Living With and/or Thinking With

This post by Noah Millman at The American Conservative (re: a post on Mormonism that I didn’t read) neatly sums up some of the dilemmas closest to my heart:

“In my experience, only a very small minority of people in any religious tradition truly affirm that religion’s teachings intellectually, and most of the world’s religions aren’t organized around creedal affirmation anyhow. For the overwhelmingly majority of people, they want to be able to live with their church – to experience life cradled within its arms – not to think with it.

The trouble for the minority who actually care about thinking is that they may also care about that experience of living within a religious tradition and community. Then they have a choice: of learning to “think with” that tradition, and turn the mind away from doubt (which has, I would argue, deleterious consequences for the health of one’s mind); or of becoming the kind of theological liberal who isn’t terribly committed to a particular truth (which has, I would argue, deleterious consequences for one’s ability to truly feel religious experience); or of becoming a secret dissenter (which has, I would argue, deleterious consequences for one’s relationships with one’s fellow communicants); or of becoming a public dissenter (which makes one a trouble-maker with all kinds of deleterious consequences).”


One thought on “Living With and/or Thinking With

  1. Based on this taxonomy, I would go for doubt: if one takes doubt as genuine inquiry, I mean, rather than as a kind of mood that doesn’t ask “but did the resurrection happen,” and instead just kind of grumbles “I feel like the resurrection must be a fairy tale; things like that don’t happen, don’t be silly, I can’t believe that. And I guess I’ve never experienced a kind of Christianity that shut down inquiry, except aspects of Vineyard which were so focused on experience that it seemed like one couldn’t have a conversation. For me, learning to “think with” the Church has been coextensive with learning history, and with learning an approach to philosophy that is far more rational and interested in reality-testing than much of the modern philosophy I’d known before. In other words, for me, the “enchanted world” of Christianity and a correspondence rather than coherence theory of truth, and an external and robust world of real things in real categories rather than a social-construction-of-reality account of the world presented themselves together: the world was what it was, not what I willed it to be; reality is stable and sane; two plus two equals four; “two” exists, and also triangles exist, and cause and effect, and right and wrong; and also Jesus is not dead and God is real and loves me.


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