August 4, 2010

A faith based on evidence and logic

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

I just came across this instance of cognitive bias on Wikipedia:
"Wishful thinking or optimism bias – We tend to want to see things in a positive light and this can distort our perception and thinking."

Indeed, I am often seen as a stubborn ("hopeless"?) optimist. But I am full of confidence and conviction in doing so. It might surprise the skeptics reading this (and those I interact with), that I actually have reasons for looking at the bright side, and even focusing on it. There is not enough time (or web space) to recount all the instances in my life where I trusted the Creator and have found Him faithful and almighty.

My perception and thinking are not distorted. I have looked at the dark, sh*tty side of things for the most part of twenty-plus years, sometimes blaming God for them all but mostly ignoring Him completely. At my lowest, darkest point, I finally turned to Him as a last resort, as a matter of life and death... but deep down I knew it was the "right" thing to do. Jesus has always been offering the power to do right, and I have always been in love with the idea that I was doing good, but I had no interest in following anyone but myself. It was only at the end of my self-righteous rope, when the best intentions led to the worst version of me and my life, that I had to admit that I actually needed Him.

But I have no interest in placebos. I listened to pastors and read the Bible with a skeptic's mind still. Literally and figuratively, I worshipped with my eyes open. But encounters and experiences (both mine and others') have merely confirmed His existence, power, and unconditional love. Now I praise Him, not because I'm desperately looking for reasons to validate my faith, but because there is simply every reason to do so.

To the skeptics/pessimists who think I am merely sweeping "the sad truth" under the rug, I simply ask: Now that I'm following God, is my life better, or worse? And I can explain it even. I used to be an unbeliever myself --- in small part because of (lack of) "evidence" but mainly because I wanted to not believe. I can now say that there are honest seekers (those who have yet to find enough compelling reasons for the existence of God, but are willing to change their states once they do find them), and there are those who just don't want to believe. Sad to say, it is actually the latter who sweep the truth under the rug.

There are those who felt God failed them, or disappointed them, or let go prematurely instead of roughing out the tough times with Him. And now they look to science, to philosophy, to anything that would validate their lack of faith. Sometimes they tell me that I need to look at the bigger picture, or that my faith is too simple. May I take this opportunity to tell them the same thing --- be open to the truth, even if it means admitting one is mistaken.

I am confident that I am living in truth, and that Truth is God. How else would both blessing and suffering make sense? All the times in my life --- whether I ignored or blamed, or loved and followed Him --- it makes sense now, in ways that atheism, humanism, pluralism, hedonism, transcendentalism (et cetera) never could. (Yup, I've tried them all.)

My eyes are open. Indeed, "all that I have seen".

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