The Use of Talking

There is no end of things in the heart.

Unbelief

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 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.   —1 Corinthians 2:14

For many, if not most, unbelievers, unbelief is often not the result of a logical thought process, but of feelings. Prior to any, the existence of God and the tenets of religion are not so much inconceivable as unimaginable. In any society there are unspoken assumptions about what is real, what counts as evidence for a worldview, what can be imagined. Charles Taylor calls the set of these assumptions the social imaginary. During the Middle Ages, the imaginary included God, angels, the soul, blessings, prayers, sacraments, the value of sexual purity, the bliss of heaven. Today our imaginary is populated by the quantum vacuum, particles and fields, therapy and pharmaceuticals, cultivation of the self, and sexuality. I think the modern imaginary plagues believers; I know it plagues me. My doubts aren’t the conclusions of a set of syllogisms. They are the product of (indeed, they are the same as) a failure of imagination.

I was raised with a vague religiosity, part Jewish and part Christian, and I was an atheist by the time I turned thirteen. The secular imaginary is so ingrained in me that on my bad days, incarnation, resurrection, the beatific vision, God, any meaning at all, seem less than words, just phonemes shuffled at random. Blessedly, my days aren’t all bad. Still, even on my good days, faith isn’t my default setting; it’s an act of will. Not against the facts, and certainly not against reason, but against the cold. angular furniture of the secular mind.

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Written by hans castorp

March 22, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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