Sunday, September 23, 2012

What's Love Got to Do With It? For an Atheist - Everything

That learned 20th century philosopher and songstress Tina Turner asked the question "What's Love Got to Do With It?"  OK, she didn't write the song.  The real philosopher in this instance is songwriter Terry Britten, who among many gems written for various artists, also penned her hit "We don't Need Another Hero" from the cult movie "Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome".

Of course, I call her, or him by attribution, a philosopher in jest.  The heavy duty philosophy of the particular song of the title of this piece includes the following about love:
It's physical
Only logical
You must try to ignore
That it means more than that
So, what had this to do with anything?

Well, recently, I have been engaged in a dialogue of sorts with a commenter (Rationalist1) over at Father Tim Moyle's blog "Where the Rubber Hits the Road."  WTRHTR is a clever attempt by Father Tim to engage people in conversation about the important issues of our day, which for him and for me relates to the Person of Jesus Christ, and His Divinity and humanity, and what it all means for us personally. 

Where some bloggers provide material that only expresses one perspective, Father Tim provides a more open forum, at least I think so, that lets atheists, at least one witch, Catholic and other Christians, and agnostics from various quarters engage in what is usually meaningful dialogue.  There is much disagreement, but I find much of the dialogue to be challenging.

Recently, I have come back from a hiatus to engage a bit in the dialogue, and have encountered a commenter named "Rationalist1", who is intelligent, educated, and sits on the opposite side of the Christianity fence from Father Tim and myself.

I have only one real criticism of the person called Rationalist1.  I know who Father Tim Moyle is.  It is no secret.  In communications with him, I have come to know a bit more than is on WTRHTR, but he is very open about who he is.  I believe that I have been open about who I am as well.

It is, however, difficult to engage in fruitful dialogue with a man, at least I think Rationalist1 is a man over the age of 30, which I DEDUCE from his comments, who hides behind a moniker.  When I tell you that my name is Michael Brandon, it says little more about me than that my father was a Brandon, and my parents liked the name Michael for me as their first born son.  But, it is the name attached to the individual that is me.

Should I tell you that my name is Rationalist1, which is already taken, it tells you little, but leaves impressions that may be intentionally conveyed, or that come from the reader's own experiences of life.

That seems a circuitous route to get to my purpose here which is to discuss some of the comments from Rationalist1 that I have had from him (again I assume the commenter to be a him) recently.

So, here's how we get to this moment in time.  In response to my posting the other day "Atheist Jumps in to Deep without a Life Preserver"  Rationalist1 provide 4 meaningful comments, the first 2 of which I want to examine here.

I made a statement in the piece that he took me correctly to task over:

I had said:
"The problem with atheists and most non-believers is their inability to have any faith in anything that thay cannot see, taste, smell, feel, and/or touch."
He correctly upped the game with the following:
I can do none of those things with an electron, yet I accept their existence. Why?

Because I've measured the charge of an electron, used its charge to then calculate it's weight in a magnetic field, used its spin to design techniques for MRI machines and I have been know to stare at their scintillation on a phosphor screen as they show me images (CRT television).

I cannot see, hear, smell, taste or feel electrons yet I accept their existence. Because I have evidence of their existence.
It is quite true to say that mankind has scientifically proven that air exists, and many things we cannot normally see, touch, taste etc. and so for scientific purposes they are real.

But, the next statement that he set out to refute I still stand on, and will explain:  I said:
"That, of course, requires rationalists to be bereft of love for self or for others, because love cannot be deduced or reasoned. They could then be filled with self loathing, but that would not be rational, since it too is sensory. That leaves them as dead men or women walking, which, of course, can only progress to dead men or women lying in a cold grave."
Rationalist1 responded by saying to this:
How do I know my wife loves me, yet Angelina Jolie doesn't? Is there anyway by the words or actions of these two people that I might that one of them loves me or are that evidence somehow precluded from being considered.
Although Rationalist1 used Angelia Jolie as his foil, and I have replaced her with Tina Turner for this discussion, his answer is faulty.

Tina Turner voiced the atheist view of love written by Terry Britten that "It's physical, Only logical".  So, Rationalist1 deduces from words that his wife speaks and her actions, and which he has never heard or seen from Angelia Jolie (nor Tina Turner) that his wife loves him.

So, love, which has no atomic weight, is not measurable by X Ray, MRI, PET, MRA, ultrasound or any other scanning method known to man is real for him; yet God who Christians believe is Love, because the written word of God says so, and of which those who have committed to follow Him and believe Him and in Him have personal evidence, does not exist.  That seems curious to me, coming from a scientist.

Love is the essence of any debate about the existence of God.

But, back to friend Rationalist1.  Many years ago, I read an enlightening book by Anthony De Mello, an Indian Jesuit priest and Psychologist, called "Awareness".  It was an eye opener, and in it, he told the following story:
There was a woman in a therapy group I was conducting once. She was a religious sister. She said to me, "I don't feel supported by my superior". So I said, "What do you mean by that"? And she said, "Well, my superior, the provincial superior, never shows up at the novitiate where I am in charge, never. She never says a word of appreciation". I said to her, "All right let's do a little role playing. Pretend I know your provincial superior. In fact, pretend I know exactly what she thinks about you.

So I say to you (acting the part of the provincial superior), 'You know, Mary, the reason I don't come to that place you're in is because it is the one place in the province that is trouble-free, no problems. I know you're in charge, so all is well.' How do you feel now"? She said, "I feel great". Then I said to her, "All right, would you mind leaving the room for a minute or two? This is part of the exercise". So she did. While she was away, I said to the others in the therapy group, "I am still the provincial superior, O.K.?

Mary out there is the worst novice director I have ever had in the whole history of the province. I n fact, the reason I don't go to the novitiate is because I can't bear to see what she is up to. It's simply awful. But if I tell her the truth, it's only going to make those novices suffer all the more. We are getting somebody to take her place in a year or two; we are training someone. In the meantime I thought I would say those nice things to her to keep her going. What do you think of that"?

They answered, "Well, it was really the only thing you could do under the circumstances". Then I brought Mary back into the group and asked her if she still felt great. "Oh yes", she said. Poor Mary! She thought she was being supported when she wasn't. The point is that most of what we feel and think we conjure up for ourselves in our heads, . . .
Rationalist1 relies on how he feels about his wife, and how he feels about what he hears his wife say to him or about him, and what she does for him in their relationship to KNOW that she loves him, and because Angela Jolie does not do things to or for him, nor speak to him or about him that she does not love him.

Recently, I sat somewhere for a few minutes with the wife of a friend, and was shocked at things she said in this brief conversation.  She and her husband have been married for more than 30 years, are always together, and seem to enjoy each other's company.  She professed an unresolvable emptiness in their relationship that I am darn sure he has not the slightest idea about.  He would say as Rationalist1 does that he knows his wife loves him by her actions and her words.  What he has not got clue 1 of are the words of her heart, since he has put up walls to keep her from feelings safe to express her deepest feelings.

I believe that I love my wife, imperfectly, and I believe that she loves me, imperfectly.  But, I am certain that God loves me unconditionally.  So, love has everything to do with IT, no matter what IT is.

Rationalist1 had said in response to my posting "Science Disproving the Existence of God?" the following:
I was an ardent practicing Catholic for the first 30 years of my life. I finally realized that I was fooling myself. I actually know more Catholic theology than most Catholics. I have tried and found nothing there and then I realized I dodn't need there to be a God.
To quote William Shakespeare from the "to be or not to be" soliloquy in Hamlet: "Ay, there's the rub."

You see, Rationalist1 came to the correct conclusion that he was fooling himself as an ardent practicing Catholic.  Good on him that he knows more Catholic theology than most Catholics.  Most Catholics don't know very much theology, Catholic or otherwise.  Shame on our priests and bishops for that is on their heads.

But, the practice of Catholicism has become for many about being ardent, and about theology, and that is not at all about the love of God, which is what Love has to do with it.

Earthly love is a shaded mirror of the love that God has for all of us.  It is not a true reflection, but is the best we are capable of here on earth, particularly if we are not in relationship with God.  God is not about theology and practice, though both are useful. 

God is about love, and about personal relationship, Him and me, Him and you, Him and us all.

So, a Rationalist1 or any scientist can claim that he loves his wife, and she him, but he cannot prove it even legally "beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt".

So, for atheists, the delusions of religion are based on false premises, and the solid foundation of their own lives on the bedrock of science is merely an illusion.


Rationalist1 said...

I agree that hiding behind a moniker is not the best in many ways but it's less to be secretive and more that my ideas should speak for themselves, independent of who I am. In a way it's like the teaching of Socrates (note : in NO way am I inferring any equivalency in quality). Socrates' teachings exist and are just as valid whether Socrates was a real person or not. Not so with Jesus, the teachings without the person are vacuous. I seek to keep my ideas separate from any need for physical incarnation in a real world personage. Let the ideas, weak and incomplete as they are, speak for themselves.

For the record, I'm male, married, with children, about Fr. Tim's age, have a couple of degrees in physics and was once a very observant Catholic.

If I were choosing a pseudonym now I perhaps would not choose rationalist, but perhaps empiricist or may be a more neutral (?) Leafsin2XXX. Rationalist was chosen because of the importance I put in reasoned (and I hope civil) discourse although in equal measure I place importance in evidence. And while rationalism and empiricism are often viewed as antagonistic I embrace them as a necessary synergy to the progress of knowledge.

Michael Brandon said...

If, in fact you are burdened by a desire to proclaim the truth, then you might have to settle for Leafsin1967. To the best of my knowledge that is a true statement.

I was 17 at the time, and until a few years back remembered all the players and their uniform numbers.

I spent many a night in the old Gardens as a fractional season ticket holder in the late 70's, and early 80's, long after Stanley Cup glory had faded.

A teaching or a word of knowledge depends very much on context, and we tend to judge its veracity to some extent by our own filters, one of which is knowledge of the speaker.

Rational thought and empirical evidence are often hallmarks of learned discourse. However, they can and oft times do get in the way of the challenges of something new.

Wisdom, which supercedes knowledge must come from the heart. Wisdom often defies the rational.

Michael Brandon
62, married father of 3 adult young women, Catholic revert after a decade, many decades ago, of retirement.

Rationalist1 said...

You quoted a woman who confessed that despite 30 years of marriage "She professed an unresolvable emptiness in their relationship that I am darn sure he has not the slightest idea about."

Mother Teresa's confessor revealed that the soon to be saint suffered from profound "dark night of the soul" for most of her life. She felt empty, abandoned and devoid of God's presence. Emptiness occurs in marriage and in religion. At least in marriage one has a physical person one can talk with, touch,comfort and be comforted by. One can experience love with a spouse accepting one with all one's faults and shortcomings. And can strive to do the same to one's spouse. Non believers experience love and express love in a very real way and although it's never certain, it's the best we have.

Thank you for your thoughtful and considerate reply.

Rationalist1 said...

"Earthly love is a shaded mirror of the love that God has for all of us."

Is it that way or the other way around. It is not coincidence that the comparison that so many religions use to describe the deity is that of a mother or father because that is what we see and for many of us what we experience as the greatest, unconditional love we can give. To be exhausted at 4 am trying to comfort a teething child trying not to think about the 9:00 office meeting but being unable to just let the child cry to sleep is one demonstration of the depth of love a parent can have. It's no wonder we describe God in such ways.

But we also know parents who aren't attentive, who shirk their parental responsibilities and abandon their involvement in the life of their children. While we want God to be a good parent, he or she is more of the latter. Distant, inscrutable, non responsive, uninvolved in our daily lives, perhaps indistinguishable from not being there at all.

Michael Brandon said...

Dear Bob:

I can't relate to calling you Rationalist1, so in the interests of communicating one man to another I gave you the name that came to mind.

Your comments are very interesting and worthy of serious consideration, and I plan to do that tomorrow.

I concur with the quality of dialogue that Father Tim described over at WTRHTR, and appreciate that we do not have to be in agreement to be able to listen (read) and take into serious consideration things said by someone who views the world differently than ourselves.

I understand your feelings about God as distant etc., but maybe there is more to it than that.

God Bless You

Michael Brandon