Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Belief or Inquiry

Posted by Ann on July 26, 2009

I’m reading Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist by Walter Kaufmann. Nowadays I enjoy reading stuff that makes me think and question.  As an MK whose parents belonged to an ultra conservative, evangelical Christian mission, New Tribes Mission, it is a freeing experience to read authors whose ideas are so very non-fundamentalist.  In this particular book, Kaufmann quotes a letter Nietzsche wrote for his sister.  I think Nietzsche did a good job in his letter of addressing a primary difference between people who remain fundamentalists and those who part ways with fundamentalism.

. . . As for your principle that truth is always on the side of the more difficult, I admit this in part.  However, it is difficult to believe that 2 times 2 is not 4; does that make it true? On the other hand, is it really so difficult simply to accept everything that one has been brought up on and that has gradually struck deep roots–what is considered truth in the circle of one’s relatives and of many good men, and what moreover really comforts and elevates man? Is that more difficult than to strike new paths, fighting the habitual, experiencing the insecurity of independence and the frequent wavering of one’s feelings and even one’s conscience, proceeding often without consolation, but ever with the eternal goal of the true, the beautiful, and the good? Is it decisive after all that we arrive at that view of God, world, and reconciliation which makes us feel most comfortable? Rather, is not the result of his inquiries something wholly indifferent to the true inquirer? Do we after all seek rest, peace, and pleasure in our inquiries? No, only truth–even if it be most abhorrent and ugly. Still one last question: if we had believed from childhood that all salvation issued from another than Jesus–say, from Mohammed–is it not certain that we should have experienced the same blessings? . . .  Every true faith is infallible inasmuch as it accomplishes what the person who has the faith hopes to find in it; but faith does not offer the least support for a proof of objective truth.  Here the ways of men part: if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire.

5 Responses to “Belief or Inquiry”

  1. Paulo said

    That’s a good excerpt: “Every true faith is infallible inasmuch as it accomplishes what the person who has the faith hopes to find in it; but faith does not offer the least support for a proof of objective truth.”

    What believers seek is a certainty in an unshakable, unwavering Absolute. They don’t even care if there’s no objective proof for it. They want to feel that no matter how bad, uncertain, and imperfect the world is, at least they have faith in the Truth, which will save them.

  2. Ann said

    Yes, I think however “bad, uncertain, and imperfect the world”, we can’t change the nature of the world. How about seeing the world the way it is, without certainty, without absolutes–or at least not absolutes with a capital A? Living with “truth” that can be shaken and that wavers. Basing our ideas on objective proof, versus feelings. Living without faith in a supernatural salvation. In other words, relying on human study of the world, on science, and learning more about the nature of the world over time.

    I think what trips up fundamentalist believers is the idea that a bad person wouldn’t experience eternal punishment if there were no afterlife. It is important for many people to believe, as NTM does, in “the fall of man, resulting in his complete and universal separation from God and his need of salvation” and in “eternal punishment” for people who don’t share their faith. There would be no need for missionary work, no need for spreading of the Good News, as done by NTM, if people weren’t otherwise being separated eternally from God and going to hell.

    • Paulo said

      A loving God who condemns you before you’re even born for something you had nothing to do with, a God who takes his sweet time to send Jesus to save us while people are dying and going to hell (which he created) to burn for all eternity. And if you happen to be born on a remote island or jungle and you’ve never heard of Jesus–and the missionary doesn’t get there in time–you’re shit out of luck. What a dark, pessimistic, and depressing view of the world. And to think of all the people that have ever existed on Earth, the vast majority of them will die and go to hell for all eternity because they either never heard of or didn’t believe in Jesus. When I was a kid just thinking about that made me depressed and disgusted with Christianity. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why grown-ass intelligent adults believed in it.

      • Ann said

        A petty God: Repent of that sinful nature I gave you when I created you and I will save you. Believe in me and you’ll go to heaven when you die. A place where you’ll experience eternal pleasure. While you majority, who haven’t heard or don’t believe, you’ll go to hell and experience eternal burning. It IS a depressing view. It’s life negating. It devalues life. Believers believe they’ll get all the pleasure they want when they die–they’re living for that reward of life after death. And for non-believers, there is to be no relief at death even if they’re beaten, molested, raped, watch loved ones suffer or die horribly, spend a life enslaved, or live with some other excruciating pain, illness, disfigurement. . . Your reward for a life of suffering you were born into is that you will continue suffering . . . FOREVER!! As a child I also knew this was illogical. But I didn’t understand how so many people could believe something so obviously nonsensical. Made me doubt myself and my logic. Even tried to reconvert myself several times during childhood. Eventually I got to the place where I realized, it wasn’t me.

      • The Chaplain said

        I couldn’t figure out how adults believed it either, when I was an adolescent. The logical circles and heavy reliance on “God is too big for us to understand” requires a suspension of disbelief that is unwarranted by the complete and utter lack of evidence. That’s why it takes so many trips to Church on a regular basis to convince you of its truth. It’s like an argument where the only evidence is repetition (Question: “I don’t see God anywhere, and I have never heard a peep out of Him. How do you know He exists?” Answer: “The Bible says so…and here is a pretty song to reinforce the point, the Bible says so…and here is someone with a degree to tell us what God’s book really means, the Bible says so…and here are some earnest prayers to complete the cathartic climax of personal emotions on a Sunday morning that you can attribute to our supernatural master!”)

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