An unflinching, hard-minded look into faith and doubt. In a highly engaging storyline, Eclipse of Faith chronicles a journey: a reluctant journey of one man questioning his faith (to the core of God’s very existence), exploring options, and coming to unconventional conclusions. It s a journey guided by the great thinkers of human history and a journey that explores the faith-claims of many religions from the view of each faith s most faithful: their leading teachers, thinkers, and most revered holy men. Join the author in a disorienting whirl of a worldview being examined, then clarified. Ask yourself: Why do I believe what I believe? And, how do I know it is really true? One man s doubt caused him to scour the world s leading religions for answers. What he discovered changed him forever. Follow his unsettling journey in Eclipse of Faith.
Finally, after three intense years of writing and editing, my latest book Eclipse of Faith, is now available.
Link to purchase: http://amzn.com/1620202182
VIEW SAMPLE CHAPTER:
Why Am I Here?
Socrates famously said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” I say, “An examined life is no picnic either!”
I see people all around, from the deeply religious to the stridently irreligious, streaming past every day, buying lattes and walking their dogs, people who appear to be perfectly happy not to examine their lives but, instead, seem blissfully content to take their current view of the world—and their role within that world—as a simple given. They don’t appear to need to ask the big questions:
Why am I here?
What is this life all about?
What kind of a story am I in—if it’s even a story at all?
I’ve attended dinner parties with these unexamined souls. I have participated in the mindless, pointless conversations of weather, sports, politics, and seamy gossip that led nowhere and accomplished nothing—while, within my overheated brain, a burning angst overtook me. I suddenly felt the urge to stand, slam my glass on the table, and burst out: Stop all this! Don’t we know what’s happening? Do any of us really know why we’re here??? (Only to have my reason restrain me from doing such a crazy thing and remind me that, if I were to speak so honestly, I’d quickly discover I’m actually the only one who’s ever seriously entertained these questions, and I’d ultimately find myself standing there feeling naked as the day I was born.)
But my obsession with asking the big question, “Why am I here?” is more than a neurotic tic. It is also asking for the purpose to my life. It may sound silly, but why am I asking, “Why am I here?” Snickers, our family dog, seems perfectly content to live in the moment. She never seems to care one whit about her existence. Snickers loves to take walks, smell and pee on things, eat, and bark at squirrels she sees out the back window of our home. (Squirrels must be more evil than most of us think.) She possesses no ontological angst. Purpose beyond barking at squirrels is senseless blather to her. But for humans, I think there are many who carry this nagging notion that there is or should be a purpose to our lives. Call it our end game. It’s something our life means. Something our life points toward.
There are others, though, who deny that life has any meaning at all. They believe the raw data of existence flies in the face of any reason to assume there is any meaning to our pointless, insignificant lives. Ultimately, we are all food for worms. And any notion of happiness or purpose is merely a mirage to help us cope with our otherwise hollow lives. They echo Macbeth’s harrowing words:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
This idea of non-meaning is becoming more popular in Western culture these days. And this notion is increasingly peddled most by our intellectuals. This dark, deterministic, hopeless, and pointless moment of consciousness we ironically call “life” is simply a ruse. And the responsible way to deal with it is to call life what it is—a freak of happenstance where you squeeze a bit of pleasure out of it and then die. Looking at the evidence from a purely materialistic point of view, it only seems reasonable that this deterministic, even nihilistic, worldview cannot be anything but true. Yet, I doubt anyone who really believes this to be true honestly wants to believe it to be true. Most of us would rather deny it because of its being terribly depressing and un-motivating, whether it’s true or not. To a man, we want to believe there is meaning to our lives. If there isn’t meaning, most of us would prefer the nihilist to keep his mouth shut and let the rest of us live our meaningless days in our self-deluded bubble. En masse, we recoil from those who preach non-meaning, not because we are content with the absurdity of our lust for meaning, but because, deep in our heart of hearts, we cannot escape the notion that our lives are pregnant with significance and that, once birthed, that significance will satisfy the sehnsucht we all possess in our bones.
Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist and Nazi captive, in his wrenching book Man’s Search for Meaning, describes his discovery of the need for meaning in the brutal realities of Auschwitz. He quotes Friedrich Nietzsche at the start of his book: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Frankl saw firsthand how those who held on to a deep sense of meaning or purpose in life were more likely to survive that hellish nightmare than those who did not. Therefore, if we take Frankl’s word for it, meaning can be useful even if it may or may not be true. Meaning accomplishes things because it makes life better (that is, if a better life is something we choose to value).
Yet, the quest for meaning goes beyond serving as a psychological crutch. It has been a human obsession for as long as we know. Thousands of years ago in the Book of Job (which many scholars believe may have been the first book written in the Hebrew Bible), deep questions concerning meaning were penned. Even the great Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE wrestled endlessly with identifying the central meaning for the existence of man. And so have many obsessive thinkers ranging from Boethius and St. Thomas Aquinas to Mark Twain and Jean-Paul Sartre—all with varying ideas. But one conclusion most people in most cultures and in most times come to as the source for the highest meaning in their lives is religion—our relationship with the Absolute, whether it is a personal god (or gods), a universal life force, or an ideal. Religion is the choice for 98.5 percent of the U.S. population. Early in my life, it had been for me too.
The world is a deeply religious place. Peter Kreeft, a present-day philosopher, once said that “religion makes the greatest claims to be true. If those claims are true, they are the most important truths in the world. And, if they are false, they are the most important falsehoods in the world. Religion is either the world’s biggest truth or the world’s biggest lie.”
All you have to do to prove his point is run a simple experiment. After you meet a relatively intelligent person for the first time, ask that person a pointed question:
So, what’s your take on religion?
What do you expect his response to be? Discomfort? Devotion? Rage? Embarrassment? There is one response I know you won’t get: indifference. Most of us in the politically correct societies of the West would initially receive a thinly veiled polite response. But, if you were to probe further, you would find that this person is passionate about his view on religion, God, and the afterlife—whether for or against—and that his passionate opinion on religion frames his entire worldview.
Most major events in human history have been catalyzed by religious faith—from the most bloody and senseless wars (like the Christian Crusades, the Protestant-Catholic conflicts in Ireland, present-day Somalia, and an entire array of terrorist jihads) to towering humanitarian endeavors (like Mahatma Gandhi’s liberation of India and Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership of the civil rights movement). There is no doubt that it would be impossible to disentangle religion from human history. I know of many who have lost their faith because of the ill effects religion has had on human existence. And, I must say, this fact played a significant role in my eclipse of faith as well.
Even if you wanted to, living a life completely divorced from the spell of religion is next to impossible. No human society in history has existed without it. Religion is more than the mere opiate of the masses; it’s the Higgs boson of human experience—the thing that gives all other things mass or meaning. We humans have religion somehow hard-wired into our collective psyche. Whether religion—or, more fundamentally, God’s existence—is fact or fantasy will not change its profound effect on our lives. But whether it is true, or not, haunted me. I do not want to live my life based on a lie. And I am confident most other thinking adults do not want to either.
But, how does a person know truth when he sees it? Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Isn’t truth in essence a mysterious vapor of a thing that depends on a person’s point of view? Most know what truth is; we just aren’t sure what is true. Isn’t truth relative to whatever angle you happen to view life from? While in some cases relative truth may apply (like which is better: blue or green drapes for your living room), it is wholly inadequate for most situations, especially to the deepest and most elemental dimensions of our existence—like 2+2=4; the speed of light; Planck’s constant; the essence of self, God, and religion. Even though there are some tender-minded, pseudo-philosophers/psychologists who are in complete denial of the realness of reality and who prefer to base their lives on how they feel instead of expending the necessary energy for finding out what is real, it doesn’t make truth any less objective. They are simply choosing to ignore reason and live in a self-aggrandizing fantasyland where they can play mayor for a day and make up all the rules as they see fit. To see this phenomenon in full bloom, go to any bookstore and observe the overstuffed shelves of self-help and free-form spirituality books that would be better labeled as emotional candy rather than true nutrition for the soul.
The most important things in life have a fundamental realness to them and are not subject to the fancies of a passing perception or a sideways glance. But it takes effort to absorb and identify the true essence of something. It’s hard going. Truth is the understanding that best explains the total reality of the object in question, whether it is a brick, an emotion, a thought, or a transcendent being called God. Yet, we humans are mostly unwilling to do the heavy lifting to get to ultimate truth. We’d rather live by a pre-conceived notion or a gut reaction on scant data than meditate on the essential truth that is fully evident if we simply open our eyes and our minds.
I envy those who don’t feel compelled to grapple with the truth claims of faith. Honestly, it seems like a less stressful way to live. And who am I to think I am any better of a person by pursuing these truth claims? My angst simply may be an unfortunate by-product from an overactive imagination gone terribly wrong. Or, I simply may be weak-minded of a different sort. Even so, the big questions came tumbling down upon me one day, and I didn’t possess the certainty to shake them. They muscled their way into my waking thoughts. They mercilessly terrorized my dreams. Not just for a day, or even a month. They terrorized me for years.
Well, this is my story. It’s a story about an examined life. And it’s rife with ecstasy and agony, confusion and clarity. It’s at its best a lover’s quarrel with religion and the notion of an all-supreme being many label as “God.” At its worst, it’s the story of a soul falling blindly into faith only to see it become completely eclipsed in doubt.
So, if you choose to read on, do so knowing that what you are about to encounter can be rather unsettling. Scandalous questions are asked. Sometimes answers appear quite readily; sometimes they don’t. If you choose to continue, you might want to pour your pleasant cup of coffee or spiced tea into a spill-proof mug. If anything, it will be a bumpy ride.
Strangely, the sun and the moon appear the same size in the earth’s sky even though the sun is four hundred times larger than the moon.
In a total solar eclipse, the moon comes in between the sun and us, blocking the sun’s light. Night overtakes day—only to leave a faint, glowing ring of light, like a promise ring empty of a finger, to mock us of that certain comfort which has gone missing.
So how does the moon hide the sun, a thing much larger than itself?
By being four hundred times closer.
Such is the nature of doubt.
Such is our dalliance with the Absolute.