On the need to avoid an unhealthy codependence on God

August 6, 2007 | By | 25 Replies More

I find it ironic that so many conservatives who deplore extended dependence on government welfare (because it destroys the soul) embrace non-ending handouts “from heaven.”  

In his 2005 article in The National Review, “Welfare Reform Part II,” Stephen Moore wrote that it was time to start chopping welfare programs again.  Moore was not content with the cuts made as part of the 1996 Welfare Reform.  It was time to make deeper cuts.  In Moore’s opinion, there are deep psychological reasons for kicking people off welfare.  These have to do with the alleged fact that extended receipt of welfare assistance destroys human capacity for self initiative. Here are Moore’s own words:

Welfare Reform Part II, if properly implemented, will save money and for those in need restore the dignity of a purposeful life. It will also be consistent with the original intention of aid to the poor, which was to be a temporary safety net for those out of work and out of luck.

Back in 1935 the founder of the modern welfare state warned: “Continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.” The speaker was Franklin Roosevelt. What a tragedy that seven decades later Uncle Sam is still undermining the human spirit with this destructive narcotic.

Moore’s article reminded me of the relationship that many Christians claim to have with their God.  You can constantly hear it in their prayers.  They ask for new cars, houses, spouses and better jobs.  They don’t stop at material things.  They ask for their God to give them courage, patience, wisdom and fortitude.  See here and here, for example. The prayers often take the following tone (warning: this is my own semi-cynical paraphrasing):

Oh God, I am nothing.  Please take pity on me and give me A, B and C. And tomorrow, please give me D, E and F.  I want you to do my thinking for me.  Please keep telling me what to do so that I don’t have to do any of that work.  Give me strength, mercy, wisdom, patience.  Give me give me give me.  Someday. please let me into heaven and let me sit on your lap and let me be forever dependent on the things that you will give to me up there. 

In short, for many people, God has assumed the role of the Welfare State.  It’s a one-way street, where those who pray repeatedly ask their God to satisfy their own needs and wants.  

To the extent that Stephen Moore is correct in his analysis of welfare dependence, conservative Christians should be wary of the effect of their own conceptualization of God. 

How about this as an alternative, a healthier approach to God?  Assume that you were given a great gift by being allowed to be born.  This initial gift gave you “dignity of a purposeful life.”  Assume that God’s gift of life to you was a “temporary safety net,” but it is now time for you to stop asking for help.  It is time for you to pick yourself up and fend for yourself materially, intellectually and emotionally.  It is time for you to wean yourself of God-The-Welfare-Administrator. 

To do otherwise is to become dependent upon your God as “a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.”

Share

Tags: ,

Category: Psychology Cognition, Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (25)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Vicki Baker says:

    Uh Erich, what about the Protestant work ethic? Strong inducement to work and financial success + disincentives to spend on pleasure and wordly display= accumulation of capital necessary for Industrial Revolution = Erich typing at his computer.

    Most religious people do just fine providing for themselves and give back to their communities as well. It's true that in the US especially there is the "prosperity gospel" strain arising out of the charismatic tradition that got its start among the disenfranchised of the rural South. Maybe you're thinking of this tradition when you imply that all religious people are whiny children asking God for goodies. There is also a sense that all isms, including nationalism, are now being co-opted by consumerism in the post-industrial economy.

    You had to do some very one-sided "cherry-picking" to conclude that the Catholic and Lutheran prayers you linked to were examples of asking "their God to satisfy their own needs and wants":

    Help me be more patient and alert to the needs of others, and always ready to serve them with the gifts you have given me.

    and

    That we may give generously, realizing that we are among the 20% of this world who consume 80% of the resources… That we may reach out generously to all those in need – in our parish, in our diocese and in our world…That Our Lord will open our eyes, our hearts and our hands to the needs of those who are hungry, homeless or hopeless..

    and what about the prayer of St. Francis:

    grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

    to be understood, as to understand;

    to be loved, as to love;

    for it is in giving that we receive,

    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned…

    My parents are very religious people, and they have their faults, but I have never witnessed them or their friends engaging in the kind of peurile prayers that you describe in this and other posts. If anything, I think most of their prayers have the same basic message found in the Psalms "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

    I have a small book of Scots Gaelic prayers, translations from the Carmina Gadelica There are prayers or invocations for kindling the fire in the morning, smooring the fire at night, milking the cow, warping the loom, folding the woven cloth, hunting and fishing blessings, etc. I find them a very beautiful glimpse into a vanished way of life, and the opposite of your simplistic conception of prayer as welfare dependence.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Vicki: I didn't write that EVERYONE who believes in God has this sort of overly-dependent "relationship" with their God. I do tune into religious talk radio, however, and I hear a torrent of this sort of thing, almost always combined with liberal-bashing.

    There is a perceived disparity of power and resources that, in my opinion, invites this phenomenon.

    My "simplistic" conception of prayer was aimed at a widespread (though it doesn't include ALL Believers) and simplistic conception of God as the big welfare guy in the sky.

    Perhaps my view on this issue results from my general view that things like knowledge, patience, understanding, peace and functional relationships (whether with God or other people) cannot ever be handed to you. "Getting" these things ALWAYS requires you to do substantial work.

    I found it ironic that so many of the people who despise earthly welfare (I've heard dozens) have no problem with being spiritually on the dole, for ever and ever amen.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    For a modern example of an interesting approach to praying, check out "Prayer Depot," described as "a Web 2.0 prayer management system." http://www.prayerdepot.com/

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    Vicki writes: "Uh Erich, what about the Protestant work ethic? Strong inducement to work and financial success + disincentives to spend on pleasure and wordly display= accumulation of capital necessary for Industrial Revolution = Erich typing at his computer."

    Vicki's equation omits a crucial factor: Strong inducement to work and financial success + disincentives to spend on pleasure and wordly display + *Christian genocide against Native Americans & nationwide theft of their property* = accumulation of capital necessary for Industrial Revolution = Erich typing at his computer.

    Vicki's assertion that, "Most religious people do just fine providing for themselves and give back to their communities as well," does not bear close scrutiny. Most "giving back" includes a large, often toxic, dose of evangelism.

  5. Vicki Baker says:

    Erich:

    My point was that I can't take your characterization of prayer as welfare dependence seriously when even the examples you cite are meditations on unselfishness and helping others. Maybe you can be generous and patient without any sort of spiritual practice. That's great! But why do you have to put down those who find praying and meditating on these qualities to be helpful aids in developing them in their daily lives? Do you really think that the people who, in the example you cited, prayed to have their eyes opened to the needs of the hungry, are not going to be motivated to actually put in some EFFORT toward social justice?

    You claim that the "gimme, gimme" type of prayers are widespread because of your experience listening to religious talk radio. Are you quite sure the callers on these shows represent a valid cross-section of believers?

    I wouldn't make any claims as to how widespread the "God as Santa Claus" mentality is, but I would be willing to make a bet that the proportion of believers whose engagement with the divine is on this level, is no higher than the proportion of college educated Americans who think that evolution is proceeding directionally toward some more desirable state, or who think that atoms look like miniature solar systems.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Vicki:  When I was growing up, Catholics (the religion in which I was raised) set aside part of their service where the priest (or parishoners) ask God to take care of things. Each request is followed by "God, hear our prayer." God, give us victory in Iraq. God, help us raise money to fix the church air conditioner. God, restore Mrs. Johnson to good health. God, please protect us as we drive home drunk on New Years Eve. God, give us wisdom to do the right things.  I believe they still engage in such requests.   Yes, they sometimes do ask for the tools to allow them to go out and do good works for others.   But they also ask for things–lots of things.

    Hey, just because there are knuckleheads who mangle evolution doesn't mean there aren't knuckleheads who get infected with unhealthy versions of God.   I never suggested that those who become too God-dependent are a cross-section.   I do think that it is most Believers, some of the time.  It's also some Believers, most of the time.

    I never said that such requests constitute a Believer's entire relationship with God, but to the extent that God serves as the giver of things, tangible and intangible, it sets up an unhealthy "relationship" (I'm assuming, for the sake of argument, that God actually exists).

    I'm not sure what a healthy relationship with the Creator of the Universe would be like. It would be harder than this: Imagine a lifetime Chicago Bulls fan trying to have a healthy relationship with Michael Jordan. Imagine that the fan is not rich and not famous, trying to have a relationship with rich and famous Jordan. The power and wealthy disparity would make such a healthy friendship highly unlikely, in my opinion. This disparity would, of course, be a million times harder with the Creator of the Universe, who has the power to throw you into the flames of hell if you piss him off. Likewise, He (She) has the power to grant you great intelligence, patience, humor, health, etc if you are obeisant. What are the chances of a mortal being having a healthy relationship with a Supreme Being? I'm tempted to say it's zero.

    Unless, perhaps, if you conceive of God as the Einsteinian God (a view that I am increasingly seeing as a natural meeting point for all of us Believers and Non-Believers). With the Einsteinian version of God, there is no temptation to ask for anything, because HE doesn't listen. There is no worry about kowtowing to God, because She isn't sentient. There is no worry about having one's relationship with the Einsteinian God warped by one's hopes, worries or aspirations, because the Einsteinian God doesn't reward or punish. Everything just IS. Your only option is to go make something of it.

  7. Vicki Baker says:

    Grumpy:

    Oh, yes, how could I forget that the genocide of Native Americans proceeded purely from religious motives? I'm sure that any history I read about the scientific "discipline" of craniology being used to justify racial exploitation was planted by those religious evildoers to cover their tracks!

    BTW research shows that Believers give more to secular charities than non-believers do

    Erich, I'm sure I could trot out all kinds of abhorrent quotes about the virtue of selfishness from objectivist atheists and claim that atheism promotes selfish individualism because these are the kinds of statements I hear "all the time."

    What evidence can you provide that the abolition of religion would do anything to ameliorate the absolute vacuousness of most of American popular culture or the prevailing me, me, me ethic of a consumer society?

  8. Vicki Baker says:

    Erich:

    Didn't you caution yourself a few posts back not to accept simplistic explanations for religion? The relationship with the divine has been describes in terms of the lover and beloved, parent and child, hen with her chicks, metal ore and refiner's fire, tormentor and tormented, the ego and the transcendent unity, shepherd and lost lamb, father forgiving runaway son unconditionally, and etc, etc. etc.. Seems a bit more complicated than you're allowing for.

  9. Ben says:

    "What evidence can you provide that the abolition of religion would do anything to ameliorate the absolute vacuousness of most of American popular culture or the prevailing me, me, me ethic of a consumer society?"

    Economists have long used game theory to analyze a wide array of economic phenomena, including auctions, bargaining, duopolies, fair division, oligopolies, social network formation, and voting systems. This research usually focuses on particular sets of strategies known as equilibria in games. These "solution concepts" are usually based on what is required by norms of rationality. The most famous of these is the Nash equilibrium. A set of strategies is a Nash equilibrium if each represents a best response to the other strategies. So, if all the players are playing the strategies in a Nash equilibrium, they have no unilateral incentive to deviate, since their strategy is the best they can do given what others are doing.

    Some scholars believe that by finding the equilibria of games they can predict how actual human populations will behave when confronted with situations analogous to the game being studied.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_theory

  10. "What evidence can you provide that the abolition of religion would do anything to ameliorate the absolute vacuousness of most of American popular culture or the prevailing me, me, me ethic of a consumer society?"

    I think religion is a symptom, not the disease itself. That's why it's not really responsible for the abounding consumerism nor has it been able to prevent it.

    And how many of the religious are truly religious anyway. How many do live up to the Christian ideals? They have a problem if their friends and family get killed, but others in foreign countries?

    By the way, I don't understand how someone could call the US a welfare state? The gap between rich and poor is worse than in most other industrial countries. It's not as if you have a dominating class of well-off parasites feeding on the tax money of the hard working upper class. Many people are obviously not able to afford a decent health insurance regardless how much they work, which has also been discussed in previous posts on this blog so where are these people who sit at home and receive everything for free from the government? And wasn't there something about cutting the free lunch at school? Did this happen, because people had become too greedy? Sorry, I didn't really like that part of the post.

  11. grumpypilgrim says:

    Vicki asserts that, "Believers give more to secular charities than non-believers do…."

    Even if Vicki's assertion is true, it does not address my assertion, which was: "Most [religious] “giving back” includes a large, often toxic, dose of evangelism." I stand by that assertion, because most of the secular giving I've seen from believers has involved large doses of evangelism; namely, they use it as an opportunity to spread their religious beliefs among non-believers. Obviously, Vicki's assertion deals with the objective quantity of giving; mine deals with the subjective quality.

    As regards the validity of Vicki's assertion, the article she cites lists "school or youth programs" as the single largest recipient of secular charity from religious believers. However, earlier in that article, it states that religious givers are 50% more likely (58% to 40%) to be *married* than is the population of secular givers. Since married people, compared to unmarried people, tend to be more likely to *have* children themselves, the fact that religious givers give more to school or youth programs should hardly be viewed as surprising. To the contrary, it cannot even be viewed as altruistic. Since the article upon which Vicki relies contains obvious selection bias that her comment ignores, her argument is less than valid.

  12. Mike C says:

    I see some good point coming from both Erich and Vicki. In fact, I don't see you two disagreeing so much as just that Vicki is asking for more evenhandedness in Erich's assertions. Personally I agree w/Erich's basic conclusion – that belief in God ought to eventually lead one to a higher degree of maturity and independence. Though I also agree w/Vicki that his caricature of Christian beliefs seems based on one extremist segment of Christianity.

    However, I would still hesitate to say that we ought to have complete independence. The radical individualism of the Western world, IMHO, is a disease that has blinded us to the reality that we are not self-sufficient monads. We are not entirely capable of taking care of ourselves, and true maturity is not utter self-dependence but a mutual interdependence. We need each other, and (again IMHO as a Christian) we need God. We will never outgrow this need for others. And if God really is the Creator and Sustainer of all existence, we will never outgrow our need for her either (I believe this is true, even for those who don't acknowledge God's existence.)

    This is why your analogy of having a relationship w/Michael Jordan doesn't seem to me to be a good one. That's not very similar at all to the kind of relationship Christians are encouraged to have w/God (as Vicki pointed out, there are many metaphors for our relationship w/God, but fan to basketball star is not usually one of them). Perhaps a better analogy would our relationship to our parents. We start in a position of dependence, even for our very existence; but of course our parents' desire is for us to grow up and become capable of doing for ourselves. However, (despite what our culture sometimes implies) we never entirely outgrow our need for our parents. Our relationship with them changes as we become adults ourselves, but we never get to the point where they have nothing of value to offer us. I still value what my parents contribute to my life now as a 28 year old father myself, even if I don't rely on them for as much as I used to. And I hope to still depend on them for certain things (encouragement, advice, laughter, memories) even when I'm 48 or (God willing) 68.

    I guess what I'm saying is that while I completely agree with you that there is something wrong with just using God as a cosmic welfare provider, I think there is also something misguided about equating maturity with self-sufficiency. We human beings are weak and impoverished creatures most of the time, and we need each other. We are created for mutuality, not independence, and, despite what Nietzsche would say, I believe there is actually great strength in admitting one's weaknesses. I don't call the person who says "I can fend for myself (materially, intellectually and emotionally), I don't need anything from anyone else (including God)." mature. I call him foolish.

    Just my .02… thanks for the provocative thoughts!

  13. grumpypilgrim says:

    Mike C. says many sensible things, but this is not one of them: "Perhaps a better analogy would our relationship to our parents."

    Sorry, Mike C., but a relationship with an invisible being cannot, in any way, be analogous to a relationship with our parents. Parents are real flesh and bones people who put food on our plates, clothes on our backs, roofs above our heads, and supportive ears to our voices. To say that a relationship with an imaginary "god" is analogous to a relationship with our parents is as absurd as saying a relationship with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Batman, Fred Flintstone, or the god Thor is analogous to a relationship with our parents.

  14. Xiaogou says:

    Grumpy: When men are greedy they will justify what they do in any way they can. God, since he can't really say stop slaughtering the Native whatever, be the American, Hawaiian, Australian or any sort of nationality that has been killed to near extinction (including several Christian groups) , is the scapegoat. If you really think about it these men are the real atheists, as they have no morals or ethics to mention. To them God is just a name to make themselves feel better about the slaughter of innocent women and children.

    Erick, you are right in that there are many Christians who think of God as their personal genie. Rub the cross and a SUV will drop in their laps. It is not the Bible that teaches that, but men. Of course you will see these miracle network programs that show God as a miracle machine, but how else can these preachers raise money for their “work”. Many prey on the uneducated and gullible into buying into this miracle thing. In the dark ages the Catholic Church sold tokens to allow people to get into heaven.

    Erick what you are attacking is not religion, but ignorant or worldly people. You should state Moore’s article reminded me of the relationship that many so called ‘Christians’ claim to have with their God or better yet Moore’s article reminded me of the relationship that many fake ‘Christians’ claim to have with their God instead of “Moore’s article reminded me of the relationship that many Christians claim to have with their God.” This would be factual.

    By the way God never said that you had to be in a building called a “Church” to be a “Christian”. Nor did he say that you could not date a girl you liked because you did not go to “Church”. In fact, he would have loved you to be invited into that house as long as you would have wanted to go there. What you did run into and many atheists run into were people who were arrogant enough to think they knew better than God by judging for themselves who is right and who is not.

    And finally, God is the Einsteinian God that you talk about with a twist. He does care and does listen, but he is not our servant to do our beck and call. He is not a genie nor is he unfeeling. There are from time to time miracles, but it is not exclusive to “Christians”. It is those things that have no explanations. Perhaps they can be answered by science, but instead of being a fly in the ointment I just smile, give thanks that it went well and get on with my life. I am, for a fact, too busy to be bothered looking to delve into the mystery of every windfall in my life. I do know if I work hard and keep my nose clean, good things happen frequently.

    By the way, a welfare state is not the Christian way it was created by politicians to get votes and they won’t willingly take it away because the first politician that mentions it will not be in office for very long (if not ridden out of town on a rail after being tarred and feathered.)

  15. "For a modern example of an interesting approach to praying, check out “Prayer Depot,” described as “a Web 2.0 prayer management system.” http://www.prayerdepot.com/"
    Is this a fun website? http://www.prayerdepot.com/story.php?id=251

  16. Erich Vieth says:

    I don't really get how sincere those prayerdepot.com people are. I found it interesting that it could be worth anyone's while.

  17. Martin says:

    visiting prayerdepot.com I noticed that someone left a comment asking for a speedy recovery from knee surgery. This comment was removed by a moderator.

    someone else commented that god answers all prayers except those from gays. The moderators have not removed this comment.

    From the above we conclude the following: 1) god not only knows whether you are gay or not, but it matters to him. 2) Having knee surgery is worse, in the eyes of god, than being gay.

    This begs the rather obvious question, what could possibly be worse in the eyes of god than having knee surgery ?

  18. Martin says:

    Mike C said: And if God really is the Creator and Sustainer of all existence, we will never outgrow our need for her either (I believe this is true, even for those who don’t acknowledge God’s existence.)

    Let me get this right, you claim that people who do not acknowledge the existence of god will never outgrow their need for her.

    Hmmm. "I really need a unicorn in my life", or "I really need an abominable snowman right now".

    How can I possibly "need" something I cannot conceive of existing ?

    Ahhhh, it's that old parental standby, you might not "want" but you sure do "need", whether you realise it or not. So the believers are now able to tell me what I need despite the fact that the only thing they know about me is that I do not share their imaginary friend. Someone please point me in the direction of that discussion about arrogance, again.

  19. Mike C says:

    Martin, my apologies. I don't mean to come across as arrogant. My point was simply that, according to my understandings, we all derive our existence from God, and if she were not sustaining our continued existence by her every thought and breath, we would all cease to be. If this is true (and I fully admit that it is an article of my religious beliefs which are certainly not shared by all) then it has nothing to do with our felt needs, our wants, or our beliefs. It is simply a divine gift, something given to all of us, with no reference to beliefs or wants.

    So I'm not trying to say that I "know what you need" in terms of your personal beliefs or any of that. I'm simply stating what I believe to be true according to my own metaphysical commitments. My intent in saying that this gift from God is not dependent on one's personal beliefs was to be as inclusive as possible – I didn't intend it to sound patronizing (my apologies). I simply didn't want to imply that I thought God only gives good gifts to her followers – I think she loves and blesses all people, irregardless of their beliefs.

    peace,

    -Mike

  20. Mike C says:

    Mike C. says many sensible things, but this is not one of them: “Perhaps a better analogy would our relationship to our parents.”

    Sorry, Mike C., but a relationship with an invisible being cannot, in any way, be analogous to a relationship with our parents. Parents are real flesh and bones people who put food on our plates, clothes on our backs, roofs above our heads, and supportive ears to our voices. To say that a relationship with an imaginary “god” is analogous to a relationship with our parents is as absurd as saying a relationship with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Batman, Fred Flintstone, or the god Thor is analogous to a relationship with our parents.

    Yes Grumpy, you're quite right. My comments do presuppose that God may actually exist. If we make that presupposition then it seems appropriate to explore different metaphors by which we can understand our relationship to that God – which seems to be what this discussion was about.

    However, if one does not think that God exists at all, then this whole discussion is really a moot point anyway, isn't it? You are welcome to that opinion of course, but I don't see what the point would be of continuing to discuss this subject if your final answer is "well, it's all just imaginary anyway".

  21. Martin says:

    Mike C Said : Martin, my apologies.

    Mike: Apologies accepted, but only if you will accept my apology for putting into your mouth words you did not say.

    Peace.

    You said something earlier that has had me thinking all week.

    Mike C Said: I also agree with Vicki that his [Erich's] caricature of Christian beliefs seems based on one extremist segment of Christianity.

    I started off along the lines of, If you are a Christian then you probably believe some combination of the following:

    In the time of our ancestors, a man with no biological father was born to a virgin mother. This fatherless man called out to a friend of his who had been dead for so long his body stank, and the dead man came back to life. During his short life the fatherless man performed many other inexplicable acts, he made the lame walk and the blind see, fed five thousand people with three loaves and five fishes, and many others. When the fatherless man died – to save all the people on Earth – he came back to life after being buried for three days. Forty days later he went up to the top of a hill and disappeared bodily into the sky. His virgin mother never died, but was herself "assumed" bodily into heaven.

    If you talk to yourself, out loud or in your head, the fatherless man and his "father" who is himself, can hear you, understand you, and will sometimes make your wishes come true. He can simultaneously do this for all the other people in the world whether they believe in him or not. If you do something good or something bad the same fatherless man will know, even if no one else does, and you may be rewarded or punished for your acts even after your death.

    I was then going to go on and ask whether any rational person could consider that to be anything other than a caricature of a human being. How could that possibly form the belief system of a rational, scientific, critical thinking human?

    But then I realised that the objection to that line of thought is that rationality and critical thinking are not universally agreed as being the "right" way to go about our lives. What is it that says that living our lives according to the precepts of science is necessarily an advance over, say, pre-Industrial revolution thought?

    Meet Sarah. She is 35 years-old, married with two children. She has a nice house, a car, a job, she doesn't smoke but does like the odd glass of wine. She is a Christian and has tried to bring her children up to believe, though she fears she may be failing.

    At seven one morning Sarah is woken by an electric alarm clock beside her bed. Though she has hardly anything on, when she gets out of bed it is comfortably warm in her bedroom, thanks to the central heating. She goes into the bathroom and brushes her teeth, using a plastic toothbrush with nylon bristles… and I'm sure you get the idea. There is no aspect of Sarah's life so trivial that science has no influence on it at all. Everything, from her personal grooming products to her pre-packaged food, from her mobile phone to the electric lights in her house, the gadgets in her kitchen, the car she drives to work, the clothes she wears yeah even the electric organ in her church on Sunday. All of these things are evidence that whether she acknowledges it or not Sarah has accepted Science into her life and embraced it even closer than she embraces God.

    Closer? Well, I'm sure Sarah would blush if she thought God was watching her have sex at night, but when she takes the contraceptive pill or asks her husband to wear a condom she brings science into her bedroom, willingly.

    Sarah has a closer and more intimate relationship with science than she ever will have with God, and all she has to do to acknowledge that is to open her eyes and see.

    Science has made all these things possible. It has even made possible the computer on which you are reading this thread. And I personally find that a wholly satisfying explanation for why science deserves to be at the centre of our lives, and for why it is the scientific method, and logical, critial thinking that should drive our search for the eternal truths.

    But you know what Mike C, at that point I realised that you just would not agree with me. To you, and to all your fellow believers it is God who made the mobile phone possible and the man who invented it was simply an instrument of God. And you find that a wholly satisfying explanation and see no reason to invoke belief in the mysticism and magic of science. And you never will.

    Which has made me realise that endlessly debating these things is not going to get either one of us anywhere. There is no common ground upon which we can begin to agree. I can not accept that there is a kindly, invisible man in the sky watching over me, and you cannot understand how the world could possibly be arranged any other way. In which case, could someone please tell me, what is the point of these debates?

  22. Ben says:

    What is the point of the debates?

    To keep junk science away from real science.
    http://www.thealmanack.com/ http://www.almanac.com/

    To reduce future suffering. Of course this involves predicting the future, so your guess is almost as good as mine…

    My guess is that a rationally anchored humanity will fare better than a religiously anchored humanity. This also includes other living beings, as evidenced by the web of life.

  23. Vicki Baker says:

    Martin, in your little scenario, you are confusing Science with technology and economic development. Technical training, expertise, and even innovation are not incompatible with religious belief. Look at the background and education of many of the 9/11 bombers. A lot of engineers and software professionals in the US are born-agains (and half of the ones who aren't are into medieval fantasy games.)

    The US is the most religious of the developed nations, but I'd be willing to bet that we're still close to the top in technological innovation. On the other hand, Russia has been able to train some top-notch scientists in the past couple centuries, but that has not resulted in a generally high standard of living there.

    Not trying to make any point here other than that civilization is more complicated than you seem to think.

  24. Martin says:

    Vicki,

    I do not believe that I am confusing Science with technology at all; I am making the point that technology depends on Science. You can not simultaneously own a mobile phone and deny the Science that explains how it works. You cannot embrace light bulbs, central heating, refrigerators and cars and at the same time reject Science because the technology depends on the Science.

    This point was made to demonstrate that Scientific thinking is necessarily an advance over what I called pre-Industrial Revolution thought. I used this expression because I think of the Industrial Revolution as being the point (or era) in history when Science began to impinge upon our consciousness in ways that even poorly educated people can see in their own lives.

    It might not be obvious to the unitiated that the design of the Sofia Hagia in Constantinople depends directly upon the mathematics of Archimedes, but the construction of ingenious machines for automating construction processes and the introduction of gas lighting in the home are things that everyone can acknowledge.

    Accepting these technological innovations as Science and not just the work of god is, however, another step.

  25. anonymous says:

    note of caution: this post completely disregards previous posts and responds only to the original blog. (sorry. didn't want to commit to reading it all…)

    second note of caution: I am limited by the English language and thus I refer to God as He quite often. I am well aware of the implication of its usage, but my God knows that I by no means am making Him finite. In other languages there are gender neutral third person pronouns that don't reduce God to an objectified 'It'. I do take it for granted that my God is a Person [perhaps Three in One? 🙂 ] and have no apologies for this.

    cautioning over. i humbly issue a response. (you may tear into me at will.)

    Why does 'dependent' carry such negative connotations these days? http://www.healthydependency.com/whatis.html
    As quoted from the above site, "HEALTHY DEPENDENCY means blending intimacy and autonomy, and feeling good–not guilty–about asking for help when you need it. It's a way of reaching to others that actually lets you grow stronger, and connect more deeply with people around you."

    The goal in soliciting a Sovereign, Worthy God would be knowing Him more deeply (intimacy) and then acting on that knowledge of Him (well-informed autonomy). At best, dependence on a worthy God binds His sovereignty with the responsibility of man. We should not be ashamed in asking for guidance and help, but we should be steadfast in walking in the truths gained from intimacy with Him. What truths? Self-less, God-full ones. In intimacy with One so worthy, you find yourself humbled, realizing that your best efforts are His worse and your most noble desires (say, ending war) are His most base. With the realization you find yourself dependent, yes. But not to seek your own ends (as shown in so vile a picture as receiving treats from some great white-bearded guy reminiscent of Santa Claus once you're in heaven), rather His. You find yourself unable to even attempt such a feat, and your dependency increases such that you are dependent on Him even to offer what is owed to so great a God: adoration, love and appreciation. And knowing yourself to be devoid of the necessary tools to offer such praise to One so above yourself you are lead to ask for patience, fortitude, mercy, grace, etc.

    To be frank, we are all dependent on something, whether it is indeed welfare (thought I am hardly conservative and have a mother who used the welfare system at some point to get herself back on her feet), or others' approval, or our own haughty sense of righteousness or perspective. I have such dependencies. The dependency on God which you seem to claim comes second nature to most (conservatives? or more general?) and hypocritically so is an enduring struggle for myself. I confess, I am struggling to order my life such that it is truly dependent upon God. Unlike a narcotic which deteriorates, corrodes, dulls and makes useless the mind, my Magnificent Addiction (if it may be deemed appropriate to call it such) is ever widening and deepening and humbling my mind as I stand in awe. All I can do is show my appreciation.

    I hope my comment is well-recieved and seen as all it is: a tribute to my Worthy Sovereign, rather than a showy attempt to have you 'look-at-me, look-at-me'.

    Thanks for this entry though. I think it is important to point out the dangers of hypocritical thinking. (I have to confess I think in this situation it is misapplied. Comparing governmental aide with the Ezer Kenegdo.) However, I have to agree that spiritual arrogance is the flaw of many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, who rightly conserve the truths of God, but who unjustly bind their fists tight when it comes to sharing the wealth with those who have less (no matter the reason), forgetting that we receive that we might give freely and cheerfully. In truth it is difficult to mix faith and politics at all, but I prefer conservative ethics and liberal economics.

    At this point, I'm just rambling…so I'll cut myself short. lol.

    You've most certainly caught my attention Erich. Perhaps I will continue listening to what you have to say.

    Yours because of Him,

    anonymous

    "There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, "Behold I am wise." But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass's colt; and with solemn exclamation, "I am but of yesterday, and know nothing." No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God…."

    J.I. Packer, Knowing God

Leave a Reply