Some people will be chosen for the job, the Wednesday night poker game for the limited number of spaces available in heaven. Only so many spoons fit in one drawer your mother would say and the same is true for clothes and closets shelves and cans and let’s be honest hearts and loves. I cannot love you because I love another is a problem that sometimes gets admitted over wine in a restaurant filled with people choosing this dish over that meat choosing something that will fill the middle of their beings or leave them slavering like a cheetah who missed and pass that would you? and let’s be friends. Yes let’s drink to being friends and then we can all go on our way remembering the best part about being chosen is that you do not have to stop for anyone along the way. – Betsy  

Absolutely Convinced or Radically Uncertain?

Some thoughts this week on the slippery notion of ideological and religious certainty. Philosopher Philip Clayton, “The days are gone when we can just list the doctrines — mother church can decide and we can just sit there with those as a given.  Given is no longer a given. And I think there is an attitude of radical uncertainty and radical doubt. And rather than saying can we integrate doubt and faith, I want to speak of a faith which incorporates the radical doubt, which is the doubting miraculously finding faith within it.” Clayton articulates an important shift:  a faith not built upon persuasive propositions (if you’ve not heard a better argument, you’ve not talked to the right people) but upon wrestling with life’s mystery and paradox. Faith born of deep probing doubt. Faith that exists in harmony with doubt, not in opposition to it. Paul Fromont quotes existential psychologist Rollo May, “People who claim to be absolutely convinced that their stand is the only right one are dangerous. Such conviction is the essence not only dogmatism, but of its more destructive cousin, fanaticism. It blocks the user from learning new truth, and is a dead giveaway of unconscious doubt” Pretty obvious stuff, but so often lost in the passion of religious fervor: absolute certainty as a marker of toxic religion – a posture of certainty that snuffs out the small voice of creation – a rigidity of mental logic that that bounds and gags the transcendent freedoms of Spirit. May concludes, “The person with the courage to believe and at the same time to admit his doubts is flexible and open to new learning, and I’d add, open to new depths of meaning and new vantage points from which to gain new or different perspectives. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt. To believe fully and at the same moment to have doubts is not at all a contradiction: [rather] it presupposes a greater respect for truth, an awareness that truth always goes beyond anything that can be said or done at any given moment” When discussing religion and spirituality, I prefer the word “confidence” over certainty. And sometimes “confidence” is too strong a word. Hope, however, is never too strong. A shared hope is always welcome in any community. Hope is a bridge between communities. Hope promotes inclusion and safety. Hope lives on, even in the face of death. Hope is the yeast of faith. As new generations accelerate and deepen the shift from institution-centric, lay-clergy models of religion to networked sharing and collaboration — what Duke theologian David Morgan calls an extended community of interpretation — theology will change, perhaps radically. And among the major changes will be the way we collectively re-imagine and re-envision our certainties, confidence, hope, and faith. As this collective re-imagining transforms religion from the inside-out, from the bottom-up, from expert to amateur… may it not coalesce into yet another static propositional confession. May doubt (the posture of honest uncertainty) remain authentic and always new – and not become a religion unto itself. May religion be continually redefined as (re)generative, inclusive, shared experience, offering a depth of freedom not found in ideas, but in what the best ideas always point to. Inertial. Pointing father. Pointing beyond the visible horizon. One of the 20th century’s greatest scientific thinkers, Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman, talks about faith, doubt, religion, and uncertainty in this engaging four-minute film. Time well spent. “I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that could be wrong… I don’t have to have an answer; I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things.” – R.  


With a HT to KK, and in continuing the theme of an earlier post in which John Fiesole playfully tackles the notion of meaningful meaninglessness, and the meaningfullnessians who profess such paradox, here’s a book exploring uncaused causes – self-causation – seemingly illogical or nonsensical ideas that, upon deeper reflection, may offer  profound truth. From the book: The superfluous is the most necessary. Voltaire Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. Margaret Mead I shut my eyes in order to see. Paul Gauguin We learn from history that we do not learn from history. Georg Hegel We are never prepared for what we expect. James Michener To be believed, make the truth unbelievable. Napoleon Bonaparte What we really want is for things to remain the same but get better. Sydney J. Harris When a dog runs at you, whistle for him. Henry David Thoreau Always be sincere, even if you don’t mean it. Harry S. Truman Man can believe the impossible, but can never believe the improbable. Oscar Wilde War is a series of catastrophes which result in a victory. Georges Clemenceau First I dream my painting, then I paint my dream. Vincent van Gogh We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities. Walt Kelly, From Pogo I want peace and I’m willing to fight for it. Harry S. Truman Study the past, if you would divine the future. Confucius, in Analects Love is a kind of warfare. Ovid All works of art should begin…at the end. Edgar Allan Poe and my favorite… The final delusion is the belief that one has lost all delusions. Maurice Chapelain no wait, this is my favorite… A man chases a woman until she catches him. Anonymous The Kandelhardt