This is for any of you out there who are curious. Or who doubt. Or who want to know what you really believe in, not what your parents believed in, or your granny believed in, or someone else told you to believe in. This is for anyone who believes that organized religion is not for you. This is for you if you say you don’t know if there is a God or not and you tell yourself you don’t care if there is or not, but still something inside you wonders. This is for my atheist friends and my agnostic friends, and my Jewish and Muslim buds and those of you who follow Buddha.
This old woman is about to give you some advice.
Let me warn you what I am NOT doing: I’m not evangelizing or proselytizing.
I’m offering you, from my heart, as a scientist, thinking person, a part of my solution to my own quest for understanding my own faith.
When my Jake died, I had to decide whether my Judeo-Christian beliefs were mere hopeful fantasy or truth I could count on. To do that I had to get away from the evangelical rhetoric I had grown up with and find some way to decide for myself, or in the case of there being a God, to boldly go past my upbringing and find Him in a way that I never had before.
Here’s my reason for going here: I don’t believe that I am the only one who has wondered or doubted.
A single caveat that you should pay strict attention to: Faith is just that, faith, so I am not offering all the answers, I’m not telling you the answers are all out there, and I’m not telling you what to believe.
If you are still reading, well… then, read on.
As a scientist, that part of my life is about fact, observation, and coming to a conclusion. I am an evolutionary biologist, for Heaven’s sake. At times in social history, when science or knowledge has made huge strides, our perceptions of things that are not about observable facts, things like faith, come under scrutiny. Actually that’s not quite strong enough, in a sense, factual knowledge and our acceptance of its importance in our lives become the gold standard for what we could or should believe in.
Despite those periods in history, there is at least a large portion of mankind (womankind) that will always seek to understand more than just the factual reality that we can determine. There is a knowledge that has to do with love and faith and death and the “why” of our existence that is never satisfied by facts. I’ll go farther than that. This life will demand that you make decisions, philosophical, theological ones that go beyond, because basically, we’re all going to die.
So into this factual world we live in, whether your Gen X, Baby boomers, or something in between or after, never before in the history of our world, has there been as much opportunity to access information, of any kind, of every kind, of all kinds. And we are a people addicted to information.
Every day you choose what to believe in or who to believe in. You will devour Paris Hilton’s tweets or center your life around the words that Toby Keith sings. You will choose what you listen to or read or browse on the internet, based on what you believe, whether it’s a conscious choice or you are just following in the steps that were set out when you were little. Every day you choose to reinforce those beliefs based on Richard Dawkins or The real Housewives or Rush Limbaugh, or Jon Stewart.
(Seriously, this is a fact. Ask me, I can give you the papers.)
More than 50% of every household in America has access to the internet, I have no idea what the estimates are across the globe, but I know that along with pornography and Ebay, you can find websites telling you just how right the conservative right wing is for forbidding the study of evolution in public classrooms, that there were never dinosaurs and we never landed on the moon or just how right and full of answers Dr. Dawkins is when he debates the merits of Atheism and that Judas was a good guy. Do you get a little bit uneasy with any of that above?
So here’s what I am offering: This first week, I am going to tell you of one of the things that has helped me make my own conclusions. I’m going to be as honest with you as possible. Come with me. Don’t be afraid or angry. Don’t be stubbornly stubborn on any side.
Having known in October ’05 I was going to spend some serious philosophical mental time, a friend of mine, an ex- police detective, turned private investigator said this: “Come to Sunday School
Here’s what I found: the teacher, a famous lawyer (and yes, I too, hold dear some of those derogatory stereotypes), while staunchly Christian, decidedly evangelistic, definitely Bible thumping, had another side. He was unfailingly honest with himself and as it turned out, the class. The more I listened to him, the more I started thinking he had to be, had to learn that acknowledgement of facts or opinions or complexities that didn’t fit your view couldn’t just be ignored or poopooed away. He couldn’t be a successful lawyer otherwise. If I knew how to apply scientific principle to logical thought and conclusion, here was someone who allowed the evidence, there or not, to make his case, for those of us in his class, the jury. Even in science we get dogmatic. Dogma is bad. This class seemed to welcome conversation.
It didn’t hurt that the teacher turned out to be wicked smart, fluent in a couple of Biblical languages, and despite any kind of tutoring, seems to grasp information across a wide variety of science fields. (Trust me, when he went there on science, I was on him like ticks on a dog. I might sit in the back but I haven’t been called bashful since high school.)
Since those early days almost 5 years ago, sitting in the back of a southern Baptist Sunday School of over 500 people, I have made some observations that make me comfortable in suggesting “Biblical Literacy” for those of you questing. This isn’t the only thing you can do, but it’s a helpful one that I know of and that is the reason I suggest it. This lawyer and his very smart (and very pretty) wife and the rest of their family are who they say they are, which in my book, counts for a lot. Honesty. That’s what I am promoting. I don’t always agree with him. I don’t always come to the same conclusions he does. (You should ignore my advice if I did.) He often spurs me to look beyond and search for myself. As long as he remains open to question and debate, I will attend his lectures and as it turns out, pray to God that I keep learning.
Whether you go to Biblical-Literacy or not is your choice. But do this: demand of anyone you use to gather information and yourself the honesty that true knowledge requires.. If we live in an information age, if you are the kind whose soul is thirsty for truth and knowledge, both scientific and things of faith and love, then don’t be afraid to use everything at your disposal to satisfy that part of us that makes us human.
So, if you have a hankering, to start thinking, I’ve told you the biases above. Go to www.Biblical-Literacy.com, pick a lesson or a series and start watching. If you are in Houston, visit the class. Call me. You can sit with me in the back.