Christian Cynicism

Herb Caen. “The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around.”

Eric Hoffer. “Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.”

[Quotes of the Day]

Both quotes are funny because they cynically poke fun at some our Christian and religous failures. However, I find the second quote very intriguing. I have been thinking about this quote for several days. During my web travels I ran across a personal weblog of a radical atheist who said, “I have no beliefs (opinions that are based on faith with no evidence or scientific grounding)”. What I did not realize until today, was that this person had an absolute belief in the infalliability of evidence and the scientific method as the sole source for determing his belief in other things. I guess you have to start somewhere. I like the scientific method. It is useful and has lead to many advances in science. Maybe it is because of my age, I continue to be humbled about the creation that surrounds me. We know so many neat things compared to a hundred years ago but we continue to find more questions than answers. “Neat answers” appear to be on the endangered species list. As much as we appear to be moving forward rapidly with our use of technology, we seem to be standing still on so many world issues, such as, plagues, hunger, slavery, and wars. We appear to be locked into many of the same problems that have plagued our forefathers. History continues to repeat itself despite our best efforts. Maybe it is because our secular world is looking for answers in the wrong places.

I have come to the conclusion that absolute faith is unattainable in life without lying to yourself and to others. I think that God will continue to show me that I am not as good as I thought I was. It is painful to think that the rest of your life will be a series of humbling experiences. I sometimes wish faintheartedly for a less arduous route. What I do know from my Christian experience is that there is no easy path, to enjoy the trip as much as possible, and to be wary of the abuse of absolute faith. God has a strange sense of humor!

On Sunday evening we celebrated my niece's fifth birthday with some friends. At the dinner table I was somewhat amazed when I heard my wife go into a discussion of the importance of faith in kids. I had brought up the subject since my son went to his first Bat Mitzvah yesterday at the Issac Mayer Wise Temple. Since I was curious I did a fair amount of research on the internet and asked questions to some of the people when I was there. As I found out in my research, Rabbi Wise started the Reformed Judaism movement. The temple's exterior is the basic 1870ish building but the interior decoration is quite amazing. For her Bat Mitzvah, Samantha, had to learn to read and speak Hebrew to do her part in the service. She probably started her studying in the fourth grade. Her parents celebrated her coming of age by throwing a luncheon and party more elaborate than most weddings.

What amazed me about my wife's discussion of the importance of faith in kids was the religous tone of her discussion. To me she was sounding pretty close to the “television version” of a born again Christian. Her personal involvement in our son's religous education is pretty similar to her involvement in the Bat Mitzvah. She read the invitation and noticed how expensive and fancy the invitation was. The good news is that she thinks faith in kids is important. The bad news is that God has a lot of work to do with her.