Can a secular writer understand believers? A New York Times columnist has doubts

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  • IMAN Marlborough, MA
    Feb. 18, 2014 10:35 a.m.

    @Midwest Mom:
    "Is it also possible that as people of faith, we "don't see [our own] shortcomings as [we] judge?"

    Based on my own personal experience it's highly probable.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Feb. 14, 2014 2:06 p.m.

    RE: Tyler D, "The Great Awakening". It began at the same time as the Enlightenment which emphasized logic and reason and stressed the power of the individual to understand the universe based on scientific laws.

    Jonathan Edwards (widely acknowledged to be America's most important and original philosophical theologian) was a key American revivalist during the Great Awakening who preached for close to ten years in New England.
    He emphasized a personal approach to religion. He also bucked the puritan tradition and called for unity amongst all Christians as opposed to intolerance.

    His most famous sermon was "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, Not God in the hands of angry sinners.

    His sermon evoked vivid, terrifying images of the utter corruption of human nature and the terrors awaiting the unrepentant in hell. Hence Edwards’s famous description of the sinner as a loathsome spider suspended by a slender thread over a pit of seething brimstone."

    He explained that salvation was a direct result from God and could not be attained by human works as the Puritans preached.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Feb. 14, 2014 11:16 a.m.

    @sharrona – “Therefore I will take awesome vengeance on these hypocrites, and make their wisest counselors as fools.”

    Translation – either believe in the narrative about me (God) articulated by Bronze/Iron Age shepherds or I (God) will take “awesome vengeance” upon you.

    And then religious people scratch their heads and lament the decline of faith among modern people and tell themselves it must be because people just want to be immoral… astounding!!

  • sharrona layton, UT
    Feb. 14, 2014 10:54 a.m.

    RE: How clearly do nonbelievers see believers?

    1 Cor 2:14.. the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

    1Cor 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. V19 For it is written=*(Is 29:14 LXX), I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

    Paul quote is from(Is 29:14 LXX)”* ), I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

    Or A Modern Translation of A Marvelous Work and Wonder(BoM). (Is 29:14 LB “ Therefore I will take awesome vengeance on these hypocrites, and make their wisest counselors as fools.

  • Tyler D Meridian, ID
    Feb. 14, 2014 9:17 a.m.

    The blog post is a very well-reasoned response to the New Yorker essay (which I commented on in another article) and Douthat makes an articulate case against the boxes the essay attempts to place believers and non-believers in.

    I think the world (and the hearts & minds of its inhabitants) is generally far more complex and nuanced than simply dichotomies (or trichotomies in this case) suggest. For example, neither author explores all the implications of eastern (e.g., Taoist) or pantheistic views, which under some conceptions saves all the powers of divinity expressed in the old time religions while being fully reconciled to science. Spinoza brilliantly expounds on this 400 years ago.

    But both authors fail to recognize another possibility (one I think lived by millions of believers) and that is the prevalence of people who simply compartmentalize religion & science and ignore the cognitive dissonance these two areas can generate when they bump up against each other.

    There are apparently a lot of people who are fully satisfied with 99.9% of our scientific explanations about the natural world yet still believe in the super-natural.

  • DRay Roy, UT
    Feb. 14, 2014 9:01 a.m.

    AS a person of faith, I don't understand how even non-believers can look at the history of this world and not admit that humble believers enjoy generally a better world than those who rely solely on themselves. If there is a higher, more intelligent Source of help for our lives and we are not accessing it, we are not doing all we can to succeed. My witness is that their is.

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    Feb. 13, 2014 5:04 p.m.

    "the things of God are foolishness to men" New Testament

    To understand physics or medicine you have to make the time to learn and experiment in the laboratory of science. How foolish is it for those who doubt the spiritual side of humanity to have never spent a single moment investigating the spiritual laboratory of faith.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    Feb. 13, 2014 4:47 p.m.

    Is it also possible that as people of faith, we "don't see [our own] shortcomings as [we] judge?"

  • Liberal Ted Salt Lake City, UT
    Feb. 13, 2014 1:25 p.m.

    I know too many secularist, who are of course very smart people. The trouble is they don't see their short comings as they judge people of faith or question people of faith sanity.

    However, it's easier to take the secular side and argue and defend it, than someone of faith whose understanding and knowledge of the gospel is something you have to experience on an individual level to understand. But, if a person refuses to believe in God and to have a seed of faith to pray, it's difficult to prove your point to such a person.

  • Ohio-LDS NE, OH
    Feb. 13, 2014 12:57 p.m.

    I generally appreciate Ross Douthat's columns. But if he has doubts as to whether a secularist writer can understand a believer's mindset, he should take the advice of famed religious leader Elder Uchtdorf and "doubt his doubts."