The Presence in Absence

Southwest Trip 392There is a strange aspect to the presence of God in the world around us. That aspect is His apparent absence. I read with fascination (because I am no philosopher, much less a scientist) the discussions surrounding “intelligent design” and the like. I gather that everybody agrees that the universe is just marvelous and wonderfully put together (I can’t think of a better universe). But then begins the parting of ways as one sees God everywhere and another sees Him nowhere. Reason surely need not deny Him, though reason does not seem forced to acknowledge Him. I have spent most of my life around these arguments – one place or another. I can stand in either place and see both presence and absence.

But as the years have gone by, I have come to see something I never saw before – the Presence within the absence. I don’t mean to sound too mystical here – only that I see in the hiddenness of God a revelation of His love. The Creator of us all draws us towards Himself and knowledge of Him, with hints and intimations, with seen and yet unseen signs.

The strange deniability that He leaves us is the space in which love is born. Love cannot be forced, cannot be demanded. It must come as gift, born of a willingness to give. To give God trust that what I see is indeed evidence of the wisdom in which He made all things is also a space – one which God fills with Himself and the echo, the Yes, that the universe shouts back to us.

It is where I grow weary of the arguments – not because they need not be made – but because it becomes hard to hear the silence in the noise of our own voices – a silence that invites us to hear the sound of the voice of God that rumbles all around us.

There’s more to say – but not now.

This was the fourth article that I posted on the blog (back in October of 2006). Thinking about the last post, on God’s Secret Hand, I see that my thoughts and questions have changed little. I don’t think I’ve looked in different directions – but I hope I’ve looked deeper and longer. It is certainly the case that my posts have grown longer.

Comments

  1. says

    your post brings to mind the beautiful lyrics to Andrew Peterson’s song “The Silence of God”, which I believe has a profound holiness. perhaps a holiness our disconnected mind and heart cannot comprehend nor hear, truly hear perhaps. nonetheless it reminds me of this fantastic song. thanks for the intriguing insight, Father…

    It’s enough to drive a man crazy; it’ll break a man’s faith
    It’s enough to make him wonder if he’s ever been sane
    When he’s bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod
    And the heaven’s only answer is the silence of God

    It’ll shake a man’s timbers when he loses his heart
    When he has to remember what broke him apart
    This yoke may be easy, but this burden is not
    When the crying fields are frozen by the silence of God

    And if a man has got to listen to the voices of the mob
    Who are reeling in the throes of all the happiness they’ve got
    When they tell you all their troubles have been nailed up to that cross
    Then what about the times when even followers get lost?
    ‘Cause we all get lost sometimes…

    There’s a statue of Jesus on a monastery knoll
    In the hills of Kentucky, all quiet and cold
    And He’s kneeling in the garden, as silent as a Stone
    All His friends are sleeping and He’s weeping all alone

    And the man of all sorrows, he never forgot
    What sorrow is carried by the hearts that he bought
    So when the questions dissolve into the silence of God
    The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
    The aching may remain, but the breaking does not
    In the holy, lonesome echo of the silence of God

  2. Chrys says

    It is a curious thing. I was just thinking this morning how God respects our boundaries, how His presence refuses to impose on or transgress the boundaries of the other. And then I read your article and — if I read it correctly — how you addressed something of this same dynamic. On a personal level this is vital if we are to love – truly love – in return. It is vital if we are to be healthy — which is to say, capable of truly loving others. (And, it is worth noting, that only a view of God in which Love is a defining feature, is there a recognition of and respect for boundaries. This would not, I think, be an issue for a faith in which the self is absorbed, or in which God is primarily power.) All of this – the “respectful” Presence that dwells in seeming absence – is an expression of His love — a love that would evoke love in us, dwell with us in love and is known by love. The saints point to a true and tested love (especially love that remains undimmed even toward those who would be enemies) as a deeper way of knowing: “the more perfect our love the more perfect our knowledge” – St. Silouan.
    Twenty years in the faith and I am still barely a novice in those things that matter most.
    Thank you for this.

  3. George says

    What, in the west is called theology with its many word, arguements, and disagreements is really reigious philosophy. One of the eastern Fathers has said that a theologian is one who prays and one who prays is a theologian. Theology, knowledge of God, comes in silent communion, not in many words.

  4. says

    Fr. great post! I often struggle with the absence and presence of God–this hiddenness that reveals. One of my favorite filmmakers, Ingmar Bergman, struggled with this. His father was a very stern, some times abusive, minister, so he rejected his upbringing and became an atheist. Listening to interviews with him one can tell that he desired to believe but couldn’t. This tension between presence and absence of God–a world crying out to Him, but He is seemingly silent–is integral in his films. Themes like death and redemption are prominent, as well. I highly recommend his films…very challenging.

  5. aTp says

    Thank you, Father. This makes me think of ‘Beginning To Pray’ by (Metropolitan) Anthony Bloom ~ Chapter 1 , The Absence of God. As a Protestant exploring Orthodoxy I had never heard of such a concept! My mind and spirit were delightfully blown.

  6. Charlie says

    this reminds me very much of what Elijah heard (I Kings 19:12)
    – I haven’t mastered the LXX names yet – but anyway; the voice of YHWH as a “still small voice” -King James- or “a gentle breeze” Jerusalem and more modern Masoratic translations. Talk about ‘reductionism’ and self-reductionism’ at that!

  7. mary benton says

    I not often experience God as absent. It seems much more often that I am absent.

    I may be “absent” from fatigue, distraction, illness, preoccupation, etc. and often, I find, it takes a sort of patience to accept and be gentle with my own absence. (To be harsh with it hurts more than it helps.)

    It is consoling to know that God is still there, even when I do not pray or feel inclined toward Him. Perhaps that is another way of describing the “Presence in the absence”.

  8. TLO says

    Isn’t it possible that when you start with a result (e.g. “everything relates to the number 5″ or “God is present in absence”), by virtue of the fact that you want it to be so, that result will be more manifest in your view the harder you look for it?

    I can fully grasp the idea that some god designed this universe and, being awed by it, that the appropriate response is, “Brilliant! Well done god.” But to say that all the stuff about the universe is some demonstration of love rather tarnishes the patina, doesn’t it?

    Giving us an atmosphere might be considered an act of love, if you want to put it that way, but it’s sorta required as part of the whole mammal thing. Rather more of a necessity, wouldn’t you say, than a gift. (“I made you a planet. Oh, did you want to be able to breathe? Well, here’s an atmosphere then. Now do you believe that I love you?”) I cannot think of anything in the natural universe that is not necessary or could be considered a gift of some sort.

    There have been times when I have been moved to tears by a painting or sculpture on its own merits and hearing about why the artist created it only served to displace some of the joy of the experience. To me, the universe becomes significantly less lovely when you begin to assign personal motives of a designer to it.

  9. Marjaana says

    To TLO: I’m not sure that this is really the core of the discussion here, but re things being necessary vs a gift – in the universe there are naturally a lot of things that are necessary for everything to exist and for us to survive. However, there is no reason why those things would have to be beautiful, and yet they are. Isn’t that a gift?

  10. mary benton says

    TLO/John,

    I sense that your reaction is similar to that of a child who got socks for Christmas…

    As Marjaana suggested, if all we received in this life was the bare necessities for survival and then we died, we might question the notions of God’s “gift”. But there is so much more. The material world is so magnificent and then there is the invitation to life that far exceeds even this.

    (I realize that the latter is a matter of faith as it is unseen, but no less real in my estimation. I realize you may say I believe in this gift because I want to – I’m looking for it and therefore see it. That is not how I experience it but I know that I cannot induce you to experience what I experience.)

  11. Dino says

    TLO,
    I must come clean and admit that we rarely “see [first] and taste [thereafter]“, but (as the Psalmic aphorism goes), we “taste [first] and see [after]“.
    Once we have tasted of His Grace our all important interpretation of everything, of the universe and of all that happens, becomes diametrically opposed to what it is without Grace (eg. somewhat secular-Godless). That memory becomes grafted in the heart to be called upon (and to call us back) when Grace has been subsequently shunned for whatever reason.
    However, for one to taste, one must normally first sit at the table, the right table…
    The effort to do this (this sitting at the table) -to become immersed, in other words, in the Orthodoxy of the Church, of all who have become ‘tasters’ before us- is the key that we need to employ on our part – the rest is God’s.

  12. TLO says

    Marjaana:

    there is no reason why those things would have to be beautiful, and yet they are. Isn’t that a gift?

    The ability to appreciate beauty is. Call it a gift, if you prefer, but how is it more of a gift than the ability to walk?

    What I’m saying is that I’d rather admire a painting by Monet than to look at Monet himself and I would certainly not want to have Monet standing next to me while I am looking at his work as I would be distracted and thereby unable to truly admire it.

    My Favorite Mary:

    your reaction is similar to that of a child who got socks for Christmas

    If by “socks” you mean “a free ride to the international space station and complete access to the Hubble telescope” then yes.

    Dino:

    Allow me to relate an incident. Whilst strolling around La Jolla, California one day and occasionally ducking into various art studios, I came upon a display by a Canadian artist. I found myself standing before a canvas, mesmerized and so deeply touched that I wept openly. I had never seen such beauty in a painting.

    The experience is one I cherish. However, the impact it had on me was such that to this day I have never been able to enter another art gallery. By comparison, all other works pale into nothingness.

    When I was a Christian, I was like the person I was before the experience related above. I could appreciate various works and simply move on.

    Shortly after I left Christianity and I began to look into the sciences, the awe of this universe descended on me and I am still standing gazing at it with tears in my eyes. Why would I want to mess with that?

    • fatherstephen says

      TLO,
      You shouldn’t want to mess with that. A difficulty, I think, is that when you were a Christian, something was wrong – perhaps the whole “experience” of “God.” Clearly that must have been the case – you left it. I would even think that it is as Fr. T. Hopko has said that sometimes a person has to become an atheist in order to become a believer – or as I have said, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in, I might not believe in that one either.”

      But you saw the universe in a new way – in wonder and awe with tears. This is much closer to the knowledge of the true God than the various “teachings” that most people absorb in a religious context. God is not a syllogism. And you should not trade a life of syllogisms for the universe.

      My brief witness is that I have seen the Divine Liturgy with wonder and awe and tears, and I saw that the universe was also the Divine Liturgy – and I stood in wonder and awe and tears marveling at the God who made it all. Not instead of the the universe. Not to explain the universe. Not to give the universe meaning. But simply saw with wonder, awe and tears.

  13. Dino says

    In this context what I am saying TLO, is that, since the foundational way we interpret people, places, events and the entirety of the cosmos is something we actually have some control over, we needn’t go with what comes to us (the hermeneutic of the world that occurs to us of its own accord), simply hoping it will carry on pleasing us and that is all we might ever need…
    “Messing with it”, as you say, when it seems fine might sound wrong or risky (like messing with the ‘Matrix’ delusion to find the truth in the Film the Matrix) only if we have no spiritual ‘suspicion’ of the futility ingrained in a Godless world (in the ‘Matrix’ if you like). That Your previous ‘christian’ phase might have been messed up and deluded does not axiomatically mean that the new one is free from all delusion…
    The awe of the universe is immensely great indeed, but the etiology of this universe is far greater than one can ever conceive. Not as an objectied Cause though, but as a Person that has such paradisial Love for us that He must hide it to not infringe on the most respected and God-like quality of freedom we have been given. Ignore the thoughts that make you see this as a defence of a imagined god! It is nothing of the sort!
    I have referred to Saint Silouan before to ‘prove’ this, but even without his first-hand experience of God, a simple soul can glean a great deal of delusion-free instruction from it.

    My objectification and adoration of a work of art might be spoiled by meeting the person who created it (besides, we seem both infinitesimally small in comparison); however, meeting the Person Who is the Logos of all that exists is nothing like this, it transforms me from an admirer or a slave of objects to a son of God that communes with the only One that can ever fulfil the infinity I have been created to always desire. It is as if I suddenly recognise my beloved love of my life after a life of ‘happy’ hanging out with machines inside an atomic bunker and never having met a real human.
    May the Lord grant you and all of us His illumination and the “holy purity and simplicity” that opens up our beguiled eyes to see Him and see through Him.

  14. TLO says

    Fr. Stephen – If I look at the statue of Bacchus or the Fresco of Three Women, what do I then “know” about the artist except that he or she has incredible artistic skills? I have no idea whether the artist beats his wife or molests children. That the artist is capable of creating something that is pleasing to the human brain tells me nothing about who this person is.

    How, then, do we look at nature and come to the conclusion that the creator is a being that is “good” in his character? Most of nature is chaotic, violent, messy and volatile. Why not come to the conclusion the Eris is the true god?

    Is it not that you start with an assumption and that therefore your view is filtered by that assumption? Haven’t you said as much – that everything begins with Christ? How then can you speak objectively?

    More importantly, why is it reasonable to say that the absence of god is evidence of his presence? I don’t have a brother doesn’t mean that I have a brother. When you say that god is absent, I agree with you in the sense that I agree that no god is there.

  15. Dino says

    TLO,
    you say that “Is it not that you start with an assumption and that therefore your view is filtered by that assumption? ”
    But in our current human predicament only a person who chooses to see the world from a spiritual vantage point (an …’assumption’) can see its true expansiveness. A person who wants a ‘clean-slate’ (- the secular ‘impartiality’ delusion) is hindered by knee-jerk reactions to all he perceives that just about get him (if he’s lucky that is) to the other person’s starting point (the ‘assumption’) after many an adventure.

    Why else is it that the greater the measure of humble trust in my teacher’s knowledge of how a vehicle works (for instance) will get me to the point of inventing a new type of vehicle one day, whereas wanting to re-invent the very wheel from scratch in prideful distrust of my teacher’s knowledge will not get me very far?

    “How blessed are those who have never seen me and yet have believed!”
    (John 20:29 International Standard Version)

  16. Margaret says

    I cannot be alone in reading TLO and praying that what convinces him convinces someone I love, and I would run and say it to that person: Here, here is what you’ve been wanting as proof of God.

    Instead I hold on to my prayers and know that God is with us all. It is the still small voice. It is the presence in the absence. Lord have mercy!

    Thank you for providing these posts, Fr. Stephen, and thank you for participating, TLO.

  17. Brian says

    TLO,

    Perhaps a greater question – and not an answer – is this:

    How is it that, with the world being as it is, anyone could possibly have come up with the absurd notion that God is good? One can look about and conclude that “there must be a god,” but a good God is another question altogether.

    Is it because some simply want to believe it? Perhaps. But whence came the idea in the first place? And when it was proposed, how is it that so many accepted it in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

    I, too, am glad you’re here.

  18. TLO says

    Brian:

    How is it that, with the world being as it is, anyone could possibly have come up with the absurd notion that God is good?

    Forget about the world and just read the Bible! Looking at the actions attributed to god make him look anything but good. One of the main reasons I left Christianity is that the god presented isn’t good by any definition. I refuse to believe in a god who is worse than I am.

    I think people want others to be good. I assume my neighbors are good partly because if I didn’t I would never get a night’s sleep. (If you presented me with a god who is loving, doesn’t kill people, who forgives unconditionally and abhors human sacrifice as much as I do, I’d pay attention.)

    The fact that people are shocked and outraged when it is reported that a pastor/priest, pro athlete, politician or celebrity that they like has been caught doing something naughty indicates to me that we prefer to think the best of others as a default setting. Maybe because we want people to think that about us? (It’s not an area of psychology with which I am familiar. This is just off the top of my head.)

    Dino:

    only a person who chooses to see the world from a spiritual vantage point (an …’assumption’) can see its true expansiveness…

    One of the Masters in the religion of Discordianism put forth the “Law of Fives” which says:

    All things happen in fives, or are divisible by or are multiples of five, or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to 5. The Law of Fives is never wrong.

    He goes on to say:

    “I find the Law of Fives to be more and more manifest the harder I look.”

    Would it be reasonable to assume that he finds this law to be true because that is what he looks for?

    Why else is it that the greater the measure of humble trust…

    I’m not trying to invent anything. I am looking at what is and wondering how you come to a different conclusion. Or rather, I believe that the absence of something means that it isn’t there.

    Why should I believe in your version of god over others? Since the beginning of recorded history, historians have cataloged over 3,700 supernatural beings, of which 2,870 can be considered deities. You don’t believe in 2,869 of them. Statistically speaking, you are almost as much an atheist as I am. What is so awful, in your estimation, about going that last step and not believing in any god?

    (BTW: I have a concise, data-driven answer to how someone can be moral without god, in case you’re interested. I don’t want to sidetrack this conversation but feel free to email me at slave2six[at]gmail[dot]com if you want to discuss it.)

    • George says

      Some people can be moral without God, but most people can’t. You don’t need to imagine what the world would be like without belief in God. Look at the reigns of terror of godless rulers of the last century: Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot. That Godlessness results in that behavior leads me to see that human nature needs God and therefore He is.

    • George says

      TLO,
      If, as an atheist, you bewlieve that nothing exists but the material universe, then what are you? Are you anything more than a complex reation of chemicals? How is the reaction of chemicals that your any mor valuable than a rusting nail or a rotting corpes? Isn’t any idea that you have only a chemical change in your brain including the idea that you have value,and the ideas of self identity including that you are an atheist. Without God you have no value or identity.

  19. Dino says

    Brian (and TLO),
    seeing God’s goodness in everything is a most valuable gift of Grace indeed!
    The age-old (misplaced) question of ‘why does God bestow His Grace [the answer to all questions if you like] to some and not to others, has been answered in Orthodoxy with the same answer from the ancient times down to F. Sophrony in our time.

    Take the letters of St Barsanuphius the Great and John the Prophet – considered by many to be the ultimate in discerning the deepest core of such issues.
    Their answers are resplendent with the notion that our drama is not that God denies us His Grace. It is bestowed on us often and in a variety of ways. Our drama is to be found in our negation of it.
    We do not appreciate the ‘diamond’ we are bestowed with for very long, and we quickly default back to playing with plastic replicas. Adam and Eve’s fall is repeated in us constantly.

  20. TLO says

    Dino – There was no Adam and Eve. Even the Orthodox recognize that the story is pure allegory.

  21. Dino says

    TLO,
    why get caught up on that and miss out on the deeper meaning – my use of A&E can be taken any way you like – in fact I use rather more allegorically here

  22. Brian says

    “I think people want others to be good.”

    Once again, the question becomes Why? Whence came the notion of – or even the desire for – goodness? From history? From the Bible?

    Albeit defined somewhat differently by different people, it is a universal desire. Why?

  23. Dan says

    “But as the years have gone by, I have come to see something I never saw before – the Presence within the absence.”

    God seems to be absent but the pilot light it is there inside those who will eventually repent like for example, the people in prisons for negative or even horrible deeds.
    God is ever and forever present in the nature but rejected by humans for various reasons and usually, following a bitter treatment.
    The evil has grown leaps and bounds during the last 200+ years after the French Revolution when the matter was imposed over the spirit. Rejected by modern governments and off the educational premises, God is gradually replaced by his enemies. This is the reason why we should call Him back in our lives and share that profound sense of “metanoia” with other human beings who show the same state of mind as the handicapped men in the Gospels asking for Christ’s mercy and help.

  24. TLO says

    Brian:

    Once again, the question becomes Why?

    That’s a good question and the answer seems to relate to how the brain works.

    Why do primates reconcile after a conflict? Why are reciprocity and empathy found in other primates?

    Why is it that moral decisions can be impacted by an electromagnetic pulse to the right TPJ in the brain?

    Why is it that when the part of the brain that rules such emotions as empathy and shame is damaged, moral judgment is also compromised?

    It seems that the brains of mammals incorporate what we call a “moral” component that can be affected by physical factors.

    The answer to your question, then, seems to be this: You have a healthy, functioning brain.

    Now, this does not imply anything beyond “this is the way we are.” This data suggests that there is not some external factor (e.g. “god is revealing morality to us”) that is necessary for a healthy human to have the baseline assumption that people are basically good or to inform us of what is moral. The same can be said of how we interpret beauty or anything else that we experience.

    To put it in a bit of a cleaner container, things work and to some degree we know how they work. As time progresses, we understand such processes more and more. Why is this not enough?

    • fatherstephen says

      Brian/TLO

      I agree with TLO on this one. Though the existence of God certainly grants a kind of transcendent meaning to all things, the desire to be good/moral perhaps requires nothing more than self/interest and a general instinct for most of its support.

      We are not commanded to be good – but to become Gods.

  25. Michael Patrick says

    I think God lets us live in a vacuum of nothingness and lets us lay hold of love in its midst, if we will. We came out of nothing and that’s all there is without love.

    All things in this world that a person might appreciate have no meaning without another person. It’s that simple. A person alone in the world has only toys and glitter to play with until nothing forcefully swallows them in death.

    Love is cosmic glue. It invisibly, atomically holds everything together and gives life in the midst of nothing to those who will reach for another, obeying love. The ultimate other is God Himself, but I think He’s happy if we can just get the basics right and live thankfully for what’s given, even if He doesn’t get a mention. He doesn’t need credit because He is love.

  26. TLO says

    :::Gasping in shock:::

    I am completely unaccustomed to anyone agreeing with me. I don’t know what to do.

  27. TLO says

    Father Stephen – The most frequent question I get from believers is the question of “how can you be moral without god” or “what moral standard do you use if not god?”

    Having now come to the conclusion that morality comes as a standard feature along with all our other basic programming, and seeing that appreciation/awe of the universe and all within it is a natural phenomenon housed in our noggins, I wonder if you can make a compelling argument for us agnostics to even consider faith?

    Said another way, what value does faith have that cannot be found in the heart of a humble humanist?

    • fatherstephen says

      TLO,
      Value to whom? How do we measure value? Usefulness? Productivity?

      For me, everything begins and ends in the Resurrection of Christ. The “logic” of things is measured there. If Christ is raised from the dead, then everything is relative to Him and has value there. The Resurrection is not a cipher for a reason to be good by some other measure.

      It seems wonderful to me that we are created with an innate drive towards goodness (clearly not an overwhelming drive for goodness). But that drive finds a different end, a transcendent end and fulfillment in Christ. It is one thing to be good, it is another to be transcendently good (I don’t have a fitting word for this right now).

      The event of Christ’s resurrection points to a mode of existence that is beyond goodness (especially natural goodness). Many who have come to know the resurrected Christ have lived lives that manifest this existence. They are also “evidence” of the resurrection. Is it so strange that the very innate goodness we have, should want to embrace an even greater good if it were perceived? Why would a Humanist not want to become yet more human? How would a humanist not want to be united to Christ if Christ were perceived to be transcendently human?

      I have no problem with Humanism – except for its choice to be less than fully human.

  28. Dino says

    TLO,
    I could slightly re-word your question and give you the short answer, but, the long one might come later.

    So, “what value does faith [in the True God] have that cannot be found in the heart of a humble humanist?”

    Answer: “The Divine Logos, [the ultimate meaning of all that exists] Christ is the answer.”

    Keep in mind that the infinite gravity of the fact that the inevitable eventual end [death] of all that exists imparts the most unbearable futility [hell] a person’s consciousness. Of course this thought might not always occur to every humble humanist automatically and in all its gravity. That perception (in all its gravity) is, in fact, a rare and valuable (and sometimes dangerous too) gift to a person, that can lead him to seek the ‘answer’… However, the ‘answer’ [the True End and fulfilment of all] – Christ – remains the only truly and permanently transfigurative element of this world, (whether this world is seen as just an adequate ‘experience’ for a higher animal that lives 70 years, or a futile Hell for an existentially philosophising conscience that cannot remain content with the mockery of this ‘joke’ that ends in death) into a Kingdom of Heaven beyond all possible imagination. Not just in a future that we cannot test but, here and now.

  29. TLO says

    The Resurrection is not a cipher for a reason to be good by some other measure.

    We are not commanded to be good – but to become Gods.

    The event of Christ’s resurrection points to a mode of existence that is beyond goodness (especially natural goodness). Many who have come to know the resurrected Christ have lived lives that manifest this existence.

    I am very confused by your statements.

    • fatherstephen says

      Confused? Perhaps. But this is normative Orthodox teaching.

      What you mean by “good” (good by humanist measures) is not the same thing as the Christian gospel (many Christians make this mistake – it’s why I have repeatedly written that Christianity is not “moral”).

      I would offer as an example of “transcendent goodness” a person such as Mother Teresa. Her “goodness” is simply over the top – particularly if you read the actual details of what she did. I have some eyewitness stories of her life. “Good” by the normal human measure simply fails to describe her life.

      The life of a Father Arseny, in the Soviet Gulag, transcends normal, natural human goodness. In his context, his life and behavior are simply incomprehensible.

      The Orthodox teaching of “goodness” is defined not by moral standards, but by the life of Christ (not viewed objectively – but ontologically by participation). So we are commanded to become “Gods,” that is “to become partakers of the Divine Nature.” Not meaning that we’re commanded to behave in a certain way, but to actually become something – to become a partaker of the Divine Nature. Fr. Arseny (I recommend the book on his life), not only behaves in a self-sacrificing manner beyond all understanding, but even manifests the very power and life of God in the midst of the Gulag in a manner that defies any natural explanation (surviving for days and sustaining the life of another through prayer in a punishment cell in which it was impossible not to have frozen to death – with the report from the other prisoner that they were in “a Church service somewhere” for the whole time).

      I know that when someone tells you these things that you respond that you’ll believe this stuff when it happens to you, and you’re wide open for it. So be it. It’s an answer – but I’m not asking a question. I’m just relating what I mean.

      I’m not sure why you’re confused because I’ve said this sort of thing before.

  30. TLO says

    I think what was throwing me was the “being gods” bit in opposition to “goodness.” I was thinking in terms of being able to heal the sick or fly or manipulate light or some such. Humans already do all those things.

    to actually become something – to become a partaker of the Divine Nature.

    To partake and to become seem to mean two different things. At the Eucharist one partakes, but I have yet to know anyone who has become something that he wasn’t already.

    Of the 2 billion Christians in the world, how many would you say (even as a percentage) have become gods or meet the standards of people like Father Arseny?

    • fatherstephen says

      How many are there out of the 2 billion? Between 3 and 17. Not per cent, but total.

  31. TLO says

    Mother Teresa – She’s an easy person to throw out as an example but then we immediately think of Gandhi and others who were definitely not Christians but who served a myriad of people. No one ever mentions John Adams in these discussions even though he personally sacrificed a great deal so that the people of his new country could be free of tyranny.

    There is no want of examples of extraordinary people who have served their fellow man and did so not out of a pursuit of holiness but for humanitarian reasons.

    What are we to think of things like Mother Teresa’s requirement that those in the order self-flagellate or the many doubts that she expressed in her writings? On the one hand, she accomplished extraordinary things but on the other she still had her own darkness. If one is to become a god, and in him there is no darkness, how can such things be accounted for?

    Said another way, who on this Earth has ever accomplished becoming a god with no darkness in them?

    Conversely, how does appending Christ to one’s humanitarian works elevate that person beyond the works themselves? You said:

    I have no problem with Humanism – except for its choice to be less than fully human.

    But Jesus said:

    Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me.

    It seems to me that the humanist who serves his fellow man is, by his very actions, fully human.

    Similarly, there are many who have all the right theology who will cry “Lord! Lord!” and Jesus says to them “I never knew you.”

    The theme of serving one’s fellow man being the same as serving god, even unawares, is fairly plain in the Gospels.

    How, then, can the humanist who devotes himself to finding better ways to grow pest-resistant foods or to decrease the infant mortality rate or develop technologies in the form of billboards that can be used in humid regions to convert the humidity to drinkable water be something “less than human”?

    Said another way, “Show me your faith without works and I will show you my works even though I subscribe to no faith whatsoever.”

  32. George says

    TLO, You are very good at finding fault with the theist position and we theists have defended our position. Both Dino and I have found fault with the atheist position and you so far have not responded. Why?

  33. Michael Bauman says

    “Said another way, who on this Earth has ever accomplished becoming a god with no darkness in them?”

    St. Symeon the New Theologian comes as close as any I have knowledge of.

  34. Michael Patrick says

    TLO,

    I’m puzzled at what nags at you such that you hang out here while professing, in effect, that you’re complete without Christ. If that is so, you can come or go, it shouldn’t matter to you either way; All the talk here is just chatter or one pursuit among many you could spend energy on.

    Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy your posts and wish you well. But no one is going to reveal Christ to you but He Himself and that probably won’t happen unless you ask Him, not us. If you won’t ask Him I think your inquiries may be dishonest or else you’re afraid of what might happen. Do you expect him to force your attention? How about asking him to reward it?

  35. Dino says

    TLO et al,
    Your closing statement “Show me your faith without works and I will show you my works even though I subscribe to no faith whatsoever” shows a distorted concept of Christianity and side-steps the meaninglessness we accuse Godlessness existence of.

    Anyway, any good and virtuous ‘works’ (from an Orthodox point of view that is) a Christian might perform are outward manifestations of his salvation in Christ, ‘embodiments’ of the Spirit of salvation, the salvation that has been utterly completed and bestowed on us. Of course one must open “his eyes” in order to see the light, but, the light IS there…. Works are in no way contributions to the salvific work of Christ.
    The moral, virtuous humanist is perhaps like a picture of a glorious fire. He is not a picture of a cold winter. But the true Christian -even if there are only between 3 and 17 out of 2 billion- is a real fire that warms you with everlasting meaning.

  36. TLO says

    Just say “God if your real, show me.” If he isn’t nothing will happen.

    By that test, there should be very few theists indeed. (And didn’t Jesus criticize the Gentiles who wanted a sign?)

    30+ years of looking for god with no answer were not sufficient to kill my hope. It wasn’t until I came to a crisis built from desperately seeking and never finding this god-like person (one of the 17), led me to question the whole thing which in turn led me to the only rational conclusion I could derive. I marvel that there are not more agnostics out there.

    A part of my motive is that I want to be proven wrong. I want there to be some valid reason why Christianity has merit (let alone being necessary). I am not encouraged to learn that 0.00000085% of the current Christian population have arrived at a state that is the desired end of faith in Christ. Even the Lottery offers better odds of success.

    Indeed, I think I’m done here.

    Thanks to all for bearing with me.

  37. TLO says

    But the true Christian -even if there are only between 3 and 17 out of 2 billion- is a real fire that warms you with everlasting meaning.

    The echo in heaven from all those mansions and no occupants will be haunting, I’m sure.

  38. Dino says

    TLO,
    you are concocting your own conclusions irrespective of what we are saying here. The “3 to 17″ was an answer (jokingly too) not to those who “fill the Kingdom’s mansions” but to those who have here and now, living “have become gods or meet the standards of people like Father Arseny”…

    “…“If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see…”

  39. Dino says

    You are saying nothing new, 2000 years ago the apostles also exclaimed ‘then who can be saved?’ But God’s answer remains the same. He demands hope beyond hope. He showed it on the Cross as Father Stephen’s latest article explains. And it is the hope of all true Christians. Our hope is perhaps what you could credit as your motive. :-)

  40. Dana Ames says

    John/TLO,

    I would like to know what you believe makes a human being truly human.

    Thank you.

    Dana

  41. Brian says

    Fr. Stephen,

    Thank you for clearly distinguishing “morality” from goodness and the goodness we all desire, as no connection between the two was intended by my questions.

  42. TLO says

    warning: The following is a lengthy, passionate response borne of a deep love for humanity (as it is) and a true longing to understand why anyone actually needs god. The writer is calm, cool and collected. Please do not read any yelling or anger into this passage.

    ——————

    you are concocting your own conclusions irrespective of what we are saying here.

    I can only comprehend things the way that I see them. I am trying desperately to understand. Please set me straight. What did I miss? What I read was:

    1) OK, you’re right that morality is a biological fundamental but god isn’t concerned with people being moral – he wants them to be gods.

    2) Well, not actual gods per se, but god wants us to participate in his divinity.

    3) Examples of human gods are this subset of people who:

    a) believe in our god

    b) have done incredible good works in the face of huge opposition.

    They are so few and far between that rather than pointing out, say some or all of the congregation in any [Orthodox] parish, we have our own spiritual celebrities who we can point to as successes.

    4) Good works don’t really matter if someone isn’t a Christian. Non-Christians are not actually fully human.

    The entire thought process seems to come from a place of profound arrogance, condescension and abhorrence of basic humanity.

    Fr. Stephen’s joking response was wrong by 3-17; no one has ever become a god in this life. Even those who were personally mentored by Jesus continued to struggle with their own weaknesses. They knew their darkness and relied on Christ to redeem them but none of them ever became sinless, full of light and the essence of love.

    As brave as men like Ignatius were, not one would have claimed to have become a god.

    Gandhi stated, “I do not seek redemption from the consequences of my sin. I seek to be redeemed from the sin itself, or rather from the very thought of sin. Until I have attained that end, I shall be content to be restless.”

    But this is just as impossible. No human has ever been redeemed from the very thought of sin (without a lobotomy).

    If there is a god who is able actually physically change a human so that they never exceeded the fundamental boundaries of morality, I would be 100% on-board this Christian airline. But here’s the thing; there isn’t any such being – not even if a person of their free will begs him to affect such changes.

    It’s all in our brains and can only be altered through some physical component. It’s not some supernatural phenomenon. So what part can a supernatural being play in my life?

    Why in the name of all that is sane would you offer up an impossible standard of living and then call anyone who does not achieve that standard (or anyone who does but who does agree with your idea of god)”less than fully human”?

    I recoil in horror at the thought of it.

    And this cuts to the center of why the Cross makes no sense to me. Reconciliation and Forgiveness never, ever require a sacrifice. Ne-ver. They only require willingness on the part of the offended party to forgive or reconcile. This does not require the Power of God™.

    – People are moral without god.

    – People forgive (even themselves!) without god.

    – People reconcile without god.

    – People love others without god.

    – People serve their fellow man without god.

    Can anyone please give me one good reason to believe? If god does not actually change people into gods (e.g. altering their nature and brains to be pure like him) and we still have to go through life with the same foibles, what good is faith?

    I simply do not get it.

    • fatherstephen says

      TLO,

      – People are moral without god.

      – People forgive (even themselves!) without god.

      – People reconcile without god.

      – People love others without god.

      – People serve their fellow man without god.

      You’ve made some unqualified assertions here. Obviously people are “moral” without God. But there are many “moralities.” Hitler was moral in a Nazi fashion, etc. Without Christ, “moral” is a slippery slope. You and I live in a culture that, despite variation, is largely formed in a manner of Judaeo/Christian morality, and, I suspect, we’re glad of it. Faith guides the nature and character of morality. Thus, people are moral without God (we obey rules), but can be pretty weirdly moral without him.

      People forgive without God? Strangely, this is not culturally accurate. A number of cultures do not practice serious forgiveness. And the forgiveness that we practice is decidedly influenced by the image and teachings of Christ.

      I think this is true of your assertions regarding forgiveness, reconciliation, love and service. Yes, these things may even have a “natural” basis, but are limited, often overwhelmed by other things. People have a desire to learn – and yet we provide schools and incentives.

      Faith “makes us more human.” It moves us beyond our own “mere” inclinations so that morality, forgiveness, reconciliation, love, service, transcend what might otherwise be obtained. When I say we “become Gods,” it doesn’t mean not being human (for humans, in Christian understanding, exist in the image of God). But without the prototype, the image can and does become distorted.

      Faith in God keeps and corrects our understanding of the fullness of our humanity. We will not cease to be moral without God, but morality as a decreasing or distorted norm, is the likely and predictable result. Your own thoughts about what is good (forgiveness, reconciliation, love, service) are utterly Christian, and not merely humanist. They are a Christian-humanism, not, for example, an Islamic humanism (for they reject the imago dei).

      The fact that something like Nazism, or Stalinism, are not the dominant form of life in the modern world, is easily attributable to faith in God. It is the abiding image of Christ in our culture, however distorted, that acts as a corrective, drawing us away from repeated efforts of madness. It corrected the madness of the Inquisition, etc. There are present forms of madness, which I pray the image, and some sort of faith in it (you have a form of faith in it – you think its categories are valid), will continue to constrain the madness of abandoning it.

      These are important results of faith in God. Even if I don’t become one of the “17” – the existence of such human beings draw me towards the image – which collectively makes this world a much better and tolerable place. Since human beings exist in the image of God (according to Christian belief), it should be expected that we “naturally” desire good things. But because there is something distorted in us (which we call sin), we do not always live or understand that image as it should be.

      But without the image, and those who believe in it and make it the goal of their life (faith), the image would grow ever more tarnished and obscure. We have had enough dark eruptions to make me more than cautious about a world that no longer has faith in the image.

  43. Michael Patrick says

    TLO, one thing I’m quite certain of:

    If there is a god –speaking in your terms here– the confirmation you seek of his, her or its existence is not going to come on any terms you dictate. That’s not because of you, it’s the way it is for all of us.

    No one here is pestering you. Rather, you are here begging for epistemological shock therapy. Though much of today’s “christianity” is about this or that kind of ideological certainty, Orthodox aren’t into that.

    I don’t know if you are hurting, blinded by pride and mouthing for demons, or what. Perhaps something else altogether is at work in your soul. But seriously, look at where you are and what you’re asking. The desperation is obvious and seems rather acute.

    Within the bounds of reason, what can we do for you? I’m praying that you’ll get a shock sufficient enough to satisfy both you and truth, but cathartic passages can be unpleasant and dangerous. I’m thinking, for example, of live birth. You need a new life. Where, my internet acquaintance, do you hope to find it if not in the person of Christ who will rock your socks and expect everything from you beyond reason? If you don’t need a new life, what’s all the fuss about?

  44. Dino says

    TLO,

    forgive me but, you do sometimes brush over the most helpful explanations in order to get caught up on what keeps your position of doubt, therefore becoming your own worst enemy in the search of “one good reason to believe”…
    There is also always a semantics misconception compounding these misunderstandings. The humanist ‘human’, is a different concept to the ‘fully human’ (an unknown concept in the secular world) who is non other than a repetition, an “enhypostsization” of the Cosmic Christ in every one of us (with all their sinful passions not exactly uprooted, but transformed, retaining, in this life, both their positive and negative ‘potentials’ – the negative is put to sleep while the positive is active if you like).

    Ghandi’s quote and life puts to shame the majority of what comes across as Christians especially in the west, and I suspect that this is part of your issue with “us”.
    :-)
    Believe me, there are far more than 3 -17 Christians in the Orthodox world that are infinitely more ‘convincing’ than anything you have imagined according to your previous christian experience – they hide extremely well or they wouldn’t be what they are, but God reveals them to the world – look at Elder Paisios for example! i consider myself beyond lucky to have stumbled across them even before i started really searching in earnest.

    When an atheist approached Met. Nikolaos of Mesogaia (who he only respected because he has many doctorates and was a professor at Harvard and MIT in his past), asking for a ‘reason’, a ‘proof’ – trusting his previous scientific background as i said; F. Nikolaos sent him to an unlettered ascetic on the Holy Mountain – Elder Paisios…!
    When he got there, the second F Paisios saw him from afar he exclaimed “How can an Angel [his name was Angelo] doubt God?” producing an earthquake in his very core…

    However, in his previous demand for a ‘proof’ (of the sort he had already decided on himself) F. Nikolaos had joked:
    – do you understand integrals, differential equations?
    – sorry! I am of the philosophical leaning… No!
    – that’s a pity! I had a proof for you! :-)
    [implying that he needs to look not just for a different kind of proof but in a different "language" than the one he had been looking in all his life...]

  45. Phil says

    Dear TLO,

    I hesitate to “pile on” with yet another voice, but you seem to be working from the assumption that this present life is all we get. In that case, what good is faith indeed? The Saints mostly suffered horribly. But the Gospel promises us much much more than a good life now– we “look for the Resurrection of the Dead and the Life of the Age to Come”, as the creed says. In the Resurrection, our physical bodies (including our brains, presumably) will indeed be altered– after Christ’s Resurrection, his closest friends and disciples couldn’t even recognize him. And we are promised just such a resurrection ourselves, and an everlasting life in which to eternally grow more and more godlike from glory to glory– if we are willing to die with Christ first, that is.

    That is what this life mostly seems to be for, the dying part. Some few heroic figures may have obtained a significant measure of the divine nature even in this life, but they will far surpass that in the age to come– as can we. After all, we will have eternity to achieve it, if we choose that transcendent Life-to-come here and now, and suffer what we must in order to be ready to receive it when the time comes.

    Hoping this helps a bit,
    Phil

  46. Gene B says

    TLO,

    “Can anyone please give me one good reason to believe? If god does not actually change people into gods (e.g. altering their nature and brains to be pure like him) and we still have to go through life with the same foibles, what good is faith?”

    The reason to believe is that the truth of our existence is manifest in a relationship with a person, who also happens to be God. Believers here on this forum appear arrogant to you because they have discovered something that you simply haven’t yet. But do you really want it?

    Although it took me quite some time to turn my own life around I was lucky to be born into an Orthodox family with a long list of miracles of faith that have been passed down. The presence of God is often made very clear to believers. It is a blessing that I took for granted many years. But how do you reach that point?

    I remember reading about an event that happened in the former Soviet Union. 500 (or was it 5000?) Orthodox priests were round up and sent to Siberia to be shot buy a firing squad. A photographer (or was it a news reporter?) was sent to document the event, because before each Priest was to be shot he was offered freedom in exchange for renouncing his faith. The reporter was sent to document all those who would renounce their faith to show the world how ridiculous faith is. But not one did, and all were killed. In direct response, the reporter became a believer. He now understood there was no way what they believed was just some earthly philosophy. Those priests would not renounce their personal relationships with God. I remember weeping when I read this.

    And so it is. Jesus is knocking at your door, but unless you open it he will not come in. I think every believer at one time has begged for God to answer him. I can tell you for sure he has answered me, and in more than one occasion, as unworthy as I am. I don’t think you can have real faith until you go down to the depths of your own inner darkness and beg him to reveal himself.

    So TLO do you want a relationship with God, or do you want him to leave you alone? Are you ready to be wrong? Are you ready to accept you don’t know? Are to ready to be humble? Are you ready to open the door? Maybe you are not. But no one can see what is deep in your heart except your Creator. No one else knows you and loves you like Him. No one else knows what you are capable of. Many are not ready until the end of their lives. Many live their whole lives and never see, they never establish that relationship. It is truly a mystery of our existence beyond human understanding.

    At the same time I can only tell you that on the other side there is a hierarchy of understanding that continues as you grow in faith, love and obedience to Jesus Christ and his Church. You see more, understand more and love more all at the same time. As an unworthy servant I can only wish and pray that you may see what so many others have seen – why wouldn’t we want to share with you all that we have experienced, simply out of love? But the move must be your own.

  47. Dino says

    TLO,
    I agree with GeneB.
    forgive me but, you do sometimes brush over the most helpful explanations in order to get caught up on what keeps your position of doubt, therefore becoming your own worst enemy in the search of “one good reason to believe”…
    There is also always a semantics misconception compounding these misunderstandings. The humanist ‘human’, is a different concept to the ‘fully human’ (an unknown concept in the secular world) who is non other than a repetition, an “enhypostsization” of the Cosmic Christ in every one of us (with all their sinful passions not exactly uprooted, but transformed, retaining, in this life, both their positive and negative ‘potentials’ – the negative is put to sleep while the positive is active if you like).

    Ghandi’s quote and life puts to shame the majority of what comes across as Christians especially in the west, and I suspect that this is part of your issue with “us”.
    :-)

    Believe me, there are far more than 3 -17 Christians in the Orthodox world that are infinitely more ‘convincing’ than anything you have imagined according to your previous christian experience – they hide extremely well or they wouldn’t be what they are, but God reveals them to the world – look at Elder Paisios for example! i consider myself beyond lucky to have stumbled across them even before i started really searching in earnest.

    When an atheist approached Met. Nikolaos of Mesogaia (who he only respected because he has many doctorates and was a professor at Harvard and MIT in his past), asking for a ‘reason’, a ‘proof’ – trusting his previous scientific background as i said; F. Nikolaos sent him to an unlettered ascetic on the Holy Mountain – Elder Paisios…!
    When he got there, the second F Paisios saw him from afar he exclaimed “How can an Angel [his name was Angelo] doubt God?” producing an earthquake in his very core…

    However, in his previous demand for a ‘proof’ (of the sort he had already decided on himself) F. Nikolaos had joked:
    – do you understand integrals, differential equations?
    – sorry! I am of the philosophical leaning… No!
    – that’s a pity! I had a proof for you! :-)
    [implying that he needs to look not just for a different kind of proof but in a different "language" than the one he had been looking in all his life...]

  48. Michael Bauman says

    TLO. He has changed me and is continuing to change me. I am
    certainly not “all light” but I am vastly different than I used to be. I have become more human.

    The thing about God that most people find so frustrating is that He doesn’t instantly make our lives perfect as we define perfect.

    He is a master craftsman molding us, sculpting us into the perfection He sees. That means He takes a little here, a little there, stresses the material in just the right way to make it stronger. To do it all at once would not lead to beauty but to destruction as we are sentient material with free will.

    Each experience of life adds a bit or takes a bit but the process is never complete. Not in this life not in the next.

    If you would come to my parish; live with us for awhile really live with us you would change. Not as an observer. You would change. Everybody does.
    . We are not save or come to a knowledge of God as autonomous individuals but as members of a worshipping community bearing one another’s burdens. I would be honored if you were to come so we could do that together. I am sure most of us here would be.

    The lives of the saints inspire us to do more and they help us to do more because they are still living and with us. The stories in any parish that has been around awhile would astound you but we don’t talk about them much . Maybe if we would, we’d find out how utterly common they are and defeat our pride that way.

    BTW: None of the things in your list is done or can be done without God. They may not be done for God or with awareness of Him but they would not be done without Him.

    Forgiveness does require the sacrifice of one’s hurt, pride and “rightness”. It requires the willingness to see oneself as wrong and the willingness to change. It is that lack on the part of others that sent Jesus to the Cross. It is that lack in myself that keeps me there.

    We are all less than human, Christian or not. We are all called to be fully human but that is only possible in Christ.

    Our humanity is so much greater a gift than we realize. We tend to give it away for less than what Esau got. We give it away daily for nothing.

    That is why we experience emptiness as emptiness. Fish don’t notice water until it is not there.

    We are immersed in God; interpenetrated by Him. Yet, we don’t know that sometimes unless we are given the experience of His absence. He is not really absent as we cannot be taken out of God but He allows us a touch of what it would be like so that we become aware.

    “Submit yourselves all ye nations for God is with us!!!!!”

  49. Michael Bauman says

    John as an alternative to coming to my parish–find a healthy parish near you; make a friend in that parish; suspend your disbelief for a year and attend do other activities as you are led. See what happens.

  50. Michael Bauman says

    John I would also recommend the site Journey to Orthodoxy. Many many stories of change (the lead story right now is about a Taliban from Afghanistan who became Orthodox).

    Fr John Peck who runs the site may also be able to put you in touch with a person and parish near you. He has quite a network.

    Change happens all the time and it is always a surprise. It doesn’t usually happen to fit our will as that would not be change.

  51. Michael Bauman says

    Father the understanding that all the goodness in our culture which we take for granted are the fruit of Christianity cannot be repeated enough along with the parallel reality that the attempt to jettison not just “Christian” identity but to expunge the faith itself from public life (if not private) will not improve our lives but lead us deeper into the darkness of our shattered image.

    When we stop looking for salvation or even recognize our need for it–madness rules.

    I pray God for strength and rejoice in all of those who follow Him no matter how haltingly. We are after all the “maimed, the halt and the lame”.

  52. Dan says

    TLO,

    I left before a general meditation on August 22 related to the topic above.

    Then, I noticed the exchange of opinions between you and other Christians. What you write here tells me that you have a deep pain that goes way back. Then you started to build a wall with stones that you think that are beautiful and polish some of them with nice words Humanism, Realism, and Atheism. However, you also started at a certain point to call some of them by the right name, Loneliness, Faithless, and Unloved.

    I deeply appreciate your honesty and your cry to get a glimpse of the beauty that we enjoy. When one loves Christ, that cannot be explained in any words, it has to be a living experience, a joy of not being alone, no fear for the end. He is here with me when I am writing that I should love you with the agape love because you are His creation.

    If I extended in my life, my unselfish, unconditional love for men in prison who did horrible things, than I can find some for you too. Christ, myself, and all these people who are true Christians, and respond to your notes, we are not absent and do not turn you down. No matter how bad is your past, how hard is your drifting away in the secular quest of knowledge, it is your choice to show the same love and friendship to us. At a certain point in the gospels, Christ stopped calling the apostles disciples, brothers and called them friends. You will be our friend even if you withdraw from this blog and will continue your life like it was before meeting us.

  53. Dino says

    The blessed Saint Nikolay Velimirovich says something provocative concerning every atheist: If you haven’t got God as your god, then your god is inescapably death – in the sense of ‘him who has the total and final say’…
    But one cannot say that there is no god, as that would be like a blind man saying there is no light; it is more appropriate to say ‘I have no god’…
    The recognition of this existential “meaninglessness” imparted by this insight that I have cannot escape having ‘death as my god’ is the beginning of the humble and desperate hope in the One Who can save.

  54. Dino says

    oops sorry: “this insight that I cannot escape having ‘death as my god’ is the beginning of the humble and desperate hope in the One Who can save.

  55. George says

    TLO, If a may tell you a true story that happened to me.
    A few months back,as my wife and I were driving away from Church, we came upon a disabled minivan. The hood was open, the doors were open and the father and mother and two kids wer standing outside.
    Not once did the thought cross my mind, ‘I should pull over and help them.’
    Not once did the thought cross my mind, ‘As a good Christian, I should pull over and help them.’
    Not once did the thought cross my mind, ‘God would want me to pull over and help them.’
    I just pulled over to help them.
    They had run out of gas. We loaded the father in our car and took him to an auto parts store to get a can and then to a gas station to get gas.
    Not once during the 30 to 45 minutes it took to do this did I pat myself on the back for being so good.
    Not once during the 30 to 45 minutes it took to do this did I was being a good witness for Christ
    Not once during the 30 to 45 minutes it took to do this did I think this man and his family can see what good persons my wife and I are.
    I just took care of his needs. It was as if I wasn’t doing it.
    The only conclusion I can come up with is that at that time my will and God’s will were so emeshed that God did His will through me. And let me tell you the joy of have God do His will through me was emmencely better than any happiness I have had from doing good from my own will.
    TLO, as an atheist you will never have this experience. Why? Because an atheist cannot believe that Goodness exists on its own.
    As a theist, I believe that Goodness exists on its own.
    As a Christian, I believe that Goodness became flesh and dwelt among us.

  56. Dan says

    To everyone reading this blog,

    There is a book to read by Christos Yannaras The Absence of God – Heidegger and the Aeropagite”. He takes the reader on the path of understanding the theology of the West from Aquinas trying to understand God in a methodical way to the modern nihilism as being the dialectical views of Leibniz and Spinoza. From that crooked line of thinking we get nowadays that silly comparison of God being a watchmaker.

    It is also worth reading Heidegger and Ernst on revisiting the oncoming problem of the nihilism. This fellow – TLO is one case in the ever-growing population lacking the empathy and blaming on God like He is a sort of Santa Claus who has missed his house.

    The nihilism does not have a scope, or a target, as being a snake biting his own tail.

    Even Socrates would not debate with an atheist because the ontological and epistemological premises, to start even a conversation, simply diverge without a chance to be at least parallel somewhere on the horizon line.
    The only resemblance of an Atheist with a Christian is that both are leading their life according to their choices. One is the janitor of the world and the other one the servant of Christ.

  57. Michael Patrick says

    Dan, thanks for the book recommendations. I’ve nearly finished reading Yannaras. Definitely worthwhile! Dumitriu hasn’t arrived yet. It seems to be only available used.

    I also want to read Dostoyevsky’s Demons.

    • Dan says

      Thank you Michael for your interest in this topic. Many people do not see the beauty of a real God because are looking by mistake in the direction of the Theism and Pantheism. What was supposed to be a temporary stop for a study, in time becomes a permanent destination with the additional frustrations.

      Junger was even better at pinpointing the nihilism early on when Heidegger still believed that it could be cured. The Nazis and the war have given him a serious lesson of life and death. Just dwelling on the absence of God and celebrating it, that is the path to Socialism of many forms.

      I was born and lived in one of them and I know how destructive can be. If you read on the web on the Pitesti Phenomena you can understand where the absence of God leads to.

      The Christians in the Communist prisons have proven that Christ is with them where the Socialist machinery was trying to crush their faith and personality. They lived the last of the Christ’s Beatitudes. They were not spared from suffering but Christ was present.

      A French poet, Paul Claudel, wrote a beautiful meditation: “Jesus did not come to remove suffering or to explain it away. He came to fill it with His presence”.

  58. Michael Patrick says

    TLO, you might appreciate Yannaras’ book suggested by Dan:

    “On the Absence and Unknowability of God: Heidegger and the Areopagite” ISBN-13: 978-0567045324

    I can heartily recommend it to anyone who wants to know something about why our culture now sits uncomfortably in the wreckage of an epistemological tsunami. The resulting personal psychology for theists and Christians can, I imagine, feel something like the angst or despair of Existentialism.

  59. TLO says

    I apologize for the long absence but I was on the verge of becoming outraged. I did not want to taint the discussion with anger. Please don’t read any into this.

    Dan says:

    What you write here tells me that you have a deep pain that goes way back.

    How can anyone look on the state of “the Church” and not recoil in agony? Recalling all the ancillary pain due to witnessing the myriad divisions among people who hold a faith that is supposed to be based in a Person who is Love and Mercy is heartbreaking. I had a lifetime of it. Of course it’s painful. What feeling person could possibly do anything but weep? (All the more so when one is in my position and sees no god there in the first place and therefore no need for so much suffering.)

    Can one be charitable toward a god who can’t even figure out how to get his own children to stop being such dung-heads to one another? (It is by no means just the scum-head televangelists who are constantly harming people who are looking for god to provide them some relief!)

    Can one really believe that god can raise from the dead but can’t be bothered to physically show himself to people who earnestly seek him?

    Can one have even mild respect for a god who allows all the torment done in his name to continue without lifting a finger to stop it?

    I certainly cannot. Given the option of no god and a god such as that, I cannot but hope that there is no god. A god like that simply cannot be trusted.

    Then you started to build a wall with stones that you think that are beautiful and polish some of them with nice words Humanism, Realism, and Atheism. However, you also started at a certain point to call some of them by the right name, Loneliness, Faithless, and Unloved.

    I don’t recall ever giving such names to humanism etc. I can tell you, though, that “unloved” and “lonely” are feelings that were ever-present when I was looking for god. such feelings were merely amplified by this glorious “absence” that is evidence of “presence.”

    Father Stephen says:

    Faith in God keeps and corrects our understanding of the fullness of our humanity.

    Your statement is what you might also call an “unqualified assertion.” Faith in which god? Even if we are to limit the name “God” to the Judeo-Christian god, there is absolutely no want of evidence that faith in this god has also been associated with some of the most heinous crimes against humanity, let alone the vices of bickering and dissent that one finds between the various sects, even among the Orthodox.

    The God described in the Bible is not himself moral. How then can he be a moral guide to others? You talk of Nazis and Marxists but neglect pretty much everything from Genesis 3 forward. Hitler and Stalin had nothing on God when it came to wantonly killing and torturing people. And this is the being who corrects our understanding and should be used as a moral compass? I just don’t understand that at all.

    (Spirituality has had a go for over 10,000 years and the failure to improve the species has been colossal. Perhaps we ought to take a more sensible and practical approach?)

    George says:

    The only conclusion I can come up with is that at that time my will and God’s will were so enmeshed that God did His will through me.

    Are you seriously suggesting that you would not have done those things if you were merely a decent human being with no faith to speak of? I think the evidence is against you there. I think you are a decent person who behaves decently. That you happen to have faith is no more relevant than it is when you do things that are selfish or whatnot. Belief does not equal Goodness.

    Michael Patrick says:

    TLO, you might appreciate Yannaras’ book suggested by Dan…

    Dear me! Another book? What good is that when what one needs is a person? Isn’t that getting a stone when you asked for bread?

    I’m still available if God wants to chat. If He asks about me, you can let him know I’m watching my team kick off another losing season. (If there is a god then explain the San Diego Chargers.)

    • George says

      I’m not suggesting I would not hve done good or that I have not done good on my own. I am saying that this time it was radically different than those other times. My faith and belief did not cause my interpretation of what happened. My faith and belief were strengthened by what happened.

      Why did you get angry? We’re not angry with you.

  60. Dino says

    A sign above the entrance of a Monastery on Mount Athos reads:

    “If you die before you die,
    than when you die, you will not die”

    It’s a laconic way of expressing the truth that by struggling towards immortal union with God here and now -through ‘dying’ to our corrupt self, dying to “ME” – our death will not be our demise, but our Paschal passing from death to life…

    I shall tell you something strange, but do not be surprised by it. Should you fail to attain dispassion because of the predispositions dominating you, but at the time of your death be in the depths of humility, you will be exalted above the clouds no less than the man who is dispassionate. For even if the treasure of those who are dispassionate consists of every virtue, the precious stone of humility is more valuable than them all: it brings about not only propitiation with the Creator, but also entry with the elect into the bridal chamber of His kingdom.

    Not differentiating clearly between an institution and its representatives – freely substituting the one for the other – is a recipe for confusion. I am implying your view of the Church and its history here of course.
    Confusion is part and parcel of that darkness that clouds the eye of our spiritual heart. It is that organ (officially termed “nous”) that has the ability to see the Person of God (“when what one needs is a person”)… The pure in heart “see” God – even if partially while in the beginning of the way of purification – because they are looking towards Him. Seeing the futility of all that otherwise enchants the mind is the beginning of its return to humility and purity; and it then starts apprehending Him. It does. Even if this happens dimly at first, like our perception of the morning sun through closed eyes.
    There is a link, an equation between our pride/humility and our not seeing/seeing of Him. Of course pride can take the form of sensitivity, preconceived ideas or impatience, just like humility can take the form of acceptance of my blindness: it does however, lead to the cure of blindness…
    I would be scared to boldly defend my ‘blindness’ – unless of course I am simply asking for help – when there have been people who have put up with it and eventually overcame it, such as Saint Silouan.
    In the Philoklia we read that if we fail to attain dispassion because of the predispositions dominating us, but (even if this is at the time of our death) if we attain in the depths of humility, we will be exalted above the clouds no less than the man who is dispassionate.

    Here is another look at it. A sign above the entrance of a Monastery on Mount Athos reads:

    “If you die before you die,
    than when you die, you will not die”

    Obviously, it’s a laconic way of expressing the truth that by struggling towards immortal union with God here and now -through ‘dying’ to our corrupt self, dying to “ME” – our death will not be our demise, but our Paschal passing from death to life…
    But, let’s do some thinking outside the box here: “ME”, the self,

    “I” AM THE ABSENCE OF GOD (!)

    So, there must be a subtle, anger-free renewal of the child within me, an abandonment of the desire to have it the way I conceive it as an adult and a willingness to guilelessly desire what is given me. This is required here, even if what is ‘given me’ is nothing to start with. Can I take it or not?
    The answer to that question is the measure of whether I will see or not, as Pascal says something like: God is as hidden as needs to be so that those that see Him, see Him freely and those that do not see Him, do not see Him freely.

  61. Dino says

    I accidentally copied the above comment so that it appeared jumbled up!

    It should actually start with the 3rd paragraph to make any sense:

    Not differentiating clearly between

    sorry

    I’ll try a repost perhaps, if that works

  62. Dino says

    Not differentiating clearly between an institution and its representatives – freely substituting the one for the other – is a recipe for confusion. I am implying your view of the Church and its history here of course.
    Confusion is part and parcel of that darkness that clouds the eye of our spiritual heart. It is that organ (officially termed “nous”) that has the ability to see the Person of God (“when what one needs is a person”)… The pure in heart “see” God – even if partially while in the beginning of the way of purification – because they are looking towards Him. Seeing the futility of all that otherwise enchants the mind is the beginning of its return to humility and purity; and it then starts apprehending Him. It does. Even if this happens dimly at first, like our perception of the morning sun through closed eyes.
    There is a link, an equation between our pride/humility and our not seeing/seeing of Him. Of course pride can take the form of sensitivity, preconceived ideas or impatience, just like humility can take the form of acceptance of my blindness: it does however, lead to the cure of blindness…
    I would be scared to boldly defend my ‘blindness’ – unless of course I am simply asking for help – when there have been people who have put up with it and eventually overcame it, such as Saint Silouan.
    In the Philoklia we read that if we fail to attain dispassion because of the predispositions dominating us, but (even if this is at the time of our death) if we attain in the depths of humility, we will be exalted above the clouds no less than the man who is dispassionate.

    Here is another look at it. A sign above the entrance of a Monastery on Mount Athos reads:

    “If you die before you die,
    than when you die, you will not die”

    Obviously, it’s a laconic way of expressing the truth that by struggling towards immortal union with God here and now -through ‘dying’ to our corrupt self, dying to “ME” – our death will not be our demise, but our Paschal passing from death to life…
    But, let’s do some thinking outside the box here: “ME”, the self,

    “I” AM THE ABSENCE OF GOD (!)

    So, there must be a subtle, anger-free renewal of the child within me, an abandonment of the desire to have it the way I conceive it as an adult and a willingness to guilelessly desire what is given me. This is required here, even if what is ‘given me’ is nothing to start with. Can I take it or not?
    The answer to that question is the measure of whether I will see or not, as Pascal says something like: God is as hidden as needs to be so that those that see Him, see Him freely and those that do not see Him, do not see Him freely.

  63. Michael Patrick says

    TLO, yes, I thought a book might help. You need something and it’s about all I’ve got to offer.

    I’m nearly done reading the other book Dan recommended, by Dimitriu. It’s probably a better fit for your condition than Yannaras. It is not academic, it’s a personal story. You and the author seem to have a lot in common.

    Getting psychological: The anger tells me you’re probably closed-off. How can God participate in your life when you’re wearing grudge armor? It prevents touching. Do you want Him to bring weapons? Just what kind of encounter do you imagine will there be when/if He ineluctably appears at your door?

  64. Michael Bauman says

    TLO, I agree with you, a book is not sufficient and perhaps even harmful in your case.

    I’ll make my suggestion again. If you really want to have an encounter, it will take some effort on your part. Contact Fr. John Peck through Journey’s to Orthodoxy. He can probably recommend someone near you who has experienced things similar to you who can help. Fr. John has lists of folks who have come to the Church from all kinds of prior experiences.

    Attend a healthy parish for at least a year, getting to know folks there and suspend your disbelief, if only for a couple of hours each week. I’d love to have you with me in my parish, but we are too far apart.

    Also, if you will accept it, you are having an encounter with Jesus Christ here and now. I suspect that you have actually had a number of them throughout your life, but like the proverbial person on the house top surrounded by water who refused all help because the Lord didn’t come “in person”, you just have not seen them because they didn’t fit your own notion of what they should be.

    The good news is that He never gives up. He’s out looking right now for all of the separated sheep who will hear his voice.

  65. TLO says

    Not differentiating clearly between an institution and its representatives – freely substituting the one for the other – is a recipe for confusion. I am implying your view of the Church and its history here of course.

    It seems clear that if you have any group of people then some will be bad and others will be good, regardless of any professed faith or whatever. Being a Christian doesn’t make someone a better person. Nor does being an atheist make one bad. People are who they are because of biology. Period.

    The problem with the idea of “The Church” is that it is, allegedly, not just a group of people but a person (the bride of Christ) and god is (again allegedly) the protector of his bride, her guide, etc. I’m just saying that he hasn’t done a very good job of it, all things considered.

    The pure in heart “see” God – even if partially while in the beginning of the way of purification – because they are looking towards Him.

    Can you define this please? What does “pure in heart” even mean? Is this a moral appraisal? Are you saying that if you don’t see god then you are black hearted?

    God is as hidden as needs to be so that those that see Him, see Him freely and those that do not see Him, do not see Him freely.

    To answer Dan’s question, it’s stuff like this that really ticks me off. Start with a conclusion then make up the most irrational folderol to support it. The above statement is worthy of the Mad Hatter. The whole “absence proves presence” argument is similarly frustrating. It’s like saying that 3+3 doesn’t equal five therefore it does.

    I find it difficult to remain patient in the face of such things.

    TLO, yes, I thought a book might help. You need something and it’s about all I’ve got to offer.

    I marvel that anyone could be satisfied with a book when what they really want is a person. To me, it’s like wanting intimacy and settling for a harlequinne romance novel. It just boggles my mind.

    The anger tells me you’re probably closed-off.

    I am flummoxed that more people aren’t angry. Isn’t anyone else sick to death of books and alleged prophets speaking for god rather than god just showing up and telling us himself?

    Isn’t anyone else exhausted from people being so awful to one another simply because their idea of god is different?

    Am I the only person who reads the Bible and recoils in horror?

    If this god was at all competent, there would be no need for books or sermons or suppositions or dogma or exiles; he’d simply show himself to each of us and lead us on our way. Any decent human parent seems to have a better grip on how to handle humans than god does.

    Like I said before, given a choice between no god and one that is so nebulous and inept, the only charitable choice, IMO, is “no god.”

  66. TLO says

    If you really want to have an encounter, it will take some effort on your part.

    43 years of desperately seeking god was not enough effort? If there is a god and he could ignore such desperation for so long, I fail to see what good talking to another one of his alleged prophets will do.

    there comes a time when meeting with the ambassador is not good enough. A conference with the president is in order.

  67. says

    Like I said before, given a choice between no god and one that is so nebulous and inept, the only charitable choice, IMO, is “no god.”

    Hello TLO;
    I’ve read your comments here and there. I do not inhabbit your skin so I cannot entirely feel what you feel. However like many Christians struggling to be faithful, I have tasted far more of God’s absence than his presence.
    I will say that the conclusion you reach is yours, and not shared by all who see the things you do and feel the things you feel. I spent years in “battle” with the god of the bible- a monstrous distortion of the “love” that I was taught God was to be. God did not rush in to correct me though. He let me drift far away.
    Through a series of events I was wooed back. And my journey has been one of personal transformation. You feel that a god who would not reveal himself to you is not worth knowing. Others do not feel this- and they persue this hidden God. Some of these find a great joy and peace, and this transforms them so that they become like little gods themselves; full of love and gentleness, patience and kindness.
    I believe that God shows himself to those who wish to know him. The trouble is that it takes some effort for us to want to know him. We may want certain things- want an experience or encounter. But this is different from God. For God to show himself, we must humble ourselves and persevere. This is a process of spiritual struggle- and the journey is essential. Because in the journey we discover certain things about ourselves; we come to see that we did not *really* wish to see God as he was. We desired this or that idol.
    You see God’s absences, where I see God’s overwhelming faithfulness and patience. Look at the terrible things we do- and yet God bears with us. He does not coerce anyone to stop through an apparition that would frighten them. He loves even those who hate him and abuse their freedom. So I see what you see, but do not see what you see. The truth really is a paradox. God’s patience and humility before the human abuses is staggering.
    God is not interested in convincing you or anyone of anything. He desires to bring us healing; to set us back on our feet and bring us the peace we long for. You spoke of parenting– I can think of no good parent who would give his child what she wants when she throws a temper tantrum and demands it.
    If God came to you under these conditions, it would make you a worse person. Where would be your humility? Your patience? Your gentleness?… Where even is your love for such a God? You may see him just to dismiss him!
    But if you behave yourself as a child does, God will give you what you want. As with all of us, we dont yet know what we want (children dont need buckets of candy but a healthy and balanced diet- whether they want it or not is not the issue. At a deeper level they want health; this is what a good parent gives).

    Please pray for me;
    -Mark Basil

  68. meshell says

    The irony of the atheist who comes to the conclusion through sincere reasoning that there is no supernatural existence, (reasons such as God’s apparent absence, or the presence of suffering in the universe), is that in an universe absent of spirit the atheist has to submit to materialism. In a purely materialistic universe their own atheism ultimately boils down to the biology of brain juices; their reasoning, (again, God’s absence, etc.), did not afford them a choice as to whether or not to believe in God, because their “reasoning” is a slave to their brain juices.

  69. Anonymous says

    I feel some of your pain, and I feel like I know nothing compared to everyone else on this blog, but I guess all I can offer as a contribution as a fellow sojourner seeking God: forgiveness. This morning I felt like, “why does everyone else know God so much more than me, experience Him, why do I feel like I just don’t understand, or like I am such an infant in Christ?”. Why do I let others make me feel this way? And God showed me this article: http://oca.org/reflections/fr.-lawrence-farley/what-is-the-unforgivable-sin It explains to me how the thief on the cross “saw and knew” Jesus, and the man on Jesus left did not. It ALL rests on Christ’s forgiveness, and if we renounce Christ fully, how can we have it, his most precious of treasures. I’m sorry, I feel your pain, I felt pain this morning too, but God does forgive through His Son, as the thief on the cross repented, and then entered into everlasting paradise with the Lord. God loves us more than we can ever know. With love and prayers, anonymous one, forgiven undeservedly by Christ

  70. George says

    TLO,
    People are who they are bcause of biology. period. Really!?!? No one can change!?!?
    I’m not telling you this because I’m bragging or seaking praise, but these days if you asked most people who know me they would say I am a kind, gentle, loving person. In my twenties I was evil.

  71. meshell says

    I’ve never posted on here till today, and looking again at my post from earlier I just want to add that I am sorry if my words have offended or hurt anyone. It is not my intention to arrogantly offend.

  72. TLO says

    I believe that God shows himself to those who wish to know him.

    The only conclusion to be drawn then is that god does not want me or people like me. I sought for decades – niente.

    The same must be said for all those who honestly seek him and never find. That’s OK. The NT writers have that one covered. I believe that we are referred to as “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (odd how the “free will” argument evaporates in this simple text).

    Well, if I’m destined for destruction anyways, why not enjoy this life as much as possible? (I bet I could even manage that without falling into debauchery.)

    The irony of the atheist who comes to the conclusion through sincere reasoning that there is no supernatural existence…

    It’s not that we earnestly sought god and found nothing but absence? You honestly think that we agnostics and atheists became slaves to materialism first and then we doomed ourselves? That is not only uncharitable, it is grossly misinformed.

    Decades of deafening silence has to mean something. That evidence in and of itself is compelling enough without becoming a slave to materialism.

    No one can change!?!?

    Of course people can change. What is prayer, fasting, studying, and weekly church attendance except methods by which one trains his will? But I have never heard of an extreme extrovert who became an introvert without strong drugs or a blow to the head.

    Paul never stopped struggling against his basic nature. It took constant introspection and vigilance for him to overcome the “wretched man” that he considered himself to be. But, let’s face it, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea. He had something of an excessive personality. That never changed for him.

    ================

    This discussion has gone completely off the rails. I’m afraid this is where we must part ways. I have nothing positive to contribute and I don’t think there is anything new that I can learn. I will return to my regularly scheduled godless, soulless, meaningless, immoral life and leave you all to be profoundly wowed by the eternal imponderabilia.

    I appreciate all your patience and the many excellent discussions we have shared. I am grateful to you for your kindness and thoughtfulness and I hope for nothing but the best for each of you.

    Pax.

  73. Karen says

    TLO, bearing in mind what you have shared in the past regarding your background, I agree arguing on threads like this is not likely to be your path to God should you one day actually become aware of His presence (as He is, not as you imagine Him to be) this side of the grave.

    No, as we’ve discussed in past threads, your love of justice, goodness, and mercy is your “love of God,” and the practice of what is right, as best your conscience can gage, is your surest path to His peace. At least that is how it seems to me.

    Keeping you in love and prayers.

  74. says

    TLO:

    Mankind’s cure is in fact purification of the nous, heart, and image, the restoration of the nous to its primordial and original beauty, and something more: his communion with God. When he becomes a temple of the Holy Spirit, we say that the cure has succeeded. Those cured are the saints of God.

    Orthodox Psychotherapy p. 31
    Met. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

  75. Dan says

    TLO,

    Goodbye, and be sure that we are not at war with you to give us the “peace” for a farewell. Be a happy existentialist and be also assured that we love you and pray for you, but we are not going to lower you on a stretcher through any roof, because you do not want it, and we respect your freedom of choice.

    Anyway, all your contradictory and mirrored axioms, to put it this way, are more of a particular philosophical nature which have no equivalent in Orthodox Christian Theology, to have a logical, at least Aristotelian like discussion. You had fun with some of the faithful on this blog despite the fact that you knew, all along, that your premises are ever diverging.

    In conclusion, peace to you and your contradictions, because our God is an awesome God and ever present in our life. I love Him as the Trinity and perfection indeed. It all bout sublime and perfection without end. We live to be the imitation of perfection and not to seek the perfection in other people or to treat the atheist like an Aborigine trying the evangelize him because, it is in fact, like planting seeds on concrete.

  76. says

    O lord, our King and our God,
    heaven is your throne
    and earth your footstool,
    you set bounds to the universe
    while knowing yourself no limitation:
    do not look with anger on your servants,
    keep us safe and protect us
    from the deceitful vanities of this world,
    whether words or deeds,
    and guide us according to your will.

    From Praying with the Orthodox Tradition: Noon

  77. meshell says

    “It’s not that we earnestly sought god and found nothing but absence?
    You honestly think that we agnostics and atheists became slaves to materialism first and then we doomed ourselves?” -TLO

    I think you have misunderstood me. I agree with you that atheists look at the world and decide that they see no evidence of the supernatural. This is the REASON they become atheist (I only used all caps to add emphasis, not because I’m “shouting”). My point was that to become an atheist is to become a materialist, which means what constitutes the whole personhood is chemicals. But then all of a sudden they find out their REASONS actually had nothing to do with why they became an atheist; you ARE chemicals. According to the atheist, chemicals are why you become an atheist. It goes like this:

    Inquirer: “Do you believe in the supernatural?”

    Atheist: “I chose not to believe in the supernatural,and instead believe that only material substance exist in the universe.”

    Inquirer: “And how did you come to that conclusion?”

    Atheist: “I looked at the evidence that exist in the world, and then used my reasoning skills to determine what this evidence shows. The evidence shows me there is no supernatural.”

    Inquirer: “So, according to you, the whole universe is constituted of material substance alone, and, thus, your whole personhood is constituted of chemicals alone?”

    Atheist: “Yes, that is correct.”

    Inquirer: “So, according to you, I happen to believe in the supernatural only because of the chemicals that by chance make up my personhood, and you happen to not believe in the supernatural only because of the chemicals that by chance make up your personhood?”

    Atheist: “Yes, that is correct.”

    Inquirer: “We’ll, which is it? The evidence that exist in the world that made you an unbeliever, or chemicals? Is not the “percieved evidence” reduced to just a chemical reaction?
    If you say, “My chemicals make me capable of examining the evidence,” then I will again ask, “How have you come to that conclusion,” and you will answer, “The chemicals.” And again I will be inclined to ask, “How did you figure that out,” and again you will say “The chemicals,” and so on…until you finally realize that the evidence you perceived concerning the absence of the supernatural was in its very essence nothing more than haphazard chemical reactions. They just happen by chance to be firing in your brain and not in mine. In fact, all “perception” and “reasoning” can now ONLY be defined as machanically produced chemical by-product.”

  78. George says

    Meshell,
    Exactly. Any sense of self, any self identity is simply chemical change in the brain of a materialist. Any idea of value or morality is merely chemical change int hte brain.