Saturday, August 28, 2010

Don Emmerich

Hello and Happy Saturday!

First up, I wish to thank Jason for his post last week- if you haven't had the chance to check it, please do! Thank you Jason!

This week, we have a new post so please welcome Don Emmerich.
Don is an Agnostic and I know you'll enjoy his post as well!

Here Is Don Emmerich's Introduction:

Hi, I’m Don Emmerich. I’m a philosopher and peace activist. You can find my writings at

1) What religion do you practice?
To be honest with you, it depends on the day. Sometimes I try to be a Christian (for reasons I’ll describe below), but lately I haven’t even been trying. So at the time of this writing, I guess I’d have to say that I’m an agnostic.

2) Did you convert or were you born into this religion? If you converted, what did you need to do to convert? And what did you practice prior to converting?
I grew up in a half-Jewish, half-Catholic family. Neither parent really pressured me to accept their religious beliefs (I suppose out of respect for the other), and at a fairly young age I just sort of drifted into deism: God is there, he made the universe but hasn’t interfered all that much over the past few billion years. Anyway, when I was twenty, I converted to Evangelical Christianity. I started out as a fundamentalist but, after a year or two, started to discard some of my more radical beliefs: e.g., the universe is only a few thousand years old, all unbelievers are going to hell. To make a long story short, I guess you could say that I just kept evolving (I suppose some would say that I just kept devolving), and here I am today, one really confused agnostic/deist/Christian/who-the-hell-knows-what.

3) Would you consider yourself a moderate, conservative or other?
I really don’t like labeling myself for the simple reason that these terms mean so many different things to so many different people. But since you insist, I guess I’d have to go with liberal. By this, I mean that I believe in the Enlightenment. I believe faith can be a good thing, but I refuse to blindly accept a religious belief that contradicts my own reason and values.

4) In your opinion, what makes you a liberal?
I try to be true to myself. Which means that I try to believe what I believe, not what society tells me to believe, not what the Bible tells me to believe. For example, the Bible tells us that the universe is run by an all-powerful, all-good god. Moreover, the Bible tells us that this all-powerful, all-good god loves us so much that two thousand years ago he became one of us and died an agonizing death for our sins. Well I’d love to believe all that. More than anything, I’d love to believe all that. But when I look around, when I see all the indescribable suffering that so many people in this world are going through, I'm just not sure I can do it.

You know, for years, the Problem of Evil never bothered me. I’d read CS Lewis, Alvin Plantinga, and a number of other apologists. I believed that God had good reasons for allowing people to suffer, that he used suffering to further his kingdom, to draw people to him, etc. But then, last year, my uncle died of cancer. He was in his early fifties, just a wonderful guy. I watched from a distance as he died a slow, painful, humiliating death. I then watched as his death devastated his parents (there’s nothing worse than watching a mother and father bury their own child). I watched as his death devastated his wife (truly a soulmate), his children, grandchildren, siblings, friends. And it seemed so clear that no good came from all this, that no good could come from it. This was an awful, senseless tragedy. Period. And the only conclusion I could draw from it was that maybe I didn’t have life figured out after all, maybe god isn’t there, maybe existence really is as cruel and senseless as Nietzsche claimed.

5) In your opinion, what makes someone conservative? What makes someone moderate?
With regards to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I’d define a conservative as one who believes his/her scriptures are inerrant, God-breathed, and that they should be strictly followed. I’d define a moderate as someone who tries to follow his/her scriptures, who really, really tries, and sometimes succeeds, but sometimes doesn’t.

6) What's your heaven/paradise like?
I don’t really have an idea of what heaven’s like. Heaven makes no sense to me, absolutely no sense. A world without pain and suffering seems boring, pointless. I could certainly do without SO MUCH pain and SO MUCH suffering. Obviously. But no suffering at all? An absolutely perfect, blissful existence? Where’s the challenge? What’s the point?

7) In your opinion, does everyone make it into heaven/paradise? If they do not, why?
I don’t know. If there’s a god, and if this god’s good, then I would think that most people get to heaven. But everyone? Even Hitler? Even Pol Pot, etc.? I guess I’d have trouble believing that.

8) What makes your religion a good fit for you?
Agnosticism isn’t a good fit for anyone. Nor is atheism. These worldviews suck. As Nietzsche explained, once we do away with God, then we lose many things that we deeply value. Without God, we can’t have objective moral values. We can’t talk about life having any sort of meaning, about our own lives having any sort of purpose. And, of course, without God, it’s hard to imagine there being life after death.

Christianity is a good fit for me. Or, I should say, Christianity would be a good fit for me, if I could just get myself to believe it. But it’s so tough. Having faith is so tough. Back when I was a Christian, I told myself that my faith was based on evidence, objective evidence. For example, I believed that, to some degree at least, one could prove God’s existence, one could prove that Jesus rose from the dead. But I just don’t buy that anymore. Christianity is a great story. In my opinion, the greatest story ever told. But what reason do we have for believing that it’s actually true?

So here I am, sitting on the fence, convinced that life’s big questions are unknowable, wanting so badly to make a Kierkegaardian leap of faith but unable to do so.

9) What are your holy days and what do you do to celebrate them?
I don’t really have holy days. Sometimes I’ll get into the Jewish holidays. I’m not even sure why, but there’s something so beautiful about them. I remember lighting my menorah last December, reciting the traditional Hanukah prayers. A weird thing for me to do. When I started reading, I don’t think I even believed in God. But once I got into it, if only for just a moment or two, I felt as though He might actually be there. It was nice.

10) Do you consider people of other faiths to be your friends?
Of course.

11) Would you ever join people of another faith to celebrate one of their holy days? Please explain why?
I like the idea of people from different faiths occasionally praying together, worshipping together, etc. I don’t think it would make much sense for, say, Christians and Hindus to have common religious services, as their beliefs, at least as I understand them, are so completely different. But I don’t see why, for example, Christians, Jews, and Muslims couldn’t occasionally do this. After all, although such believers have many differences, they also have many similarities.

12) What are your thoughts on the burka, and Shariah Law?
If a Muslim woman wants to wear the burka, then that’s her right. I’m deeply troubled that some European governments have moved to ban it. Regarding Sharia Law, this of course means different things to different people. When Westerners hear someone mention Sharia Law, they usually think of Afghanistan under the Taliban. But this isn’t what most Muslims mean by it. To most Muslims, even most Muslim women, Sharia is a beautiful, liberating system, and Muslims have the right to choose to live under it.

13) What are your thoughts on women not being allowed to become priests?
Well, the Catholic Church is a voluntary organization. Nobody has to join it if they don’t want to, and they have the right to ban women from the priesthood. I personally don’t agree with this view and wouldn’t go to a church that didn’t allow women to be priests, pastors, etc.

14) Does your place of worship segregate? If yes, how does this make you feel?
Not applicable. But I wouldn’t go to a place of worship that segregated the men from the women.

15) How much does your religion affect your daily life and how much thought do you give it when making a decision? Does it affect in any way your decision on abortion, gay marriage, etc?
Everyone’s worldview affects their daily life. That is, if their belief is sincere. I imagine that those people who say they’re religious but spend they’re lives being total shmucks don’t actually believe.

16) How would you react/feel if your child wished to marry outside your religion?
So let’s assume my kid married someone who practiced a religion that I felt was really strange. For example, Mormonism or Religious Science. Would I be disappointed? Of course. But I hope I’d have enough respect to hide my disappointment and completely accept my soon-to-be son-in-law or daughter-in-law.

17) In your opinion, if someone is not of your faith, will they go to hell?
Even when I was a devout Christian, I had trouble believing that a loving God would send people to hell for simply adopting the wrong religious dogma. I always found CS Lewis instructive on this topic. Lewis basically believed that nobody would be in hell who didn’t want to be there: for instance, the African native who’d never heard the Gospel would ultimately be given a chance to accept God; if he didn’t want to humble himself before his creator, then he wouldn’t be dragged kicking and screaming into heaven, but he’d at least be given the chance.

18) Who do you think is not a practicing ----- in your religion and why? ie who in the public domain claims to speak for your religion? Do you agree with them or not?
I think many (most?) religious figures in the public domain are total assholes and hypocrites. For instance, there are a lot of good Christian ministers out there, but all the ones you see on TV—James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Chuck Colson—are complete assholes. Jesus was a good man who preached a simple message—love God and love your neighbor. But these pseudo-Christians spend their time advocating the exact opposite of what Jesus taught. As you can tell, I just can’t take these creeps. Every time they open their mouths, they’re defending things like preemptive war and torture. And what do these people have against homosexuals? God Almighty, why can’t they just leave homosexuals alone?

19) Have you ever been the target of a hate crime? Please explain.
I don’t think so.

20) Do you ever feel like your religion devalues you?
Not applicable.

21) Does your religion give you peace of mind?
During those times when, for some reason or another, I find myself believing, yes, absolutely, my belief gives me peace of mind. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? As Ernest Becker argued, we believe in Yahweh/Jesus/Allah/etc. because doing so gives us peace of mind. Believing that life ends at the grave is terrifying, utterly terrifying. There’s no peace in that.

22) Do you believe in reincarnation? Why or why not?
No, I just don’t see any evidence for it.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this post !
    I like how you share your ups & downs , your realness shows ☺
    You are most definately a thinker ;-)
    we lost a dear friend to cancer coming up 2yrs on the 21st. he left behind my girlfriend & his 9 children ( and no they are not a christian large family ☺ )
    it was a beautiful journey to be a part of. we learned healing does not nessicarily mean curing the illness but rather our friend helaed all his relationships , over the 5 months of his passing journey people stopped in to share , he had a healthcare nurse come in each day , he moved on dying in his own home with his own family around him , his 3 day wake took place at home , he was then cremated etc. There were ups and downs and suffering in this journey but that is life and it was a beautiful life he had . I feel blessed they are our friends . It really helped us as a couple and our children learn and grow and not have fear of dying etc.
    I guess everyone has a different experience .
    Thanks so much for sharing