Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, November 28, 2016

This I Believe (First Installment)

This I Believe

                From all my acquaintances with lovers of wisdom such as myself, and my knowledge of the many from centuries past, I find the philosopher Ben Yost one of the most fascinating. Though only a mere student at Middle Tennessee State University, he possesses one of the keenest minds I have observed in a youth his age (he is only now about to turn 20). Ben Yost utilizes the timeless philosophical know-how of Plato, yet fails not in displaying the undeniable amicability of my good friend William James. Not only does he stand a high chance of being the most intelligent thinker in any given room, but those who get to know him will be struck by his intense sense of humility. I hope you, dear reader, will enjoy his list of beliefs (as I did), even if you disagree with many of them (as I do).
-Bertrand Russell
In all seriousness, I do want to take inspiration from Russell’s literary style in this post. To achieve my 2,500 words, I intend to divide my beliefs into subcategories. I will order these categories by importance to myself, and in a way in which one builds on another. For instance, Spiritual Matters must come first, as it is foundational for every other belief of mine. For this post, I will be covering my beliefs on Spiritual Matters exclusively. For part 2, you can expect coverage of Human Nature/Ethics, Political Philosophy, and an assortment of miscellaneous statements, in all likelihood. Before I begin, let me just say that a post of this nature does take a certain amount of courage, as it can make the core of our very being vulnerable. If you ardently disagree with me on a point, by all means argue with me, but I ask that you be fair and gracious, and I will act likewise in my response. At the same time, let’s not pull any punches! What fun would that be? One more thing! All opinions must be held in an open hand. I fully admit that I could be entirely wrong on any given subject. If we mutually admit to that, I think the dialogue can be truly courteous, enjoyable, and beneficial for all.
-Ben Yost
Spiritual Matters
            There is one God, and He is the God revealed in the Christian Bible. I find the historical evidence for the truth of the text, and its fulfilled prophecies, satisfying. I agree that there are legitimate reasons for being skeptical of the Christian faith, but none have yet compelled me to renounce it. Yes, I was raised in a Christian home. I find it funny that some try to convince me that that fact in some way delegitimizes my own personal belief. An atheist who once asked me that seemed pretty smug after I answered “yes” to the question. The smugness faded when I asked, “and were your raised in an atheistic home?” The idea that getting your beliefs introduced to you in your home from a young age is an argument against your philosophy is silly, especially since that is a true thing for many people with many varying beliefs.
            I dislike the ontological argument; I see it as self-defeating. To my understanding of the progression the argument follows, it opens the door for simply dubbing the universe, or even humankind, as “god.” Additionally, in its attempt at proving God’s existence, it relies too heavily on the shoulders of human understanding. Human understanding is not exhaustive, and I have far less faith in the capacities of the human mind than Socrates apparently did.
            This leads to my claim about the greatest of all vices. I believe the Bible makes it clear that the pride is the root of all rebellion against God, and in my opinion, the vilest form of pride is arrogance. Arrogance is when man trusts in himself and his own judgement above anything else: specifically, in this case, above God. Arrogance constitutes the nastiest flavor of pride, as it unabashedly mocks the Creator. On the flip side, true humility is the greatest of all virtues, and I think many would agree it is one of the hardest to come by. And no, self-hate is not a form of humility, it is another form of pride, as it is still an obsession with the self. C.S. Lewis puts it this way: “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” For more Lewis quotes, all of which I highly recommend, check this out.
            I respect the quandary of agnostics, but am at a loss to understand atheism. Atheism strikes me as the most arrogant claim of all: that one can know there is no God, nor even a spiritual realm. Sometimes I wish I could consistently be as dogmatic about the existence of God as atheists are about His non-existence. At least agnostics acknowledge man’s fallibility, as do I (at the end of the day, no one has unarguable proof!), and therefore I connect with them in regard to that. Pascal’s wager comes to mind right about now. I don’t build my theology on it, but you have to admit it makes one think.
A word on tolerance. I am intolerant. My religion requires intolerance of me. Now before the SJWs pounce, allow me to explain this in a way that you may find new, and hopefully refreshing. You may think it odd that tolerance works its way into the Spiritual Matters segment, as there are other forms of tolerance besides religious tolerance, but my reasons for rejecting all kinds of tolerance are the same. What Jesus requires of His followers is love, plain and simple. He never said, “Tolerate your neighbor as yourself,” or “Tolerate your enemies.” It takes virtually nothing to tolerate your neighbor, some effort to tolerate your enemies; it takes quite a bit of effort to hate both your neighbors and enemies; but with love, well, it takes absolutely everything out of you to love others, especially your enemies. It is difficult, and it is what Christians are called to do.
Love, by its very nature, is intolerant. It is intolerant of evil, intolerant of hate, and intolerant of indifference. Mere tolerance may be a guise for something that plagues this world: people just not caring enough to put in the effort of helping others. I cannot in good conscience take that easy path.
To conclude this foundational segment of my personal philosophy, let me say two things. First, yes, I am well aware this portion touches nearly exclusively on theology, but for me, theology is so intimately entwined with philosophy, that artificially separating them would be a disservice to an accurate understanding of my beliefs. Secondly, despite what some might call my “narrow” set of beliefs (all beliefs are equally narrow by the way, even universalism!), I have very much appreciated and enjoyed this class, along with all the challenges it has provided me. Part 2 will delve more deeply into my responses on the reading and our time spent in the classroom.

Word Count: 1185


  1. H1
    I found your section on Tolerance to be very interesting. I think that most people use that word incorrectly, saying we have to approve of other's choice, and say they are just as correct as ours. My dictionary defines tolerance as: showing willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. To tolerate somebody else's actions or beliefs doesn't mean that we approve of them, or agree with them. We don't have to. We don't have to think that their beliefs are equally valid as our own. We can think they are wrong. Tolerance is the understanding that others can make their own choices, and we will not attack them for it. As you pointed out, love passes beyond tolerance, and I believe people would do much better by focusing on love over faked approval.

  2. Your foreword (or Lord Russell's) is indeed "forward" - good for you, be bold and seize the philosophers' ring! It's hard to be humble...

    I know you plan to move on from spiritual matters, in your next installment. But if you can spare the space, maybe you could say a word or two about how you reconcile "historical evidence for the truth of the [Christian Bible]" with the prevalence of unearned suffering and injustice in the world. Or not. But I do think you'd enjoy the "Atheism & Philosophy" course next Spring, hope you'll consider signing on and testing your humility in that arena.

    On the matter of tolerance, maybe you'd be interested in checking out JS Mill's views. "John Stuart Mill's On Liberty (1859) marks the transition to a modern conception of toleration, one that is no longer occupied with the question of religious harmony and does not restrict the issue of toleration to religious differences. In Mill's eyes, in modern society toleration is also required to cope with other forms of irreconcilable cultural, social and political plurality. Mill offers three main arguments for toleration. According to his “harm principle,” the exercise of political or social power is only legitimate if necessary to prevent serious harm done to one person by another, not to enforce some idea of the good in a paternalistic manner. Toleration towards opinions is justified by the utilitarian consideration that not just true, but also false opinions lead to productive social learning processes. Finally, toleration towards unusual “experiments of living” is justified in a romantic way (following Wilhelm von Humboldt), stressing the values of individuality and originality." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/toleration/

  3. P.S. Here's a picture of tolerance: http://delightsprings.blogspot.com/2016/11/a-picture-of-tolerance.html

  4. Ben, you made some very valid points within your entry, especially concerning tolerance. I can't say I was surprised by your opinions or explanations of your beliefs, since I have come to know you fairly well over the course of this semester, but reading this was a nice reminder to me of your own personal beliefs. Well done, Benny Boy. Well done :)

  5. (H3) First things first, wow. This was extremely well-written. I liked your reasoning on beliefs being passed through families and how they are still legitimate beliefs, no matter what sparked them. In fact, one could say maintaining beliefs similar to your family makes your faith stronger, because children go through that defiant, rebellious, questioning phase where they reject their families traditions to find their own. If the child maintains the family's beliefs, it is because they have chosen it for themselves, in spite of familial pressures. On the tolerance standpoint, I like your explanation of your "intolerance". While I agree more with what Grace Tipton said, I can see where you are coming from on the issue of tolerance vs. love. I am not very religious, but I agree that "love thy neighbor as thyself" is a hard concept to live by, but a noble and necessary one nonetheless. Overall I found your post extremely enlightening. I look forward to reading your second installment.

  6. I quite enjoyed your views on "tolerance vs love". I have never thought of it like that before, and I completely adore it. You are correct that t doesn't take much to simply tolerate others, but to really love others regardless of color, race, origin, gender, or sexual orientation is a truly magnificent thing indeed. The world would be much better if more people thought in terms of "how can I better love those around me" in contrast to "how can I just get through the day while tolerating those around me". H3

  7. While I dont hold the same beliefs as you do, I do respect your strong position, how firm your beliefs are. Like i have said before, if you dont stand for something you fall for everything. Im happy to know you are well grounded, and I can respect that even if my beliefs are somewhat opposite of yours. We are all human beings and need to learn how to accept ourselves.