Pondering the Imponderable

Ruminations about stuff that might be on your mind, too.

Pondering11/7/11 - I'm reading an interesting book, which usually means trouble because new information tends to change the way I see the world and a new perspective sometimes leads me to ask questions that nobody can answer. In the case of this particular book, the information leads me not only to ask questions, but to understand that I too can now be thoroughly convinced of the rightness of my perspective.

That's refreshing. I've always lived in doubt about the validity of my view of things--it is, after all, the view of only one set of eyes among—what is it now? Seven billion? I envy a person for whom things like moral relativism aren't even worth considering, because there can only be One Truth, and that is the way he or she sees it. What a gift never to have to change one's mind or admit the fallacy of one's perception or the error of one's ways! Where do such people (you know who you are) get the confidence to believe so solidly in their own righteousness?

The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies--How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths is the book title. Its author, Michael Shermer, has studied this matter for his entire career and has some informed opinions about it. Note my carefully chosen words here. Even though I now know that my brain is hard-wired to believe certain things, I haven't finished the book yet and I still believe that my beliefs are not the be-all-end-all in mine or anybody else's experience. I still believe that beliefs are merely one's opinions, cloaked in something less than humility.

So. Part I of Shermer's opus plunges right into the sacred cow of belief--Christianity and all its wonders. (Shermer, by the way, isn't extolling the virtues or disadvantages of Christian belief. He is merely using it as a vehicle to describe how humans come to believe in things.) Shermer quotes reasoning of C. S. Lewis, (whose Tales of Narnia accompanied me on many a flight across America in my business travel days--and about which I have just discovered are filled with "thinly disguised bibligal allegories"--tsk! I didn't get that from my reading of The Tales. Why are the things obvious to everybody else never obvious to me?!). Lewis' case in exploration of the divinity of Jesus Christ has come to be known as the "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord" argument. It goes like this:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with a man who says He is a poached egg--or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.

Wait a minute! Those three are the only possibilities? What about the possibility that Jesus was a charismatic guy who had some good ideas? Why make him out to be something so terrible and powerful as the Devil or a Lord and God whose enlightened ideas take on the cast of inscrutible, unattainable mystery? Why be so limiting?