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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Divine and Human Relationships

This article might be shorter, since I was putting it off in hopes of a better story to write on. But in all fairness, this one is still compelling and stabs at the heart of most peoples’ beliefs. The gist of the article goes like so; since we are (allegedly) hardwired to believe in and have a relationship with “God”, the reason why there are people that disbelieve in “God” (such as Christopher Hitchens, his diagnosis with cancer just a way for their authors to sink their teeth into his atheism as relevant) is because their personality style is too negative, either of themselves, of others or both. This already seems too deterministic for my sense, even fatalistic on the part of the authors. If we are inevitably meant to come to “God”, then one has to ask why it is equally defensible to behave ethically towards others because it makes sense as a duty apart from religious convictions, causes the most potential and actual benefit for the greatest number of people or reflects innate virtues we can discern by reason.

One can have a positive regard for oneself and others in relationship style, but also find it less than compelling to extend that sense of relationship to a being that transcends humanity. This is especially so since “God” seems to be little more than an almighty will that either behaves indeterminately by caprice, or as it’s commonly called, grace; or by its own nature, is bound to choose things the most as the First Cause of all things that have free will and volition more than God would ever be able to. The real difficulty with this is that the conclusion of the article is already presuming that everyone already misunderstands God through institutional religion of sorts, supposedly why fewer people self identify as Christian or if they do, they stay clear of association with any church. They advocate seeing God as different from human relationships, resulting in you becoming more comfortable and willing to engage with God. This is all well and good except that it still brings up my objection of fatalism. No matter what relationship type a person might have: ranging from secure in oneself and others, overly secure in oneself and disregarding others, insecure in oneself and overly secure in others or insecure in both self and others, the authors claim that everyone can find a path to God.

This leads to what is ironically a point of contention between those that advocate religious tolerance and pluralism and those that insist that only their path has the fullest truth. This notion which is as old as Hinduism, manifests in the phrase “Truth is one, the sages speak of it by many names,” Many contend that this is strong relativism, saying that every religion is equally valid. But just because I accept that Christianity has validity and compelling teachings to some people is not to say that I think that they are equally true in every aspect, especially in my personal convictions. There are no doubt personality types that are more disposed to believe in Dharmic religions that are focused on the here and now and those that are more liable to believe in what I term a teleocentric worldview.

However much Christians value creation (environment and animals) as befits being given dominion over animals and the earth with an obligation not to abuse what God gave them out of its love, their worldview still seems overly future based from my years as a religion major. I would study some form of theology in virtually any class, even in my philosophy minor, encountering Kierkegaard’s fideism alongside Aquinas’ more balanced method of rationality and revelation as complements. The prospect of a heavenly reward has never struck me as especially appealing, even assuming I had never heard of Nietzsche noting “in heaven all the interesting people are missing,” I had already thought many times about my future in the metaphysical sense. Would I want to live forever, would I want to never “suffer” in my corporeality, never need to practice and discipline myself in training in the martial arts, a pastime I enjoyed for many years and am compelled to begin anew? My answer to all these questions was a resounding no.

So maybe it is personality and relationship type that affects how one relates to God. And by association, the authors may have some tweaking to do in the relationship styles. Or at the very least, they may have to accept that those people with the Anxious or Fearful styles may not ever come to believe that they need a relationship with God to feel content and fulfilled. The “tweaking” I suggest is actually allowing for other combinations of regard towards both oneself and others. There is indeed the excessive or deficient regard for oneself as combined with similar overflow or lack of empathy towards others. That already gives us four types right there.

What about those who have something of a moderated sense towards themselves and others? What if, instead, these are improved relationship types and not the types that are the initial template for how we interact with people as we mature from youth? In this case, perhaps there is some merit to this idea, but one would have to extend it to one’s disposition towards particular forms of religiosity; Dharmic, Abrahamic, eclectic, syncretic, Right Hand, Left Hand, or any number of other possibilities. So while in one sense I can find common ground with these Christians that a magnanimous pity for Hitchens as he claims that he will most likely not convert at his deathbed, I would ask them to broaden their scope beyond just what makes their faith seem appealing to others. At the very least, they should concentrate on making religiosity in relationship seem appealing. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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