Six thirty PM.
It was a blah kind of day for me. I felt tired from the restless night, and nothing seems to be going on around here; people are busy doing other things. So I scribbled stuff in my little diary today. It was better for my health to put poetry reading aside and shift my focus to analytic philosophy, whatever others feel about that. I want to be done with Christianity, just let it go and be left alone. It was especially harmful when Pastor preached about the devil and so many things that are not verifiable by observation. Just stupid stuff to scare us and control us. “A host of holy horrors to direct our aimless dance.” At some point my poor brain went tilt and I had a minor nervous collapse; but since the start of the month I’ve done better with my mind. I can remember when I still read Dostoevsky to harmonize with what the church was saying, though now I’ve given up on that completely. A dead horse can’t run anymore. I retraced the history of philosophy to the place where existentialism and the analytic tradition separated from each other. The first is basically reactions for or against religion: saying, where do we go from here? The second allied itself with science and used logic for its epistemic tool and touchstone. One is very concerned with ethics and the other not so much: it wants to know the truth mostly in an ontological way. It deals with common sense realism and totally dispenses with metaphysics. But any Christian will immediately point out that ethics depends upon a metaphysical plane of existence and an absolute like a god to be the lawgiver for humankind.
I don’t have an answer to that objection yet. Is everything truly allowed if God doesn’t exist? Was it atheism that made Smerdyakov murder the old father in The Brothers Karamazov? These questions reopen the whole can of worms; so I agree that we can’t dispose of ethics, hence maybe metaphysics either.
Thinking about going to church today. I might be able to make it. If it’s not Pastor Dan, then I can go a little bit later, as long as I’m there by ten o’clock. I keep forgetting that it’s Halloween today. It doesn’t seem very relevant to anything or to me. It’s not supposed to rain at all today, but it’s pretty chilly outdoors. The time is going rather rapidly; before I know it I’ll be out on the road, pounding the sidewalk. I can always hear more than I want to. Right now someone is making noise on my street.
Quarter of noon.
Service was pretty good today. Now it occurs to me how fragmented our culture is these days, mostly because of people like me who are honest and follow their own truth. I saw a funny Halloween decoration at a neighbor’s house: a headstone with the name “Metta Physik.” But this is exactly the problem I have with religion, that is, metaphysics or the supernatural. Without evidence, the spiritual stuff falls to pieces. So it’s probably better if I don’t go to church; just stay home and read my books of analytic philosophy or something else realistic. This is more responsible of me than spoiling a worship service with my presence. There is one argument, however, for metaphysics that gives me pause. It’s that our sense of right and wrong hinges on the spirit, and that with no Lawgiver, everything is permitted. You find this point in The Brothers Karamazov, and the amorality in the story leads to a murder. Dostoevsky is a thinker to reckon with before you dispose of religion altogether. Probably the world needs a good dose of his writing right now, and I might go back for another look at Karamazov, even after I thought I’d exhausted its possibilities. It brings up the serious question, What is existentialism all about?
Three forty in the morning.
I have insomnia tonight from the Snapple teas I drank. But they also gave me the motivation to do some housework. The new reading glasses arrived in yesterday’s mail. I suppose they’re functional enough. Meanwhile the old ones broke. Blogging is not very rewarding right now in terms of getting likes from followers, but it doesn’t mean they’re not reading every post. Obtaining likes can become an addiction for some people. So, I will just keep posting stuff for my own benefit…
It sucks to be up in the middle of the night, when no one else is awake and it’s dark outside. I know a few people who operate on the assumption that “money makes the world go round.” Their worldview is strictly materialistic, and they see nothing wrong with this. The only power they know of is the dollar sign. Something called to my mind the spiritualism of 19th Century novelists like Dostoevsky, and their mental battle against materialism rising in their culture. How important is it for people to acknowledge some kind of spiritual life? How blind are the ones who don’t? “Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy.” Sometimes the wonder goes completely out of my life, and then I know there’s trouble. Karamazov is a brilliant book, so I think I’ll go back and revisit the opening sections. Or, I can keep struggling with Victor Hugo… Another thought is that the university I went to was really geared towards materialism, with some exceptions. This was the indoctrination I received. But you can always get another indoctrination.
Noon hour. I guess what is happening is that I’m returning to science, after a long detour into religion. These two camps are always in opposition, and philosophy is the battleground in between. There’s nothing wrong with science. Just another way of looking at things. I’ve been discontent with religion since last December. I had breakfast with Tim over it at Black Rock on a bleak gray morning at Christmas time. He jumped to conclusions, saying that the alternative to religion was thoughtless hedonism. But I think back to Kate and see that it isn’t true. She was in an honest bind, having a son with autism but wanting to be happy too. It’s true that I enjoyed myself, too, until it became unhealthy. Examining it now, the ethics are very complex.
One thirty five. As I said before, I’ve been bound in the chains of religion all this time without being aware. It seemed like a reasonable tradeoff, freedom for the promise of a longer life. But now I have to ask myself what is my motive for challenging the Church. Do I just want to dissipate away like old man Karamazov? Booze myself to death? Both Dostoevsky and Hugo were aware of the existence of materialism as a creed. Dmitri attributes human behavior to brain activity, the firing of neurons toward the end of the book. Unfortunately he is in prison, and it’s not clear whether he escapes to America… When psychology and the question of motive enter the inquiry, it becomes a bit clearer. I probably did right when I joined Our Redeemer in October 2017. The morality of it has kept me sober all this time. I still quibble with the metaphysics of Christianity, struggle with it rationally, ponder how it could be possible. My intellect has a hard time accepting the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. But the effects of belief or unbelief are undeniable…
Three o’clock. I had a nice time with Heidi. I told her I don’t believe in God, and she accepted that okay. She even admitted that prayer is difficult for her too. We have a good rapport, a good connection, almost like what I had with Mom. There was no pressure on me today. I think maybe I’ve been personalizing the Dostoevsky book and blowing it out of proportion. Any good novel or movie does that to me. But Dostoevsky is a crucial figure for existentialism, and I see his influence on his descendants. In particular he advances the idea that everyone is responsible for everyone else, and Sartre echoes the same notion fifty years later. It is this idea that Sheryl rejected in our sessions, but I still feel its veracity. It begins with Dmitry’s dream of the “babe” after his interrogation. The infant is frozen and starving because the mother’s breasts are shriveled and dry. Dmitry feverishly asks who is going to feed the baby. Everyone is responsible for its wellbeing… I’m surprised that Dostoevsky considers America as a sort of promised land. Ivan plots his brother’s escape from prison to be shipped to the United States… It’s nice having my appointment over with, but then I’ve never had a bad experience with Heidi. It is strange how I can remember events and feelings from fifteen years ago as if they were happening now…