I don't know if there's a God. (And neither do you, and neither does Professor Dawkins, and neither does anybody. It isn't the kind of thing you can know. It isn't a knowable item.) But then, like every human being, I am not in the habit of entertaining only the emotions I can prove. I'd be a unrecognizable oddity if I did.
Seen from that future time, when every commodity the human mind could imagine would flow from the industrial horn of plenty in dizzy abundance, this would seem a scanty, shoddy, cramped moment indeed, choked with shadows, redeemed only by what it caused to be created. Seen from plenty, now would be hard to imagine. It would seem not quite real, an absurd time when, for no apparent reason, human beings went without things easily within the power of humanity to supply and lives did not flower as it was obvious they could.
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The part of thinking that's easy to handle is the part that works by analogy with speech. Thinking in words, speaking our thoughts internally, projects an auditorium inside our skulls. Dark or bright, a shadow theater or a stage scorched by klieg lights, here we try out voices, including the voice we have settled on as the familiar sound of our identity, although it may not be what other people hear when we speak aloud. But that is the topmost of the linguistic processes going on in the mind. Beneath the auditorium runs a continuous river of thought that not only is soundless but is not ordered so it can be spoken. For obvious reasons, describing it is difficult. If I dip experimentally into the wordless flow, and then try to recall the sensations of it, I have the impression of a state in which grammar is present - for when I think like this I am certainly construing lucid relationships between different kinds of meaning, and making sense of the world by distinguishing between (for a start) objects and actions - but thought there are so to speak nounlike and verblike concentrations in the flow, I do not solidify them, I do not break them off into word-sized units. Are there pictures? Yes, but I am not watching a slide show, the images do not come in units either. Sometimes there's a visual turbulence - rapid, tumbling, propelled - that doesn't resolve into anything like the outlines of separate images. Sometimes one image, like a key, will hold steady while a whole train of wordless thoughts flows from its start to its finish. A mountain. A closed box. A rusty hinge.
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for a piece of famous fluffiness that doesn't just pretend about what real lives can be like, but moves on into one of the world's least convincing pretences about what people themselves are like, consider the teased and coiffed nylon monument that is 'Imagine': surely the My Little Pony of philosophical statements. John and Yoko all in white, John at the white piano, John drifting through the white rooms of a white mansion, and all the while the sweet drivel flowing. Imagine there's no heaven. Imagine there's no hell. Imagine all the people, living life in - hello? Excuse me? Take religion out of the picture, and everybody spontaneously starts living life in peace? I don't know about you, but in my experience peace is not the default state of human beings, any more than having an apartment the size of Joey and Chandler's is. Peace is not the state of being we return to, like water running downhill, whenever there's nothing external to perturb us. Peace between people is an achievement, a state of affairs we put together effortfully in the face of competing interests, and primate dominance dynamics, and our evolved tendency to cease our sympathies at the boundaries of our tribe.
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If your memory was OK you could descend upon on a bookshop "" a big enough one so that the staff wouldn't hassle a browser "" and steal the contents of books by reading them. I drank down 1984 while loitering in the 'O' section of the giant Heffers store in Cambridge. When I was full I carried the slopping vessel of my attention carefully out of the shop.
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Taking the things people do wrong seriously is part of taking them seriously. It's part of letting their actions have weight. It's part of letting their actions be actions rather than just indifferent shopping choices; of letting their lives tell a life-story, with consequences, and losses, and gains, rather than just be a flurry of events. It's part of letting them be real enough to be worth loving, rather than just attractive or glamorous or pretty or charismatic or cool.
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What I absolutely want is to suggest that before it's anything else, redemption is God mending the bicycle of our souls; God bringing out the puncture repair kit, re-inflating the tires, taking off the rust, making us roadworthy once more. Not so that we can take flight into ecstasy, but so that we can do the next needful mile of our lives.
I think I have made allowances for the kind of despair which would test my faith, but you cannot know in advance what disaster to those you love would be too much to bear faithfully, and like everyone's, my faith is weakly conditional in some ways. I hope, I pray not to lose it. My fingers are crossed. Also my heart.
For a believer, Christian faith is true to the human heart, not in the sense that any old thing we fancy believing in will become conveniently true - but because the complicated truth about our hearts, as we struggle to perceive it, tells us what we are and where we are, and consequently what we need.
Emotions can certainly be misleading: they can fool you into believing stuff that is definitely, demonstrably untrue. Yet emotions are also our indispensable tool for navigating, for feeling our way through, the much larger domain of stuff that isn't susceptible to proof or disproof, that isn't checkable against the physical universe.
Despite the best efforts of apologists like William Lane Craig, the 'evidence' for Christianity's truth is, in truth, not the kind that science will or should ever admit. We believers mean something different by the word: something that puts faith permanently in the category of irreproducible results.
Christians are as subject to complacency as anybody else, and we can certainly settle into repetition and forget that something radical and extraordinary is being asked of us as well - that we hold to an extraordinary promise about how, from moment to moment, something enters the world and enters us, after which everything is different.
Christianity is a religion of continuity and discontinuity as well. It's about what stays the same and what changes in the twinkling of an eye. Both are necessary truths, but sometimes it's important to accentuate the discontinuity, the sudden leap, the way you go up a tree, Zacchaeus, and come down a saint.
You don't have to become an investment banker as a way of demonstrating that education has worked for you. But librarians have to believe in the values of high culture. Not just high culture but middle culture, low culture, kinds of exciting eye-catching crap of all kinds. Everyone needs that.
If you're a believer, God is not a thought-experiment requiring a special sub-creation to be tried out in. He's an actual, er, actuality already, embedded in a necessary and true story about guilt, hope, and liberty. I don't want C. S. Lewis doing his resourceful best to render Him as a fabulous special effect.