I enjoy discussion and debate, not really a formal debate with rules, formats and moderators, but one in which there is a healthy exchange of ideas. I engage in discussions not really to win or prove that I am right, but hopefully to learn and gain some new insight or perspective from another person. I find that nothing sharpens the mind more than an opposing idea.
My friends, regular readers and FIFOs (Friends In Facebook Only) know that I like discussing religion and spirituality. I like posting provocative articles, videos, photos or quotations to get a good discussion going, or at least makes others think.
Every so often, I encounter the occasional courageous soul who will comment and enter into a conversation. But I find that once I start answering and challenging their position, they too easily give up and go away.
One such person mentioned to me that learned scholars have been debating back and forth for many centuries about the issues I am wrestling with, that he considers theological debates a “waste of time” since these are issues that even experts can’t agree on. Besides many of these are what he considers “trivial” issues.
This is not an isolated case. I have encountered a number of such responses: “I don’t want to debate with you,” or “I don’t want this to be a long discussion. All I know is I love Jesus and he has changed my life, and that is all that matters. Let’s just focus on loving one another and helping other people.”
Now, I totally get that. The same time we spend arguing with each other could be better spent feeding some malnourished child somewhere, or counseling a suicidal teen. However, it still bothers me when people share that their motivation for doing these acts is a belief system that they are not willing to study critically.
I find it amusing that a believer would think it a “waste of time” to delve more into his own belief system and call the issues trivial, while an agnostic like me is willing to spend time to learn more about them. It is his belief, after all, not mine, and should be the center of his life and attention. What could possibly be more important in his life than knowing deeper and understanding better the path he has chosen?
I have detected perhaps the crux of the problem and it is this: Many believers would rather believe than know. They would rather be comfortable than to think the unthinkable, to take the opposite position fully and try to see from that perspective. Diving into deep theological issues is hard work. It requires a lot of time, effort and research. It is often confusing and very troubling especially if you are deeply rooted in your beliefs, and you begin to question them and not stop at the answers given by your own theologians.
So what I think happens is that many would rather not think about these issues: Never mind the contradictions in the doctrine — they are trivial and unimportant compared to the greatest commandment which is to love God and love others. Never mind that this “greatest commandment” is written on documents with anonymous authors, whose accuracy and credibility is debated upon. Never mind that the person who supposedly uttered that command is shrouded in myth and mystery. Never mind that the book you consider as holy and inspired has numerous contradictions, questionable decrees, and incredible tales.
It is so much easier to simply believe and be sure that you are going to heaven (even if no one has seen it or has proven that it exists), than to struggle with all the complexity and uncertainty. People are bothered when the discussions become long and tedious. Why? Because they want things to be resolved quickly. They want the answer immediately, so they can be certain, because certainty is so reassuring and comfortable. It is a more difficult path to suspend judgement – to not know something for days, months and even years.
Yet for me, that is the better and “truer” path to truth, because truth is not necessarily comfortable nor reassuring. Truth is truth and does not bend to our whims or desires, and my pursuit of it is anything but trivial.
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.
Andy Uyboco is a businessman, trainer and speaker. If you enjoy discussions or want to meet new friends, join us at our next Filipino Freethinkers Davao Chapter meetup entitled “Secularism: Beyond the Separation of Church and State,” on July 27, Saturday, 730PM at Cafe Demitasse, F. Torres St., Davao City. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. View previous articles at www.freethinking.me.