Am I being too honest for my own good? or Expanding on Shayne's post on Shadow People, or Me working through my own issues.

Our blue 87 Toyota Corolla died, but has been miraculously resurrected as a blue 95 Toyota Corolla. In other news, I've been wanting to respond to Shayne's post on being assaulted by Shadow People. It confirmed my suspicion that Shayne and I aren't so different, among other things.

After describing his shadow person run-in, he noted that as a teenager he

completely believed in ghosts, Big Foot, Nessie...all that crap. I used to rent and read any book I could find on supernatural topics. But as I grew older and I became more and more skeptical my belief in monsters and boogeymen began to wain. At this point in my life I believe almost none of it. I reject any notion of ghosts, demons, or angels. There is no Loch Ness Monster and people who die stay that way, they don't come back as a dog or a duck billed platypus.


While as a teenager I didn't believe in any of that stuff, I was an Evangelical Christian so I did completely believe in angels, demons, a personal God, resurrection, spiritual warfare, answered prayers and so forth. As I've gotten older my belief in those things has begun to wain, or has at least changed significantly. Like him, a huge amount of my time continues to be spent examining these things, thinking about why people believe them, and questioning how much of it I still buy and to what degree.

I'm intentionally being a little bit provocative by making that comparison, but on this particular blog it would be a shame for someone not to voice the analogy. And certainly there is an analogy between religion and superstition and UFOlogy and so forth, as much as we religious types are uncomfortable with voicing it. No less a champion of religion than CS Lewis talked about Christianity as mythology, but insisted that it was a myth that actually happened
"Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened..." C.S.Lewis to Arthur Greeves, 18 October 1931, in They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves (1914-1963), ed. Walter Hooper (New York: Mac Millan, 1979), 427.


Religious types like me tend to take this sort of approach to our own crazy beliefs: sure they seem just like all the other fairy tales, except that our fairy tales are true. How do we know? Well, the same way that all the other people that believe in crazy things know. What about the contrary evidence? I'm not interested in contrary evidence. I have faith (and a paycheck/moral system/worldview/lovely group of friends and family dependent on it - as a misquote of Mark Twain says, "It's hard to convince a man that something is a lie when his livelihood depends on its truth." ). Alternately, we fiddle with the definition of "true", and treat our fairy tales as God's fairy tales - not actually reflective of historical reality, but supremely important: "Of course our mythology is true - in the way that sublime allegories and works of fiction are true. The stories probably didn't really happen, but the truth in them is still true. Of course Jesus died and was resurrected and saved us all from sin, but not in that embarrassing literalistic way that conservative Christians insist on. We progressives are not nearly that crude. Our beliefs are all completely sane and rationally defensible. What do we believe you ask? Oh, never mind that - you know, sane things, sensible and reasonable things. Stuff like that."

At a personal level I exist somewhere in the middle of those two descriptions, leaning primarily towards the latter while still believing my share of questionable fairy tales. I have to admit though that I find it tiresome to continually explain how I've redefined terminology so that I can continue to say the Creed with a straight face. I've argued here before that it's good to be a skeptic, and it's good to be a part of a religion that isn't all about 'belief' - or at least doesn't require one to underpin their entire worldview with a set of unbelievable beliefs. Anglicanism and Buddhism and Scientism are the religious systems for me. Supernatural beliefs are great, and something to keep working on, but at a religious level why not let them exist on a plane of importance equal to, like, value statements about the things that we actually CAN observe, spiritual practices, community connections, human compassion, and so forth? At least until we have all of the answers figured out. In these days when science seems to be explaining away everything, when it comes to belief in the "Supernatural", there's a continuum that ranges from crazy to pure (if logical) conjecture, but it doesn't seem to move much beyond this to reliable claims about God, ghosts, or Shadow People. That recognition, I think, changes some things for us religious types.

In this sort of context, maybe it seems crazy to continue as a part of a religion with a history of wrong beliefs, but I don't necessarily think so. Just because some of your past enlightenment was based in error doesn't mean that it wasn't actual enlightenment. You don't give up on Democracy, for instance, just because it initially assumed that women and non-whites shouldn't be full participants. You take what was good and scrap the rest. Don't throw the baby Jesus out with the bathwater, just don't feel bad about washing some of that leftover crap off of him when you empty the chamber pot. And give him a new diaper - I'm not going to have time. I have to take the new Corolla and pick up my wife at a baby shower.

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