Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What I Believe

During this course I participated in the Rawlsian veil. I suspended my beliefs, dropped my doubts at the door, and came to listen. I was curious. I wanted to hear the other side of the argument. After all, the theist perspective is flamboyantly accessible in the Bible Belt. My main concern with this class was, of course, hostility. I possess strong beliefs and great loyalties to my theism--Christian Universalism. However, I was there to learn, not to debate. I wasn’t interested in arguing my point but hearing yours. The Rawlsian veil allowed me to participate in the way I most desired. In addition, the materials and discussions didn’t pin me down or corner me. I was able to quietly and confidently explore ideas without feeling the need to defend my own.

I heard some interesting things, things that are still causing me to question. But I’m still having trouble believing that this is all there is. The most basic point I know of suffering is that it ends. Perhaps that’s my more hopeful side but it’s the side that’s gotten me through the toughest of times. Belief in only the natural--what we can see and understand--simply isn’t enough for me. Maybe that’s the inclination toward mysticism, the human childish desire for magic as Baggini would say, but so be it. As Iris Murdoch said, “This is a religious craving.” And if Bertrand Russell really wants us all to be happy, then he’ll let me have my religion, because it not only makes me happy but it makes others happy as well.

Because of my spiritual experiences, I have been led to repair mud huts in Africa and encourage young girls to love their bodies here. Could I have done that without God? Perhaps. But I wouldn’t have had the motivation to. As Plantinga says, it is “a special source of knowledge”--my rationality wouldn’t have gotten me there; trust me, I spent years trying to make it do so. However, because this knowledge is so personal and these experiences unique to me, I don’t push them on anyone else. If someone else doesn’t need God to do good in the world, I still think they’re missing out, but I don’t think they’re going to hell.

Ultimately, what I mean by being a Universalist is that I believe we’re all pretty much wrong. We are all clueless about the supernatural, God, and the afterlife. Unfortunately, Douglas Adams did not settle the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (though apologizing for the inconvenience was a nice touch). We don’t know. So some of us follow science, some Mohammad, and others Buddha. I follow Christ, because the picture of God as love and his Son, the unlikely hero, makes the most sense to me and my life story. I’ve tried the others. They don’t work for me. At times, I wish they did.

So thank you for letting me hear your opinions, arguments, and stories. I’ve learned a lot this semester. And I’m a better Christian for it.     


  1. Thanks for recalling the veil, Alexandria. I should have brought it up again, after introducing it back at semester's beginning. You really went "undercover," didn't you?

    I think more of us succeeded in occasionally suspending our deepest preconceptions and listening to our classmates than might have appeared to be the case. I'm happy to note that we managed to avoid rancor, and gave one another plenty to think about.

    I agree with you about Russell. In the end, like Douglas Adams, I too would rather be happy than right (if I had to choose). Good luck!

  2. What jumps out to me here is the line "Could I have done that without God? Perhaps. But I wouldn't have had the motivation to."
    I'm curious, and I don't intend this question to belittle your charity work (it's more than I've done, certainly). If someone were to feel motivated to do such work without believing in a god or gods, wouldn't that seem to give them a higher moral standing in some way? I guess, I'm thinking of Kant's duty-based ethics in which the only way to do the morally right thing was to do it for the sake of its being right alone. Doing it because you believe that a god has indicated it is right would seem to imply that your actions were undertaken to please that god rather than for the sake of the morality of the action.