Wednesday, February 01, 2006

On Comfort

As humans, we strive to be comfortable, over the expense of everything else, including the truth. Volumes are written about people that refuse to see that their spouse is having an affair, because they would prefer the “comfort” of the lie of a stable marriage, as compared to the reality of the problem.

What makes each of us comfortable is different. For some—financial stability. For others—committed relationships. What makes me comfortable is having answers to questions. Inquiries that hang out there, unanswered and unexplored, prey on my mind, and cause me to become extremely uncomfortable. To the point, I need to do some research. Now, it may become evident that there is no answer, or we can only speculate, but I am drawn into the process of contemplating and comparing the various proposals for resolutions, and how those answers conform to reality. I can safely be comfortable again, once I know the rationale behind the answers, and what the most likely answer is (with what we know now).

When I first started interacting with atheists, I was admittedly surprised at the quality of their questions. I was embarrassed that I had not addressed some of these issues previously in my Christian walk. So, being me, I became uncomfortable. I started looking for answers. But the answers I found, while satisfactory for those who already believed, would not suffice in response to these questions. For once, I did not have the luxury of providing an answer to a Sunday School class that was already 99% convinced of the answer before I started speaking. I needed to find answers that were convincing to the unconvinced. That would be convincing to me, if I was an atheist.

I initiated conversations with friends and family, expressing some of the questions and concerns I was contemplating. Their response dismayed me. I assumed (human nature) that they would be just as uncomfortable as I was to have these lingering questions, and therefore, just as willing to explore. Boy, was I wrong!

With a sole exception, to a person they refuse to talk to me on this issue. Flat out refuse. I have had pastors that ceased calling me back, deacons that cease writing to me. I heard:

“I refuse to talk to you about this.”
”Since I am firm in my faith that what I believe is right, I did not even bother to read what you write.”
”Even if you proved it all wrong, I would still believe, regardless of what you say.”

Understand, these are people that I had discussed topics such as babies going to hell, free will vs. predestination, the tenets of grace, contradictions, etc. etc. etc. until the wee hours of the morning on countless nights! We would discuss how many angels dance on the head of a pin, and whether we should even discuss angels dancing on a head of a pin.

This was a “safe” place in which I could comfortably discuss these weighty ideas, and the door was slammed in my face. I had taken them way, WAY out of their comfort level! To even contemplate the possibility that what they believed, at its very foundation, would be untrue was too much. They would rather believe a lie, and be comfortable, than face the questions I proposed.

Why? What would make people so uncomfortable that they would physically repel from even conversation? Why do churches limit the topics, the reading, and the knowledge of their audiences? (Don’t believe me? Go review the Evolution section of the local Church library.) It is fear. Fear that one’s belief is wrong. That fear may entail fear of hell, or fear for one’s children, or fear of lack of morality, or fear of purpose, or fear of no after-life, or a combination of a variety of fears. But that fear is so prevailing that to even question the possibility of being wrong, places a person so far out of their comfort zone, they would prefer to be wrong, but believe they are right, than substantiate their belief.

But why should I care? Recognizing that each person has a different drive for comfort, and a different tolerance, shouldn’t I leave well enough alone, and provide them the comfort of their belief, regardless of its viability? Sure, until that comfort requires, to maintain it, the harm of others. Then all the warning bells and whistles must go off.

If the belief was merely one of belief in a creator, with an understanding and acknowledgment of the equivalency of a lack of belief, we would be done. You believe your way, I believe mine. Shake hands and play ball. But attached to that belief are certain rules, and commandments that cause harm. Rules that have superceded the original belief itself, and have morphed into the justification for the belief.

Originally, everyone had a God with simple rules, “Don’t murder; don’t steal. Provide me with treats.” And humanity got along with that quite nicely. So nicely, in fact, that it was too tempting to not add on their own rules, to “round out” the package a bit in their favor. Now, sadly, we are saddled with oodles of rules, all necessary to maintain this belief.

Think of the atrocities women have had to deal with, all because of a few sentences in a book. We have women leading in homes, in educational systems, in the business vector, and in government. But step into a church, and all that is thrown out the window. It is the one area in which Man can continue to reign superior. A woman could become the President of the United States, but on Sunday, is not allowed to teach a Sunday School of men in most of the churches I attended. She could order them to war, but just not speak to them on Sunday.

At what point do we say, “It is time for you to become UNcomfortable with this belief”? That we say, “I am sorry for your discomfort, but you need to justify this misogynist attitude, and a few sentences written by a human, which other humans claim came from God, doesn’t cut it.” My wife is an intelligent, thoughtful person that I rely upon her judgment literally daily. How ridiculous to enter our church and say, “Sorry, dear, but you go to the back of the bus because some guy that has been dead for two thousand years says so.” I should not require that belief to maintain comfort.

I have been enjoying a discussion on homosexuality in another blog. Want to start a debate? Just mention homosexuality, and the comments start a-flying! Do we reach a point (not that it is occurring in this blog) where we say, “Your acidic condemnation of homosexuality does not qualify as justification for comfort in your belief.” One of the biggest regrets of my years of Christianity is not standing up to the bigotry spewed against homosexuals. I, like all of my friends, ducked and swallowed hard when we heard things like, “AIDS is punishment from God against the homosexual.” Did we believe it? No. Did we call the person on it, though? Equally, no.

You don’t need to call damnation upon another group to stay comfortable in your belief. You are having troubles enough as it is trying to get the basics right. Absolutely, I should have stood up and said, “You shall not become comfortable in your belief by disparaging others. If my questioning, my probing, and my tenacity makes you uncomfortable—good. It is time.”

Having been there, I understand. With the system we end up with things we don’t like. Things that don’t make sense. But since they are part of the system, we feel obligated to adhere to them, in order to maintain the system as a whole. Balderdash.

When I hear someone claim a city deserves tragedy because of the school board it elected, or a city deserves tragedy because of a festival it is having, I seriously question why they need to believe such things (if they really do) in order to maintain their comfort level.

Just as Christians cannot understand how extremist Muslims can strap bombs on their chests and blow up civilians to avoid the fear and maintain the comfort, I am equally having a difficult time understanding how Christians must likewise harm other humans in the same desperate attempt to be comfortable. Be comfortable on your own, and leave us out of it, thank you.


  1. Very powerful.
    I agree with a couple of exceptions.
    Many Christians view the homosexual life style in a negative manner not just because of religious admonitions but because it defies the law of nature and this is sometimes very hard to reconcile.
    Maybe it is just my faulty interpretation but you seem to equate the religious tendencies towards misogyny for Islam and Christianity on an equal level. I hope that this is just a misunderstanding on my part.
    Otherwise excellent post. Clear and concise with very few "BIG" words. I like that. (I hate to keep having to swich back and forth to Wiki).:o)

  2. Thank you, roman. I, too, hate switching back and forth, trying to figure out what some big word is. Here’s a fun one—“quidnunc.” A person that asks a lot of questions, and is inquisitive about everything going on. We all have one in our life, so I try and use this in a sentence as much as possible. Makes me look intelligent. :)

    No, there is definitely a differing degree of harm between fundamentalism Muslim and fundamentalism Christianity and fundamentalism Judaism. But I would state that is ALL there is, a varying degree. It is still harmful. Christianity may be leaps ahead of Islam, but it is centuries behind the rest of the world.

    I would not state that they are equal. But since I am in a nation of Christians, I work with what I have.

  3. excellent post. I agree and I have similar feelings but I chose deism instead of atheism.

  4. Thank you, vman. I enjoy discussing with deists--they certainly hold reason in a very high regard which makes conversation enlightening.

    I just found (for me) deism failed to answer any of the "why" questions, and left many of the same complications of determining the attributes of God. It does, however, provide a convenient solution to pre-Big Bang.

    Look forward to seeing you around.

  5. Roman wrote: "Many Christians view the homosexual life style in a negative manner not just because of religious admonitions but because it defies the law of nature..."

    I don't know what "defies the laws of nature" means, but other species do engage in homosexual behavior, so that must not be what was meant.

    Maybe you meant that, in humans, it takes both sexes to procreate? Well, not all of us humans want to procreate. Do you consider that "unnatural" too?

    Anything that happens in nature is, by definition, natural - within the laws of nature.

    Did I miss something?