Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Where to?

I'm really tired right now. Not just physically and mentally, but also emotionally. I don't have any desires for spiritual truth or doing right or really anything. It probably has something to do with not getting much sleep at night, or something like that. At least that's part of it. 

What do you do when all you want to do all day long is zone out and stop listening to people, take a nap, and entertain lustful thoughts in your head, or fall back into old sinful practices? Or when the truth you profess to care about so much is about as attractive as crap in a toilet that the person before you forgot to flush? I just don't care right now. I'm tired of this ridiculous anxiety that feels like a beast in my gut, constantly eating out my insides and preventing me from living. I'm tired of being picked on because I don't respond to being picked on with anger, but rather bottle it up inside. I'm tired of experiencing anger-- for the first time in my life. (looks like after a 3 day stretch of listening to metal music, I'm not gonna listen to that stuff anymore-- it causes me to have anger which I've never experienced in my life). I'm tired of living between Christianity and atheism and trying to remove my bias as much as possible so I can be open to whatever is true, while at the same time being plagued by questions as to whether the truth really does matter anyway. I'm tired of trying to keep my thoughts off of women and how wonderful it would be to date a woman, and wondering if by the time I've accommodated my mind to modern philosophy I'll even be sane enough to care for another human being. I'm tired of many more things than I could list right now. 

Oh-- this is the part where I'm supposed to critique my attitude and provide some sort of hope for myself. Darn. Ok, let's say something that sounds insightful but which I'll ignore once I'm done writing this:

Ok, just kidding (I hope), but really. I realize I'm being immature and sinful. That's obvious. If I was sinless my main goal  wouldn't be spiritual formation! It is not sinlessness or perfection that is called for in spiritual formation, but rather right management of imperfection and sin for the purpose of their eradication via the power of spiritual truth.

But honestly, what do I do with this? I know, having studied so many spiritual formation techniques, counseling techniques, brain studies, philosophy of the human mind, bleh blah, all kinds of stuff, that there are countless resources available for me to use to regain my composure. There's prayer, the inversion question(s), cultivation of desires, changing in thinking (cognitive therapy), peer validation, accountability groups, worship, meditation, music, sleep, journaling, Bible reading, devotion reading, spiritual work reading,  and so many others.

Here comes the self-critique: Every time I start feeling like this-- every time I begin to feel like I'm running out of spiritual desire and into an existential roadblock, it's because I haven't been doing a ve ry good job with my devotions and meditations. It is so easy for me to pretend that I'm taking my meditations seriously when I'm really just skimming through them in anticipation to get through the next part of the day (to finish my TO DO list. AHHH THE TO-DO LIST CONSUMES ALL LIFE!!) But really. What other chance do I have to experience pure truth about God and life, peace and conviction than these sacred Sabbaths which I've commited to set aside for 30-50 minutes a day. Every time I go into these meditations, I do it ready to get them over with. It's like all I care about is knocking the next thing off the list, so I can knock the next thing off the list, so I can knock the next thing off the list, until I eventually die. There's got to be some substance somewhere. I think I'm missing it. 

So what is my resolution? To take spiritual truth more seriously. 

What is Faith?

Like usual, I'm about to randomly talk about something I'm not nearly qualified enough to talk about. But hey, you've got to form your opinions somehow, don't you? (plus I can't sleep)

I recently read an exchange between former Christian (now atheist apologist) John Loftus and Christian analytic theologian Randal Rauser. They were talking about what the definition of faith is and whether it is reasonable or not. If you want to read the exchange, you can look on their blogs for it. I don't really have much to say about their discussion, but rather introspection as to what I personally think of faith. This has bothered me recently, actually. Christians often say thing along the lines of "you should just have faith", or things like "reason can only take you so far, then faith has to take over", etc. I've wondered whether it's my definition of faith that's causing me to do all of this intellectual questioning of everything I believe, when if I actually understood what faith was, I wouldn't be putting myself through so much trouble.

So what is faith? Let's look at it from a Biblical perspective:

Hebrews 11:1 says " Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen"

In the Greek, the word for faith is "pistis". This is defined by blueletterbible.org as "conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it"

So faith is a conviction of a truth. But what does conviction mean-- specifically that mentioned in Hebrews 11:1?  Here's what BLB says that the word "conviction" from the greek is "elegchos". It meant in that culture, supposedly, "1) a proof, that by which a thing is proved or tested; or 2) conviction".

So it seems that there are two components to the Biblical view of faith. The first is to be persuaded of the truth of something. The second is the surrender of one's soul to adherence to and trust in that truth. In short, conviction and trust. (after a very, very short look)

John Loftus gives several examples of a secular definition of what faith is, as well:

Sam Harris: "Faith is the license religious people give themselves to keep believing when reason fails.

Richard Dawkins: “The whole point of religious faith, its strength and chief glory, is that it does not depend on rational justification. The rest of us are expected to defend our prejudices.”

John Loftus: "Faith is an attitude or feeling whereby someone attributes a higher degree of probability to the evidence than what the evidence calls for."

Which of these is true? What does it mean to have faith?

If any of the three definitions above, under the secular definitions, are true, then I want nothing to do with faith.

This is why: If reason fails in justifying your worldview, you are essentially believing whatever floats your boat. Whatever keeps you happy and helps you deal with life. Sure, believing what feels right is a legitimate way to find truth, but it certainly isn't a method the results of which are accurate at all (that is, if you're looking to believe true things). There are billions of potential beliefs you could create that could make you feel better, but there is only one comprehensive truth, and feelings are not the way to find it. If the point of religious faith is to not depend on rational justification, then, again, the point of religious faith is to satisfy one's existential longing. It's good to satisfy your existential longing. But not in such a way that compromises truth. It's like shoving your head in the sand and claiming it's cool and dark everywhere in the world. Just because something seems true and satisfies you doesn't at all guarantee it's actual truth. (and nowhere have I ever seen a real, faithful Christian act like they truly believed that their faith was only true for them.)

John Loftus' is probably one which actually comes closer to the way humans (including me) actually deal with life, though it is not the right way to do it. Loftus says that faith is an attitude where a person attributes a higher degree of probability to the evidence than what the evidence calls for. Well, if that's true, faith is unreasonable. To assign a higher degree of evidence towards a thing just because you believe it is not at all rational and can never give us a coherent worldview-- because belief in A is (at least in almost all cases) not evidence for A. I'd love it if I could believe Christianity into existence, but I can't!

In philosophy, generally, a person believes that which has more probability to be true. In the choice between A or B, if A is more likely to be true, then I believe A and disbelieve B. Once I've made my choice, I believe that A is true, I live like it is true, and I trust my judgment about A unless otherwise convinced. Loftus says that all this is is believing probabilities, and to add "faith" into it would be to necessarily complicate things. I think he's wrong about this one. Essentially, I think that the Biblical definition of faith fits pretty well with what happens when a philosopher believes something and acts consistently with it.

This is what I think faith is. Faith consists of two things: 1) The belief in something which despite being more probable than not isn't known with absolute certainty. (I believe my roommate is asleep. I could be wrong and he could be pretending, and thus I don't know that with absolute certainty. But I still believe and am correct that he is sleeping.) 2) Faith is trusting a belief in our daily lives-- living like it's true, believing it's true, and trusting our judgment until convinced otherwise. Unlike Loftus, I don't think believing things is "just believing the probabilities". I think faith is a very spiritual thing, not because one has to be a Christian to have faith, but because faith demands the conforming of one's soul to a certain belief. Faith, like C.S. Lewis says,  is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.

Let me be clear. Even though faith, in it's first component, is believing things that we don't know with certainty, it is not and should not be believing things which we have no evidence for. How can you trust something you have no evidence for? You have nothing to trust except your belief, which has no evidence. (I realize there are exceptions to this in the field of epistemology, and it destroys me, but I'm not talking about epistemology)  Faith is believing according to the probabilities. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. (unless proved otherwise)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Do I trust my Mind? Or my Mind?

Something I heard recently:  The only difference between geniuses and regular people is that geniuses trust their mind's conclusions while regular people don't. The reason regular people don't trust their mind's conclusions is because they are controlled by the social impulse. The social impulse that tells you that something isn't true unless everyone agrees that it is true.

Wow. That is a big slice of insight right there. I think it's true, too. I really do think that everyone is born with an amazingly powerful brain. The problem is, we don't trust it. But why are we willing to trust what other people say when the trust we have in other people is a conclusion our brains/minds come to as well? Learn to trust your mind's conclusions. Some may object-- "But that would to be to trust ourselves more than God!" To this I say that our trust in God comes from our mind's conclusion as well-- where else would it come from? Your left hand? So to trust yourself more than God in the sense that is implied by the objection is to trust one's own desires or feelings more than one's reason. In fact, once the faulty reasoning in the objection above is cleared away, we can learn to clarify our conception of God and learn to worship him the way he wants us to. Everything we believe about God exists in our head. But that doesn't mean it only exists in our head. So let's learn to trust our mind's conclusions. To trust anything other than our mind's conclusions based on reason is to trust another section of our mind's speculation which isn't guaranteed to be reasonable.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Battle

Last semester, right before exams, my suite-mates and I all found ourselves sitting in my room listening to some random music on my super crazy awesome speakers. Well, of course, this song from Narnia came on which is called, "The Battle".  As the song transitioned from it's foreboding intro into the majestic and conviction laden battle music (with a beautiful melody) (darnit, just listen to it, I'm not good at describing music), my friend Dan launched into this ridiculously chivalrous battle speech about how we were going to conquer our exams in all bravery and strength, leaving nothing left breathing! It was perhaps the most hilarious and inspiring thing I've ever experienced with these guys. For some reason I felt oddly empowered.

As a guy I like to think of things like a battle. But now I'm realizing that I don't really have to pretend. A battle, according to some random dictionary online, is "a sustained fight between large, organized armed forces." Well, very loosely, I think that this fits in pretty well with the fight in our minds and hearts against sin and falsehoods. Our lives are wars while every day is a battle. Did you lose today? Carry on then, you've many more resources and battles to win in the future. Chin up. 

The author of Ephesians made an amazing comparison of virtue to battle armor:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

Wow. What do you do with that but just stand in awe? Us guys are always longing, longing to be in some adventure where we lead the rebellion, save the princess, fight for a cause, something.. anything!  But the most important and pertinent battle takes place inside our minds. However in order to even see this in its fullness you must have been fighting already.

In the intellectual realm of things-- since I'm still insecure in my faith and am still mindful of the fact that atheism could be true--I'm trying hard to learn the epistemic virtues as well. But the more I try to create my own comparison of intellectual virtue to armor, I always end up with something very similar to what the author of Ephesians wrote. Our most indispensable weapons are 1) Critical thinking, 2) Faith, 3) Righteousness, 4) Peace, 5) Conviction, 6) Truth, and 7) Discipline.

The point I want to drive home is this: Every minute, every hour, every day is a battle. You're either winning or losing. You lose by allowing your losses to overwhelm you. You win by keeping your faith in the One who destroyed the power of your loss over you-- in the truth.

I've always found that when I'm down, depressed, or have run out of energy, it's not because of a lack in God or a lack in the truth, it's because I haven't been fighting hard enough. I've hidden from the battle, compromised with the other side, and allowed him to take the wives and children of my homeland if he would just grant me the delusion that nothing was actually happening.

Get rid of the delusion. Fight the good fight.

Friday, February 24, 2012

I'm thankful for my Friends//Continued

Well, I've been stuck debating in my head whether or not to include women in this list. On the one hand, I tend to get carried away describing the positive traits of the friends I know which can cause me to become attracted to them (which is not profitable currently). But on the other hand I don't want to commit the fallacy that has been committed for thousands of years, that since often man's own insatiable desire for women has often been his biggest stumbling block, that therefore women themselves should be excluded from men's workings. It has lead to philosophical writings containing only things like "A man would think this and that", or, "What should man do with this burden".. etc. It was a good motive that lead to the practice, (not allowing oneself to incite unprofitable desire for any other than his wife), but I think it has often lead to women feeling excluded and inferior. Well, that's certainly not true. So my dilemma is whether or not to put on my big-boy trousers and learn some self-control in my thoughts, or to travel the path of the weaker brethren and avoid it for right now. Well, luckily, I haven't run out of guys yet, so I'll be thinking about it. heh :D

You're a crazy guy. I love your small tidbits of wisdom amongst a sea of hilarious dry humor. You're quiet and you're thoughtful-- the sufficient marks of a future teacher :) I see your desire to master yourself every day. I've even seen you grow into yourself over the past semester. I'm proud. I wish you would talk more. I can tell there are brilliant thoughts going on inside your head.  You're chivalrous and you stick with things; you appreciate the small things in life and you care about wisdom instead of pointless knowledge. I know I could learn from you. I'm thankful for you, my friend.

You are my brother (literally). We have so many good (and bad, heh), memories together. You don't know this but I look up to you in many ways. Unfortunately I'm not the kind of person who willingly sticks things through when they're the hardest. But you are. You are disciplined and driven. Your sense of duty and obligation to your friends and family is inspiring to me. I love hanging out with you and wrestling and shoving each other off of trees and trampolining, camping and exploring, and being deliriously tired, and everything like that, even though I've  stupidly let dating relationships get in the way of it sometimes. I'm sorry about that. I know you're going to be a great man when you grow up... even though I've lost even you to the ranks of the Young Earthers!! Ahh!!  Just kidding. I'm thankful for getting to grow up with you and I love you. 

You're one of a kind. I still don't understand you! You have a soft heart and a tough exterior. You intimidate me when you're being tough and you encourage me when you're being who (i think) you really are. Last year you helped me through a lot of junk and I'm grateful for that. We've counseled each other and shared our hearts with each other. Now you've got a woman for the first time and I'm proud of you-- you seem to be handling it and leading her well. I know you're going to be a great husband; I just hope you let the soft inside of you show up a little more! Although we've had our times of being upset with each other, I'm so thankful for you. (and bob saget you make good chai tea!)

It's weird to be doing this, but I consider you a friend. You're my counseling professor, but you're also my hero. You've got a life-threatening disease, but you live every day like a champion. I've had some good conversations with you that have showed me how deep you've thought about the depths of the human soul, and I know of no other man to whom the wounded soul, the rape victim, the abuse victim, etc. should be entrusted to to help channel God's healing into their lives. You work very hard on your marriage, you balance theory and practice with your life, and you've got hope. I can see the hope dancing in your eyes; even through your ridiculous sarcasm! I can see that God has brought you through so much pain. Thank you for teaching me how to get mad at God-- for showing me how to be real. Thank you for showing me how to deconstruct the rigid outer disposition and learning how to open up to people. Thank you for introducing me to a line of thought which would soon become the main philosophy that governs my life. Thank you for giving me the ability to talk about sex, pornography, and masturbation realistically and with conviction. I've learned so much from you. I hope for the sake of myself and my future wife that you are the one doing my pre-marital counseling before I enter tough world of marriage. I am thankful for your wisdom.

You're not just my friend (you're my teacher), but I would definitely consider friendship a part of this. You're my philosophy professor. I really and honestly think you're the most humble man I know. I don't know how you deal with such breath-taking and willful ignorance and arrogance on my part and of intro students, and then keep on going with a smile on your face. I admire that you're a very soft-hearted individual but you're also willing to sternly correct us when we're clearly wrong. You make classes fun even for people who hate the guts out of what they think philosophy is, in a way which does not diminish the importance or weightiness of it at all. I thank you for your empathy towards my own existential crises and willingness to talk to me at all hours of the day to help me through my irrationality. It's so cool to know that there have been men and women who have gone through what I am going through now and made it. You're one of my inspirations. I am thankful for your wisdom.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Van Inwagen and the Ontological Argument

I just read a fairly long chapter in our Metaphysics book. It was about the Ontological Argument for God's existence-- an argument which until recently confused me and which I now think is very impressive, but (if I understand it correctly) think it is inconclusive after reading this chapter (maybe). I want to lay out the basic argument but first I want to introduce some basic concepts for those who aren't as familiar with this area of Philosophy: Possible Worlds, Necessity, and Contingency.

Possible Worlds is a form of reasoning which has developed and become popular among philosophers recently. Essentially, it is a tool-- almost like parables are used as a tool for communicating spiritual truths. But using Possible Worlds is a way to find out what would be the case if this or that were true, finding out what is possible, and also what is absolutely necessary. Here goes:  First you have to understand the concept of the possible world  itself. A Possible world is simply an imagined scenario where a certain set of statements are true. We're not talking about possible planets. Nor are we talking about possible galaxies. We're talking about situations in which the totality of things that are true in a world are described in the description of the possible world. For example, consider the world we live in-- here are some true propositions about our world: Planets exist, humans exist, God exists, Angels exist, the physical universe exists, galaxies exist, the reformation happened, etc. Thus, the world we live in is a possible world. But since the world I was just talking about is the world which is actually true, it is not only a possible world but also the actual world. A world can be possible and not actual, but it cannot be actual and not possible. (because if something is true, it simply can't be impossible)

But what do I mean when I say possible world? I mean that all of the statements that are true about a certain world are compatible with each other. A world in which God exists and God does not exist is not a possible world because these two truths can't possibly be true at the same time. A world in which Jane Goodall existed and Jane Goodall did not exist (but statements taken to mean the same thing) is not possible. Thus, a possible world is simply an imagined scenario where a combination of statements are true. So philosophers extend their abstract thinking into scenarios called possible worlds. Here are some examples of possible worlds: In some possible world, my brother was never born. In some possible world, Toccoa Falls College never existed. In some possible world, Humans never existed. All of these are possible worlds, but they are not the actual world.

Necessity is the next term. I really don't know that much about necessity, but what I do know, I will explain. Necessity is a trait ascribed to a being which cannot possibly not exist. Necessity is also ascribed to a certain situation that cannot possibly not obtain given a certain antecedent. For any being (when I say being I mean just any individual thing-- a toothbrush, a person, an angel, God, numbers, etc.), if it is a necessary being, there is no possible world in which it does not exist. Here's why: if there was a possible world in which it didn't exist, it would be possible for it to not exist, which would mean it was not a necessary being. Thus, for a necessary being to not exist would involve a contradiction.

Contingency is the descriptor of anything which is not necessary. If it is possible that a certain being not exist, then it is contingent. For example, the fact that I currently have a blue shirt on could have not been the case, and so it is a contingent fact. The fact that I could have not existed shows that I am a contingent being. This fits in with the way we regularly talk: "Where I go to college is contingent upon my goals in life." Thus, a contingent thing is something that is true in some possible worlds, but not necessarily all.

Now, to the actual Argument.  Here's a basic layout of a contemporary Ontological Argument. (I think it's safe to say that the older versions failed)

1. It is possible that a Perfect Being exists.
2. If it is possible that a Perfect being exists, then a perfect being exists in some possible world.
3. If a perfect being exists in some possible world, then a perfect being exists in every possible world.
4. If a perfect being exists in every possible world, then a perfect being exists in the actual world.
5. Therefore, a Perfect being exists in the actual world.

1. We'll get back to this later. It's basically the contention that a being which is completely perfect and lacks nothing exists.
2. This is pretty obvious. According to our possible worlds tool, if a perfect being is possible, it must exist in some possible world.
3. In this premise, it is implied that a perfect being is necessarily existent. For example, being necessarily existent is far better than being contingent, so it is seen as a perfection that a perfect being must possess-- necessary existence. Thus, if a being is necessarily existent, then it absolutely must exist in every possible world, because if it didn't it would not be a necessary being. (it is impossible that it not exist in any possible world)
4. This follows from 3. Since the actual world is a possible world, and a necessary being would have to exist in every possible world, the necessary being would have to exist in the actual world.
5. Conclusion

Is this a good argument? I have no idea. It seems good on a basic level. But Philosophy has never been concerned about mere appearance, unless it pertains to something else complicated. One thing that Van Inwagen pointed out, however, is that there is a problem with the first premise. It's not that it's demonstrably false-- or that it's a priori demonstrably true. It's that, from our standpoint, the only way we could really know it is true or not is by having good reason to think God exists or doesn't.

He shows this by saying something along the lines of: Yes, it seems perfectly possible for a perfect being to exist. And if this is true, it very well might follow that a perfect being does exist. But suppose that there possibly exists a being called a "knowno". A "knowno" is a being that knows God doesn't exist. If a knowno exists in any possible world, then God doesn't exist. Because if God exists in any possible world, he must exist in all PW's. If he exists in all, then there can be no possible world in which a being knows he does not exist (because knowing involves being right.)

Which seems more plausible? That a perfect being exists, or that a knowno exists? It seems we can't really judge this without arguments for or against God's existence, or unless we can prove that the existence of a perfect being is contradictory or that the existence of a knowno is contradictory.

My thanks to Dr. Peter Van Inwagen and John Loftus for his blog's info on the OA at Debunking Christianity.

----- Edit-----

I recently read something by <a href = "http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/">Edward Fesar</a> about the Ontological argument. Apparently the "knowno" objection might not be a good one.

Here's why:  He compares the suggestion that it is possible that there is no God with the suggestion of "No Unicornality", which means that there is no possible world in which there are unicorns. One might suggest that in some possible world, a unicorn exists (which is perfectly plausible). In reply, one might suggest the idea of No-Unicornality. Now is the mere suggestion that it is possible that there are Unicorns equally as plausible as the idea that it's impossible that a unicorn could exist?  Of course not. The reason being that given that the idea of a unicorn is logically consistent, this is actually evidence against No-Unicornality. If the idea of a unicorn is logically consistent, then the mere assertion that it is possible that Unicorns could be impossible does not stand on the same level unless one provides evidence that the assertion that Unicorns are possible is false.

In the same way, the idea that God might not exist in some possible world (which implies that he couldn't exist in any possible world) is not an innocent assertion-- it stands against the evidenced assertion that the idea of God is coherent, consistent, and possible. So if it really is true that it is possible that God could exist, then given that this reasoning is correct, this would be at least good evidence that God exists in some possible world, which would then imply that he exists in every possible world, including the actual one.

I'll keep on looking to see if I find anything new on this argument!

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Weaknesses

Wow-- it recently occurred to me that, being people who experience reality the way our own brain interprets our experience, our weaknesses are more blinding than we realize. Necessarily, if our experience of reality is through a mind which harbors flaws and imperfect thinking, then our whole perception of the world is going to be through this same mind. That means we need to be aware of our weaknesses and learn how to best counter them. I'm going to make a list of my weaknesses, elaborate on them, and then see how I can best counter their force.

1) I am controlled by the social impulse. Recently I've been spending four days at a time trying to destroy my desire to be accepted and revered by people. It's only in these periods when I realize just how strong this desire is. I often let myself think that what people say is true because they say it, because if I disagreed I would be cutting myself off from my source of validation. I am so obsessed and "needy" of people's approval that it controls my actions and even thoughts!

How can I fix this? I think first prayer would be a very good idea. Speaking to God and allowing myself to understand that it is what He says that is true-- not people. Recently I've been having so much trouble with what I believe about God and even if there is any reason to think God exists that prayer hasn't been helping very much, though. I'll be continuing on in prayer, of course, but until I have a solid faith in God, it obviously isn't going to be as effective as it might.  So how else can I fix this problem? I think the best way to do it is this: Meditation on what is true regardless. Even though it's possible that God might not exist, it is true regardless of either option that people clearly do not determine what is true and that what people think really isn't intrinsically important. So, meditation and prayer are the best fixes for this problem. The next way is to not, in my thinking, get my  "praise" from other people. In the Bible it is claimed that we ought to have our "praise from God". What does that mean? Well, I remember when I was first being discipled as a Christian a few years ago, I heard about this concept in a sermon by John Piper and it absolutely changed my life. We often get our sense of comfort from being accepted by people-- our sense of self-worth. But what God wants us to do is get our praise from him. Once that happens, we don't really care what people think because our sense of comfort and self-worth comes from what God thinks instead of the crows we're surrounded with. That's another way.

2) My feelings often get in the way of Logic. I am a very emotional person and I often have a tendency to do what feels right rather than what is right. I have a tendency to believe what feels true rather than what logic tells me. If I followed my feelings right now, I would probably immediately give up searching what's true and tell everyone that I'm totally sound in my faith in order that I could date a girl. The problem I have is that my emotions feel so much more real than logic that at any given moment it is truly a battle to choose the truth over my feelings. I have some non-emotional friends that think this is ridiculous, but truly I say unto thee.. this is my predicament. What should I do?  Give in and do what feels right? Or discipline my feelings to match with my intellectual beliefs?

How do I counter this?  Again, I think meditation and prayer is the best way. Another way is to attempt as well as I can to find deep satisfaction in the intellect. Emotions give satisfaction, but there is nothing as satisfying as the spiritual nature of the intellect as it interacts with the divine and that which is true and possible. I have these two or three day periods once every week and a half or so where I just wake up in the morning and find myself so intensely desiring intellectual stimulation that I can barely get dressed before I want to go on a car ride to go think about the nature of God, scientific truths, logic, economics, psychology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of anything. If I don't go on a car ride, I sit down and read some hard-core text book on logic or history or something. Unfortunately, though these few-day periods of intellectual satisfaction have been getting more frequent and lasting longer, the majority of the time I do intellectual activity, it is forced, feels painful, and often gives me heartburn and discomfort. It takes so much work to push past my emotions and consider logic. I hope that as my brain develops, I'll be able to live in a continuous state of intellectual and spiritual desire. This seems to be the key, though: Meditation and intellectual desire. I would do well to take Aristotle and Socrates as examples-- champions of the intellectual desire-- that way my emotions follow logic instead of my subconscious irrational beliefs.

More of this is coming. Please pray for me.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"I can understand that"

I'm randomly thinking about the phrase we use, "I can understand that", in the context of a person's having a moral failure of some sort. I've said it so many times. Imagine a wife who can't accept the fact that she won't get to spend forever married to her husband because when they get to heaven they will no longer be wedded to one another. I can understand that. Imagine wanting to kill a person after they murdered and raped your daughter (and killing him several times over in your heart). I can definitely understand that. Imagine a teenage guy catching one glimpse of a pornographic image on a computer, coming back in interest and subsequently falling into an addiction to years. I can understand that (that was me).

But what do we mean when we say it?  When I intuitively probe around in my mental state that occurs when I say those words, I get this line of thought: "I can definitely see how it would be incredibly easy for this person to fall into this, and thus I do not judge them."  Or maybe something like this: "I can see from my perspective how this would be very easy to fall into, so they are not abhorrent to me." 

But if there are some moral failures to which we are content to apply the personal descriptor "I can understand that", does that mean that there are some that we honestly can't understand?

For example, I have a hard time understanding why anyone would want to do something like Hitler did. I don't understand why a person would get the ideas he did, why he would try to exterminate a whole race, and etc.
I don't understand how anyone could rape a girl. I can understand wanting to have sex, and that even with someone one is not married to. But not raping someone. I can't mentally bring myself to understand that desire. I also can't understand why one earth any person would want to bully people. Bullying people goes so against my nature that I get a sick feeling in my stomach at the thought of it. 

Notice, though, how all of these seem to proceed from my introverted and non-forceful personality type. I am not a bold person. Bravery is not something which I have naturally. Arrogance, maybe, but not bravery. I am so addicted to people's approval that I can't imagine overpowering other people. Now if the fact that I cannot understand why a person did something proceeds not from the heinousness of the act but from my inability to grasp why they would do such a thing, it seems to me not a problem on that person's part, but on my own. I am a hypocrite, in that I judge a rapist as inferior to me because he has done the things he has done. I've had sex with women in my mind hundreds more times than he has raped a person, and murdered many other men in my mind-- far more than most murders have. I am just as guilty as he is. 

My point is this: we apply the label "I can understand that" to immoral acts which from our perspective we can understand happening, but the fact that we can't understand something is our own lack of insight, not a measure of how much we ought to separate ourselves and society from a person. We must come to a point where we realize that for all evil acts, these acts appeared commendable to the people who did them at the time, and are thus "understandable" at least to someone (and if you were in that situation with their biological equipment and personality, you would probably do the exact same thing).

I'm not trying to claim that these things aren't wrong. Sin is sin. But we would do well to realize that sin is not what is publicly abhorrent, but rather, "whatever does not proceed from faith.." Romans 14:23

On top of that, I think you can extend this principle into beliefs. I cannot understand how some people could be Hindu's, but I'm sure if it was explained to me I would be enlightened and less judgmental. I used to not understand how a person could buy post-modernist philosophy hook, line, and sinker. But then I almost did, and now I understand. I had an arrogant phase last year where I wickedly made fun of young earth creationists-- then I almost became one last summer, and now I understand.

I guess this would seem to lead to a type of humility. We mustn't project our perspective and experience onto other people: they're not us.

I'm thankful for my Friends

I'm learning to practice gratitude. I am going to write some about each of my friends that are guys. Of course, I'm overly thankful for my "friend girls" but I think writing about them would cause me to lose focus of what I'm trying to do here. (I'm a guy, who is attracted to girls...don't want to get any more attracted than I already am.. you get the point). 

1) You're one of my best friends at Toccoa. When I first met you, I thought you were weird and I didn't want to spend time with you. But now, this year, as we've all begun to room in the same suite, I've found that you are really a great guy. Yeah, you've indirectly annoyed me some times. Sometimes I get upset with you when you hit a nerve. But for any of the annoying parts of you, you really do have a lot of great qualities. The thing I most admire about you is your ability to be strong and gung-ho about life even when those surrounding you have lost their passion. You're becoming a leader and a good man throughout the time you've spent here at college. Yes, you're a young earth-er (hehe) and like to throw my philosophical non-sense back in my face, but I know you do it so I can grow and learn (and because you think it's fun! jerk! :) . I can see that even though we make a lot of jokes and half of our talk is about how great it would be to date this or that person, you really are striving as hard as you can muster to be pure, to be a good future father, and to be a good husband, and to be a faithful worshiper of God, and I admire the junk out of that. You're always trying to improve yourself and me, and you even won't let me cry alone if you know about it. Our friendship means so much to me. 

2) You're also one of my best friends at Toccoa. I care about you so much. You're the kind of guy who, even though he's little, is tough and driven. I'm twice as big as you and you've got four times more guts than I've had any day. For your friends, you'll fight a bear or wrestle a crocodile--and I truly don't doubt that. I love your random rhetoric when you're trying to convince me that philosophy is pointless and that evolution is false. "Plato and Apollos didn't think about much; they thought up their own junk!  What matters is what you think today!"  Yeah, it's true that you talk a lot, and often I don't think that when you talk, you're actually addressing me, but just talking out loud. And I have to confess that half of the time that we're sitting in the room and you're talking to me, I'm not listening but reading or something. But I love it when you talk your thoughts out loud. Don't stop. Just don't assume I'm listening intently! You're a great guy, and it'll be a lucky girl that ends up with you. You're more of a man than many people know. 

3) Again, you're one of my best friends at Toccoa. I don't know how to describe you. You just are! You're completely goofy and act like a primate 80 percent of the time, yet I'm certain in a couple decades I'll see you getting some sort of Nobel prize, with two doctorates in completely different subjects and a professorship at some prestigious college. You're so driven to be academically honest and to learn everything you possibly can that pertains to truth that it rubs off on me every time I see you. The only thing that is weird about you is that you have, like, no emotions! Except that one time that girl destroyed you. But you're not a guy if a girl hasn't destroyed you at some point. I'd give 20 dollars to see you cry once! Nevertheless, I owe almost all of my desires to find out what is actually true to you-- if it weren't for your destroying me about the fact that half of my beliefs were false, I would still be ignorant of it to this day. For that and for you I am thankful. 

More to come. 

God is Truth!

Wow. I'm stupid. I just had a realization that my relationship with God has been so clouded by this psychological association of Him with some old ideas I used to hold which I think are false. So when I thought about God, I was associating him with falsehoods. How can you have a healthy relationship with a being who stands for things that you think aren't true?  Every time I thought about God, I thought about a being who has commanded me to be a full time missionary--or I'm not a real Christian. I thought about a being who is forcing me to believe that evolution isn't true even though there's fairly good evidence for it. I thought about a being who doesn't understand that the way that we read the Bible in our Southern culture is very wrong-headed, but who requires that I read the Bible that way anyway.

This means that if God exists, he knows about all of the confusion, the suffering, the doubt, the false ideas, and etc. that humans have to endure, and He's still in control. He knows he did things in a way which is very strange to some cultures, but it doesn't phase him. He's not ignorant of anything... and He doesn't stand for, believe, or encourage false things... he is of the TRUTH.  God just became more real to me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Relational Association.

I think I finally understand something (maybe).

Imagine a relationship between two people A and B. Suppose they are friends. Between the two of them are things called shared understandings. They both understand and agree that they care about each other. They both understand and agree that they've "got one another's backs". They both understand and agree that they want time with one another. I'm going to call these types of shared understandings "Commitment Understandings".  These are things that they expect of one another and which are the most "Obligatory". But there are others. One other kind is a "Symbol Understanding". Amongst the two people, they agree that certain symbols mean certain things in the context of their relationship. They both agree that a nod of the head means yes. That shaking the head means no. That a tip of the hat means, "In my experience of the world, you are desirable". These are common to the English language and American culture. But suppose that there are some further understandings that they share only with each other. Perhaps they had some experience together, and in order to bring back the memory of it, or the funny nature of it, they refer to it with a specific name, like, "Cows". When person A says to person B, "Cows!". They'll perhaps have a laughing fit in remembering their shared experience!

That's not all of the types, but it's sufficient for right now. The human mind has an unlimited capability of attaching certain meanings to certain things. But here's the scary thing. We have a tendency to naturally share in the values others have in order to be closer to them. The way the mind works, however, is that humans not only associate ink blots, words, gestures, and things as meaning a certain thing, they also interpret people as meaning a certain thing to themselves. For example: in southern U.S. the very word "Barack Obama", in many people's minds, elicits a very unsavory feeling.

 Imagine two people who are friends and who share a lot of understandings with one another. Perhaps friend A does something to violently upset friend B. In friend B's eyes, A her or himself is thus associated with an annoying feeling.  B associates A with some sort of bad feeling or what not. But since A and B are friends, A still wants to share in B's values, and if A is an emotional or very sweet person by nature, A will have begin to share in B's interpretation of A as annoying.

What do you do when you share in your friend's association of you as annoying? You begin to feel shame.

Introverted Musings

How do I describe how I feel right now other than to illustrate by speaking of a man who can see that there is a glorious and blazing, warm and beautiful brightness in the distance-- but who sees so only through a haze. He's seen through the haze before. He's lived in the light. But he doesn't remember how. All kinds of dark and obscure creatures come and attack him before he can run through the haze and make any advance towards the sunlight. He wrestles them with all his might for a period and then loses willpower and gives up; allowing them to feast on his flesh. Enduring the pain of the flesh eating creatures is far more painful, he can see, than the constant struggle of running towards the light, so he gets back up again and continues running and fighting. He comes upon others who tell him that the brightness he's running to doesn't exist; the battle isn't worth it. He loses footing and falls because of his own despair and stubbornness. But he's learned with every fall that staying down isn't worth it. He knows that brightness towards which he runs is real because his very nature derives from it. Though he must crawl, there's no backing down.

One day he'll be able to add acquaintance to his knowledge that the creatures and nay-sayers are only intimidating false ideas and emotions, the haze is his own heart's darkness; the brilliant light is the reality he's always been in-- but not quite. For God and Truth are the brightness, and hasn't he always been in the truth, but not of it? We can't help but be in the truth, but to be of it is the struggle.

Right now I'm on the ground, letting the false idea beasts eat my soul out. I feel I can't do anything about it but sit and watch. I almost don't care. I want to know, but I don't even comprehend the fullness of what it means to comprehend-- are my thoughts true? I want to see, but I am blinded by shameless ignorance. I want to hear, but I am deafened by my pride. I want to feel, but my nerves play tricks on me. Every where I turn, there is an  easy way to fall off the path, and the climb back up is perilous and hard. Is the journey worth it? Is living on conviction right for me? Is it something I'm really willing to do? Is truth worth it? Is truth worth it?
I repeat because I can't believe I'm asking this question! I've always said "the truth is important", and "the truth is worth it", but I find that when I actually settle down and try to discover it, I'm opposed by almost everything in me and out of me! My mind doesn't want truth. It wants social acceptance. My body doesn't want truth-- it wants indulgence.  In the past week I have honestly doubted the ability of logic to properly describe reality, the ability of human thoughts to encounter reality, whether God is just an emotion or if he really exists in reality, whether it really was important to pursue truth, whether people determined reality or not, and whether there really was an objective reality. I realize all of these seem obvious to most people, and it's true that I was being irrational to doubt them, but trust me, try to place your absolute faith in them and you'll find how small of a confidence you really have in them when the emotional pressure is on. I start out honestly trying to find out the truth and I end up trying to impress girls by looking sophisticated. It horrifies me that anyone thinks I have anything at all together because when I look on the inside of myself I see a horribly confused mess who's trying to organize himself into something but who keeps on finding dirt under the mats. No, friends, I have no idea what I'm talking about, ever. If you ever hear me sounding confident, be fairly sure that my outer disposition doesn't match my inner turmoil, and I'm probably completely and totally wrong about all I'm saying. Why do I even teach stuff? Am I just emotional right now or is this realization that I know next to nothing correspondent to reality? I can't believe I'm so presumptuous as to teach people things. What do I know? Is it good to be like this? It feels good to write about this, like I'm fulfilling the post-modern ideal. But honestly, I don't know if this is the right thing to be. Should I be organize and on top of things? Should I be confident? Or is this just my psychotic soul continually attempting to torture itself out of existence? When I analyze my thoughts about everything, I realize I'm constantly working towards this idea of final enlightenment. I'm waiting for the "snap". I'm waiting for the glory. It'll happen some day. Or will it? Is this mind-set unrealistic? Does glory and brightness come in a snap, or over a small time? I think I'm wrong. But that's one step closer to knowing.

All our lives is a struggle to know. To understand. What we want understand varies among people. But nevertheless, we all want to understand something. I have an unshakable faith that this, the understanding of ultimates, is attainable. Where my faith is shaky is when it comes down to whether it's really worth it to me. In a sense what I'm doing is the easiest thing in the world to do, if I could just see things the right way. But that's where the struggle is.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Language and Reality

Ok. Right now I'm going to make an attempt reconcile what I've learned from a brilliant philosopher named Ludwig Wittgenstein with what I believe right now. I finally understand how some people can say, "God is just the feeling you have when you utter, "Jesus Saves!", or something like that. While it is true in part that what people mean when they say "God exists", is charged with value-laden meaning that expresses how the person feels about the proposition, it doesn't follow that because a proposition expresses personal value, therefore it is completely subjective and doesn't project onto reality.  From what I've studied, the human mind cannot possibly experience the truth of something without it being of some value to them. Especially God's existence. God's existence cannot possibly even be understood without being loved. Those who speak of God and who do not love the idea of his existence can only understand the mechanical aspects of sovereignty, omniscience, and etc., not the moral dimensions.

So, to start: I'm not going to stick too closely to Wittgenstein's ideas. I'm going to deal with the areas that studying his ideas (with help from others) has most affected me, because confessedly I still am not completely sure what he was saying in half of his writings. Right now I'm doing this and trying to be serious about it for the sake of my own mental health.

Basic Idea 1: Meaning and Language are mental states: When a person utters a statement, we do not look into some objective dictionary to find the meaning of his words in order to understand him. Nor do we ask ourselves what we would have meant if we had said the words he just said, in order to find out what he meant. Instead, we consider the person himself. We consider the words he uttered. Are they English? They must be at least partly correspondent to the agreed meanings of English words, then. We then consider his cultural background-- in his culture do some words mean different things to him than they would to me? Then we consider his attitude-- was he upset when he said it? Was he sad when he said it? Next, we consider the context of the situation-- "bird" in one setting might mean an animal with wings; "bird" in another setting might have meant a toy that a dog plays with.  Our efforts are not to understand what the words he said mean in a dictionary, but what meaning entered his mind as he uttered it.

So as you can see, language is a tool-- language is the vehicle of "sense", or meaning (maybe). We all agree that one word has a certain vague sense and then we construct "games" in which a word means this or that in a various context.

Your face is pretty.
It's time we look death in the face.
You need to face your fears.

All of these uses of face contain some vague similar sense of "face" as being "the central expression of essence".

The problem that arises is that we can't really seem to ascertain what exactly people mean. How sharp of an image does a person have in their mind, when they speak of a tree? Are they talking about just any tree, or a specific tree? An evergreen, or an oak?  Of course, it's obvious that we'll never be able to understand exactly what people mean when they say things, because in order to understand it exactly, we would have to directly experience their thoughts, which is impossible.

What also follows from this is the fact that sentences don't say anything about reality until we comprehend them in our minds. All of the books you see in a library are bindings filled with pages marked all over with certain symbols and collections of symbols which mean absolutely nothing apart from what happens in our mind as we read them, associate them with symbols with certain senses, and construct our own mental picture of what they mean.

This means that it is not statements that correspond to reality, but the thought projection behind them. A sentence can't possibly correspond to reality. A sentence is just a collection of collections of symbols that our minds understand to be associated with certain ideological referents which our mind combines together. The Bible doesn't correspond to reality. We humans, as we read the Bible and form a mental picture of what the author of the Bible intends, form what I'll call mental projection states which correspond to reality or don't.

Basic Idea 2: The meaning of a word, in a culture "game" is determined by it's use. This might seem like just a restatement of the first idea-- and it kind of is. But it's more of a focus on the specific area. A word's meaning is completely determined by the context of how it is used. People used to think that a word stood for a certain thing, we all agree to it, and that's that. But in reality, the way things really work in every day life is that one word can stand for all kinds of things! Imagine what I mean when I say, "What a great day!" after I get home from spending the evening with my best friend. Imagine, now, what I mean when I say, "What a great day!" after I stub my foot?  The first time, what I say is an expression of my internal state, which is something along the lines of thankfulness for such a satisfying and enjoyable day (to me). The second time, I am expressing my internal state which is something along the lines of frustration at the dissatisfaction with my experience of the day. If I am stuck in an awkward situation with a person and we both know it is awkward, when I say, "Well, I'm going to go do homework", I clearly don't intend that to inform my friend/acquaintance what I am doing once I leave, I mean something along the lines of "I'm leaving for a reason that is not because I reject you because of this awkward situation." The meaning of certain strings of utterances is determined by their context and we'll just have to make do with this fact. This means we're going to have to do a lot more listening and paying attention to people themselves rather than just the words that they say.

The next section of this is the fact that words can also be used to express feeling. A mental experience includes feelings. But some have gotten to thinking that because some expressions communicate feeling, they therefore cannot communicate reality objective reality, but only express an internal feeling. But as Alexander Pruss points out, just because you add an internal feeling to a statement doesn't mean that you're not communicating a projection which corresponds to reality. It just means you're communicating reality and your feelings about it. "I'm scared" can communicate 1) The objective fact that I am scared and an internal feeling, whereas "AAHHHH!" only communicates an internal feeling. 2) "I love you" communicates an internal feeling and an objective reality as well.  Thus, saying "God exists" doesn't mean that 1) You're just describing some internal state of feelings, and 2) doesn't mean that you're only describing some objective and impartial logical concept. Maybe you're communicating both?

Basic idea 3: Language is imperfect. What follows, then, is that our understanding of reality is imperfect. Not only is it imperfect, it's actually most likely flawed. The reason is that meaning is formed by language. Language influences meaning, and meaning language. Not only is meaning not perfectly reflective of reality, but so also is language which helps us understand meaning through context.

This means that humans cannot know reality objectively. We only know reality through our thoughts, which cannot possibly perfectly describe reality. The projections of our mind might mostly describe a certain concept or situation, but not perfectly. To understand this, see that the correspondence theory of truth says that a thought doesn't describe reality unless it corresponds to an actual reality. This means that if an idea doesn't correspond to reality, it is false. But clearly our thoughts can't totally correspond to reality! We're not perfect. In order for our thoughts to correspond perfectly to reality, our minds would have to project ideas which did not in any detail affirm anything contrary to fact. Clearly this is impossible. Is it logically conceivable that a thought could perfectly copy reality? Yes. God's thoughts. But does that mean that all of our thoughts as humans cannot possibly be true? I don't think so. The idea of thoughts partly or mostly copying reality seems required here.

Suppose I believe that God exists. Suppose that I believe and am correct that God exists, he is omniscient, he is all-powerful, and he is Good. Now also suppose that I don't understand God's moral character because I do not love him. Does that mean I have the wrong experience of God? It means that it isn't completely accurate, but still more accurate than not. Suppose I believe in Lamarckism instead of Darwinism when it comes to theories of origins of biological structures.Suppose Darwinism is true. Are the sum total of my thoughts about the origin of biological life false because I belief that adaptive traits are acquired through adapting to situations during life rather than DNA transmission during the birth process? Of course not. Some of the implications of my belief are false, but on the whole, it is more true than something like, well, I dunno, "Poopism!", where a piece of poo created all of life!

So let's say that the individual logical implications of the propositional content of our mental projections on the world don't have to be completely true to be true. (ugh, I hate saying that.) They have to correspond mostly or partly to reality. This way, we can learn to be humble about our belief structures, realizing that though we may have a picture of reality, we don't have a perfect picture.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Best Thing

I'm thinking right now-- that the best thing we could possibly ever do as human beings is to act consistently with what we believe and with our obligations. Not following what other people say. Not following what feels right. Now following what's promising. Following what we truly believe we should do. The moment we stray from that is the moment we've kissed the enemy and we've embraced death. Like Switchfoot says-- "Never let another tell your soul what to fear", so also I say, "never let another tell your soul what's right for you to do." The only person that could ever tell us what to do and have authority is God himself-- to him we have ultimate allegiance. The Battle is hard and often lonely feeling, but the life that results from it is always worth it.

This last quote is one of my favorite lyrics from a Christian metal band called "As I Lay Dying". It rips through your chest like a dagger-- like you're shutting the lid of your own coffin when you read it-- but only to subsequently resurrect you.

"In my convictions I've found my own grave. But amongst the dead, we all fade away.."

Friday, February 3, 2012


I find myself in a bit of a sour and confused mood right now. First, because I'm constantly attacked by my own irrational fears and anxiety and second because I'm conflicted-- stuck between the good points on both sides of a debate.

I go to a Conservative Christian college full of wonderful people, with whom I am in love. I wouldn't trade my attendance here for anything; this college is a part of my soul now, that if prematurely ripped out would cause me the deepest pain. The thing is, I disagree on a lot of things with almost everyone I know here except my friend Jordan who is a Philosophy major as well. As much as I love my friends, we have such different worldviews that I'm impressed that they get along with me-- a testimony to their understanding hearts and reasonability as people. (I'm telling you I love these people and I really mean it!)  The place we disagree is in the area of practice. What I mean by that is that we disagree on how to approach life. The majority of my friends would say that life is about faith in God. I would say that, yes, that is true-- if God exists. There, of course, lies the difficulty. If the goal of life is to have faith in God, that presupposes that it is true that the goal of life is to have faith in God. But how do we know it's true? Why not have faith in jelly-fish? What I'm trying to say is that I start from a different point than those who disagree with me. Before I even get to the idea of God being the goal of my life, I have to affirm that it's true that this is my goal in life. (It's not like they don't think it's true-- it's just that their contention is that it's obvious that God exists while I have doubts about that)

The thing that is bothering me is 1) a result of my being irrational. If I had been practicing my devotions and spiritual disciplines I wouldn't have been bothered by people telling me I think too much. But when I don't practice my spiritual disciplines, my emotions are as haywire and irrational as a person who's just entered puberty.

I've been told two different things by people in different cultures: The first thing is that I need to seek absolute truth and believe only things which I have reasons to believe. This is generally told to me by Christian/Atheist Philosophers The second thing I'm told is that I think too much and I need to have faith.

Let me be clear that I understand the sentiment in both of these statements. It's not like one of them is absolutely true and the other has no merit. The first I agree with more and the second I agree with to an extent.  The second is what I'm constantly told at this college-- and you know why people tell me that? Because they love me. And I can deal with that :) But the thing is, I don't think it works because their definition of faith is skewed. It's so easy to use a word so much that the definition starts changing slightly, to the point where we're not sure what we're saying any more. I think that the Biblical definition of faith as well as a good common-sense definition of faith is believing and acting consistently with that you think is true even though 1) You're not absolutely certain of it, and 2) You often feel like it's not true. This has nothing to do with believing things that have no evidence. In fact, I think the idea of believing things which have no evidence is positively unbiblical-- why not believe in Allah without evidence, or in Zeus?

Faith is about believing things which are more likely than not. Faith takes guts-- it's not for the weak-willed or weak-minded. Christianity is about faith-- and one of the reasons I look up to and admire my friends so much is that ALL of them are warriors of faith. The guys and the girls, they're all absolute warriors and I'm so proud of them for it.

My problem is that I get overwhelmed when trying to deal with people constructively criticizing my method of approach. It's not like I don't want their help-- in fact my feelings would be more hurt if they didn't help me-- it's that I personally have a hard time integrating their advice while keeping a skeptical barrier over my ears. I so badly want what they say to be true-- that I can just have faith instead of really thinking through the issues with everything I can muster. When I disagree with people I know I must look entirely unreasonable and heretical to them. I'm sure to a Conservative Christian things like belief in evolution, thinking Jesus could have been wrong about the things he said, or being ok with being an atheist or an agnostic if I have to be seem not only wrong but immoral, and that's completely understandable and perfectly consistent with their worldview. I've just had different experiences in life and have different convictions. I'm in an outright battle against whether I will accept the cultural ideas surrounding me or what I really think is true.

The place where I do agree with them and find my own faults is in the place where it comes time to have faith, but one continues obstinately re-examining the evidence because even though it is conclusive, it is unconvincing to my emotions. This is where their criticism lands accurately, and I could use some helpful guidance there, for sure.

Ok, writing this helped me clarify things. If you're my friend at this college and you read this, remember I love you and I want all the advice and criticism you can possible give me. I'm just trying to stop being irrational!