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Belief as Desire: Thinking In Jewish XXX

There is indeed a problem with the whole idea of believing in something because one wants to rather than because the evidence pushes one in that direction.
Alastair Hannay, Introductory Essay to Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

Belief as Desire: Thinking In Jewish XXX

Belief as Desire: Thinking In Jewish XXX

Believers often define faith as belief in something without evidence; a deeply felt attachment to an idea or principle that, when closely examined would simply fall apart. Some rely on a belief system to explain the unexplained (please note I did not use the term unexplainable simply because, given enough time, all things are explainable but some things today remain unexplained) often sticking to older, yet no longer credible, constructions (e.g., the creation of the universe in six days by a creator God no longer is credible in a universe now known to be billions of years old). Still others claim to have experienced personal miracles in their lives and can only attribute those miracles to the intervention of God or Jesus or some saint or another with no other empirical evidence other than personal experience to back up their claims. Many of these stem from arguments of incredulity which basically go like this: “I can’t think of any other reason for ‘this’ to be therefore it must be the hand of a creator God because nothing else explains whatever ‘this’ is.”

People of faith, especially those who conger a teleological purpose coupled with an eschatological end of times, seem to recognize that their core beliefs are mythological in nature but that all will be revealed when the messiah comes or returns depending on which eschatological story one takes as being the ‘truth.’ It seems that the messiah may appear in the very next moment of time or sometime in the distant future (while some believe in the imminent appearance of the messiah without the ability to attach to that appearance a definite time or place).

Here’s the rub; the very belief in a purpose to the universe, to the very earth we walk upon, to the core of existence is a belief system that may or may not be true. What if, for example, there were no purpose, that the universe, the earth, our very existence were merely the result of probabilities resulting from the physics of the big bang. If this is the case, claiming there must be a purpose to life, that life itself must be meaningful as conditioned by the imposition of meaning or purpose by a creator God, has no foundation. Claiming that there is a teleological purpose is nothing if not the incredulity of belief. It overlooks evidence.

If there is no intrinsic meaning for our very existence is it possible to create meaning or is all lost? If the very core of human life is meaningless, how does one not dispair? If one sees oneself bound to a chain of events stemming from the teleological, if one is, in this sense, bound to a core of sin and redemption where redemption is the reward for living itself, there is little available to the human being but a dispair arising from unfulfilled desire for redemption. If, on the other hand, one addresses life as being in the moment, that one is embedded in the flow of life itself, almost like standing in a river rushing downstream, then one is able to adjust to the vagaries that arise from the changing flow without teleological hope ruling the day. Sometimes the river runs slowly, sometimes rapidly, sometimes the water level is low and sometimes it is flooding, all events that are predictable yet randomly occurring. It is said that one can never stand in the same river twice. What one can do is experience the flow rather than focusing on how one may be redeemed from it.

To remove the teleological along with the idea of eschatological redemption conditioned on the appearance of the messiah does not, however remove response-ability from the equation of life. It does remove conditional response-ability bound up in sin and redemption freeing it from the dispair tied to desire. Once the burdens of fear based desire are removed one’s response-ability is simply an ethical response to the other [person], not one based in fear of punishment or desire for redemption but simply because it is the right thing to do. By acting for the welfare of the other one extends the interiority of the self to the exteriority of the other while incorporating the uniqueness of the other into one’s on lived-experience. No need to condition the obligation to act as a response-able human being, to the contrary, one must act without reservation and without expectation for any reward or recognition or the act is not response-able, rather it is bound up in self interest and self preservation.

 

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5 thoughts on “Belief as Desire: Thinking In Jewish XXX

  1. Sorry have not been able to keep up on reading the last 2 weeks as i’ve been on vacation. : )But did catch this one. I know your stand on this, yet I am still convinced that morals need God. In fact I do not think one can have universal morals without a divine foundation for those morals. This is not saying that there are not folks with high morals around me presently that ? The existence of God. It is in universal grounding of ethics that I believe require a belief in a deity. Which may or may not be different than moral behaviors. As always you approach your thinking responsibly and I like that way about you.
    The interesting thing you bring up is this fear factor in regards to God. Call me strange, but I don’t fear . I may have a long time go, but my fear is gone. I only sense deep satisfaction in knowing I am not alone in this world , but that a strength is in me stronger than any man could ever make up . It is as real as this conversation I’m having with you. I will say in defense of your remarks and my belief in the bible- I do get it that the Bible contains inconsistent teachings. I also do believe morals can easily get confused by what the Bible has which is precepts. As you know there is no short answer for this complex discussion, but I can not let you think that most Christians are caught up in their beliefs for just some sort of self interest. Believe me I would rather believe that everyone is right Roger, but I can not . Alesia

  2. Hi Alesia:
    It is good to hear from you. I hope your vacation was, to use an antiquated expression because I hate the overuse of awesome, the bees knees!

    I clearly understand your conviction that without a deity there can be no moral compass yet my training sees this as an argument from incredulity; I can’t imagine any other solution so this one must be the correct one. This argument fails to recognize other possibilities, therefore it fails to be convincing on its face. My own influences in thinking come from an Orthodox Jewish philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, and Jacques Derrida, an atheist Jewish philosopher. While there are many differences between these two thinkers, the one thing they have in common, it seems to me, is their insistance that one has the obligation, the ethical obligation, to act responsibly. This does not mean that they always do so but they still have the obligation arising out of one’s relationship to the other. Levinas approaches the obligation by attaching a significance of one’s relationship to the other as being a mirror of one’s relationship to the Absolute Other (the infinite unknown and unknowable) so I suppose one could call Levinas’ argument a theistic one if one were inclined to stretch a point. Derrida, on the other hand, approaches the relationship to the other as one of deeply seated contradictions; contradictions that go to the core of who ‘I’ am. How does the self interact with being-in-the-world. For Derrida, the answer lies in two significant acts; the giving of gifts and the acting as a host. In both cases, the acts must be selfless, done without reservation and without expectation of reciprocation. Unlike Levinas, this selfless posture, however, is not bound by mirroring one’s relationship to the Absolute Other, rather it is accomplished without reliance on the infinite unknown, a non-theistic, even atheistic, approach to the question of ethics. So it is possible to lead an ethical life without reliance on a deity.

    As to the question of practice, yesterday was the anniversary of the slaughter of thousands of Jews living along the Rhine in 1096, as Christian crusaders marched to Palestine to kill the Islamic infidel. Their rationale for murdering the Jews along the Rhine was that if they were marching thousands of miles to kill the infidel, they may as well start with the infidel at home. Throughout historical time, including biblical time, wars were fought based on religious (theistic) beliefs…’My belief is better than your belief’…hardly an ethical or moral compass. In recent history the Shoah (Holocaust) serves as a stern reminder that hatred based on religious beliefs alone is immoral and unethical. In the United States religion was used to support slavery, segregation when slavery ended, and now the segregation of LGBT people. Where is the moral compass in that? Muslims and Christians battled in Bosnia over religious belief, Muslim Turks slaughtered Armenian Christians in the name of belief. Where is the moral/ethical compass in that? It seems to me that lofty goals for moral behavior lose their grip when one group decides that their way is superior to the way of the other. Deep racism is spawned by religious belief, unnatural hatred is spawned by religious belief. I agree with you that self-interest contributes to the core of the disconnect between practice and what is preached, but it also seems to me that one need not rely on a creator deity to be caught up in self-interest. Selfless behavior can and does arise from many who do not believe in the existence of a creator deity. For this atheist, if ever there were meaningful proof of the existence of a creator deity, I would acknowledge its existence. As of this very moment, however, the evidence is stacked against such a deity.

    Sorry for so long a response, but thoughtful comments require thoughtful responses.

    Roger

  3. Pingback: Even of there Is No God, Act as if there Is: Thinking In Jewish XXXI | Surviving In This Very Moment...

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