Welcome to Truth Is Elusive

So I figured I’d give blogging a try with the topic that is always on my mind – the big questions of life.  Things like “what is morality?”, “can naturalism really describe everything?”, “what is consciousness?”, “is there a supernatural realm to reality that exists?”, “do gods exist?”, “is there any consciousness after death?”, “is there any meaning to all of this?”, “does Elvis still live?”, yada yada yada (ok, yeah I really don’t give too much thought to the Elvis question).  And perhaps a bigger question that would help in answering all of those is “what rules or ‘methods’ are best used to help us gain confidence in our solutions to these kind of questions?” – this last question goes under the category of epistemology – a big word for the boring philosophical field of talking about and describing how we humans can truly know anything at all.

But wait a second, I am getting way ahead of myself.  Here’s a quick summary of the “big-question” arena of my life: I was raised in a Jewish family and believed at a very young age that there was a God and he wanted people to follow the laws of Moses.  As I grew older my beliefs took on much more of an agnostic flavor (I’ll post in the future with clearer definitions of words like agnostic/atheist).  During high school I was introduced to Christianity and in September of 1990 became pretty convinced that it described reality so I prayed the Lord’s prayer.  In the first few months I still had some doubts of its veracity but in that first year as I read and listened to as much apologetics as I could get ahold of I became thoroughly convinced that the Christian message and the bible were true.  I attended churches which were labelled “non-denominational”, and also attended Messianic Jewish congregations, and all of these had very similar doctrine to American Baptists.  After that first year however, my belief took a slow downhill path as I came across more and more difficulties within the bible, and also continued to experience the hiddenness of the God which I had previously believed was there.  Late in 1995 I no longer felt that I was being honest with people by saying that I believed that the Christian message and the bible were true, so I informed my pastor and stopped attending church.  Since then I have never abandoned reading about and thinking about the bigger questions of life.  My pastor at the time (and still a very good friend) was kind enough to read books on the subject with me for about 3 years and met for lunch once a week to discuss them.  There are very few people who would do something like that, and I’ll never forget it.

Labels never tell the whole story because words mean different things to different people, but I think agnostic is probably the closest thing to label me given what I believe has become the colloquial use of that term.  I recently came across the term possibilian which is probably much closer to a good description of what I believe and how I think about the big questions of life.  Again, more on definitions later.

So why blog about this in the first place?  Here are my reasons:

  1. It will help me organize the millions of thoughts that go on inside my head, and will give me a place to come back to for reference.
  2. To learn something from others.
  3. Back at one of those lunches I mentioned before I joked with my friend “everyone’s got their theories”, and his response was that I should write mine down.  I thought he was just returning a joke, but he was serious and I always thought about doing just that.  But I’ve always put it off because I am such a perfectionist and was hoping to thoroughly understand all the issues before penning my thoughts all down.  If I wait for that day though, the ink will never be dropped (virtual ink that is).
  4. Help others who might have similar questions or thoughts.
  5. Spread as many facts as I can and clear up falsehoods that I see as well.  I hope to do this no matter what “camp” is being corrected, even if my own conclusions might line up more with that group.  Here is one small example – I’ve seen several atheists online state that Nazareth didn’t exist in the first century, but from what I have read there seems to be enough evidence to conclude that it did. – There are falsehoods spread on every side of every argument and I like to dig to try and find where reality lies and spread just that (assuming I have enough time of course).

13 thoughts on “Welcome to Truth Is Elusive

  1. “Spread as many facts as I can and clear up falsehoods that I see as well”.

    I think that’s a worthy cause. Looking forward to reading more 🙂

  2. This is interesting. I have not heard the term “possibilian” before. While I could be considered an atheist, I have found that there is a broad spectrum of theism and atheism. My husband would call me a weak atheist; he, on the other hand, is a strong atheist. My natural personality is to doubt everything and to consider the possibility of everything so I could consider the possibility of being a possibilian 🙂 I look forward to reading more of your theories.

  3. Thanks Belle. If you haven’t already watched, you might like the 20 minute video on the possibilian link above. David Eagleman invented the word recently and it may not catch on, but I think his talk speaks to the same kind of approach that I take to this stuff.

  4. Howie,

    do people from your former church(es) know that you are no longer a theist?

    If so how did you share this with them?

    and how did they respond?

  5. Hi Ryan. Those are good questions. It’s been about 17 years so a lot of the details are fuzzy, but I had long conversations with a lot of my close friends from the churches that I was involved with. Friends who I wasn’t as close with found out through word of mouth. Some of my friends had already known that I had fought with doubts for years so it wasn’t a huge shock to them. All in all I don’t really have any terribly negative memories of those conversations. Most of my friends were kind of sad to hear how I felt and sad that they would see me a lot less (although I still hang out with a handful of the very close friends from time to time including the pastor I mentioned in the post). I got a lot of encouragement to keep seeking of course, and a lot of Pascal’s wager talks (I plan some posts on that topic). I do remember one particular comment that I didn’t feel very good about – one friend wrote in an e-mail that they felt like they had to re-introduce themselves to me because it was like they were meeting a totally new person. Looking back I guess I can’t blame them for feeling that way – that person hadn’t been aware of my doubts since only my closer friends knew about that. But even given that a lot of the things about who I was didn’t change.

  6. Yeah, It has been respectfully suggested to me by a friend that many of the questions I have raised to him have possibly already been addressed by Christians in the past. I think this is fair enough, since I haven’t really gone searching for many answers from Christians writers lately.

    I think I need to consider these questions through a balance. If I immerse myself only in the readings of one position then my only point of reference will be that one position.

  7. You are right: it does go both ways in a few respects. In fact I view these kinds of things as going in more than just 2 ways but many ways. There are many worldviews, and for all we know the truth about reality may contain aspects of combinations of these worldviews and probably even contain aspects of a bunch of things our human minds haven’t even thought of yet.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if the questions you have raised to your friend have all been addressed by Christians as he said (just as the questions to other worldviews have been addressed as well) – I’ve read a lot of those responses (definitely not all of them) and many either don’t make sense to me or seem improbable. But things like probability are not as cut and dry as a lot of people make them out to be – there is a tremendous amount of subjectivity involved in these kind of assessments due to the fact that these kinds of big questions that we are wondering and asking about have so many different variables involved – I wish it could be like math and logic but it is so far from it. Hence the name of my blog. That doesn’t stop me from continuing the exploration (putting on my possibilian “hat”), but now I try my best to pursue it with more objective methods and also not being afraid to answer the questions with “I don’t know” – most of these questions will probably remain that way for me, and dealing with that is tough but I’m getting used to it.
    I would encourage you to continue to pursue the balance that you talked about. Try to read many different perspectives and figure out what makes the most sense to you. I like watching youtube debates because you can get both sides “real-time”. They have their drawbacks too though especially because there isn’t enough time for the debaters to go into details.
    I don’t have any good recommendations yet for epistemology books for laypeople like you and myself, but I do believe that when thinking about the big questions it is important to try and get a better understanding about epistemology – that’s why I have started my blog on this topic and have been on it for a few weeks now. But keep in mind that mine is not very sophisticated since I did not major in philosophy.
    I’m rambling now. I still have more posts to write along these lines and I hope you continue to read.

  8. Thanks for following my blog! Yours sounds pretty awesome so I gave ya a follow too. (;

    I love those kinds of questions, as I’m sure you could tell by the last post on my blog.. I’m looking forward to reading!

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