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July 30, 2008



For a long time now, narrative has been my only justification for holding on to a faith for which the evidence remains sparse. I have continued to "believe" because I find the narrative of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven compelling, the best answer available to the moral farce of the creation. (I like the word creation better than universe because it implies a purpose regardless of whether it was "created" by a divine being or basic physical forces and chance.) As long as that narrative holds the greatest promise, I've argued to myself, then it benefits me and the people I care about to act as though the narrative were true. One interesting conclusion I've come to in following this philosophy is that it doesn't require any faith at all in a classical deity. In fact, if the Kingdom of Heaven ever were to abound in the creation, then it would have to come about through the actions of humanity. Adherence to humanism certainly faces just as many roadblocks as any major religion, but I think they may fit into the doubt category for which perseverance is virtuous if not entirely reasonable.



The Pullman quote I used comes from a speech he delivered when he won the Humanist of the Year award from the Humanist and Ethical Union in June of this year. He finishes the speech with an allusion to the Repulic of Heaven, which, as you'll know, is a recurrent theme in His Dark Materials. God is dead and there is no king, so we have to work things out in this new republic. It's a great notion, except that no one behaves, including people who are supposed to know better.

kristen c

"It's a great notion, except that no one behaves, including people who are supposed to know better"

You really think so? Greg, you sound like a Calvin-total-depravity guy! I think there are a heckuva lot of people out there who make behavioral choices to help "bring about the Kingdom of Heaven"--with or without traditional faith. They just don't make the news.

Thanks for this post...we're still hoping you and Susan make a west coast trip sometime soon and see us in Oregon.



The total depravity folks are right about one thing, there is something wrong with all of us. I wasn't trying to be utterly pessimistic; just observing that the politics of humanity lead more often to conflict than shalom.

And we hope to make the trip some time next year...


Your observation goes right along with my own, that the kind of faith I talked about remains unreasonable. I doubt anything like the Kingdom of Heaven will ever come about through political means. In the parlance of Christianity, our political institutions are fallen powers, irredeemable. I sometimes wonder, though, if our faith might be better placed in people. I tend to place credence in the plethora of pop art (mostly sentimental films, I'll admit) that show fairly wretched people learning to do the right thing when faced with real human tragedy. I add to this evidence the common attribution of warm, human character traits to cruel political figures by the people who know them personally. The recent Esquire piece on John Yoo as well as friendly assessments of Karl Rove are good examples. I think that people are much more likely to do the right thing by the people close to them than they are in an institutional setting. This makes Wendell Berry's argument for localism as the antidote to empire a fairly compelling one.



you should write a book...

not like, 'ya, fuck this or that, i'm this now'...

but more of a helpful handbook to logical thought...and you should make it autobiographical as well



Lots going on here for me. The first, in response to your statement, "Imagination...is the enemy of theocratic thinking", is that I can't get John Lennon's "Imagine" out of my head. Also, think about the theocratic thinking that has become so intertwined with right-wing ideology. Imagination is the enemy of nationalism and a lot of other ideologies.

My own journey to rejecting christianism is similar. But in addition to recognizing that god was not addressing Rwanda, Sudan, New Orleans, etc., or that the assholes who claim power in this country in his name are--well, assholes, it came down to looking at my own life and asking "What works?" At the end of the day, what works for creating a level of happiness, relational health, financial comfort, etc., that I want? Those things in the end were actually being significantly hindered by my christian beliefs. So I jettisoned them.

Jerry Dan

I remind myself not to get drawn into this, because there is nothing to be accepted or rejected, and if we want to show or confirm - it is only to ourselves.
Let me get to the point:
I enjoy the comment about that "...that the assholes who claim power in this country in his name...". I know it's different, and to me that's the best point in the story.
Now: not to loose yourself in emotions (and I'm not saying that you do), you need to stay in the centre of the potter's wheel, so it's easier to see why they do what and in whose name. First: they cultivate their ego to grow big, and then there is high reward/risk ratio (they can buy own social acceptance circle). And let's be fair: this one is more of a product himself (just like many others). And another big reason "why" is that we let them.

My thanks for a great inside and inspiration to the author of "Doubt and the Language of Believing".

Stay in the center of the potter's wheel. You'll have better view, and more power to shape things your way.

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