I’m feeling a bit embattled today. Everywhere I look I hear and read people to whom a materialist world view is self-evidently the only plausible one. Their arguments are compelling and I feel out-gunned. Of course, the person who wins an argument isn’t necessarily (or even normally?) right: they could just be a better arguer. But it still has a wearying effect.
(It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that one of my weaknesses (strengths?) is that of being easily convinced by anyone who is confident in their own position. Thus I will spend time in the company of a believing friend of mine whose intellectual horsepower appears to exceed my own and feel my reposts crumbling to dust, then meet an atheist friend and find exactly the same thing happening. I end up thinking how similar the two people are, and how different from me. And yes, I am one of those people who (briefly) believed it when I was told that the word ‘gullible’ had been removed from the dictionary…)
Mind you, it’s not surprising that I’m feeling a bit vulnerable at the moment. I’ve been overworking for months (last week 46 hours for a 35 hour contract) and it’s now a bank holiday Monday and I’m alone, so there is plenty of scope for an unhealthy reactionary ennui (i.e. I’ve kind of flopped). Also, a much anticipated trip to Egypt, due to begin in about 2 weeks time, looks like being cancelled due to a new advisory from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Both my parents are rather unwell. I have a tiresome chesty cough. And I am dissatisfied with my last post, which ran out steam before the end.
I’m tempted to grasp hold and cling to my faith as a person in the sea would grasp a log (or a frightened child a teddy-bear) but I try not to. Apart from anything else it’s undignified. I try to let the waves carry me, to accept the apparent bleakness and let it lead me into wisdom.
But, to all you atheists and materialists out there, I ask you to remember one thing. Yes, for believers faith is a comfort (sometimes: other times it’s a colossal inconvenience). We live believing things for which there is no scientific evidence. But be careful. There is no scientific evidence for free will, nor for our sense of time as progressing from past to future. Yet you live as though there were and your heart believes that there is. In fact if you tried to act as though there weren’t I suspect you’d end up as a psychopath.
On a broader level, we generally believe that what we do matters, in the infinitesimally short and tiny flickers we call our lives. But in the grand scheme of things, cosmologically speaking, it’s hard to see why. Yet to believe that what you do doesn’t matter is generally a clear indication that your mentally unwell.
In other words, I contend that no-one really thinks as rationally as they purport to.
But back to me.
Comparing grumpinesses with the rector at church yesterday (he was the one who had arranged the trip to Egypt) he pointed out that Egypt has an odd place in Judao-Christian thought. It is the place God’s people try to escape from, it is a place of exile, like Babylon, far from home, a place of suffering, exclusion, and barrenness. Yet the Israelites time in Egypt was a very necessary part of their experience. Their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land was, arguably, what came to define them. I’m an exile, far from home. At the moment I feel far from home. But maybe I should welcome this…