where is the love?

where is the love cartoon

We are surrounded by love. That is, there are people who are willing to love us and perhaps already do. And there are certainly opportunities to love.

Some people think that when there is suffering, there is no love… that love is a luxury in such situations. I’ve learned that the opposite is true and that love and suffering are not mutually exclusive.

Love can abound even in the worst of places.

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36 Responses

  1. Magdalena says:

    Amen. The greatest love is found in the place of greatest pain. I am humbled by the love that has come to us from unexpected quarters!

    I love you, David!

  2. David Waters says:

    Beauty is not possible without Ugly. Good without Evil. Love without Hate. They’re all partners exchanging notes…. within us.

  3. Mar says:

    I have found this to be the most comforting truth when I am searching for a purpose or a reason for living …”it is always possible to love.”

  4. melissa says:

    There is a joy in suffering that only those who have suffered well can understand. The love that it takes to overcome is almost breath taking. Thank you for this.

  5. Mike aka MonolithTMA says:

    Reminds me of all the love during and after 9/11. Truly a dark time, but people looked each other in the eye when they walked down the street.

  6. Fred says:

    Over the past two months, I have learned well the connection between love and suffering. I guess it’s one of the many paradoxes of faith.

  7. What is it about suffering that instinctively makes us feel that there is any doubt about love or conflict with love or paradox about them being together?

    Why is it so easy for us to accept the view that there is any conflict at all?

    Maybe the answers to THAT are the real problems.

  8. Brigitte says:

    This is an article about what patients talk about when they are dying. Sabio might like this, since he seems to be involved in palliative care. It is interesting to me how the author ties together the simple need to speak about family and the love in the family, or the lack of love with the need for forgiveness, avoiding all theological talk. We had this the other day. When we are in direst straights, we need forgiveness. But the question remains: how do we make it solid and real.

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/28/my-faith-what-people-talk-about-before-they-die/?iref=obinsite

  9. Sarah says:

    Hey Mill, depends who causes you the suffering. If you’ve been abused by someone so close to you for so long, you’re gonna be sceptical about some things relating to love. Some, but not all.

    Speak to you later hon,

    Sas

  10. Doug Sloan says:

    Love does not require suffering.

    To love like God, to embrace and be the Kingdom of God, does not require suffering.

    Even when loving like God seems to make suffering inevitable, it is important to remember that love does not require suffering and God does not require suffering. That is an important part of the Good News.

  11. @Brigitte: Thank you so much for that article. It said so much. Lots to ponder. Thanks.

  12. @Sas, yeah, I know how it feels, as you’ll find out as we get to know each other. My question comes from my intimate acquaintance with being abused by people who were as close to me as people can get.

    Sorry I missed you. Try again tomorrow. 🙂

  13. The questions about suffering in relationship to love are strange to me. Abuse has nothing to do with love. Abuse is not love perverted or corrupted or misguided. Abuse is about consumption: gaining sustenance through destruction of life. Many people consider the suffering they experience in life as “coming from God.” In that case, God is an abuser. If God is an abuser, there is no such thing as love, except as a convenience we delude ourselves with.

    Lately I’ve been thinking about our abusive sides (we all have it in us) as consumers of dignity. The more dignity an abuser consumes and thereby destroys, the more pleased he or she gets. You can see it all over their faces and their bodies when they successfully beat someone into an emotional or physical pulp. They act like they just made a really good kill and had a really good meal–THAT kind of satisfaction. The mock affection that they use to keep their prey trapped in no way even resembles love, let alone shares any qualities or characteristics with love. Love treasures, preserves, protects, and nurtures dignity. Love opposes abuse and stops it.

    Abusers in their abusive personas have no dignity. Rage over the existence of dignity might be their defining characteristic. (I believe that many abusers have genuine selves behind the personas they use to hide from others, the world, and themselves.) The very nature of the abusive persona is a black hole of consumption that swallows all dignity that comes into contact with it. Abusers are ike raging garbage disposals that destroy all the dignity they encounter and remain as empty as before. Sweet, sophisticated, charming overlays don’t make their abuse any less destructive or abhorrent.

    So, my question might be rephrased, “Why do we confuse abuse with love?” Why do we see any connection at all between suffering and love, whether dependent or opposed?

  14. @Brigitte: I’ve been thinking about that article, and the only thing I’m left with is “AMEN!” I forwarded it to everyone in my family: brothers, sisters, Dad, their children, mine, even my ex-wife and my aunt.

    I’ve been missing my family (Dad and siblings.) We grew up with a lot of love in our home. Now things are pretty fragmented. I’ve been planning a letter to them to tell them that I miss our family. I see each of them at various frequencies, one quite often, even all together once or twice a year at my Dad’s, but the heart has gone out of it. Oddly enough, our love for each other is very much still there, but the problems and hurdles have also been allowed to remain. Everyone seems OK with putting up a congenial veneer once or twice a year, and silence otherwise, for the most part. I can’t take it anymore.

    That article probably did a much better job communicating than my letter would have. I’ll still send a letter, but it will be a different one.

    We have the privilege of dealing with obstructions to love and forgiveness now, before we get to our death beds. I’ve set my face like a flint. There are some mountains gonna get moved.

  15. Brigitte says:

    It’s good to hear, Millard. Thanks. I hope and pray you will be able to work through the issues and come to place of heartfelt forgiveness and love. Sometimes it takes a lot of patience and persistence. That’s ok. But a man of your experience and expressiveness has a lot to give and I am sure you are needed.

  16. Christine says:

    Beautiful article, Brigitte. Thanks. I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

    When you say “But the question remains: how do we make it solid and real”, I hope you do not mean to say that theology is essential after all. (It’s fine if you think so, but that’s the opposite of what the article is trying to say.) So, without theology, in practice rather than words, how would you propose that “we make [forgiveness] solid and real”.

    You didn’t ask that question about love. I think that makes sense, because it seems easier to make love solid and real, to show it or experience it or feel it from someone else.

    Reading the article, I imagined myself as one of the dying people talking about the love they’ve shared with their spouse, with the chaplain understanding that this was how I came to understand God, love, forgiveness and all the theological questions.

    But then I realized that if you were the chaplain, you would reject that the love I was describing, even if identical to others’ stories except for gender, was a valid way to understand love or God or life. Because of my gender, you would say that my life was loveless and godless and shallow, whereas, if I were a man, you would think it beautiful and holy. On my deathbed, you would have me reject my most solid and real foundation for understanding love, God and forgiveness… you’d have me reject my faith in the face of death.

    It just made me realize how far your view of things is from mine. And how insidious yours could be in leading people away from God.

  17. @Christine, I followed you right up to where you seemed to transfigure Brigitte into a chaplain who was really an incarnation of the professor who mocked the chaplain who wrote the article. (Wiping sweat from brow…) Or did I misread? And I’m baffled how gender plays into it. I’m sorry, you really lost me, but I’m intrigued. Can you clarify?

    I’m glad you asked about Brigitte’s question, though. I almost responded, but I wasn’t really sure what she meant by asking, and then I just let it go.

  18. @Brigitte, what did you mean by how to “make it solid and real?” Make forgiveness solid and real to the dying person who needs it, so that he or she actually believes and feels forgiven? Please clarify, because you’re getting at something important and interesting. Thanks!

  19. Brigitte says:

    Make forgiveness solid and real to the dying person who needs it, so that he or she actually believes and feels forgiven?

    We can and do experience true love and forgiveness in many ways. Through words, through deeds, through touch, through listening, through making sacrifices for us, through presents, through sharing meals and special times, through a smile or look in the face… Endless possibilities. All of them wonderful.

    And Sabio, another commenter here, would say that a non-Christian can have all that, too. –Indeed he or she could and does. In our common humanity, we can share all that.

    BUT Sabio and I had a dispute the other day about whether a particular set of beliefs can help or hinder the situation. I suggested that my Christianity would help me in particular ways. I asked him how atheism as a worldview specifically would help him. This was because he was suggesting that Christianity or Jesus (as went the cartoon) could not do anything for you, in particular, when life was being drained away.

    SO, I do think that Christianity has things to offer that help. Obviously, there is the hope in a future life and resurrection. But there also are the promises of God, that if we confess our sins that he will forgive them and that we are to tell this to each other. So in a family we can do this. We can tell each other what we have done wrong and we can speak forgiveness from ourselves and from God.

    I try to do this with my husband when praying Compline and sharing prayer concerns. It’s easier when you know that you have already been forgiven, but it still is a gift to verbalize all this and hear it said out loud.

    I can also receive the Lord’s Supper to help me: Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. My pastor talked about a dying patient the other day whom had give her the Lord’s Supper. She kissed his hands. It must have really moved him.

    So faith and practice of these things can make things more “solid.” I don’t think it ought to be despised. Nowadays, one often hears anti-Christian rhetoric about cheap comfort, and such.

    It is obviously up to the individual to see if they believe and want this. I believe it and I gladly take it as often as I can get it.

  20. Brigitte says:

    Christine, I am sure there is a lot of real love in your family.

  21. @Brigitte, thank you. That was beautiful, too.

    It’s a funny thing about atheists. The God question occurs in a zone that’s disconnected from anything important to them, in spite of how relevant believers think it should be. This makes sense, because the whole God thing seems ridiculous to them. How could it be meaningful or relate to anything that is?

    I live with an atheist, one of the finest human beings I have met in my life, and I never say things like that lightly. His “god” experiences and mine were similar in many ways. He ended up atheist and I ended up calling myself a believer. When it GETS DOWN TO LIFE, (i.e., kisses on hands, words of love and forgiveness spoken and believed, epiphanies, being there with someone as they die, SEEING EACH OTHER FOR WHO WE ARE,) we’re all the same. Our hearts are touched in similar ways by similar things.

    Atheists just want it to be real. “Believers” are willing to exercise some imagination. Neither are “wrong.” Even someone like Bernie Madoff (NOT implying that atheists are criminals, just using him as an example of someone who in reality couldn’t care less about God, although maybe he does now!) said that the worst part of prison was knowing his family “hates me.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/bernie-maddoff-to-barbara-walters_n_1034896.html

    When it comes down to the real shit, God stories aren’t the important thing. The reality and power of God are all that matter.

    When it comes to “storyland,” which is where beliefs, theories, theologies, and ever other kind of narrative we tell ourselves and each other, atheists object to the ridiculousness of the Christian story. When it comes to reality, we’re all here experiencing the same things.

    So, which is it? Are the stories ridiculous, or are the atheists ridiculous, or is the problem that the Christian story is DISCONNECTED from REAL LIFE? Do you think that a sincere atheist would stubbornly insist that there is no God if their loved one was just healed from a terminal illness by the touch of someone who claimed that God heals? Maybe, maybe not, but they CERTAINLY wouldn’t insist with the same stubbornness as they do now, without any real evidence of God’s existence.

    If Christians displayed the power of God, what would atheists say about it? I guess we won’t find out until they start displaying some power. Paul wrote about one possible outcome:

    “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.”

    When was the last time you saw that happen at a church service? Not the ritualistic substitutes Churchians have come with to excuse their impotence, and not guilt-ridden unloading of angst in response to the threat of hell-fire, but the secrets of a heart disclosed? That’s not about doctrines of “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.” That’s about secrets of an individual’s heart, things that no one but God could have known.

    That scene describes a minimal level of God’s power. I had and experience just like it, which was how I became a Christian. Contemporary Christian denial and refusal of that kind of power are why I am no longer a Christian.

  22. Brigitte says:

    It’s a funny thing about atheists. The God question occurs in a zone that’s disconnected from anything important to them, in spite of how relevant believers think it should be. This makes sense, because the whole God thing seems ridiculous to them. How could it be meaningful or relate to anything that is?

    Millard, I was thinking about this, too, because I just finished Allister McGrath’s “The Dawkins Delusion.” This is a quote that relates to this:

    Dawkins also offers a naturalist explanation of religion–in this case, one that is highly contrived and unpersuasive. Belief in God might be a byproduct of some other evolutionary mechanism. Here he moves into territory explored by fellow atheist Daniel Dennett in his recent book Breaking the Spell. Yet both Dawkins and Dennett adopt a very cognitive view of religion, defining it virtually exclusively in terms of “belief in God.” Yet this is certainly not the sole aspect of religion; not is it even necessarily the most fundamental. A more reliable description of religion would make reference to its many aspects, including knowledge, beliefs, experience, ritual practices, social affiliation, motivation and behavioral consequences.

    Personally, I start very much with the cognitive. But also, I have a very strong distress with the nihilistic. It depresses me completely. If this is it, even with the love of friends of family, even with music and art and … you name it.. it is too empty without God. In terms of intimacy, I find my closet friends come as much churched as unchurched; but above all that I need to worship to receive and give thanks, in good times and in bad.

  23. Cindy says:

    @ Millard

    I can see how you found Christine’s post confusing. It was written based not solely on the basis of this thread but on the basis of many discussions that Christine and Brigitte have had on other threads in the past. What you need to know to understand where that was coming from is that Christine is married to a woman (me, actually) and so when she said that, because of her gender, she would expect Brigitte to say that her life was loveless and godless, she was referring to many previous discussions with Brigitte who believes homosexual relationships to be sinful. Therefore, Christine talking about her wife on her deathbed would be perceived quite differently because she is a woman (talking about a homosexual relationship) than it would if she were man talking about his wife (heterosexual). Hope this clears up the confusion.

    @ Brigitte

    I would really appreciate it if you could explain something for me. I hope you will take this not as me attacking your views but as me honestly attempting to better understand a particular viewpoint that has baffled me for years. See, I get the attitude of the far-right anti-gay groups that make their bogus claims about the evil gay agenda and how all gay people are sex-crazed degenerates incapable of real love. As ridiculous as their claims are, it makes sense to me that these are the lies that they need to tell themselves in order to find peace with their entrenched worldview. They believe that homosexuality is sinful and that sin is inherently harmful and unloving, so they have to convince themselves homosexuality is harmful and unloving in the face of a world that is waking up to the fact that homosexual relationships are really not that different from heterosexual relationships. Some are very healthy, some are very unhealthy and the vast majority probably fall somewhere in between. These people can’t accept that reality because it would mean that they have no reason to oppose homosexuality other than a completely arbitrary rule that divides humanity into two different classes without any real reason to do so. They realize that would be the very definition of bigotry and cannot accept that their God might in fact be a bigot.

    You on the other hand, believe that homosexual relationships are sinful and yet (according to your response here) still believe that they can be based on real love. This is something I do not understand. It seems like a complete disconnect. Am I incorrect in saying that you believe that Christine and I can have a truly loving relationship that we each see as a big part of how we relate to the love of God (like the article was suggesting) and yet, when we die and meet God face to face, he will tell us that we broke the rules and so our relationship was detestable to Him and we must now spend eternity in hell? Is that how you understand it; or am I completely missing something here? Again, please understand that I am not asking this to antagonize but because it really is a mystery to me. Once I came to realize and accept that my love for Christine was real and pure, not born out of lustful desires or anything even remotely evil, my brain would not allow me to go on believing that it was detestable to God and therefore something that I should flee from. Once I accepted it as genuine love, I had no choice but to accept that God, who is love, would not be against me expressing that love and would in fact help me to walk in that love. While it took me some time to work through the theology around it, once I accepted it as loving there was no further doubt in my mind that I could never go back to believing that God was against that love.

  24. Christine says:

    @ Millard,

    “And I’m baffled how gender plays into it.”

    Me, too, Millard. Honestly. But I know Brigitte thinks it does, which is why I asked.

    @Brigitte,

    Ditto Cindy above on wondering how sin can lead us to a closer relationship with God.

    “BUT Sabio and I had a dispute the other day about whether a particular set of beliefs can help or hinder the situation. I suggested that my Christianity would help me in particular ways. I asked him how atheism as a worldview specifically would help him.”

    I think the point would be that atheism, essentially a non-belief, wouldn’t inherently come with any helps OR hindrances. The atheist point would then be that they have non-religious equivalents as helps (stemming from our common humanity and shared concepts of, say, forgiveness or mercy) and that any additional “helps” are not actually real, just different ways of viewing the same non-exclusive things. Atheism would also avoid any of the religious hang-ups that are hindrances, which, if you’re keeping score, would make atheism more helpful overall.

    Not an atheist myself, but Sabio addressed your points pretty well in that thread, and I am opposed to revisionist history.

  25. Brigitte says:

    Cindy, I have no agenda regarding homosexual individuals and in roughly 1000 posts on my blog I have not even covered it once, as far as I can remember. I don’t know any homosexual couples and I have not specifically engaged Christine on the subject. Mostly, I feel, I have had lot of anger vented at me.

    Some time ago, I did say something explicit about health issues and family constellation issues, and I’d have more to say on that, but I see that this is not the setting for it, noting the limitations of the internet and the depth of feelings involved. For example, as an adoptive mother, I have strong views on the right of adoptees to be close to their birth families and that the relationship to a father is always important. The need goes so far that in British Columbia there are items before the courts dealing with the adoptees’ rights to know about sperm donors. Similarly, my daughter has had a relationship with her birth father since her own wedding, but this is something she missed all along up until then. But much better late than never. This just happens to be this specific situation. The birth mother and her family were always close to us… I also have birth mother’s and birth father’s families involved on my son’s side. At first, I was worried about the set-up, but our adoption agency did a wonderful job counselling and our birthfamilies are great. It’ all worked out very well. –Anyhow–I only mention this as an example because I have no idea regarding your and Christine’s situation, and, therefore, I think it does not make sense to go into it. But you were asking me what I think. Yes?

    If Willard, who commented before, or any other man, is debating whether or not to initiate or rekindle relationships with any children he may have, (obviously I have no clue), I would say he should definitely go for it. Make sure that no one feels threatened, perhaps get a counselor involve, but do it for the sake of the children. Sorry if that hits anyone’s nerves. I am speaking into a vacuum, but my concern is for the children. Tons of research shows how important a father is, even if he is not there all the time.

    In terms of human love, on all levels and in general, we certainly all have this capacity for it and find it in many places. So, I do not doubt that you have genuine love. I do not doubt it at all. Really. Perhaps better and deeper than my husbands and mine. Who can measure it? But, also, human love is tinged with our own desires, even in my marriage, and this how we all are. We always want certain things for ourselves, and so selfishness is also always in play and all our relationships have some problems. Everything about each of us is a mixed bag.

    In terms of the Bible and God, I emphasize that I am not a pastor, but a school teacher. Nor would I be your chaplain, as described in the article. I am not qualified. No training whatsoever. If I were at your beside I would tell you about Jesus and if you felt like hearing it and repenting of something or not that would be up to you. That’s the most I can say. I would see this as needing some good pastoral care where desired. Christine said she can’t see what people see in the Bible, so I am not quite sure why it matters. But it does seem to matter. I understand that. It would matter to me.

    I will venture to say one more thing which might make you angry. I do not mean to judge you as individuals. It’s not my job. When I get to the judgement seat myself, I will only have one thing to say for myself and it is that I trust that my sin is taken away by Christ’s blood. I will have no other righteousness to stand on.

    But lest I sound too waffling, I will say and quote this from Dinesh D’Souza’s book “What is so great about Christianity?” It is really something that applies to all of us regarding “love”, and we can all think about it. It comes from a chapter titled “The Imperial ‘I’: When the self becomes the arbiter of morality.”

    The whole train of thought is something I’ve been thinking about. If we have the ten commandments as a summary of morality, but the law also written on our hearts, where is the line where our inner judgement (often very good) does not line up with the commandments? What is that relationship between an inner knowledge and an external knowledge?

    The deepest appeal of secular morality is its role in the formation and preservation of “love relationships.” How do we know that we love? There is no other way but to reach deep into ourselves and consult the iiner voice, which is not the voice of reason but the voice of feeling. We succumb to that inward self so completely that we feel that we have lost control We don’t love, but are “in love,” and we are now not entirely responsible for what we do.

    Love is the sin for which we find it almost impossible to repent. That is why Paolo and Francesca, the two adulteresses who inhabit the outer ring of Dante’s inferno, still cling together like doves, appealing to the law of love, “which absolves no one from loving.” Love has transported them into an almost transcendental state outside the real world, and yet more real than the world. Love of this kind is, quite literally, “beyond good and evil,” and that is why the new morality has become such a powerful justification for adultery. When the inner self commands love, it does so authoritatively, defiantly, and without regard to risk or cost or all other commitments. As C.S. Lewis once observed, erotic love of this kind tends to “claim for itself a divine authority.”

    Sorry, if that seems too much said. But we want love and we have ways of excusing ourselves. It is a thing we need to analyze about ourselves all the time.

    In closing, I would just also say that there is Lutheran blogger from Brazil on the internet, who is gay and very confessional. He often mentions his homosexuality and the issues he faces because of it and he also explains the Lutheran confessions extremely well and thoroughly; perhaps one of the best ones out there. He sometimes says that people occasionally are astonished that he has received such deep acceptance and teaching from a very conservative church. But it is not really that astonishing. With what David Hayward in the more recent post calls self-loathing Reformation theology, we really don’t see ourselves better than anyone else. We are indeed beggars for grace and I am not at all bothered by calling myself that. Instead it makes me positively giddy to say it and receive it. I am not better or smarter than anybody, finding my esteem in Christ. But I do want to serve him and my neighbor. I am not all bothered by having a gay or lesbian brother or sister.

    Cindy and Christine, this is the best and most honest I can do under the circumstance of not knowing you. I pray the Lord bless you richly and you are not very angry with me. XO

  26. @Cindy and Christine, thanks for clarifying, it all makes sense now. Bless you and your marriage! God is love.

    It’s getting clearer to me why Bible cultists (which is how many Christians behave, so that’s what I call them) are so focused on lifestyle choices. They have no spiritual sense, so they don’t dare engage with real people and evaluate real life unless it FIRST fits into the confines of their Bible-based thinking. Outside those confines, “There be dragons!” They not only refuse to go outside what “the Bible tells me so” with an open mind, they are AFRAID to.

    I was just thinking about heretics and pagans and witches yesterday. No one but the most callous “fundie” would argue that burning them at the stake and other brutalities were good things. But even the kindest-hearted souls suspect that there was some deviltry afoot, even if the punishment was too severe.

    So, let’s try a little thought experiment: put heretics and pagans and witches on one side, and righteous Christians on the other, just before the heretics and pagans and witches get led away to be burned at the stake. Imagine the faces, body language, gestures, and what is said on both sides. Inform this little image with everything you know about Salem Witch Trials, Catholic Inquisitions, and persecutions of Huguenots, Anabaptists, and a host of others considered heretical by the “Church.”

    In your image, who looks angry? Who demonizes whom? Who abuses whom? Who despises and violates whom? And maybe the most important question, what drives their emotions: love or fear?

    Who is afraid of whom?

    I’ve known heretics and pagans and witches. Like any other human assortment, it takes all kinds. The ones I know are beautiful people with beautiful, loving souls, looking for good and to do good. Are there others who don’t want good? Sure, just like there are plenty of Christian hypocrites who brutalize and exploit people.

    Life style is no indication. Life style is the outside of the cup. Bible cultists can’t see past life style to the thoughts and intentions of the heart, which is where love operates. Maybe they claim that only God can do that. Let them speak for their own blind selves.

    Love sees. If we love, we see and we learn to see better. Bless you both.

  27. Christine says:

    @Brigitte,

    Your post is a little… long…

    First, no one is venting anger at you. I have been genuinely angry at you only once (and you earned it – it wasn’t venting), and I know of no one else who has been angry with you, including on this thread right now.

    If you want to fully embrace gay rights here and now, go ahead. I’ll even admit you were completely misunderstood in past threads. But I strongly suspect you are not going to do that.

    We have discussed the subject on a few occasions, and you have provided material you claim represents your view. I don’t think anyone is misrepresenting you. You have made yourself quite clear.

    Everything else in your response, from adoptive issues to another random blogger, seems entirely unrelated.

    I made a comment about what you might do in a *hypothetical* situation related to an article that *you* posted and now don’t seem to understand. This was followed by a few straightforward questions asking you to clarify what now seems a very disjointed view, and you seemed to have missed the point entirely and gone off on some strange tangent.

    For instance, the quote you offer above, implies that you think Cindy and I don’t have real love for each other, but only a sinful erotic “love”, which seems the opposite of what you say in the rest of the post and above. I wonder if you understand the quote you included, as it contradicts your own point and is actually quite insulting in this context.

    Again, the question was, if you believe that Cindy and I have love between us (and love in our marriage, going back to the article), then how can a love that is real, as you say, be sinful, or alternatively, if it is not “real” love, how could it also be an illustration of God’s love (again, going back to the article). You also ignored Cindy’s points entirely.

    I am starting to think you are simply avoiding the issue. The rambling, distracted post with contradictory views suggests you aren’t quite sure what you believe yourself.

  28. @Brigitte: Thanks for that excerpt. Dawkins makes me chuckle, and I truly feel sorry for him, not pity or in a condescending way, but exactly for reasons like McGrath mentions. It’s easy to knock down straw men, which is what “The God Delusion” did delightfully. Dawkins is fun to listen to, but his thinking on religious issues is woefully shallow.

    Nihilism is the result of addiction to a couple of things:

    1. Refusal to consider most of the evidence available to us
    2. Refusal to acknowledge the role of ignorance in cognition

    Your comment that life “is too empty without God” points to some of the evidence that people refuse to consider. Atheists and nihilists are great at dismissing the validity of evidence that might challenge their views. If we start by declaring that only material things exist and only material evidence is valid, no wonder we find no “evidence” that God exists. The real question is: what motivates that prejudicial, unreasoned dismissal?

    At the very least, we can admit that there are plenty of things that we are clueless about. Maybe things we don’t understand yet will reveal that nihilism is not unavoidable. As long as we keep insisting that if we can’t “observe” it, a thing doesn’t exist, and that it can only exist in ways that make sense to us, our problem isn’t metaphysical but psychological.

    Our best thinking is still rife with narcissism, for example. Academics euphemize it as “anthropocentrism.” And exactly why do humans persistently “regard themselves as the central and most significant entities in the universe” or assess reality “through an exclusively human perspective?” (wikipedia) Because we are very narcissistic. Just consider a couple of indications:

    1. Our knowledge disciplines do not address the role of ignorance in their theories or in their research and publication processes. Ignorance is not the opposite of knowledge; it is the context for knowledge.

    2. Our knowledge disciplines are just beginning to recognize and incorporate deconstruction as a necessary function of knowledge development. Deconstruction should be deliberate and managed. Historically, it usually happens via conquest, revolution, or just waiting for the old guard to finally kick the bucket. That makes for a violent, costly, and very slow turnaround.

    Neither denial of the role of ignorance nor denial of the necessity of deconstruction is based on reasoned thinking, but rather the result of non-rational attachments and avoidance.

    I’m working on a hypothesis that atheism at root has nothing to do with belief or lack of belief, but rather results from refusing to engage with certain modes of cognition and behavior. In other words, for whatever reason, atheists first find religious human behavior personally repugnant, then rationalize reasons to avoid and disparage it. The reasons come second, the repugnance comes first.

  29. Christine says:

    @Millard,

    Thanks! 🙂 Much appreciated.

    And I agree on the bible cultists – pure idolatry. And when I ask for any justification of their view, I get such comments as Brigitte’s above – “Christine said she can’t see what people see in the Bible, so I am not quite sure why it matters.” In other words, they don’t have any.

    I wonder what we would see if we first asked ourselves “Who looks like Jesus in this situation?” and called those people Christians (followers after Christ) instead of having people self-identify based on belief…? Would be interesting. I wonder if it is possible to step outside ourselves enough to see ourselves by that standard? At least we can try. And at least never be offended by the question.

  30. @Christine,

    I’m with you. I tell people I am no longer a Christian, but that I love and follow Jesus. I’ve seen signs that’s a bit trendy now, but for me it isn’t just a gimmick to distinguish myself from the pack while I carry on howling at the moon.

    Any real faith (meaning the kind that actually does move mountains) died out of the “Christian Church” when the Bible was canonized, with little exception, and most of the exceptions were exterminated. The Bible was canonized precisely so that people no longer need to relate directly to God or Jesus in real life, because now they have “God’s word.” It’s a relationship by post if a relationship at all, with “the Church” mediating and controlling it. Basing identity on belief makes sense given the situation, but it has nothing to do with love and life.

    I remember getting acquainted with a young Christian man when I was in my twenties. He rattled off question after doctrinal question. I answered them to his satisfaction, so he decided that we were “brothers.” I remember thinking, “I could be a pedophile or a murderer, and this guy wouldn’t have a clue, just because I gave him the right answers.” Similarly, most followers are shocked when their favorite holy man or woman gets revealed for an immoral charlatan. How can religious leaders get away with murder, rape, pedophilia, and greed for DECADES without anyone knowing or stopping them? It certainly isn’t because they all listen to the spirit of truth.

    I love John’s “logic” in his letters:

    >> By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:10

    >> They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 4:5-6

    It’s not about doctrine or belief, it’s about recognizing life and love. People who love can detect genuine love and they can detect facsimiles, just like anyone who is intimately acquainted with a subject, skill, or experience can tell the difference between a poser and the real deal. People who do not love cannot make the distinction. That’s why life style becomes so important to them. Gotta keep the outside of that cup clean! 😉

  31. Brigitte says:

    It’s so much easier to confess everybody else’s sin, guys (and gals).

    Millard, D’Souza has a very good chapter on Immanual Kant, explaining how he proved by secular philosophy that we cannot possibly know everything that exists. We can only know what we have been equipped to detect via our senses or by extensions our machines and measuring devices. But that does not prove for a minute that what we perceive is all there is.

  32. Brigitte says:

    I posted the D’Souza quote on my Facebook. The likes I got were from my children’s friends whose parents divorced. A good comment came from a very eloquent friend from England. This is what he wrote:

    Isn’t the case, though, that everything ‘under the sun’ is so tainted with futility? Let’s face it, when it comes to love of any genuine kind, we’re all usually like one of the two sons in the prodigal story – squanderer’s or totally self-obsessed. It really takes that miracle of something more, something outside of us to transform human life and give it true depth. That’s why God’s grace is extended to everyone, as are His abundant gifts – so that life may truly become more than the empty, dark thing we so easily make it.

  33. Christine says:

    @Brigitte,

    So you are just going to subject (including your own article) entirely then?

    So, you want to admit you have zero credibility on the subject?

    @Millard,

    Yup. I hear you.

  34. Christine says:

    should have been “to ignore the subject”

    And how about not throwing out slights at people unless you are willing to back them up?

  35. @Brigitte, it isn’t about sin and confession for me. My sins and your sins were forgiven. It isn’t about crime or punishment and most definitely not about us. It’s about finding and loving truth, throwing out dirty bathwater and keeping the baby. One of the sins of the Church is to teach that this can be done by recipe. There is no recipe for matters of the heart. There are wisdom, guidance, and past experience, but no recipe, because no one else has ever had my heart, and no one else has ever had yours.

    I very much liked that quote, thank you. Sorry for the long post, but I love this stuff, and this is how it comes out. Discussions are great places to air out the nascent thinking, as long as everyone can tolerate it. 🙂

    I agree, aside from perspectives that incorporate love, God, eternity, soul, etc., reality truly is futile and dark. Much obsession is spent trying to escape from that daunting fact instead of dealing with it. Death is the end of everything as we know it, so far as we know. Belief in afterlife is an affirmation that this life is significant. Unfortunately, we let the cart get in front of the horse, and decided that “proving” an affirmation makes sense. Once something is proven, it ceases being an affirmation, and that changes our attitude.

    We understand these things in personal relationships, things like trust and faith and faithfulness. Proof of trust is an oxymoron. The act of proving trust only follows the loss or rejection of trust, and misses the whole point. Trust isn’t about the past, the only possible source of “evidence” that could constitute a proof, but an offering, a handing over of our future safety and interests to someone we rely on to appreciate and protect them.

    This is why there will never be a satisfactory “proof” of God’s existence, because the knowledge of God faces forward, to see potentialities that are not as if they were. Every step forward by humankind were taken that way, not by proof, regardless whether it related to God or science or any other facet of experience. Progress requires imagination, faith, and commitment BEFORE we know well enough to rationalize, justify, or prove. The very notion of “proof” is irrelevant at the stage when we dream and commit to making it come true. Faith looks forward, into a space where proof makes no sense.

    These things are clear when it comes to personal life and relationships. Somehow we decided things are different with God. We regard him/her as an abuser and contemplate the questions of God and life like victims in an abusive relationship. That’s one reason that sin and forgiveness are such big deals in Churchianity. Sin and forgiveness are critical to keep abuse cycles going. Healthy relationships focus predominately on positive, creative, generative concerns, including lots of play. How many church services you’ve attended were playful? I just found a church that has fun at worship. This is the first time since my early Christian experience in the 70s that I’ve actually looked forward to Sunday-go-to-meeting time. 90% of the people there are recovered addicts, many of them rescued from a life on the streets. When they thank Jesus for saving them, they mean something by it, and it shows.

    With the heart we believe whatever we believe. That’s in our limbic brain and its connections to the rest of our body. What goes on in our neocortex has no immediate effect on our limbic self. Changing our limbic wiring takes lots of time, lots of repetition (just ask an athlete or a musician), and a completely different kind of process. Limbic rewiring is much more sensual than neocortical rewiring. That’s one insidious reason that Churchianity overemphasizes the “cognitive” and demonizes the sensual, (even though it makes abundant use of sensual stimuli in “holy” contexts.) Churchian regimens reinforce the internal schism we all naturally sense between the aspect of our selves that want love and goodness and the aspect in which there seems to be “no good thing” according to Paul.

    Instead of making us whole, Churchianity aggravates our internal conflicts and schisms and then preys on them. It keeps our neocortexes busy and somewhat satisfied with the ungodly complexity of its teachings, while courting our limbic selves sensually until we become attached. That’s when the exploitation starts. The church applies its teachings in ways that amass it unconscionable wealth on the backs of its faithful, who seek to please God by devoting time, energy, and wealth to the construction of earthly empires.

    Churchianity’s first line of defense against complaints about its exploitation is the schism it reinforced between our neocortex and our limbic self. The schism provides space for neocortical justification (doctrine) of its violation of our limbic sense of love, good, and justice. Doctrines convince our neocortex, which in turn regards our limbic self (that’s actually in touch with what is really going on) as the culprit. Churchianity tells us that our internal conflicts and our complaints result from lack of faith and because our darkness needs to be enlightened, referring us back to doctrines. If that isn’t enough, it makes threats unrelated to spirituality: loss of property, well-being, relationship, community, and even life. If that isn’t enough, it follows through on its threats, unless we “humble ourselves and repent” from the folly of listening to what our heart and gut are telling us.

    Why is everyone so blind to the fact that the Churchian experience is modeled on the same addictive codependence and cycles of abuse that hallmark any other kind of exploitive relationship? Wake up people!

    I’m not talking only about “cults” and fringe groups, but about the mainstream. Churchians immediately point to all the good there is in Churchianity. Well, duhr. Of course there is. People are there. There’s bound to be goodness, otherwise they’d leave. The presence of goodness is beside the point. The question is whether the general welfare is Churchianity’s first priority or a contingent concern. Some benefit must be forthcoming, otherwise the “sheep” would scatter. It’s obvious that Churchianity is designed to promote exploitation of “sheep,” not their welfare. Proof of this is the outcome of MILLENNIA of Churchian regimen. After thousands of years, Churchians are still “sheep.” If the “sheep” had been properly tended, they would have grown up “in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” and would have become REAL kings and priests, not posers who wear funny costumes and do weird rituals to mesmerize their followers.

    Churchianity does not promote connection to God, Jesus, love, and life, but communities of exploiters and victims cycling through obvious abuse that it justifies with doctrines. The Church does not intend the welfare of its people; it intends to condition them for ongoing fleecing and eventual slaughter. That’s the kingdom of anti-christ, not God.

    Those of us who have left Babylon should be thankful, but we should also consider whether we want to stand idly by enjoying our freedom while she gets drunk on the blood of the saints.

  36. Luke says:

    Ahh… yes. The crazy Judeo-Christian claim is that we are at home in the universe and we are loved. Let those who have eyes see, let those who have ears hear!

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