Tuesday, July 08, 2008

i need a reason to believe

I think of my atheism as a virtue, but part of the problem is that I'm often pessimistic, lacking the ability to have "faith" or "believe" without evidence. This is not a theological quandary. It is an epistemic quandary. How do I know how to trust someone, something, or in some desired outcome? Some say "it is in the actions." Others, "it is in the words, if truly meant." Still others, "it is in the feeling." Of course, it is a combination of all three, that our trust of others to not hurt us and our belief in another must come from the critical (and yet, indulgent) examination of the totality of the circumstances.

I have no religious faith. I am, I have determined after 27, almost 28 years, incapable of deistic belief, faith without proof, etc. etc., and I've at least tried to read several of the major religious texts. But I'd like to know how to believe. Not in the supernatural, but in humanity, in a person, friend, partner, etc. I am not an inherently suspicious person, or excessively cynical. Far from it. While law school/hard knocks of life (no, they're not equal, but the slash is funny) has instilled a certain wariness with respect to the stability of happiness or the trustworthiness of a person. But through it all, I've been pretty cheerful. Say, the worst tragedies you can imagine befalling a family. I still think "Hey, we're all still here, only slightly the worse for wear. Awesome." And I'm one of those people who actually believes that other people are fundamentally good, redeemable, and loveable. Seriously. I don't even say it with a slight turn at the corner of my mouth, as if this is smug indulgence and condescension on my part. Others might complain about the teeming masses out and about, and I generally smile. My jokes about my misanthropy is more like self-derision about my shyness and introversion, and so it's not like the idea of crowds irritate me, but that they slightly terrify me. So yeah, I'm actually a pretty optimistic person, capable of believing in the good, that the good will obtain, and that people are fundamentally good and do not try to hurt you.

But (and here is where all that why-are-you-reading-the-Bible-you-were-raised-Buddhist comes in): I am like Job. Such beliefs have always been tested, and by well-meaning types. Happiness is for me ephemeral, a short reprieve between other trials. Sooner or later, I become a Doubting Thomas. If called to make a sacrifice, believing in last minute divine grace, I would not trust in that. Sooner or later, that person you trusted hurts you, without even meaning to or trying, and sometimes, they go away. Do they come back? How can you trust that they will? How can you trust that they'll stay? That the happiness you work for in life is yours to keep?

It interests me, intellectually, how Christians deal with this. They trust that God will come back, and that there is divine grace, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence of senseless evil and suffering. It is hard to believe in an all-powerful God, at least to me. I can't suspend the disbelief, but at least this is an omniscient, omnipotent deity--sometimes it's easier to believe in the bigger things than the little things. To believe in God, but not in the person next to you. To believe in the abstract idea of love, but not that it will come to you. To believe in humanity and the inherent goodness of people, but also that love and friendship are not yours to have forever.

So, I'm experimenting with blogging again. I am hoping that all of the profs are on vacation and do not read my blog. I was reading through my archives and through other pseudonymous academic blogs. I miss the long essays about life, love, and philosophy. And I never did go the way of blogging my personal life in excruciating (although riveting!) detail. I kind of envy that though, since reading about other people's lives can be so darned interesting. I've been reading other people's blogs and have felt envious. This blog used to be interesting. You just have to trust me on that one.


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