren’t we all learning new things about others all the time? Does learning something new wipe out everything we knew before?Discussion and openness regarding our religious faith, IMNSHO, should not create fear, but an opportunity to know God better.If “my God” is to small to stand up to questions, why would I worship Him (Her)?linda marie

  • Anonymous

    “As you observe, any “faith” perspective is inherently dogmatic, in the precise technical sense of entailing a subsumption of particular cases under ostensibly universal interpretive schemata.”Don’t you just hate this sort of jargon? “Faith” isn’t some sort of special church word. “Faith” means that you’ve placed your confidence in some one or something. So, you may have faith in your wife, in the reliability of your Honda Civic, or in the theory of gravity. You can also place your faith in Christ, Buddha or Mohammed, which means you are confident they were who and what they said they were, knew what they were talking about, and that they were telling the truth. Confidence in anything – from a Japanese car to the Buddha – is always based on something (e.g., I’ve carefully checked out the dependability ratings on every small car sold in this country; my boyfriend’s cousin says they’re good cars; Japanese is good, isn’t it?). In any given case it may or may not be misplaced. Some of us are more careful about things than others; but it is based on something. We should approach religious beliefs the same way we do anything else. Look for the reasons people think something is true, and why they place their confidence in it. Then decide.

  • Laura

    I believe in Mother Nature. I see her around me every day. She is beautiful, powerful, ever present.I believe “Stuff” happens. Whether it’s good or bad – stuff happens. I don’t believe if it’s good, that god did it, and if it’s bad that he didn’t, or someone(thing) else did.I believe in Rosanne Rosannadana (Gilda Radner) who said “It’s Always Something”.

  • Mark W. Robertson

    I very much appreciate what Rev. Sisk is saying here. If dialogue with religious persons who think they have a monopoly on the truth could occur, then there would be a strong possibility of a constructive result. However, what the writer seems to understate is the “extremely” limited possibility of any such dialogue ever taking place. Impossiblity is not too strong a word. By their very closed nature, truth monopolizers are fundamentally incapable of having dialogue. To converse and have honest discourse, one has to at least be open to the idea that the other person knows something that they do not. Religious truth monopolizers cannot accept that idea. I know this personally because I was affiliated with a cult that literally placed themselves on the pinnacle of exclusive religious truth. They could not have meaningful discourse with anyone who did not agree with their doctrines in totality. So while the ideas proposed by Rev Sisk are certainly attractive, I think the self-proclaimed purveyors of religious truth surely find it impossible to converse with others. The reason? They lack the courage. They might be found wrong.

  • Davin

    Dear Lorie,”We really need to read carefully before putting our two cents out there”.Atheists don’t believe in the existence of God, so any books proporting to be the word of God must be false.Prove God exists first, then move on.

  • Charles

    Faith is something searched for, but never perfectly attained. But reason, “truth” in whatever form, knowledge, etc., are also things searched for but never fully attained.

  • Michael N. Hull

    I am an agnostic christian. I am also an agnostic scientist.I believe that we function as humans in two realities: an outer reality and an inner reality. The outer reality is ‘objective’ while the inner reality is ‘subjective’. In the outer reality I am the agnostic scientist and in the inner reality the agnostic christian. Examples of outer reality are physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, astronomy, pain, reason, linear time, gravity, etc.Examples of inner reality are suffering, intuition, eternal time, love, art, poetry, music.From the human symbol making ability we developed language. With language and symbols we began to think about the outer and inner realities. We developed ‘models’ to describe the outer reality and ‘myths’ to describe the inner reality.An example of a model in the outer reality is the symbol we use for the hydrogen atom. The hydrogen atom is modeled as a point in the center of a circle to symbolize a proton with another point on the circle’s circumference to represent an electron. We use language (in this case mathematical language) to deepen this model’s utility by writing equations to describe things protons and electrons ‘do’. With the use of the model we have an understanding of how a ‘hydrogen atom’ manifests itself but we still do not know what a hydrogen atom ‘is’. Models are descriptions of the way things might be, but never are. Myths refer to stories that, while they may or may not be strictly factual, reveal fundamental truths and insights about human nature, often through the use of archetypes. In the inner reality we create myths. An example of a myth is the story of the boy who was asked to guard the sheep against the wolves and to call ‘wolf’ to the villagers if they were threatened. As a joke on the villagers he called ‘wolf’, they came and found no wolf, same thing the second time. The third time the wolf actually came and the boy cried ‘wolf’ but the villagers didn’t come. Why? They no longer had ‘trust’ in what he said. We don’t know the historical ‘truth’ of this story i.e. did it physically happen at some place and at some time? But that is of no consequence because we have an intrinsic truth in the story of how ‘trust’ can be lost by acting dishonestly. Myths are descriptions of the way things never were, but always areModels and myths have both real and imaginary components. In mathematics, real and imaginary numbers are essential for describing outer world reality using models. Imaginary numbers have essential applications in areas such as signal processing, control theory, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics. Without imaginary numbers modern science would be paralyzed. Likewise real and imaginary situations and persons are essential for describing inner world reality using myths. In common usage the word “myth” may indicate a fiction, or half-truth (and nearly all dictionaries include this definition), yet “myth” does not imply that a story is either objectively false or true, it rather refers to a spiritual, psychological or symbolical notion of truth unrelated to materialist or objectivist notions. In the inner reality we have free will and in the outer reality we do not. In the outer reality the only option is to state “I accept” – what is, ‘is’. In the inner reality, however, we have the option “I choose”. For example, in the outer world we experience the sun’s heat on our face or hear the wind rustling the trees or suffer the consequences of an earthquake – we have no control over these observations – we can simply experience them through our perception. The physical experience regardless of how painful or how joyous can only be ‘accepted’. In the inner world we might experience anger at something or someone. In this case we are not trapped with the single option of ‘acceptance’ for we can ‘choose’ to let the anger go. Pain, an outer reality, is not what makes us suffer. It is how we choose to deal with pain in the inner world that causes us suffering. As an agnostic Christian can I rationalize the possible existence of God? I would set up the following ‘model’: Human beings are entities with about 80 thousands genes which gives them a certain intellectual capacity, understanding, and control over their environment (inner and outer). Humans are both spiritual and material, i.e. there is a mind and a body. Bacteria have fewer genes than humans, viruses even less, and prions (which cause mad cow disease) have even less if any. As we approach zero for the number of genes that an entity posesses one approaches the idea of ‘non’ life. For example, is a virus ‘living’, is it ‘spiritual’ or is it simply a material ‘thing’? At zero genes one might argue that one has entered the non-spiritual, completely material world and one can postulate from this particular model that such a world does indeed exist. Thus as a scientist I can say that I have an agnostic belief in the existence of a material world.At the other end of the gene spectrum I remain agnostic as a scientist as to whether there exists an entity with an infinite number of genes. If there is such a ‘being’ then ‘it’ may be completely spiritual and non material and it may have a greater intellectual capacity, understanding, and control over my environment than I have – in other words it is a ‘Supreme Being’. Thus as a Christian I can say that I have an agnostic belief in the existence of a Supreme Spirit. What I am opining is that we must be agnostic about our models and our myths. In the case of the model, the ‘thing’ that is being modeled might ‘be’ that way but usually we find in the outer reality – in the world of science – that further information will come along and the model will be dropped in favor of a new one i.e. the model might be that way but it usually never is. Once we arrive in a state of complete knowledge about an outer or inner reality then we no longer have the need for a model or a myth we have arrived at truth i.e. something that is the same for everyone, everywhere, and for eternity.

  • Carol

    As I get older (heading to 70) I question my religious belief more and more. That seems to buck the trend. When people get older, they seem to get deeper in their religious belief — especially when their religion offers them life after death. Therefore, that belief is a comfort to someone who is headed to “their last reward.” Today, in this world of religion against religion, I think more of a quote I read. Wish I could quote it exactly but….written by a Roman official in the very, very, early AD’s: Goes something like this: “Religion is thought to be true by the common people, a myth by the intelligent, and very useful by leaders and government.” Well, if you look at the common people, they are, most definitely, controlled by their governments and leaders.

  • Ted Swart

    To Bishop SISK:

  • Jeffrey

    I wonder where WP/Newsweek’s internal courage was when they pulled Elie Wiesel’s comments off this site because he challenged that religious harmony would be threatened by extremists.But of course, avowed enemy nation “His Excellency” Khatami is free to speak about “absolute truth” as his nation’s Iranian Islamists are in the process of sentencing someone to death for changing their religion (as they call it “apostasy”).

  • Derek

    If you do not believe in God or religon for that matter than why do you care so much what we think of what will happen to you? Are you that egotistical to beleive that you are really that important? Seriously it always amuses me that people say they do not believe in Heaven or Hell but you are so worried about what we think. Why is that?

  • Real

    I agree with what his basic point is, nobody has a monopoly on the truth. The truth is the truth no matter who says it.My problem is that he actually believes that people make truth. And he is saying that that truth is religion. Which completely goes against what he was trying to argue for. Truth is not religion. If truth was religion than you would have so many different truths. You can not make truth. You can make religion.

  • Brett Allen

    Linda marie:One of the issues re this particular blog is that no one religion has a monopoly on the truth. The overall idea being to bring people together by discussing the divergent views on God and religion. But the problem is that you have faith in only one thing at a time. You are an evangelical or jewish or Islamic etc.There is no down side to finding out what the other religions are about or even what atheism is about. But as a result are you are really (for example) going to totally accept the tenets of the jewish faith and still be evangelical? The two faiths believe different things and especially, in this example, the status of Jesus Christ.Piont being is that faith is fixed on one dogma as the absolute truth. Faith can’t accept two opposing absolute truths. You either reject one or you have no fixed faith i.e. faith dies. Also faith by its very nature cannot be objective as that requires disbelief in both options i.e faith dies.You could be diplomatic (the faithful rarely are) and say both religions reveal a different aspect of God but there are some articles of faith that are diametrically opposed, like, in this example, whether Jesus Christ is the son of God or a not.The bottom line being that different faiths can never come together so religion is the opposite of a unifying force. It’s essence is to clearly seperate groups of people: gentile from jew, fundamentalist from progressive, believer from non-believer. So in your terms, your God (what you really mean is your faith) is never going to be big enough to deal with other faiths and beliefs because to do so risks his existance.

  • godma

    Good question, Derek. It’s because our beliefs as a society influence what life is like within that society for all of us. For example, I resent the fact that laws are made that are based not on evidence-based beliefs, but rather on the faith-based beliefs that only some of us subscribe to. These laws are based on assumptions that we can’t all agree on, because they rely on more than empirical evidence, but nonetheless they apply to all of us. Usually, these laws are described as based in morality, although they in actuality do not cause much or any suffering (except maybe on the part of the law-breaker):

  • godma

    Linda wrote: “it seems that athiests may be more dogmatic than I am”I understand you. People can be dogmatic about anything. I think the thing to ask is whether there is anything about atheism itself that requires or promotes dogmatism. All atheism is is the disbelief in deities. It’s true that some atheists go further and positively claim certainty that there are no deities…and this does seem to me to rise to the level of “religious faith”.Lots of atheists tend to also subscribe to additional philosophical positions, such as materialism, naturalism, rationalism, agnosticism, etc. But this is a different matter. None of these are actually atheism.

  • Alain Machefert

    I am an agnostic. I just do not know if God exists but, to paraphrase my compatriot Laplace (Yes, I am French, nobody’s perfect !) “I have no need for this hypothesis.”

  • TJ Archer

    This is a beautiful sentiment towards empathy, compassion, and ultimately understanding in others… I fully agree with this approach, as well.

  • Karen B.

    Felix, you asked what a “Right Reverend” is. It’s just another title for bishop (overseer of all the clergy and churches in a particular geographic area.) Mark Sisk happens to be the bishop of the Diocese of New York, including New York city and some of its suburbs, like Westchester County. There are also “very reverends” in ECUSA hierachy — the very reverends are Cathedral deans. It does all seem a bit ridiculous looking at it from the outside sometimes.

  • Randy Ping

    The Right Reverennd is completely wrong. Quit wasting you time and your lives seeking these fairy tale simple answers to humanities problems.

  • Real

    Godma said “…not obvious where our innate sense of morality comes from.”The GOLDEN RULE states “treat others as you would like to be treated.” That sums up much of people’s sense of morality. It doesn’t come from a book. It comes from how they want others to treat them.

  • TJ Archer

    In response to Randy Ping:This battle is won at home. Although the TOPIC of this site is FAITH… the argument that you demonstrate above is exactly what needs to be cast aside. When you, I, and all the rest of the world can begin to THINK in terms of the “third person”… you’ll have a very satisfying answer which will shield all beliefs… It’s not a simple task, and likely not one that will be achieved in our lifetime, but hey – nothing is impossible… You just gotta beleive! in something

  • B-Man

    Reverend, with all due respect, the proper use of “courage” would be to subject the holy texts of the three monotheistic religions to reasoned scrutiny, and then truthfully admit that the God in each of them is:”…arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser: a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomanaical, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”(Richard Dawkins, from The God Delusion)

  • linda marie

    Brett,You have some very thought provoking things to say. And if I am hearing you correctly, I may need to adjust my think… or maybe an adjustment in the English language might be in order.. ;)Let me ask this: As an athiest, do you believe there is a body, mind and soul?In my thinking, the “soul” (or you may name this component anything else you like) is where issues of the heart are determined. The “heart”, as any mother knows, can accept many different ideas, while in her “mind” believe there is only “one right way”.Maybe faith could accept that God is the only One who could figure all of this out… however He (or She) wants to.Maybe faith could involve an element of knowing that because we are not God, we are probably “wrong” in some of our thinking.You see, I don’t think I have ever talked with an athiests before. And from where I am right now, it seems that athiests may be more dogmatic than I am.(Not a put down — just telling you what I am observing.)How are you defining faith at this time? Are you open to “tweeking” your definition?And back to the original question: do you think we (those with many definitions and ideas about faith) can find common ground?linda marie

  • Brett Allen

    linda marie:An atheist can see the body and experience the mind but does not believe in a soul because there is no real world evidence of such a thing. Of course if there were evidence, belief would not be required. Any atheist who says otherwise is not an aethist. Dogmatic indeed but without dogma.The idea of a soul is really just the bait that leads to the only religious issue: the After Life. If there is no after life then the idea of soul is pretty piontless since it would cease to exist when the body dies. It is also more important than God, as, if there is no after life, then God could only reward you or harm you in your real life. Confined to your real life he was to compete with all other distracting aspects of reality. Also since we don’t see bad (or good) people being inexplicably turned to salt or cinders, the fear of God becomes far less when compared to the one lurking in your afterlife that can cast into an eternity of torture and burning. And because God does not seem to act directly he can then only act through everyday reality, hence he is further reduced to the status of a good luck charm. The fate of many ancient Gods. As for common ground. Yes there is. As there is only one truth that unites every human, believer or otherwise. You will die and you know it. No one wants to die and our brains (intelligence and emotion) are hardwired to keep us alive regardless of the situation. Hence, we invent after lives and religions to go around them in an attempt to get around this one truth. The problem is by doing so you make death something to truly fear. Believers in an after life are going to experience their deaths. That is feeling yourself being ripped away from everyone you love and everything you know. The only balancing thing that can protect you from that horror is a God that you have some leverage over through worship. A true atheist on the other hand knows that death is the end. Stop. So the only thing he is going to experience is the last moments of his life and life is nothing to fear. His death like his birth is none of his business. As a result, he has no choice but to live each moment to its fullest, because he, unlike the believer can’t afford to mark time in his real life while waiting for his much better after life to occur. He doesn’t believe. He knows he is alive, he knows that this is the only life he gets and he knows the clock is ticking.

  • Tom

    CarolIs there an answer to this? I don’t know. I don’t have faith that there is. Not when there are those who think apocolypse hearalds some great event to be yearned for.

  • Pombo

    Jeff:On Sherman Jackson’s Article you posted the same crappola as your 1:45 PM post above.(Posted November 17, 2006 1:47 PM – Sherman Jackson)The Republican Right Wing Christian ‘machine’ may think they control our government but they do not control honest blogs from real people.Quit spamming these discussions and stay out until you have something honest to say, you piece of sh*t.Sorry for the namecalling but in this case you deserve it.

  • Brett Allen

    Britton:You are under the impression that an absence of a magic God means an absence of morals and ethics. It does not. It is fairly obvious why murder is a bad thing. As the the saying goes: “you take away everything a man has and everything he is going to have”. You can also see the devastating effects it has of the victim’s friends and family. You can also extrapolate that if we all murdered one another there would be no human race or at least a very miserable one. All of this is visible evidence.But the issue here is the difference between why a religious person regards some action immoral and why an atheist does. The religious person will piont to their dogma first and tell you God is against it. The atheist will point to a reality tell you it is bad for Man. The problem with the religious is that their dogma invariably will have stories about why murder is a good thing. The Bible and the Koran are rife with such stories (for starters look how many genocides Joshua carried out etc etc). The piont being another religious person can come along and piont to another part of the same dogma and say God has no problem with murder. The good atheist can’t be so morally relative. This is why your contention that “Most laws… make some sort of value judgement the are ultimately rooted in some potentially arguable belief” is wrong. If your focus is on reality and Man then the evidence why some law or action is bad or good (or even conditionally so) is right in front of your eyes. No belief in unreal entities is required.And don’t think I am equivicating when I say “conditionally” because some ethics under some conditions must change. I do not see the believer or unbeliever say that the police or soldiers should not murder (we say ‘defend’ or some other positive term but it is murder nonetheless) under certain circumstances, even though both sides are vehemently against murder. That is not a weakened ethic but a strengthened one as it precisely frames the use of this serious action in the life of Man.

  • Felix

    So what is a ‘Right’ Reverend? Is is any different from a ‘Left’ Reverend? Or a ‘Wrong’ Reverend? I am seriously asking here and though I sound like it I am not mocking Episcopal hierarchy. He sure does sound like a preacher-man, though. Not much ‘there’ there but lots of ‘Right’ there.

  • godma

    Britton,Thanks for the response. I agree that it is not obvious where our innate sense of morality comes from. I would be tempted to interpret this innateness as some sort of absolute quality in the universe, but I feel like I have a more plausible explanation for it that is purely naturalistic.Our current moral sense comes from two places: 1) Cultural conditioning, through lessons learned in childhood from our parents, school, society, and our own life experiences. Historically, these were learned through experience by humanity and passed down through the generations by stories, fables, laws, etc.2) Instincts that evolved in our ancestors and were inherited by us.This is less intuitive, but there are actually good reasons why it would have been evolutionarily advantageous for our ancestors to have developed some kind of moral instinct. Our ancestors lived for a long time in small tribes. In those conditions, genes influencing people to be nice to one another tended to reproduce successfully, due to “kin selection” and “reciprocal altruism”. Wikipedia has good articles on these theories.Also, research has demonstrated that primates (and some other animals) also have a moral instinct. Look up “animal altruism” in Wikipedia.Nowadays, we no longer live in those conditions, but the moral instinct persists.But whatever the sources of our sense of morality might have been, we still are left with the question of how to best define laws for society today. In my opinion, to do this we should consider what laws will strike the best balance between minimizing suffering and enabling freedom. There is no reason why we can’t work toward this goal using only science, not scripture. Once we start relying on religious scripture as the guide, we make it much harder to improve the laws predictably (since the dogma is fixed and doesn’t change according to new evidence and reasoning). Also, we would lose common ground with those who don’t subscribe to that scripture. The scientific method, however, does have common ground, since it is based on evidence that is available and self-evident to all of us.

  • Brett Allen

    Jeff:God granted you nothing you decided to have faith in a dogma for whatever reason. The voices in your head are you, your normal human duality. Faith is real but the object of your faith isn’t unless you are going to tell me you actually saw some Godly reality. And please do not tell me the Bible showed you the reality of God because for starters the Bible is not God. You did not start from an atheist piont of view, objectively read the Bible and then come to the conclusion that God is real. Your came with a apriori belief in God and hence it would not matter if you read the Bible or saw Jesus in your Taco. That is one of the absurdities of religion in that you decide to believe and then you go to some dogma to find out what you believe.

  • Felix

    Thank you Karen B for your explanation. I am more familiar with the management structure of the Catholic Church because it is in the news a lot what with the new Pope and all the child molesters within their ranks. I am am amazed at how much organization seems to be needed to keep religion functioning in the world as it is today. It is as if religion has evolved through the creative energies of man over centuries so as to control that evolution and what people think. Maybe most people have such a hankering for being a part of a huge establishment and really derive no comfort from the one phrase I have always heard attributed to Jesus: God is love. If there is a God, that is the God I would want to follow and it doesn’t seem like it would take such a huge organization to support that concept. Now I am learning even the existence of God is up for debate. I must be one sheltered Bubba. Maybe I can blame (or thank?) my parents because they raised me without church or Jesus or any other God driven belief system and seemed to emphasize being able to think and talk through a given situation so as to do the right thing, learning from my mistakes as I go.I am going to switch to the college sports news for a while.

  • boco-smoco

    Loco-moco”How exhilarating, terrifying, invigorating, exhausting, challenging and tremendously rewarding it is to be a truth-seeker in this fearsome and fabulous age!”woco-joco!

  • ;Loco_Moco

    So, grasshopper! You expect St. Peter will be demanding you to pass a touch-typing test in order to enter the pearly gates?

  • Brett Allen

    Recognising death and knowing you are mortal are two very different things. Most mammals have the same range of emotions as we do. They also know what death is. If they are a carnivore then ascertaining when your prey is dead is very important lest it lashes out and harms them. They also have to be aware when their young die etc. I personally have seen dogs grieve their dead owners. But all that is not the same as knowing that you were born to die. That requires an intellect to grasp. You have to be able to visualise the entire span of your life. It also requires advanced communication skills and probably a culture. Animals don’t live inside their heads like that they live in a continuous now. They can develop and retain skills and certain knowledge but they can’t manipulate the abstract. Hence, no animal but Man is burdened with the one truth.

  • Jessica

    Why do so many people feel they need to be forgiven? I was brought up to know right from wrong without the approval of a supernatural being.Reality is the biggest “truth” there is and if you are too afraid to face reality you do need religion. I know of ’cause and effect’ and there is nothing making me do anything I don’t want to do.

  • Bill

    Brett I was hanging with you until I got to this quote. Trying to guess what it might mean has been fruitless on my part, so maybe you will illuminate me further.”And because God does not seem to act directly he can then only act through everyday reality,…”As to death being the only common ground, I would tend to disagree. I see common ground of this type on several fronts, such as pain, happiness, greed, love and others, but htis is a minor point.It would seem to me that life without a Godhead of some sort to provide some authoritative element over life generally, and yours and mine specifically, is nihilistic at its core and results in a chaotic existence that almost no one is willing to accept. It showed its inherent danger with Nietzsche (albeit an extreme but true example), when carried out to its logical conclusion. In a more practical point of discussion however, I have always wondered why the Christian is berated for at least trying, however miserably they may fail, at living out there belief system, when the atheist almost never does. I point to the example of your ending statement that the atheist would live life to the fullest since there is no afterlife. Yet atheist after atheist buys life insurance to provide for their families upon the event of their death. Atheist fathers are “faithful” to their wives, hold down steady jobs, do financial planning to protect their legacy, and other such things that logically shouldn’t matter in a no afterlife worldview. If we evolved from the primordial ooze due to freak cataclysmic events, and there is no creator, and their is no afterlife, then I would logically conclude a human environment of what we might call today, extreme self-indulgence. Why does the evolutionist atheist CARE about providing for anyone but themself?As for me, I like the idea of a resolute God that never changes and is perfect in all respects, resulting in everything else being one-off, even if it means sending someone to hell. It gives a rule of life; boundaries that are clear from which to operate (to do life). Hell provides justice, which you and I would quickly demand if a man who robbed us was then caught.My last point would be that, having worked with the elderly, if we live long enough most of us will get to a point we desire death, God or no God.

  • Loco_Moco

    “Cause and effect”! Indeed, if only it were so simple — but we live in a multiverse made random by quantum chance, in which electrons really don’t orbit their nuclei like dutiful itty-bitty planets, but hide somewhere in a cloud of probabilities until we go a-huntin’ ’em. And yet, somehow, Chaos does not rule.Knowing right from wrong, and always doing right instead of wrong, are two different propositions. In fact it is precisely the burdensome discrepancy between these two, that leads us to a slightly revised version of the old axiom: “The human is the only creature that asks for forgiveness — or needs to.”(The good Bishop himself is speaking from the midst of this very issue, for our Episcopal Church in America is being accused of validating sinful conduct by blessing the unions of, and even ordaining to the ministry, gay people. More-conservative Anglican churches in other countries are insisting that we must repent and ask forgiveness, or be cast into outer darkness. Is that the gnashing of teeth I hear…?)Welcome to Schoolhouse Earth, complete with a giant sandbox and an entire closet full of Legos! Where “reality” reveals itself to us gradually, as we learn how to perceive it — and cause-and-effect is like the “Board of Education” that used to be wielded to remind us that our choices have consequences.Where we can build our castles and space stations, knowing that they will be knocked down and taken apart at the end of the day, but the sand and Legos will be ready for us again tomorrow…But we can’t stay kindergartners forever. Don’t we all want to graduate someday?We fool ourselves (although we can certainly forgive ourselves for doing so – grin!) if we think our current concept of “reality” is any more comprehensive than trying to look at the Grand Canyon through a knothole in the fence, or the Milky Way through a toilet paper tube.How exhilarating, terrifying, invigorating, exhausting, challenging and tremendously rewarding it is to be a truth-seeker in this fearsome and fabulous age!

  • Earl

    There are many posts that speak of truth as if the individual believes they know what truth is. After 76 years I have come to the conclusion that there are very few (if any) Truths with a capital “T”. My truths continue to change the more studying of religion and spirituality that I do. My truths stayed relatively constant when I was content with what I believed but started to be challenged as I became discontent with the dogma I was hearing in church. That discontent led to questioning which led to change. They still continue to change drastically as I continue exploring, even at 76.

  • Bill

    As to laying waste of anything, I think Bruce Little’s, “A Creation Order Theodicy” addresses this in a much clearer and detailed position than I certainly could. But I would agree with him and further suggest a fair size group of Christians incorrectly give God credit for things like hurricanes, tsunami’s and other acts of nature. We no longer live in an Old Testament era, but the New.Regarding fear of the afterlife as the motivator for “God,” I would think that this is indeed true in a significant number of cases. I would also suggest that this, the fear of “hell,” is why “Christians” as a group stands so poorly before the world, especially in the U.S. But the fact remains that the Bible says salvation is not available because of this fear, but because of an awareness and acceptance of the righteousness of God as revealed in scripture, man’s total unrighteous standing through “sin,” and a path of reconciliation through God’s grace gift: Jesus. This is the “Gospel.” This is also as “reality” as one can get. It’s about right now. Afterlife is icing as a secondary benefit because Christianity, properly embraced and lived out, reaps benefits NOW. Ephesians clearly states that it’s by grace we are saved, not because of works, otherwise you/me/anyone would be able to brag about how great we were. Now I agree that a large percentage of “Christians” do not reflect this, but neither do most atheists “live life to the fullest,” otherwise stated as “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” They can be some pretty miserable people from my experience. I am curious where and how the atheist establishes their moral ethic if this worldview is not nihilistic? Who gets to set the rules and how does this not result in disorder and uncertainty?I must say that I got a good humored laugh from the comment that I draw a lot of solace from authority. Should you ask those who know, they will tell you my biggest struggle is with authority, even God’s. I WANT to run the show myself and if I may interject the sin of pride here, I was professionally VERY successful at running the show. But I found that life was like Rockefeller once responded to the question, “How much is enough,” with “Just a little bit more.” I seemed to never be satisfied. Today I still struggle, but not nearly as bad (don’t ask about my speeding), but am getting much better at letting God be God. Fear!? If God be for me, who can be against me? I live life without fear BECAUSE I have a promised afterlife.BTW, I appreciate civil discussion and disagreement (my rebellious side again?) when it is free of ad hominen arguments.

  • L. B. Pickren

    Carl Sagan once mused whether or not the world would survive it’s technological adolescence. It seems to me that the greater concern is whether or not it can survive it’s theological adolescence. Considering the two together,there’s not much hope.

  • Rob

    The “god” of atheism is self. The atheist acts primarily for the benefit of himself. The theist acts primarily for the benefit of humanity. Actions from both can have horrifying consequences.

  • Bill Fold

    Each day, if we are honest and intelligent in our treatment of all the life we see, all around us, I believe we are ALL then “born again” as “Right Reverend” persons.After all, has anyone here ever met someone who is deserving of or entitled to your reverence? Even Mother Theresa would have shunned such a title.

  • Brett Allen

    Rob: The “god” of atheism is not self. Atheists have no need of a magic God. The atheist loves his real life but that does not mean he is automatically selfish. His life is enriched by the lives around him: family, friends, co-workers, countrymen. The theist is selfish as he only acts out of a fear of God and the hope that his actions will garner favour with his God. Humanity is only the sandbox through which he earns brownie pionts in order to get his soul into heaven. His focus is always on the afterlife so its easy, for example, to fly planes into buildings, as his real life has been demeaned to a mere place to mark time before his much better afterlife begins.

  • Rob

    Brett-I did not say that atheists are necessarily selfish nor did I say that theists are necessarlity not selfish, in the pejorative sense of the word. I was merely attempting to point out that, stripping away outside conditions, the behavioral motivation is different.You paint with a broad and clumsy brush when you say that a theist is motivated out of fear (also when you say that a theist necessarily believes in an afterlife, but I grant that the concept of afterlife is prevelant in most organized religion.) But whatever the motivation, the theist necessarily believes that God has the good of humanity in mind and that doing what he says, be it doing good deeds, doing bad deeds, or contemplating the lint in your navel, therefore, serves the good of humanity.The atheist believes that there is no God, no overarching set of ideals, no Truth to strive for. There is nothing above us, there is only us, there is only me. The atheist constructs his moral compass for himself, based solely on what he believes to be right and wrong, and those judgements are not based on universal truths, but rather on the benefit to himself. When you say “His life is enriched by the lives around him: family, friends, co-workers, countrymen”, that is the extent of it there is no more. That sphere of importance grows and shrinks from individual to individual, but always contains the self. When the atheist acts, be it good deeds, or bad deeds, he does things for himself.This is not to say that an atheist does not have humanity’s best interests in mind and will not act for the benefit of humanity, that has been proven over an over again to be false. It is merely to say that in the center of the atheists world is himself and humanity circles him. The center of the theists world is God and by extention humanity and he circles it.

  • Brett Allen

    Rob:Behavioral motivations are the same. We are all humans motivated by the same drives. Individually we may emphasis one behavior over the other and thus appear to act differently.I just do not believe the primary motivation for someone to align themselves with a God is because they have an apriori selfless attitude. Unless you to attend somewhat to the self you have nothing to offer anyone. It is a balancing act. Christian selflessness has a selfish purpose.When you say “That sphere of importance grows and shrinks from individual to individual, but always contains the self”, well, so does the christian one. The Christian never says forget about my soul and let me do this and that for humanity.Also ‘No God’ does not mean no ideals or truth. You are just wrong there. An aethist is no different to a christian as they have parents, friends and grow up in civilisation just as a christian does. In fact they have (individual personalities aside) have exactly the same moral compass as the christian, simply because they are brought up in the same society and civilisation. The christian does not go to the bible to garner his superiuor morality on specific issues, as the bible, says contradictory things on all most every issue. He just doesn’t trust himself and needs some magic super authority to back up his actions.The centre of theists is not an invisible God but their faith. That faith is personal and tied to the self. The worship asssociated with that faith is there to selfishlessly (not meant in a negative sense) get one’s soul into heaven and to a lesser extent buttress their real life behaviors with godly sanction. God is not humanity. You want to beleive your God has humanitys best interests involved because, well, would you believe in one that doesn’t?

  • Brett Allen

    Rob:Sorry a have raging migriane: “selfishlessly” should be selfishly.Just a further elaboration. You are suspcious of atheists because you think they have no morality, think only of themselves and hence by extension could potentially harm you. But atheist’s fear believers for much the same reason. They see holy sanctions on all manner of bad things. An extreme example is of course the 9/11 hijackers and the children in Jesus camp being forced to pray to effigy’s of Bush because he is supposedly ‘born again’. How many wars have godly sanctions on both sides. Even slavery was justified through scripture (for those that endorsed it). The old and new testaments are collectively contradictory. The god of wrath and fear versus the god of love. I am not just blaming the bible here as all dogmas have the same issues. You are right in a certain sense in that an atheist is not ‘sure’ his idea of ‘good’ or ‘morality’ is appropriate in all circumstances. The scary thing is that the believer is ‘sure’. The believer regards his dogma as absolute truth even though it is quite clearly contradictory on many issues. He cherry picks the dogma to make it seem in harmony with a positive view of himself, humanity and god. That choice is arbitrary and is based on his personality. You could argue that ther eligious flavour he chooses determines the emphasis but to choose the flavour at all means it suits his personality.The piont being is that both the atheist and the believer will advance, with their moralities, into the world and act. They have no choice. But the atheist knows he can be wrong no matter how right he feels about his actions and ideas. The believer does not have that reserve or more plainly: the safety valve of doubt. They know. If their actions are challenged then it is not just a challenge to them but to the God they think they are aligned with. But God can’t be wrong so they can’t be wrong as along as they feel are following the tenets of that God.Hence, both sides can produce evil without knowing it. The atheist has his doubt as a safety catch. To have a similar safety catch the Christian would have to emphasis another side of their dogma, but that requires changing the make up of their faith which may or may not be palatable to their personalitys. That requires a great deal of effort and self awareness. But faith does not encourage a constant re-examination of what they believe. It make cause an examination of one’s actions to see of they are still aligned with the faith but the faith itself is absolute truth and is expected to be immutable.

  • Leo

    Overdose deaths can be intentional or unintentional, and they can result from both licit and illicit drug abuse. Drugs commonly implicated in overdose must be in public lists! WBR LeoP

  • Leo

    Overdose deaths can be intentional or unintentional, and they can result from both licit and illicit drug abuse. Drugs commonly implicated in overdose must be in public lists! WBR LeoP