Photographed at Sin City

A Matter
of Faith

... as opposed to a matter of fact.


Belief is not objectivity, no matter how hard one may wish it to be so.

But for those who can make it to the end, you may just forgive me, my trespasses ...


 
Rather recently, I would touch base with a former talk host who I hadn’t been in contact with for some time ...

Pat is a conservative man. A family man. An intelligent man. A Catholic man. An innately good man, I do believe. And he would occasionally be quite gracious and cordial towards me in days past, once extending the invitation to be his guest for Sunday mass at his church, knowing that I was raised Catholic, yes – but had long since ‘fallen’. I would have to fly out that particular weekend, alas, but never did get around to accepting the thoughtful invitation at a later date.

Pat would take my satirical appraisals of him rather well, as I referred to his talk program as ‘Our Radio of Perpetual Sorrow’ – or sometimes, ‘Our Talk Show of Immaculate Reception’ … further describing the talk personality as being ‘Chronically Catholic’, much like an affliction. But something happened …

My more sardonic overview of The Church – or rather the topical behaviors of those associated with the same – would genuinely anger Pat, along with the satirical mocking of Christ’s resurrection (I feel obligated to describe Pat’s response as ‘genuine anger’ as much of talk radio is filled with affected outrage).

But time had passed and I was sincerely interested in how he was doing, having always enjoyed listening to his steadfast perspectives – and their presentation, even as they often differed from my own. And with my successful contact, Pat would write in return …


Hi, Joseph:

Nice of you to look me up. Let me be up front ... I'd be overjoyed to converse with you, but the irreverence (some would categorize as sacrilege) that you would often post on the previous site was far too much for me to swallow. If we can chat about any topic other than religion, then I'm game. But savaging Christ, Christianity, His Church, or the like is something that I want no part of, and don't wish to be associated with.


… Savaging Christ ... I thought that was the Romans – or was it the Jews? But no, it was me. Clearly, I’m in trouble ... Big trouble. At any rate, by my count, I satirically covered the Boston-based priest sex scandal on two intermittent occasions over a one month period and, with the assistance of my crew, further featured a singular, multi-media piece – to be reprised by popular demand – entitled, ‘The True Story of Easter’. That would be a total of three instances of ‘sacrilege’ (four, with the reprise), out of 447 installments over a staggering, 10 year period, total.

But to be fair to Pat, the frequency didn’t matter. For even a single instance was ‘far too much for (Pat) to swallow’. And despite the sizeable popularity of these seemingly objectionable pieces, Pat wouldn’t be entirely alone in his revulsion and expressed outrage. Yes, “I’ve Got Mail” …

There are those few who, indeed, believe that they’ll be struck down by God, himself, rendered to a conical pile of iodized salt, for even bearing witness to perceived sacrilege. Perhaps this would describe Pat, as obliquely suggested in his own words. Or, like many, Pat may simply believe that expressing outrage in response to sacrilege will, upon his ‘arrival’, somehow get him a better seat at the table.

But for many more, it runs deeper …

The Fragility of Faith

If one were to have ‘faith’ – true and actual – then it seems to me that there’s really nothing I could possibly say, write, or produce to diminish that faith … or one’s loyalty to a belief. For those who respond otherwise, I can only have a diminished faith … in their faith. And therein, perhaps, is the heart of the matter ...

When challenged (or taunted) with a denial relating to one’s belief, it – in turn – often triggers a suppressed element of doubt, no matter how small, within the faithful. My own doubts or denials couldn’t possibly warrant such upset, otherwise. They aren’t angry with me, per se – other than for bringing something to the fore … within themselves. I, among others, are merely the omnipresent reminders that it just may all be a ruse. And I know that can’t be entirely comfortable for those who exclusively rely upon a belief as being true in the absolute, without fallacy or invention.

But even as it relates to matters of adultery, faith – or faithfulness – may be of diminished significance if it’s never been subject to challenge. Without it, in fact, one’s faith – or fidelity – exists principally in the academic. And there is no medal or other award of recognition for that.

Beyond this, according to the Christian Bible – as in, His very own words – Christians would be persecuted, challenged and subjected to ridicule. And yet – oddly – many followers of this faith are somehow … troubled … by this very Biblical fulfillment. I mean, as it relates to prophecies … wars, earthquakes, famines, and floods … they’re totally into that shit … Rejoicing, in fact, with rapturous enthusiasm and delight for every perceived fulfillment.
 


Photographed during one of my several near-death, tunnel of light experiences, I would inadvertently capture a young woman photographing God with a cell phone – or perhaps sending him a text message of some sort. I was never entirely sure.

I tried texting Him, myself, and kept getting a 'Denial of Service' prompt.


Be that as it may, notice that I’ve used the terms ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ often – two words offered and used in the English language in the absence of tangible evidence. And, interestingly, the two words most commonly referred to by all followers – of all religions … in every language, as translated. That is, the two words … of their own choosing to describe their own credence and persuasion. Faith. Belief. As in, unsupported. One needn’t consult a Bible … only a common dictionary. Neither term either suggests or even implies … truth. The definitions, indeed, advise that it may be … otherwise.

It's been said – principally by those who secure philosophical wisdom from peel-and-strip bumper stickers – that "there are no athiests in foxholes." Period. (followed by a bumper attachment rivet) ... Uh, huh. And it's likely also true that there's seldom a devout believer in that very same foxhole who, nevertheless ... isn't afraid to die.   Curiously.

Faith and The Missing Component of Objectivity

I imagine that Pat won’t be entirely appreciative of the above. But one of his favorite authors, Ayn Rand, would tell him the very same thing – that which is further at the heart of her ‘religion’ – and works: Objectivism. (Left Brain, Left Brain) … Oh ... Pat probably wouldn’t really dig her stated views on abortion, either, but that’s another diatribe … Still, a curious thing as, more generally, Ayn Rand is often a favorite among conservative thinkers even though she’s in direct opposition to at least two of their most passionate issues and positions. Go figure ...

Okay ….. I went and ‘figured it’ for you … Ayn Rand was a devout anti-communist and pro-capitalist, supported with objectivism. Conservatives simply love that shit. They eat it up. But what conservatives sometimes miss is that the very same objectivity can be applied to other areas and issues. And it is here that Ayn Rand trips them up … and fucks them over. Rand, indeed, went on spoken record to once say, “Conservatives are worse than liberals.” To be fair – or precise, Ms. Rand was not particularly a friend to either. And, perhaps, even less of a friend … to religion. ‘Godless’, as Ann Coulter might characterize it.

As it remotely relates to the same, this is where things begin to get a little weird … I’ve written previously that conservative thinking often has an upper-hand because it’s more frequently grounded in objectivity and points of reason, while liberalism is commonly crippled by emotional underpinnings. And yet … the notions of ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ represent an emotional antithesis of rationality, while still being more generally regarded as registered trademarks of the conservative movement and – yes – the Republican party, by extension. Oddly, it should be the liberal who is better suited and more open to all forms of non-intellectualized ‘spirituality’, inclusive of Christianity. After all, the ‘feel good’ inclinations of ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ are emotional elements, not supported by rational thought and objectivity.

It’s true that those of faith often feel more righteous and virtuous, relative to non-believers, by the very virtue of their beliefs. Okay … Let’s entertain, if for the moment, that as being true. The believer is more principled and of a higher character, possessing a innate moral superiority … just not an intellectual one.

But, of course, the devout isn’t endowed with any such moral authority or superiority. After all, there are those who possess an intuitive sense of what’s right and wrong, without requiring a weekly tune-up at the local garage that others call ‘church’. And if their attendance is to simply further ‘explore’ a singular book for 60 or more years, then there’s clearly a cognitive retention problem at play. If for the reinforcement of faith, then the faith – itself – is innately weak and compromised, subject to corruption, by its own inadvertent admission. So, again … no moral superiority – and certainly no intellectual eminence.

It’s often asked why some otherwise highly intelligent people are also ones of faith. William Buckley – among others – has often been cited as an example of the same. The answer to this may well be in the realization that even those of genuine intelligence are not entirely immune to the contemplation of their own mortality – or that of the one’s they’ve loved. For even intellectuals … seek comfort. And it is here that their own intelligence – or rationality – is betrayed by emotional components.

Still, there are those who nevertheless endeavor to provide intellectual arguments regarding matters of faith. These most often include – if not entirely reply upon – a litany of biblical quotations and other spiritual teachings. The problem: One can’t successfully support an argument with the very sources that are being called into question in the first place. The dispute is lost with the first utterance.

Damn.

The Backup Argument, Number 2: This is where a distinction must be made between organized religion – or faiths – and the existence of God. For one can surely reject the storylines of Christianity … or Judaism … or that of the Muslim faith, yet still believe in the presence and influence of a God … or higher power, as one prefers. With this in mind, one often presents the ‘Look Around You’ argument of purported objectivity as a ‘proof positive’ …

“Just look around you”, as requested. “The birds, the trees, the ocean, the grass …”  Intelligent design, I’m told.

For those who adopt such a premise, okay … Let’s go with that argument – the very one of your own choosing … If an entity – presumably higher – is required to create yet another entity, then the question inevitably beckons ... who – or what – in turn, created … God? This is where you either hit a brick wall – or an infinite space. In either event … you lose. Checkmate. It would be your own argument that, once funneled back to a ‘point source’, fucks you … yet again.

But here’s the kicker …

Left Brain … Meet Right Brain.

You will not find God in any book, biblical or otherwise – or in any tree used to produce the book. You will not prove him by way of intelligent design. No ocean, no sky, no field of flowers contain him. For the proof, if any, will never be found in the tangible. It would be in the intangible – that which can never be revealed by way of any X-Ray, MRI, or CAT scan … yet is contained within us all …

It would be – if at all – within the love we feel for another. And the love that is returned. It could even be your cat … who sometimes may reciprocate that love, depending on hourly mood. Yes, for those who reject the mawkish, the same could be said of hatred and rage. Jealousy, even. But whether it be anger … or endearment, even the most devout of atheists have to ask themselves … where does that come from? It would at least seem to suggest that we may all be – cats included – more than mere … biomass.

And it is this emotional component – and only this component – that the atheist must somehow reconcile with an otherwise wholesale rejection of anything above … and beyond.

And to the rest of you, in search of God, you may just be looking … in the wrong place.
 


EPILOGUE: Pat and I remain friends on this day, currently enjoying our good-natured exchanges, as part of congenial debate.
 

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