4 options.

Give them 4 options to pick from. The first is crazy. They’ll never pick that one. The second is just sub-optimal enough for them to pass it over. The third is the one you want them to pick. The fourth is super crazy.

Just make sure you can live with any of the 4, because people do stupid stuff all the time, and life isn’t like a Sherlock Holmes novel where all links are causal and everything proceeds in a linear fashion that that someone (a genius, mind you, but someone) can come along and show you why you did what you did. Because you make sense.

We’re still fascinated with the idea of the causal-linking savant. Look at TV shows like House. I think because we know real things are fuzzy, and they don’t follow from established beginnings to preordained endings.

Maybe this is why we all love stories. Maybe this is why we always tell ourselves stories about ourselves. Did you ever notice how your motives are pure but everyone else’s are murky or malevolent? That’s a story. Or how your failings are external and everyone else’s are internal? Or how you’re a good person having a bad day and everyone else is a jerk?

That’s because things aren’t clear. You have the freedom to reinterpret yourself in whatever light you choose. Well, at least sometimes you do. Stuff like depression and psychopathy might get in the way of that. But for the most part you’re free.

You exist in the intersection of the story you tell about yourself and the stories others tell about you. Although they probably tell fewer of those stories than you think, and far fewer than you secretly wish.

In a sense there is no objective reality to any of this. In another sense everyone’s just wrong about everyone.

But in our fictions about ourselves (and I mean not as individuals but as a collective) we have the savant who can tell us who we really are. The camera zooms into the blood vessel and shows what’s really going on. The genius lays out for us the objective reality of who we really are.

The genius is almost like a proxy for God. In a lifetime of murkiness and storytelling, he draws the curtain back. He knows the heart, where others can only construct a narrative about the actions.

In any case, this got a little off track.

Enjoy your respective evenings.

Too convenient to be true?

I haven’t come up with a good apologetic for this one yet. I don’t think one exists.

We’ve been focused on fighting the “is it true” fight for a long time, but the ground has shifted under us hasn’t it? Sure, some people still care about whether Christianity is true. They care if Jesus was fact or fiction. But most people, especially most casual atheists and agnostics, seem to have come to their belief via being convinced that Jesus is just too damn convenient.

And I don’t know how to respond to that. It’s kind of true.

I have this terror of death. It’s baked into me. I can’t shake it off. I can’t stare into the abyss of not being and walk away happy.

Then Jesus comes and tells me that he will raise me from the dead. He will be victorious over death. I will not go quietly into the dark. There is a glorious future, etc, etc, and it’s all invisible and after death and the proof will be in the pudding some time in the indefinite future.

The critique is that Jesus is just another bit of existential placebo. My faith is essentially a nicotine patch — it soothes that nagging voice in the back of my head that tells me I’m going to die and there’s nothing I can do about the nothing that comes after.

Again, I’m not sure what to say to that. I believe in the afterlife, I believe in the resurrection, I believe all that stuff… but you have to admit, Jesus and the cross and eternal life and all that stuff is pretty convenient. I mean, there’s this huge gaping scary hole in the future and Jesus just so happens to fill it. It’s meet-cute. Just a little bit too Hollywood.

If my faith is just an existential placebo, if it’s too useful and too convenient to be true, it’s suddenly highly suspect. Not suspect in the traditional way, where we all get together and mash our presuppositions and propositions together until someone is declared the most intellectually cohesive. But suspect instead on what I think is a deeper level.

In the end it’s about motives. How do you convince someone that what you believe is true when they’re convinced you only believe because your beliefs do something for you? They look at your religious convictions as a mirage. They look at their own lack of belief as more brave, more noble, and therefore more true.

I still don’t know what to say to that, exactly.