Monday, January 04, 2010

Choosing to Believe

Yesterday in the sermon, our pastor mentioned that he had been reading some of the recent books by atheists in connection with some discussions he has been having with a skeptic. Since, I've read these books as well and have been following the discussion, I engaged the pastor after church and remarked that it seemed to me to be a mistake to defend faith via reason (not that he was doing this). I pointed out that the movie Religiosity had some good examples of how stupid religious people sound when they try to reason with nonbelievers about irrational religious beliefs. We agreed that religion was not about reason but about faith. I remarked that it was a matter of belief, and he said something about "choosing to believe" before he had to kibbitz with other coreligionists.

I was sorely perplexed by this, and I can't think for the life of me what the preacher meant. Belief, as far as I know, is involuntary. Either I believe something or I don't. I cannot choose what I believe or disbelieve, and if I just pretend to believe in something, that doesn't really count as belief, does it? For me, belief is a gift with which I have been blessed. I didn't just decide one day to believe in Jesus; rather, I discovered that I had come to believe in Him.

In the sermon, the pastor remarked on the hopelessness of the atheistic worldview as he has done before. I am reluctant to project this on atheists. Many of them seem quite hopeful and seem to have a pretty good moral foundation and outlook on the world. They seem reconciled to the universe as it is to them and resigned to it, and this is in many ways similar to the attitude of believers who have aligned their will with that of God and resigned themselves to whatever happens as a manifestation of that will.

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