The Notebook

Photo Credit: Scrively via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Scrively via Compfight cc

One of my readers, who calls himself Freethinker Rebuttal, posted this comment on my page:

Andy, you are “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”. I have been responding to your posts in a particular way because I was under the impression that you had a falling out with God and were trying to wrap your head around life. As I look at your latest postings, and, please correct me if I am wrong, it seems like you are no longer searching for truth. From the outside looking in on your life as posted through your articles, it really seems like you want to have a worldview that excludes any god, and you are bent on trying to skew things in a way that is belittling those that do believe in a god, specifically the God of the Bible that you got mad at.

If you seek a worldview, and start with the notion that there is no God, or, more specifically, no God of the Bible, then there is a chance that you will not come up with the right answer.

As far as your assessment of me, I can only assume one of several things. Your earlier claims of Christianity are unlike any I have seen. My views and beliefs are nothing like that. Or, you are intentionally distorting another truth, either to rile things up or because your views or so distorted. I like to find common interests or points of view with people, but that is taking things too far. Or you are trying to make a bigger point, saying “That burden is too much to bear for a lot of people.” Which is also incorrect. That may be the reason for some people, and we will never know this side of the grave how many, but, at this point, you cannot honestly believe that about me without having a few screws loose. I believe in God, the God of the Bible, because I cannot find one honest reason not to. I believe it is completely logical and consistent. I do not claim to know and understand everything completely, but I do see it as much better than anything else. I have also grown to know God and love Him from what i have seen from the Bible and from general revelation. Your arguments against it are nothing new, have been answered appropriately, and I could never conceive of anything better.

Your postings claim you will follow God if He winds up being who you want Him to be, or irrefutably proven beyond any doubt in your mind, yet you offer no explanation of what that would be. Christianity has proven to be more logically consistent than your worldview, yet you do not yield. Do you think it is time to admit that it is a matter of the heart and not the mind?

You can conceive of an atheist believing in God, but cannot conceive of a way to share this experience that drove you away from God without giving away other people who were involved? Or, do you think that it is too painful and you do not want to open old wounds? Or that it might be properly addressed and you might see an error in your thinking and have to admit that this crusade against God was wrong?

Here is my answer:

Oh no sir, I’m sorry but your problem is that you seem to think that your worldview is right and the only truth there is, despite your disclaimer that you do not claim to know everything completely.

The way you write your entire piece gives it away. Just because the direction I’m going is opposite yours leads you to conclude that I am “no longer searching for the truth.” Why? Because it’s not your version of truth? I recognize that you and many other Christians see the Bible as the truth, but that is not so for people of other religions or of no religion.

And this sentence says it all, “If you seek a worldview, and start with the notion that there is no God, or, more specifically, no God of the Bible, then there is a chance that you will not come up with the right answer.”

Wow. So in your mind, there already IS a “right” answer and no surprise here, it’s still YOUR version of the truth that’s “right.”

It is also not true that I am bent on having a worldview that excludes any god. I specifically wrote about this in A God I Can Believe In, and even the recent An Atheist Who Believes In God was another attempt to verbalize my ideas about god.

No, sir, I think it’s time for you to re-assess why it is you are responding the way you do. I am searching for the truth as best I can, no matter where it leads. Yes, it leads me to consider strange and absurd ideas at times, but that is what searching is all about.

It is not about staying in the comfortable confines of your own beliefs, but setting fire to them and seeing what kind of stuff they are really made of.

Let me leave you with a story that may either enlighten you or befuddle you more. It does not matter to me either way:

When the master lay on his deathbed, he called his disciple to his side.

“Take this notebook,” said the master. “It contains all that I have learned in this life. But only open it when I am already gone. May it serve you well.”

When the master finally died, the disciple was sad, but also excited to see what was inside the precious notebook. He hurried to his room, locked the door, and slowly, reverently opened the notebook.

That was when he discovered that the pages were all blank.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Email me at andy@freethinking.me. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.

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4 thoughts on “The Notebook”

  1. Ha, yes I remember that parable about the empty notebook from the master; I’ve thought about it, though, and I disagree with the point. I also remember hearing a young guy in a sauna argue with the older ones who were suggesting he read this or that, the younger guy responding that he had heard it was all inside him, and that therefore he didn’t need to read anything else, didn’t need to be told “what to think” or “what to believe” by “other people”, like my mom’s argument against Christianity, “it’s just the writings of men”.

    I think about those attitudes, and I always end up honestly disagreeing.

    I was raised in a very Catholic environment, by an ex-Roman Catholic Jesuit priest and a mother who for a short time had been a nun, though a better window into who she is is the fact that she was the granddaughter of an Aztec sorceress, a woman who profoundly influenced her, and who frowned on the presence of the Catholic Church in Mexico, “we don’t need that around here” she had taught her granddaughter.

    So with a Catholic primary school and Jesuit high school education in New York City, the Catholic, as well as the materialistic / scientific worldview of the late 20th century, was what I was offered growing up.

    Given plenty of thoughtful consideration, I found it all unacceptable.

    My question for your reader and the part I pick out of his letter, is what “other worldviews” he looked into before deciding monotheism was the “only one” that made sense, because as I talk to others with similar world views to his, they are underexposed to the depths of other world religions, raised in imperialist western worlds that marginalize such profound things as mere “superstition”.

    A memorable line I once read by an author explaining why he was no longer Christian in his philosophical worldview, was “I started off reading Christianity. But then I read alot of other books”.

    Unsatisfied with my surrounding culture, I still looked for a guidance, leadership, and the libraries and bookstores had some that resonated with me, and I let them guide me, and it wasn’t like it was being led by “someone else”, rather, these teachers and guides taught me that they “were” me, I am them, we walked together, for all of our own good, all love; they taught me to pursue salvation of the universe, a life all practice and cultivation, ritual and altar;

    And at first I didn’t understand what pursuing “salvation of the universe” had to do with “feeling great”, but I sure did notice it, then somewhere, as I continued to study, I read that “the sage saves the universe by saving the universe inside himself”;

    And so it all made sense, that my feelings relate to my true self the way the flowers in the world relate to the sun, the sun’s job isn’t to make the flowers beautiful, its job is just to shine, and the flowers are a side effect and beside the point.

    Same with me, my job is to shine – not to “wish for” salvation, but to “tend to” it, 養 (yǎng) the same word used in Chinese as is used for “rearing, nurturing, tending livestock” – and the feelings that grow and bloom like flowers in the breeze, and also wither from time t to time, are a side effect, beside the point.

    I learned to not believe in the universe, taught every day in Hindu and Daoist scriptures that it isn’t real, but I also realized, it sure is beautiful.

    Charlie 5

  2. “Here is my answer:

    Oh no sir, I’m sorry but your problem is that you seem to think that your worldview is right and the only truth there is, despite your disclaimer that you do not claim to know everything completely.”

    My problem? I think my worldview is right? Who has a worldview that they think is wrong? Besides you. You admit that your worldview is not logical or consistent. Truth, by it’s very definition, is exclusive. I do not know everything. But I do know more of what things are not than are. I do know that my worldview is right, or yours is, or neither, but both of our worldviews are not both correct.

    “Just because the direction I’m going is opposite yours leads you to conclude that I am “no longer searching for the truth.” Why? Because it’s not your version of truth?”

    No. Because you claim to seek truth, but constantly try to belittle opposing viewpoints, even when you admit that your views are not logical. All of your articles that I have read on religion are crude and demeaning. Again, you may have a different worldview, and there may be different understandings of truth, but truth is truth. Just as 2+2=4, or 2+2=1+3, it does not equal a rock.

    “And this sentence says it all, “If you seek a worldview, and start with the notion that there is no God, or, more specifically, no God of the Bible, then there is a chance that you will not come up with the right answer.”

    Wow. So in your mind, there already IS a “right” answer and no surprise here, it’s still YOUR version of the truth that’s “right.””

    You are right. That sentence does say it all. Your conclusion misses it entirely, but that sentence does say it all. I did not start with the idea that there was a god, much less the God of the Bible. But, I did start with Him as a possibility. If you exclude Him as a possibility, and He is the truth, the way, and the Life, than you will never come up with the answer. To have such a straightforward sentence that you quote, then misconstrue, makes me wonder. And, yes. There is A right answer. I looked for that ONE right answer. I do believe that I have found that answer, even though I do not fully comprehend it. I believe that it is not my truth, but that God is the Truth, and I can apprehend some of the Truth, comprehend some of the Truth, and am discerning enough to know that some things are not Truth.

    “It is also not true that I am bent on having a worldview that excludes any god. I specifically wrote about this in A God I Can Believe In, and even the recent An Atheist Who Believes In God was another attempt to verbalize my ideas about god.”

    And, self-admittedly, it is you. You worship yourself. Sometimes as part of a whole, which would include me. So, if you are god, I am god, or we are both equal parts of god, according to you. Hence, according to you, I am just as right as you.

    “No, sir, I think it’s time for you to re-assess why it is you are responding the way you do. I am searching for the truth as best I can, no matter where it leads. Yes, it leads me to consider strange and absurd ideas at times, but that is what searching is all about.”

    That is what searching is about? But, just a sentence ago, you said you were searching for the truth? Do you not see a contradiction in those two sentences that you have back to back? In the same paragraph even? Either you are searching for THE truth, NO MATTER where it leads, or you are just searching, as long as it does not lead to where you do not want it to. It also seems like there are certain things that you will not accept as true, even if they lead there, because you have a foregone conclusion that they are not true.

    “It is not about staying in the comfortable confines of your own beliefs, but setting fire to them and seeing what kind of stuff they are really made of.”

    You can only set fire to so much before you become a Pyro maniac. That is something I have done, and my beliefs have come through with flying colors. Is that something that you have done, not only with your beliefs in what is true, but in your beliefs in what is not true as well?

    “Let me leave you with a story that may either enlighten you or befuddle you more… That was when he discovered that the pages were all blank.”

    I have heard this story before. It actually has always befuddled me that people mistake this story as wise. What is he a master of? Nothing? I guess that is the point of the story, but to have someone truly learn nothing is sad. It reminds me of when you ask some kids what they learned in school. Some will reply nothing, but you know they are learning; they either do not realize what they learned or don’t care to share. If someone has not learned anything, how would they be able to convey they learned nothing? That they learned that they learned nothing would mean they learned something- a self-defeating argument, to say the least. It is also a sad state if someone learns nothing and presumes that means no one else has or can learn anything.

  3. //Truth, by it’s very definition, is exclusive.//

    I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the blind men touching different parts of an elephant. That’s us grasping at truth. In that metaphor, each person’s “truth” is not exclusive, merely incomplete.

    //Because you claim to seek truth, but constantly try to belittle opposing viewpoints//

    And what good are opposing viewpoints if they can’t withstand a little belittling?

    Really, if you believe that God is all-powerful and so on, why do you expend this much energy answering my numerous posts? Can’t your God defend himself? Can’t you trust that he will smack me down for the fool I am?

    Were our roles reversed, I would just let God be God and do what he would with you. He doesn’t need me lawyering for him. He can pretty well do that himself.

    In fact, I am waiting for that smack-down. One of my prayers before was for God to reveal himself to me in a way that I would be floored, that there would be no doubt in my mind that it was really him. Now the usual response of people is how is he to do that when you can keep on rationalizing whatever happens? Well, I don’t know…but he’s God, surely he can think of something that won’t succumb to my petty rationalizations, can’t he?

    //Again, you may have a different worldview, and there may be different understandings of truth, but truth is truth. Just as 2+2=4, or 2+2=1+3, it does not equal a rock. //

    Yes, but my point is that no one has a handle on it, and you seem to admit that as well, and yet you go on posturing as if you do. I would say that what you have found is a worldview that you find comfortable and consistent with how you think and feel. That does not make it the Truth.

    Case in point…Charlie5, who commented on this article also, is a self-confessed shaman who tells me he sees and talks to demons all the time. I would have dismissed him as a kook but I have had the pleasure of meeting him when he was visiting my country and city a year ago, and he was a likeable fellow, very well-read, and obviously intelligent.

    Now, we obviously do not see eye-to-eye on a lot of things but read his response to my article and then contrast it to yours. He is simply sharing his thoughts for me to consider, while you seem to be condescending.

    //It also seems like there are certain things that you will not accept as true, even if they lead there, because you have a foregone conclusion that they are not true.//

    Because maybe they are NOT true? Have you ever considered that? If these “truths” you claim to be true are really true, why are they so easy to dismiss?

    //That is something I have done, and my beliefs have come through with flying colors.//

    Well, congratulations to you. Unfortunately, you cannot walk my path just as I cannot walk yours. You may share your insights, but you must always recognize that my path is my own and you cannot dictate how I walk it. Just because you see things a certain way does not mean I have to see them that way as well.

    Take, for example, your interpretation of the notebook story. I could say that your interpretation is “wrong” but no, you just don’t see what I see in it. Perhaps you should consider that stories, symbols and metaphors can hold more than one meaning, and they can be equally true.

  4. If Charlie5 is a your idea of a good response and mine is not, I will gladly stay in a different camp. Charlie’s assessment (as recorded here) is not very good (maybe I will gain your approval if I add “in my opinion”). They way he constantly puts down Christianity without one sound reason is deplorable. Maybe that is why you like him.

    “My question for your reader and the part I pick out of his letter, is what “other worldviews” he looked into before deciding monotheism was the “only one” that made sense, because as I talk to others with similar world views to his, they are underexposed to the depths of other world religions, raised in imperialist western worlds that marginalize such profound things as mere “superstition”.”

    If that is all you picked out, I am almost as sorry for that as I am for your implied supposition that I am “underexposed”. I would happen to expound on your question if you can help me figure out the difference between under, over, and the right amount of exposure.

    Andy, I was willing to bet a dollar to a donut that you were going to mention the elephant. I almost brought it up first. I thought the rest of my post pretty much answered that. Here is my response to the elephant. If blind men are touching the elephant, and we are all blind, how do you know one of the people aren’t describing a hippo, or a Volkswagen? You can’t. But your assumption is that all the blind men are touching the elephant.

    I thought opposing viewpoints were for trying to find the truth, encompassing a bigger, fuller picture. Silly me. I guess they must be for belittling.

    “Yes, but my point is that no one has a handle on it, and you seem to admit that as well, and yet you go on posturing as if you do. I would say that what you have found is a worldview that you find comfortable and consistent with how you think and feel. That does not make it the Truth.”

    Comfortable and consistant with how I think and feel? Coming from a Catholic upbringing myself and running as far away as I could, no, I did not accept it because of those reasons. Those were about as far away as I could imagine. A handle on it? What does that entail? That we have to know everything before accepting it? I would never be able to send a text message or use a computer because I don’t know everything about it. I would not even be able to accept that they were real, following that logic. And you are right. Just because I think and feel something is true does not make it so. I am sure that you recognize the same goes for you.

    “Really, if you believe that God is all-powerful and so on, why do you expend this much energy answering my numerous posts? Can’t your God defend himself? Can’t you trust that he will smack me down for the fool I am?”

    If God is not real, why do you expend so much energy trying to put Him down? Why would it matter? My God can defend Himself, but that is a cop out reply. Are you tired of hearing about Him? You have relayed some stories lately. Here is one that I like:

    The storm was about to hit. There was no doubt the town was going to be flooded. Emergency evacuation was called for. Neighbors tried to convince Bob to leave. Bob said, “My God will save me” And dismissed his neighbors. Later, the police showed. Bob’s response was the same. Then the military. As floodwaters were rising, people came by in a boat. Bob was steadfast. As Bob was on his roof, a helicopter made one last effort to save him. Bob would not hear of it. Bob died. When Bob stood before God, Bob exclaimed, “What didn’t you save me?” God replied, “I sent five groups of people to save you. You wouldn’t listen.” I hope I do not have to explain the symbolism to you.

    “Because maybe they are NOT true? Have you ever considered that? If these “truths” you claim to be true are really true, why are they so easy to dismiss?”

    So, you KNOW that god or God is not true? And you knew this before you started this quest? Anyone can dismiss anything if they want to. See http://www.theflatearthsociety.org/home/ . Or, is that true for them, but not for me and you? Since you worship yourself, you see yourself as god. Maybe you don’t want competition?

    “Take, for example, your interpretation of the notebook story. I could say that your interpretation is “wrong” but no, you just don’t see what I see in it. Perhaps you should consider that stories, symbols and metaphors can hold more than one meaning, and they can be equally true.”

    Please. Share your insight. And I do recognize that some things can have more than one meaning. I also recognized that they cannot have contradictory meanings.

    I am sorry that you find me condescending. That is not my intention. I do see the same thing coming from you, though. My intentions are to show truth where truth is and fallacy where it is. I am usually pretty straight forward and call a spade a spade, not realizing if someone’s feelings are hurt (genuine statement- not meant to be condescending). I do not say things to tell you how to live or think. It is for introspection. In response to Charlie5, it is funny (ironic funny, not have had funny) that, if someone doesn’t like what is said, they view it as being told what to say, do, think, or believe. If they like it, then it is just relaying an opinion. To finish with one last thought, there are some people who can learn by hearing, some by seeing, then you have some who just have to go and pee on the electric fence to find out it is a bad idea. I peed on it muself way too many times to just stand by and watch people do it themselves without trying to warn them. Some just have to pee on it anyway and I have come to grips with it. I don’t like it and they are going to do it anyway, but that won’t stop me from telling the ones who wind up listening.

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