Some say they're goin' to a place called Glory and I ain't saying it ain't a fact
But I've heard that I'm on the road to purgatory and I don't like the sound of that
Well, I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
But I choose to let the mystery be
I have in mind a couple of posts on psychotherapy and meds, but for today just another piggyback on NPR's excellent 13.7 blog, where Ursula Goodenough posts on matters of ultimate questions. Her last name, while not in fact made up for this post, is eminently suitable and must have had an effect on her formative development (unless, oops, it is her married name).
Her post about her own "covenant with mystery" is interesting in its own right, but I was particularly struck by her quote from an unnamed contributor to a listserv at the "Institute on Religion in an Age of Science," for the comment expresses, more clearly and succinctly than I have achieved, the ecology of belief:
While theism per se may seem irrelevant from several perspectives, the impulse underlying it is not. The concept of a personal God is one way of envisioning the ultimate source or organizing force of all that is. Many feel this image has flaws. But unless an alternative is adopted in its place, the absence leaves a Big Question, and gaping holes in understanding/belief are uncomfortable. I agree that understanding or appreciating Reality does not require Theistic causality. But, until a naturalist perspective can offer some type of image of the ultimate that can both be grasped and feel right, it will remain lacking in something essential.
As Goodenough notes, there is an irreducible subjectivity to belief, relating to how it makes one feel; it is a deeply personal matter, as much so as the kind the person one falls in love with. For agnostics, theism does not "feel right," whereas for believers it does, or at least it feels right enough. Similarly, for me naturalism feels good enough, but I recognize that this puts me in the distinct minority, both historically and currently (and perhaps futuristically as well).
Today's loud atheists, the Richard Dawkinses and Daniel Dennetts of the world, are good scientists and philosophers but poor psychologists. Projecting their mentalities upon mankind, they would deprive the majority of their spiritual bread while putting in its place something that, for that majority, tastes of ashes.
I think it was Emerson who wrote somewhere that the genius believes that what is true of himself is true of all humanity. Yes, there is overlap between genius and narcissism, but it is only partial.