I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian, albeit one who quotes C. S. Lewis and even a certain Mohandes K. Gandhi at the drop of a hat. :) I’m a convert; I was raised by non-religious parents, and my journey to Orthodox Christianity took me through a fifteen-year period in an American Protestant denomination called the Church of Christ. I was received into the Orthodox Church at Easter in 1995. I admit that I am excited about my faith, and therefore somewhat dangerous to unsuspecting bystanders. ;)
Fifteen years ago, at a little parish church in Sunnyvale, California, I stood in the nave and repeated my part of the following liturgical conversation:
“Do you renounce Satan — all his angels,
all his works, all his service, and all his pride?”
“I do renounce him.”
“Have you united yourself with Christ?”
“Do you believe in Him?”
“I believe in Him as King and God.”
— The Office of Holy Baptism (Russian Orthodox Rite)
I was then baptized and chrismated (confirmed) in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. This Church contains many ethnic and national churches that believe the same things, among them the Russian Orthodox Church that I became part of that day. My Church is not “Christianity Lite”. Although many Orthodox churches have accommodated the modern world’s culture and views to an extent (IMHO sometimes too great an extent), it has held onto the traditional Christian dogmas about Christ. We believe that He is God who became human to save the human race from hell. We believe that His mother Mary was a virgin at his birth, that He is both fully God and fully Man, that He was executed through crucifixion by order of the Roman governer of Palestine when approximately 33 years of age, and that He was resurrected by His Father three days thereafter. We make no apologies for that, nor for anything that flows out of it.
Although I will occasionally post about Orthodox Christianity here, however, I don’t proselytize. God is not for sale; anybody who acts as if He is has not understood much about Him. I expect a lot of people here whose religious beliefs are different from mine or entirely missing, but who are interested in many other subjects that also interest me. I see no reason to bore a general audience with material written for fellow Orthodox Christians, so I post that elsewhere.
So why am I telling you about my private religious beliefs and experience? Because it’s not possible for anybody’s religious beliefs or experience to leave their understanding of this world untouched, however unrelated the subject under discussion may appear. Believing in the “One God” of Christianity means believing in a creator that is ultimately beyond your ability to ever fully know or understand, and being irrevocably convinced that He (not you, not any human being or human standard) defines the purpose and meaning both of your own life and of all lives and all things He created. Even when you are not looking at Him, even when you are not thinking about Him, you see everything through the lens of this belief.
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis said it best:
I believe in Christianity as I believe in the rising sun; not because I see it, but by it I can see all else.
Academic integrity requires that a professor, researcher, or writer disclose his biases in advance when lecturing about a subject or publishing a paper. In my view, plain old integrity and a decent respect for other people requires the same so that others who read what you write have the necessary background information to understand and evaluate what you said. It is not possible for any human being to be truly objective: we all have our own opinions, beliefs, and biases. In any conversation that involves analysis of facts, I believe (there it is) that we owe it to each other to be open about anything other than the facts that might contribute to how we understand the issue at hand.
So be aware that my religious views have some implications. An inability to understand how a person could not believe in God is not one of them; I’ve lived around and among atheists and agnostics all of my life. I find them about as good — and bad –, and as reasonable — and unreasonable –, as any other group of people. That is, telling me that you’re an atheist or agnostic tells me nothing about whether you’re somebody I’d want to listen to or know. ;) The same is true of believers in other religions. I’ve had ongoing exposure to Judaism since I was a child, as have many Americans. I’ve moderated a newsgroup (forum) on the Usenet (Internet’s old bulletin board system) on Islam for over fifteen years. I’m a profound admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, although I’m not Hindu, and of the Dalai Lama, although I’m not Buddhist. And, of course, I agree far more than I disagree with fellow Christians who believe the traditional core Christian dogmas about Christ.
But there are some philosophies and beliefs that simply don’t work for me. I can’t take solipsism seriously; reality is *real* to me. I don’t believe in despair, however often I’ve felt it, so nihilism and belief in “God who is the devil” are out. I don’t accept any view of the human race that allows for dismissal of another person’s life as “not worth living” or another person as merely an object for one’s own use. I utterly reject material determinism and any view that treats human free will as either illusory or irrelevant; our choices *matter*.
I respect other views, and find other opinions interesting, sometimes challenging, and often refreshing. But don’t expect to find here a great deal of sympathy for or patience with postmodernism or anything else that does not recognize the existence of an objective reality or a moral and ethical center. Ain’t happening. ;)