Doubt after atheism

iStock 000008845618XSmall Doubt after atheism
Occasionally I’m asked if I ever have doubts about God’s existence since my conversion to Christianity from lifelong atheism. The answer isn’t a clear yes or a clear no, because I’ve found that there are different types of doubt. In my experience, here’s how it’s broken down:

Three Types of Doubt

1. Doubt based on failure of imagination

There is a certain type of surprisingly painful doubt that could be broadly described as “failure of imagination.” I will be honest and say that there have been moments when I’m talking with God in prayer or asking for the intercession of some saint and that old, comfortable atheistic way of thinking flashes back to mind, and I pause and think, “This is ridiculous.” It’s all so difficult to imagine. The God who loves me yet seems so hidden, the saints in heaven, the angels watching over us — what outlandish concepts! Having lived my entire life as an atheist up until relatively recently, it’s very easy to just take the world at face value and imagine that there is nothing else to it other than what we see in the material world.

Sometimes these moments of doubt even stretch out for weeks or months, and it makes for a lonely, dry (and, honestly, kind of boring) spiritual life. It’s no fun. But what it ultimately comes down to is not receiving consolation combined with a failure of imagination: God is allowing me to have a spiritual dry spell in the sense that I don’t “feel” his presence, and I can’t wrap my mind around the idea of an afterlife or conceive of God or think up good answers to every single mystery of the faith. The concepts are so different and huge, they stretch my mind’s ability to grasp them.

Since the normal way I engage with the world is either to directly observe the things around me or at least be able to imagine them (say, with atoms or radio waves or other unseen things), it’s easy to have a poorly-thought-out gut reaction of throwing up my hands and saying, “If I can’t see it or imagine it, it must not be there!” And that’s where this type of doubt comes from.

2. Doubt based on irrational frustration

In some ways my spiritual ineptitude and stubborn refusal to rely on God has benefited me in this area, because there have only been a few times that I’ve experienced this. But when I do, it’s usually an emotional, intense form of doubt.

It comes about when I have asked God for something that I really wanted — maybe I even felt certain that I’d received some message in prayer that he was going to give it to me — and then it doesn’t work out. There’s this feeling of, “I was really, really, really counting on you, God, and you let me down,” which, if I’m particularly upset, can easily verge into, “…so maybe you just don’t exist.” It stems from some mix of resentment, frustration and refusal to trust that God’s plan might be better than mine.

Luckily I’m usually able to recognize this form of doubt and quickly banish it based on how totally irrational it is — after all, it is not a tenet of the faith that praying to God is like giving orders to a waiter in a restaurant who will run off and get you what you asked for. Not getting something you prayed for, even if you really needed or wanted it, is to be expected in the Christian life. The problem is not that God doesn’t exist or isn’t listening, but that none of us knows all the details of his will for the world — but we can take comfort in knowing that God can bring good from any situation. (This book is a great source of inspiration on that subject if anyone else struggles with that.)

3. Doubt based on lack of compelling evidence

This is the one type of doubt that I have not experienced since converting to Christianity. One of the benefits of converting entirely based on study, not having a single “religious experience,” is that my decision to become a Catholic Christian was simply because that’s where the data led me. Though at first it bothered me because it was a very dry kind of faith, it’s ended up benefitting me because my beliefs were founded on nothing other than an observation that this belief system was far more reasonable than any other.

It wasn’t that I found atheism to be entirely unreasonable; it’s that I found Christianity to be more reasonable. Obviously I couldn’t prove in a laboratory that all the Christian claims were true, but I found that it offered enough compelling evidence to back up the claims of its origins, as well as an overall worldview that was a better “box top” to the puzzle of life and the universe than what atheism offered.

Elizabeth Esther recently wrote a brutally honest post about doubt keeping her up at night; I can honestly say that I haven’t experienced this. I think that that’s one of the big upsides of having such a boring conversion: if I’m lying awake at night and experience the first two types of doubt, I can recognize them for what they are — a failure of imagination or an irrational response to not getting my way. Then I recall the reasons I converted in the first place, mentally reviewing the bookshelves full of books that led me to where I am today. I think of how every single time I have asked a tough question and compared the atheist answer to the Catholic answer, I have only grown more confident in my faith. I ask myself: “Do I really think that atheism is more reasonable than Catholic Christianity?” Even when I’m feeling fatigued by spiritual dryness, frustrated by not being able to understand how it all works or even angry at God’s silence, that question always leads me to just smile, roll over and go to sleep.

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Enter the Conversation...

30 Responses to “Doubt after atheism”
  1. Tracy @Magnolia Cul-de-Sac says:

    Thank you for summing this up. Although I've never been an atheist, I have struggled with all three of these types of doubt at one time or another.

    I have been a long time reader here, since your pre-conversion days. I still think back to some of the comments left here (many from Steve) and also some of your epiphany-ish posts when I am feeling dry and thirsty. ;)

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Reading your thoughts is always so helpful to me, dearest friend.

    At the end of the day, I have to tuck those questions in at night because you're right: is the alternative more reasonable?

    No. It's not.

    That helps me sleep.

    Thank you. I love you.
    XO
    EE

  3. Kate Wicker @ Momopoly says:

    Ditto on what Tracy said: I've experienced all three types of doubts, although I'd never call your conversion boring. Inspiring, fruitful for so many people, yes. Boring? Never!

    God bless you.

  4. Grant says:

    Whenever I read a post like this I'm always left deeply confused as to what kind of thought process could have produced it.

    First of all, blaming a significant proportion of doubt regarding the existence of something on not having enough imagination is just plain bizarre. If something exists imagination is the last thing you should be appealing to to negate doubts about it.

    "Atoms and radio waves and other unseen things" do not require us to be able to imagine them to believe they exist just because they cannot be directly visually observed with the naked eye. We are entirely capable of detecting them and verifying their presence objectively. There is no analog between these things and claims that a deity exists and attempting to present them as if they entail the same barriers to believing they are there is simply insupportable.

    I won't take issue with your second category, since although I'm sure our reasons for arriving at the conclusion differ we're entirely agreed that there is clear irrationality involved in what you described.

    As for the last category however, this is the one that floors me the most. That there are people who find Christianity a reasonable explanation of the "puzzle of life and the universe". I cannot for the life of me fathom how it even qualifies for the explanation part, leaving all questions of reasonableness aside. What exactly do you think it explains, and what is this explanation?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I think we all struggle at times. It has to be this way and i don't know why. I think of life as one big detective story. The clues are all around us we have to open our eyes and not see ourselves as the center of the drama but rather a small player in a gigantic production. Thanks Jen!

  6. Flexo says:

    "Atoms and radio waves and other unseen things" do not require us to be able to imagine them to believe they exist just because they cannot be directly visually observed with the naked eye.

    Try telling that to someone in 2000 B.C., or to someone in A.D. 1800 for that matter. Just take a look at the countless items that we use in our everyday lives — many of them were not invented earlier than they were merely because no one could imagine them before.

    Or, just try to imagine how far away the sun is. We see it everyday, and yet the relative short distance to the sun is beyond our comprehension.

    Or, since Obama seems determined to spend us to oblivion, try to imagine what a trillion dollars is like. You can't. No one can. Such numbers are beyond our understanding. Even though we know for certain that such numbers exist, we cannot even begin to fathom them. Instead of 1,000,000,000,000, we use shorthand for a number that we can comprehend, like 1 and combine it with the word "trillion."

    God is so far beyond our understanding that we must necessarily use our imagination — we must think of Him in human terms, and we must think of heaven in worldly terms, even though He and heaven are neither of these things. Indeed, that is why the creation accounts in Genesis utilize "mythical" stories — if Genesis spoke of things like atoms and radio waves and other unseen things, in short, if Genesis was a book on cosmology and astrophysics, no one would have understood a single thing that it said. And besides, that would have missed the point of the accounts entirely.

    But sometimes our attempts to grasp the ungraspable fails us. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the gravity that we know exists, that we cannot imagine that man could ever fly. Indeed, as I type these words, a good part of me thinks it impossible that people on the other side of the country could read them as soon as I post them. How could hitting the keys on the keyboard be converted to a bunch of electrons that are then transported nearly instantaneously all over the world?? I can believe it only because I have experienced it so often — but try to describe it to someone in 1970 and they will think that you are talking science fiction.

  7. Flexo says:

    That there are people who find Christianity a reasonable explanation of the "puzzle of life and the universe". . . . What exactly do you think it explains, and what is this explanation?

    Logos

  8. Rex Curran says:

    Could you post an entry explaining what you mean by the idea that Christianity is more "reasonable" than atheism? You state that evidence points more strongly to Christianity than atheism, but you don't offer any.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I'll tell you what introduced a whole truckload of doubt for me – less about the failure of imagination, more having to do with the success of it. Just a quick glance at comparative religious studies will show a myriad of creation stories that explain the rise and dominance of an all powerful entity; can it be that ours alone is the true version? Can there actual be a true version?

  10. Amy says:

    I know you don't get many dissenters here anymore, but as a regular reader I feel compelled to share my thoughts from time to time, and I have to say, I agree with Grant.

    As someone who has struggled for the past several years to arrive at faith based on reason and logic, based on compelling evidence, or even just plain old gut feelings, and who has finally thrown up her hands in complete and utter defeat, I simply don't see how you arrived at faith in this manner.

    Finding faith in 5 steps didn't work for me, nor did finding faith in 20 steps. I sincerely, truly tried. I prayed. I asked others to pray for me. I sought humility. I went on not only a cynicism fast, but a complete media fasts more than once (no internet, no radio, no tv, no reading, no writing). I cried myself to sleep on more than one occasion, begging God to help me. I spoke to priests. I blogged. I attended Mass several days a week. I signed up for RCIA. I went to adoration. I read books. I went on retreat at a monastery. I went through the motions of faith hoping they would actually lead there. Some days I would detect a glimmer of hope, but for the most part it was frustration and grief. In the end, though, no matter what I did/read/prayed for, in my heart of hearts I still didn't believe in virgin birth. I still didn't believe in miracles. I still didn't believe in angels, demons, heaven, hell, resurrection, etc. I'm at the point now where I don't even believe that God, if God exists, has any interaction with humans at all, and to me the question of God has become irrelevant, let alone Christianity. I assure you, it is not a place I wanted to end up, but I am coming to terms with it.

    It isn't always the case that when we ask we will receive. It isn't always the case that when we seek we shall find. Or maybe it is. I was seeking truth. Maybe I found it after all.

    Flexo,

    Or, since Obama seems determined to spend us to oblivion

    Could you avoid the political commentary, please, in reference to comments that make no mention of politics whatsoever? Politics has nothing to do with the argument Grant makes, and it tends to be divisive.

    Logos.

    That doesn't do much in way of an explanation. Care to elaborate?

  11. Grant says:

    Flexo: try finding me someone in 2000BC who was running around claiming radio waves existed. They didn't start doing that until they had a good reason for it.

    And as for atoms, well they were hypothesized (in a very general "I think we might be made of tiny tiny bits" way) very early on but it was purely educated guesswork that someone happened to score close to the mark on and it was not adopted by people as a well supported explanation for how matter was constructed prior to supporting evidence for it being provided based on anyone arguing "well, I can imagine that so therefore anyone who doubts it's true must just not have my level of imagination". That would have been purely ridiculous.

    I have absolutely no idea what point you're trying to make about the sun's proximity to earth. Unless you are suggesting there are people who refuse to believe the sun is far away because they have difficulty mentally imaging the exact distances involved? Know anyone who thinks they can fly to the sun in a hot air balloon because they lack the imagination to visualize light minutes?

    As for a trillion dollars? Speak for yourself, I'm quite comfortable with large numbers and am perfectly capable of imaging what it's like… but again, I have no idea what you're trying to argue here. That people don't believe a trillion dollars exists due to lack of imagination??? I'd like to meet one of these people. Are you one of them?

    Etc… your entire post exhibits this same confusing pattern of simply citing examples of people's hypothetically limited imaginations in situations that I am having all kinds of difficulty connecting to a point relevant to the topic.

    As for your second reply… do elaborate by all means. If you want my advice, try starting with the explanation part.

  12. Luke says:

    Good observations, Jennifer! Very insightful.

    ~Luke

  13. Karyn says:

    I'm not sure what the back and forth discussion is about but I felt like you were right on, Jennifer. I have experienced (and still experience) each of those types of doubts. Being in the conversion process right now, I often deal with the first one – and have to rely on the emotional response I have to the Mass and to the Gospel stories. Maybe I could have just as strong a reaction to Siddhartha's story or Krishna's, but I haven't. So I have to trust that God is leading me to Christianity even if it seems absurd sometimes. As for the person looking for more information on Christianity seeming more reasonable than atheism, a good start would be CS Lewis' Mere Christianity.

  14. Destry says:

    There's such a huge leap from accepting the possibility of a creator to "Jesus loves me!" It's a leap I'm willing to make, and would like to make, but haven't yet. I could relate very well to Amy's post.

  15. Roxane B. Salonen says:

    You have such a great way of sorting through all the gray areas and making them clear. I've probably experienced moment of each kind of doubt you've described here. I could relate to some of it. Thankfully, most of it was fairly fleeting. There was one particularly dark time in which it all seemed completely ridiculous. And I felt so incredibly empty. Life felt as if it were made of concrete. Now, feeling fully connected to my faith again, even in the more difficult moments, I am filled with a deep-seated joy and assurance that fills me with lightness. It's not always a perfect journey but right now, anyway, I am feeling incredibly blessed. Thanks for reminding me through describing the doubts that are, in some ways, an inevitable part of the faith journey.

  16. Dani says:

    The comments in this post are almost more interesting then the post itself.

    For me I was Amy. I went my whole life *wanting* faith. I church surfed. I did all the *proper* things. And nothing. Nada. Nyet. Nein.

    Then one day on a whim when I wasn't trying or looking, I went to church and everything hit me like a ton of bricks. It took a whole decade of actively searching for and almost completely thinking faith didn't exist and then on a random day, it did exist. And since that day, I've just accepted it.

    The thing is, I don't need proof of anything. I don't need any more proof that God exists then I do that atoms exist. I can't see atoms. Judging by my science and math related marks in school, I can't get my head around such abstract concepts. But that doesn't mean that I don't believe they exist. That doesn't mean that I don't believe that people who spend their life proving science are not correct. In a way Faith has actually convinced me of the modules of science.

    You don't need to understand something or have proof of something to believe in something. If someone else wants to spend their life proving somehting, I will certainly listen and consider, and kudos to them for doing the work to help ME out.

  17. Dani says:

    Also, I forgot to add that someone can spend their life "prooving" something to me, but how I come to understand their proof in my terms is entirely up to me.

    I believe in atoms. I believe in God. Therefore, I can reasonbly say that I believe that God created the atoms. And that's probably not what scienctists or religious folks intended for me to beleive. LOL.

  18. Barbara C. says:

    Grant, I think when Jennifer is using the term "failure of imagination" she is referring more to the ability to visualize/form a mental picture rather than make-up something out of fancy.

    I think Flexo was making the point that many things in science and technology (which is often incorrectly held up in opposition of religious faith) first developed out of the ability to imagine things that no one had ever seen or at times were able to prove.

    And if you want a full account of how Jennifer rationally came to Catholic Christianity from atheism then I suggest you look through her archives more and particularly look through her post about the books she read that convinced her.

  19. Abbey says:

    In order to have a "religious experience," one has to believe in the first place, have faith in the second place, and be open to receiving it, third. I'll admit that in my life, little thoughts such as "I wonder if there really is a heaven or if your spirit floats around in the universe until you are called to come back to earth and be born again in another baby … i.e., living many lives. There never has been any question in my mind. I always revert back to my belief in God, and that He created all, He is the alpha and the omega, and what a much more joyful way of living.

    Interesting post. I can see how people may have times of lows when you question just about everything in your life, then in the "highs" one give all credit to God.

    God asks us to believe AT ALL TIMES. As I said, when you think of the alternative, there is no question to squelching those doubts.

  20. Barbara C. says:

    Anonymous,

    It is true that there are a myriad of creation myths out there. But just because they may differ in details does not mean that they may not express a universal truth. You yourself said that they show "the rise and dominance of an all powerful entity". Perhaps this is the point…

    However, a religion is not made up of a creation myth alone.

  21. Dani says:

    QUOTE: In order to have a "religious experience," one has to believe in the first place, have faith in the second place, and be open to receiving it, third.

    Hi Abbey,

    I see what you are saying but I completely disagree. That statement implies that you have control over when, where, how you experience. But as I experienced, I didn't necessarily believe (I was more agnostic then atheist), I didn't have faith and I most certainly wasn't open to experiencing "it".

    "IT" just happened. "IT" took me off guard. "IT" wasn't my choice to have or recieve. GOD is far more powerful than what I can possibly cope with or comprehend.

    Anyways, my point is that you can have neither of those qualities and still have a Faith experience. Once you get it, then sure, those qualities fall into place.

  22. Grant says:

    @Dani: You may not need proof (which is only for mathematics and alcohol), but you should require veifiable evidence. Evidence s what we use to differentiate between things we imagine might exist but really don't, and things we might imagine exist that end up actually existing. If you throw evidential criteria out the window you're abandoning your ability to discriminate between reality and fantasy.

    And if all Flexo was doing was pointing out "hey, we imagined this other stuff existed and them it turned out it did!"… well, fine. But we didn't (and **shouldn't**) have believed it existed until after imagining it existed became accompanied by evidence it existed. I'm not knocking imagination, I love imagination, it's a really very useful thing. But you don't use it to do things like overcome doubts about whether something exists.

    @Barbara C: The way you describe the manner in which you think that Jennifer and Flexo are using the term doesn't really alter my point. Let me use the examples already discussed to illustrate. Flexo was going on about people unable to imagine (visualize) things like the distance from here to the sun. Fine. But nobody doubts that distance exists whether they can visualize it or not, because it is not imagination's (visualization's)job to tell us if something exists. That is the role of evidence. And we have that where the distance between the earth and sun is concerned and everyone knows it. We have mountains of precise measurements and observations.

    Same goes for a trillion dollars. And electricity. And atoms. And radio waves. And all those other "unseen things". None of these are analogous to a claimed supernatural entity which defies *any* form of objective or verifiable measurement or observation. They simply don't fall in the same category of claims.

    (And since stumbling across this little piece of the interwebs I have been browsing some of the archives… I'll continue doing so.)

  23. Dani says:

    @ Grant: LOL at the proof and alcahol! Even with your argument on veriable evidence, it leads to this:

    1) What consititues verifiable evidence?

    2) Should verifiable evidence be sonsidered such if it is widely accepted or is it up to the individual to decide?

    For example, for you, proof might be having to actually see God. Or maybe your proof is you must find something archelogical that links an action to the Bible.

    But verifiable evidence for someone else may merely be a dream they have, or a feeling they experience, or something that can't be proved or negated, or some miraculous action that can not be verified by science.

    And then is it enough if I think whatever I think counts as verifiable evidence or should the majority of people consider it such to be such?

    I fully recognize that this argument runs both ways. And I can no more convince someone like Amy that God does exist based on things I could suggest constitute verifiable evidence then she could convince me that God doesn't exist.

    And I don't think that it should be about convincing the other side. It's really a "you do" or "you don't" issue. And I don't think there is anything wrong with this.

    Maybe I'm one of the religious minority who can understand why someone wouldn't want to believe God exists because I was that person. And I can totally accept that because religion is mind boggling on a good day. But since neither side can be 100% sure and I am satisified with the conclusions I have come to, that's all that matters to me! :P

    And even for Jen, it's her journey and if that's the conclusion she came to, does anyone need to prove her wrong?

  24. Dani says:

    Also, one more thing on evidence.

    Let's say one day I told you that I saw a dog walking on two legs. You say to me, that is impossible, Dogs walk on 4 legs. And you provide evidence that dogs do indeed walk on four legs. And there is no record of a dog ever having walked on two legs.

    Time goes buy and I read in the news that a dog walks on two legs (which is true by the way..lol).

    So does that mean your evidence is faulty or does that mean that nothing can be verified with 100% certainty? That because you haven't discovered verifiable evidence, therefore the evidence doesn't exist. Maybe it does exist but you can't possibly know that it does because of your limitations (geographical, financial etc).

  25. Flexo says:

    A great many scientific theories have been merely postulated, without significant verifiable evidence. This includes the great theories of special and general relativity — even the theory of the earth revolving around the sun took a few hundred years before it was proved by observing parallax of stars.

    Today, there are a great many theories in this area that are not susceptible of much scientific proof, quantum mechanics, string theory, etc.

    Those who refuse to "imagine" the transcendent, the possibility of a reality that is beyond the physical universe, or even refuse to imagine the possibility of things beyond what is already known, are not in any sense of the word "scientific." They are being dogmatic and ideological — they do not see because they refuse to see because they refuse to even look.

  26. Grant says:

    @Dani: I'm going to respond to the last part of your comments first. Certainly nobody needs to prove Jennifer's beliefs wrong. I just think that generally when people throw thoughts like these out there for public consumption (by, say, posting them on the internet to be read by anyone in the world)… discussion should be expected. ;)

    To jump back and work through the rest from the beginning…

    "What constitutes veifiable evidence?"

    Well, to be evidence of something there needs to be a way to rationally deduce that the existence of whatever is being presented is indicative of whatever conclusion it is being used to support.

    And to be verifiable whatever evidence you are presenting should be able to be… you know… verified.

    "2) Should verifiable evidence be considered such if it is widely accepted or is it up to the individual to decide?"

    Should wide acceptance of something determine if it's considered verifiable evidence? Well, no. Demonstration that it meets evidential criteria and can actually be verified should determine if it's verifiable evidence.

    If "wide acceptance" was a criteria for determining if something qualified as verifiable evidence then we would have had verifiable evidence, at various points throughout human history, of the existence of Zeus, dragons, witches… and well, you name it.

    As for the next part… I frankly could not even wrap my mind around the mindset required for someone to consider a dream to be either verifiable or evidence, let along both. And if something can't be proved or negated how would someone think it was verifiable?

    "Let's say one day I told you that I saw a dog walking on two legs. You say to me, that is impossible, Dogs walk on 4 legs".

    Let's say you need a way better example if you want to even hypothetically get me to say "impossible" about whatever you're talking about. I would never use the word impossible to describe such a mundane claim as a dog walking on two legs. There are no physical limitations that would in any way impair a dog from walking on two legs, there's no real reason to doubt it at all. That they simply don't tend to do so is very far removed from it being impossilbe. Also, I used to have a pet dog who did it all the time, mostly when we were holding something he wanted to chow down on… so this especially doesn't work for me.

    However, if you pick an example that would get an impossible out of me (Let's say, "hey, yesterday I saw a dog running at mach 15 around the park") I think you'll find that it becomes easier to deal with the standards of evidence that would be involved and questions like "what if you just haven't found evidence of it yet" become largely irrelevent.

  27. Grant says:

    @Flexo: "A great many scientific theories have been merely postulated, without significant verifiable evidence."

    Yes, they have been. But evidence was subsequently required before they were adopted. LOTS of evidence. Mind boggling amounts.

    Today, there are a great many theories in this area that are not susceptible of much scientific proof, quantum mechanics, string theory, etc.

    If you are currently reading this on a computer that isn't assembled from vacuum tubes I'd re-think any claim that quantum mechanics is lacking in proof. For one thing, constructing functional integrated circuitry is effectively impossible without applying Quantum Mechanics. Any attempt to do so is doomed to falure, I guarantee you. (Also, QM predicts the value of the magnetic moment of the electron to like 11 decimal places of accuracy. You don't do that by random fluke.)

    String theory is currently more of a hypothesis, but it has some compelling mathematical backing. If it manages to assemble a lot more evidence in it's favor then it'll undoubtedly be widely adopted as a fit model. If it doesn't, it won't. No person's ability to mentally visualize it's claims will play any role of any significance in whether this happens however.

  28. Amy says:

    Flexo,

    Those who refuse to "imagine" the transcendent, the possibility of a reality that is beyond the physical universe, or even refuse to imagine the possibility of things beyond what is already known, are not in any sense of the word "scientific." They are being dogmatic and ideological — they do not see because they refuse to see because they refuse to even look.

    What about those of us who have looked, who not only imagined the transcendent but actively searched for it, but in the end came up with no compelling evidence (not proof, mind you, but evidence, evidence so compelling that it couldn't be explained any other way)?

    The point I was trying to make earlier is that just because you look for something, it doesn't necessarily mean you will find it, and just because you want (or can imagine) something to be true, doesn't mean it is.

    Destry,

    Thanks for your kind words. I truly hope you are able to find what you are searching for.

    Dani,

    And I can no more convince someone like Amy that God does exist based on things I could suggest constitute verifiable evidence then she could convince me that God doesn't exist.

    That's absolutely true. A month or two ago I would have been envious of you for finding faith. Now I am happy for you, if it's something that brings you joy, but it simply isn't something I desire for myself any longer. And I'm happier.

  29. Dani says:

    Grant: I will admit that my example was weak, but I type from work so if I get a half a second to type anything, much less anything coherant, than I'm happy!

    There is no way, in science and religion that you can prove something 100%, even with evidence as long as the possibility exists that there could be evidence to the contrary.

    And it might take imagination, in both religon and science, to get the ball rolling. A lot of ideas are born from just that. There's no logic in that I suppose, but there's no logic in a lot of things that happens in life. C'est la vie!

    But here's a virtual beer tossed to you anyways because I enjoyed reading your comments! :)

  30. Maiki says:

    I think what Jen means by "imagination" is having a working model of how things work. This is true of science as well. We learn science through models, not simply through observation. We see evidence with our five senses (and machinery). We then interpret that data in the form of mental models. We have the idea that the universe has rules, and does not just happen arbitrarily, because we have a model of a rational universe. We picture various scientific concepts through abstractions and mental pictures. Most people learn about the atom first as a planetary bohr's atom model, even though atoms have no orbits and electrons aren't necessarily round. The human brain learns by developing models. The models aren't "truth" — they are just the current best way of understanding the available data.

    What Jen means, is she has a hard time forming a mental model of non-material realities, like angels, infinity, heaven, eternity, God. I think this is entirely reasonable — But, that doesn't mean there are no mental models for explaining these things. They are just incomplete, and to some, difficult the way grasping calculus intuitively is difficult for some people even if they know the math by rote.

    As for the rest… I think the whole "finding God in five steps" sort of thing is deceiving– maybe it is true for some people, but I don't think it is true, despite the many spiritual consolations I have received. God works at his own time, and there is no formula. There is no "trick" to making it work. A religious experience or consolation is not some "admittance ticket". If you want to follow God, you go do it, and expect nothing in return. That is not particularly comforting, sadly. Maybe it is my Carmelite streak in me.