March 7th, 2010

Believing is Seeing.

Saturday's newspaper contained a test of religious knowledge.  I missed four out of twenty-two questions--not bad.  (Not good either,since I have been studying this sort of thing for seventy years).  One of the questions I missed was submitted by a scholar representing Hinduism:  If someone defames your religion, the proper response should be: a.) Threaten the person, b.) ignore him completely, or c.) try to explain why the person is wrong.  Given three choices that I considered pretty bad, I chose "b."  I reasoned from my knowledge of India and trying to put myself in the shoes of an intelligent, spiritual person from that tradition.  With "a" being "wrong." and "c" being "useless,"  I was pretty much left with the least unacceptable choice presented, since "d.) none of the above" was not offered.   This morning John Yoo's defense of his "torture memos" triggered the following stream of consciousness.

If all perceptions of reality are necessarily subjective, none of our "truths" are certain.  We (and some of us more than others) desire certainty so we tend to close our minds around our subjective perceptions in the fond but forelorn hope that they are also objective, that they are "real" truths.  We (some of us more than others) invest ourselves in these perceptions so that alternative beliefs are challenging, not just to our faiths but, to ourselves.  If I am not a Hindu and you prefer your Hindu beliefs to my non-Hindus ones ( especially if they are monotheistic or atheistic), I will probably hear only lies (if atheistic) and blasphemy.(if monotheistic).

But are all perceptions of reality necessarily subjective?  Or is it easier for me to assume this because I am autistic. If nobody thinks the way I do, then I am right and they are wrong; or they are right and I am wrong; or nobody's right and nobody's wrong.  Certainly, when I first encountered the linguistic relativity hypothesis, pragmatism, phenomenology, symbolic interactionism, and similar approaches to self and society, I was immediately drawn to them.  (Paradoxically, I knew they were true.  Of course, that's illogical.  The problem with all relativistic theories is they cannot, by definition, be true.)  This is the way I see the world; therefore this is the way the world should be seen.

Certainly, I cannot look at John Yoo's defense of his "torture memos" and say: "well, he could be correct."  He might be partially right,  his attackers might also not be right.  But on this planet that he and I supposedly share, he can't be right.  Therefore. he is wrong, or he is neither right nor wrong.  But I won't a.) threaten him, or b.) ignore him, or c.) try to explain that he is wrong..  I never thought I would ever say something like this! but all I can do is pray for him.

The last time I saw Bob W. I took him on a tour of the campus where I worked.  We stopped by the Catholic Student Center to look at an interesting altar piece created by an art student at the college.  We rested and drank free coffee and talked about our favorite mutual topic, the human soul.and how we might have become ensouled.  A young volunteer at the center asked about our religious beliefs and I told her (I shouldn't have and it was only a partial truth) that I was an agnostic.  She immediately become upset and began arguing with me. (defaming my non-faith, I suppose).  Given the choices "a", "b", or "c", I chose "d" and "e."  I told her I appreciated her concern for my well being and welcomed it (perhaps not quite true at the moment, but certainly true in retrospect).  I said that she ought not be alarmed over my spiritual state.  I said that I believed that the loving and merciful God she believed in would not leave me without consolation.   I asked her to pray for me.  Later Bob said I had done a good thing which I took as a blessing and high praise.

May you all have peace, love, joy and the ability to embrace uncertainty.