(TransParenting • Part 5)


‘But God doesn’t change?’

‘Men do, though.’

‘What difference does that make?’

‘All the difference in the world.’”

– Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Dear Dad,

I get the God thing.

I’m not saying I buy it.

But I get it.

What I don’t get is the religion thing.

The assumption that we’re “chosen.”

Or that we’re the sole arbiters of “Truth.”

Or that the word “truth” can even be capitalized.

Because science teaches relativity.

While religion preaches absolutes.

And in our data-driven Information Age, I’m inclined to place my bets with science.

You do realize that we’re not unique.

There are Mormons and Muslims.

And Catholics and Protestants.

And Hindus and Buddhists.

And Shintos and Scientologists.

And you know what else there are?

Over FOUR THOUSAND other religions.

And if we travel back in time, we‘ll dig up countless more.

And guess what?

We’re all equally convinced that we’re the righteous ones and the rest are ridiculous. That we got it all right, while the others have it all wrong.

It’s convenient to assume that we just-so-happen to be the lucky few who’ve been graced with a glimpse into God’s secret plan. But the fact that we’ve been born into this belief system probably has a tiny hand in our subscribing to it. Does it not?

With love (and a spoonful of cynicism),

   – Your Son, The Struggling Skeptic

Dear Son,

You remind me of myself at your age.

Which is both touching and terrifying.

But a lot more terrifying.

Let me be completely honest.

I struggle with the same questions.

And I have found that while they often begin innocently, they open up a Pandora’s box of bewilderment and confusion.

This does not make them any less valid, and there are many who will tell you it’s a symptom of their bitter truth. That ignorance is bliss, and confusion is the birth pang of awakening. But the brilliant thinkers who profess these tenets often end up taking their own lives. Or numbing their birth pangs with chemicals and intoxicants. While the “blissfully ignorant” faithful lead wholesome lives of fulfillment and depth.

I have seen both worlds. The religious and the agnostic. And when it comes to life satisfaction, it’s not even close. Religion adds a healing gradient to life that the secular mind grapples to fill.

Nature seems to favor the faithful, and when we stray from these invisible forces, the universe has its way of striking us back into alignment. I’m not speaking Biblically here. I’m speaking from personal experience. Faith has always anchored me. While cynical bouts of self-will are the first dominos of an ensuing foray into chaos and discontentment.

I realize that I’m not answering your questions and I hope you realize that your questions (which I share) are fundamentally unanswerable. Because the language of faith and the language of data-driven empiricism are inherently incompatible. It’s like trying to fix a computer virus with a screwdriver. They operate in completely different spheres of reality.

I no longer struggle with conflicting faiths.

In fact, I deeply respect anyone who nurtures belief within our modern climate of doubt and upheaval. If we were Catholic I’m sure I’d encourage you to embrace Catholicism. If we were Muslims we’d embrace Islam. But we are Jews. And so we follow the lines of our genetically prescribed scripts. I used to see this as a symptom of ignorance, but I have come to develop a healthier respect for blind adherence to one’s cultural wiring. It’s no longer a matter of factual accuracy— i.e. which religion is right? — it’s more like respecting an inner intuition. Like following a calling. Or respecting the strengths and limits of one’s own nature. This is our natural wiring and if we surrender to its flow we will see it work wonders.

Science itself confirms this phenomenon.

Faith is enriching and curative.

Blind as it may be.

And this will all undoubtedly strike the modern mind as ignorant or sheltered or archaic. And if we feel the need to explain it or justify it or package it in a politically correct, mutually satisfiable, rationally digestible way — we will inevitably find ourselves whitewashing and filtering and ultimately distorting the script. And we will trip on our words and contradict our terms and confirm their suspicions that we‘re utterly clueless. Because as I said, the two spheres are inherently incompatible. Screwdrivers and computer viruses. Apples and oranges. Faith in the modern world requires stomaching the unanswerable, sitting with the irresolvable, confronting the tensions of a yin and a yang, and trusting the subtle whispers of a heart which so often misleads us.

We can look to Google to search for answers. But if we look to Google to search for God, we rapidly descend down a rabbit hole of unanswerable questions. I’ve been down this rabbit hole and at times fall back into it, but I know that it’s bottomless and that the shovel which digs it cannot pull me out of it. The skeptical mind got me there, and the pure heart is my only way out. Simple. Pure. And yes. Naive.

Such is how nature chooses to wire us.

And who am I to rewire her cables?

I’ve tampered with her circuitry, and felt the sting of her shock, and I’m writing to tell you that it’s a zero sum game, and I write this knowing full well that you may have to experience these shocks for yourself.

Because you remind me of myself.

Which is both touching and terrifying.

But a lot more terrifying.

And when you’re finally ready to align your mind and heart with your natural wiring, and swallow the unanswerable, and stomach the irresolvable, you will embark on a journey that is both terrifying and touching.

But a lot more touching.