The search for congruity
Our good friend Incitatus has recently posted a comment that is so brutally honest I cannot help but honor it with a post all it's own. He's obviously not trying to "win" with a comment like this. The man is just being honest. I have a lot of respect for that. The following are a few brief out takes. Read the comment in it's entirety by following the link above.
I can't speak for all atheists, but my atheism often runs contrary to a very deep and primitive sense that a higher power exists. Now, for me, I choose to believe that this gut instinct is the psychological equivalent of an appendix, and hence I opt to override it with what I perceive to be a rationale outlook. However, the 'feeling' (which Alex has alluded to before) remains, and so there is something of a continual minor conflict, which I perceive to be the old and the new parts of the gray porridge trapped in my skull.
A question I have asked myself is whether that's really healthy; am I forcing my body to behave in a manner not in keeping with it's evolution? One can argue that atheists seem like very healthy people, but we can never really know what goes on in the mind of any other atheist except ourselves. How do we know some atheists aren't 'cheating' as it were? Secretly relapsing into theism under strenuous circumstances? The metaphysical equivalent of nipping into the alley for a smoke? Who knows. I can only speak for myself, but I freely confess that I cheat regularly; usually to hurl abuse at providence for anything that doesn't go the way I planned...
I look at it like this:
I am conscious. I exist. At this point in my life I have been struck with a heightened sensitivity to things such as beauty, love, justice, mercy and redemption. I feel these qualities in a deeper sense than I have at any other point in my life. I am aware of a thread of truth that runs through out all humanity. Not only physical truth, but moral truth. We all appeal to it. We argue about who is closer to it. Thing is, the argument cannot even be started without the shared impression that such a thing exists. It's easy to appeal to physical truth because more often than not we can point to it. Moral truth is different. Most people are moral realists, though most do not think through the implications of that position. Also, as Moe hints at, there is this question of "why is there something instead of nothing?" We also have this reality that the deepest longing of every human is to be known... to be known completely... and to be loved while hiding nothing.
In my mind this all points somewhere. It points to something big. Much bigger than the god of religion that I knew growing up... but at the same time... maybe more importantly, it points to EXACTLY the God I knew as a child. It points to the same God I would thank for my toys and the big puddle at the end of our drive way. As I lay out on a moonless night and stare out into the universe, my mind feels as if it is about to collapse under the sheer weight of my situation. I move about with such an urgency, with such motivation...
If there is no God, the stars themselves scream the answer...
I must admit throughout the last several months of this debate I have spent large swaths of time pretending to be an atheist. (I do a pretty poor job) I try to imagine that the entire purpose of my life is to make my own purpose and my own meaning. Then I ask why? What does it matter what purpose I choose?
Can you hear the crickets chirping?
There is no answer.
I pretend I'm part of an unfathomable reaction to an unknown cause. I try to feel weight of a story that tells me I am part of the grand march of evolution progressing onward and upwards... until of course it is all brought to nothing. I operate my morality believing that it is strictly evolved mental paths that proved conducive to survival. But then I remember – If I know this about my morality, I see that there is nothing of any weight behind it. I am under no obligation to surrender to it. I can obey it when it suites me and ignore it when it doesn't.
If I became an atheist, there's a lot of things I'd do differently. You'd be tempted to call me a bad man – tempted, I say, because remember, there's no such thing as bad.
When I look at religions in general they make me rather ill. There seems to be this level of wishful thinking and propensity to suspend critical thought in favor of a nice story to hang our life on. I find it quite disturbing.
But then I look at Jesus. Not Christianity as it is often manifested, but the person of Jesus. You know, that guy who partied with the hookers and drunks. The guy who hurled abuse at the religious leaders. The guy who took compassion on prostitutes and turned away the proud. The one who's body the religious leaders claimed was 'stolen' (because it was gone) by his followers who then gained nothing form their 'hoax' but persecution and death. (all the while being in a position to know the 'truth')
To me it all ads up to something. A bigger story, if you will. It reaches the very depths of my heart's longings. It gives me strength to face a life I would otherwise have no purpose to live. Could it be there is more to this life than pure naturalism allows for? If I am wrong what will I have lost? My faith (and it is faith) gives a foundation for every belief I hold. Without God we are adrift. There is no right, or wrong, good, nor bad, beautiful, or ugly, life nor death. All existence "JUST IS". Oddly enough the faith I hold states, "I AM". We are not the center, He is.