What Am I?

I’ve already talked about being a Christian. Lots of times. But I have also been mistaken for an atheist, and perhaps this isn’t surprising. Many of the same arguments that lead Sam Harris to be an atheist are the reasons I cannot be a fundamentalist. And I certainly disbelieve in Zeus-like deities, even if they bear Judeo-Christian monikers. If I had to choose, I would certainly prefer naturalism to superstition – but I’m not persuaded that those are our only reasonable options. I find much in Buddhism appealing – its pragmatic approach to spirituality in an experiential manner. But I don’t find reincarnation plausible. I also have learned much from the Sufi tradition in Islam, without finding conversion to that tradition at all appealing, since mainstream Islam’s focus on divine sovereignty and rewards and punishments in the afterlife emphasizes exactly the same things I find least appealing in the Christian tradition.

Pomomusings was kind enough to share the music of a band called The American Dollar. I like their style, a hybrid of Rock, Windham Hill or Narada Jazz, Electronica, and other styles as well. So what kind of music is this? Apparently it is called “experimental”.

I guess that’s what I am too. Experimental. An “experimental Christian” – is that a good label?

  • http://www.verveearth.com Clayton

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08144417439505262113 Elliot

    I think that’s an excellent moniker. I may just have to borrow it from time to time! It’s certainly more concise than my evolving self-description: “sometimes agnostic, sometimes heretical, postmodern radical-liberal Christian humanist.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17131154882107531113 Qalmlea

    I’d say that “experimental Christian” is a beautiful label. I sometimes think of myself as a Zen Taoist, btw.I’m curious as to why you think reincarnation is implausible. I’m pretty much neutral on the topic.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12344192935890766744 Drew Tatusko

    I like it. I like to call myself a pragmatic Christian for about the same reason. the hallmark of pragmatism is the question “how can I live this” and then present the mot plausible and probable outcome that you can rooted in your context. I also mix this with a steady dose of what I would call “incarnational existentialism” in which if we say that Jesus rose from the dead and is “receivable”, then our contexts are always tentative structures that can be overcome with passion. That’s why I would call myself a pragmatic Christian – and I guess that’s rather experimental too…BTW – one very staunch anti-theist once told me that I “was an atheist and I just didn’t know it yet”. I replied “When God let’s go of me we’ll have a rollicking coming out party.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13599662252662686373 BSM

    “I’ve already talked about being a Christian. Lots of times. But I have also been mistaken for an atheist, and perhaps this isn’t surprising.”To paraphrase an old Seinfeld episode: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”We’re not all like Harris and Dawkins, you know. In fact, I only eat puppies every other year and then it’s for a secret atheist rite that I can’t talk about.;-)~BCP

  • george

    You know, Sam Harris has devoted quite a bit of time to advocating just the ‘pragmatic approach to spirituality in an experiential manner’ you speak of. There is no reason atheists can’t see subjective value in these sorts of experiences- we just find the idea that one is capable of acquiring external knowledge through these methods improbable.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03126711689901268060 Quixie

    Depending on who asks me what religion I “am”, these are some of the answers I might give:I’m a young man living in the early twenti-first century.I’m a heathen.I’m a musician.I’m a tranhumanistic latitudinarian.I’m an agnostic Catholic.They’re all equally true.Come to think of it, postChristian sounds pretty good. I reckon it don’t matter none whatchumacallit, though, as long as you keep your eye on the prize and your hand on the plow and hold on . . . right?(I love Mahalia Jackson)hmm . . . how about . . .”transhumanistic post-christian latitudinarian?(’cause . . . you know, the more letters it has, the weightier the denomination)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09258076638127927788 JD Walters

    I think Philip Yancey’s confession applies to me quite nicely: “Sometimes I think that I am the most liberal among conservatives, and the most conservative among liberals.” I don’t hold to inerrancy and accept evolution and neuroscientific views of human nature. On the other hand I believe in literal miracles as temporary abrogation of the laws of Nature, the importance of redemption through Christ and the resurrection of the dead. Of course that’s only a very small cross-section. But I don’t hold much truck with mix-and-match, ‘coffee-house’ spirituality. No mixing of traditions (i.e. Zen Taoist) for me. I believe in the unity of knowledge and action, so there is one right view of reality (even if we can’t fully articulate it, only believe we are on the right track to discovering it) with corresponding consequences for practice.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17131154882107531113 Qalmlea

    *sighs* Yes, there are those who grab freely amongst traditions without ever looking at any of them in depth. I am not one of them. I’ve read deeply in both the Zen and Taoist traditions, and they complement one another nicely. Not to mention that Zen itself likely came from a fusion of Taoism and Buddhism.And even if there is a single, spiritual truth, there’s no reason to think that people will perceive it in exactly the same way.

  • george

    And even if there is a single, spiritual truth, there’s no reason to think that you know it, anyway. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01010178962574928062 Ian

    I kinda like that label – experimental Christian. I was just getting to like “heretic” (wish I had thought of Elliot’s “sometimes agnostic, sometimes heretical, postmodern radical-liberal Christian humanist”) when I had my sense of being unique and edgy deflated. I was talking to a few women at church on Tuesday night and I realised that my views are pretty mainstream, at least at this church.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09982867322659167014 The Factician

    But I don’t find reincarnation plausible. Is sending souls to vacation in heaven any more or less plausible than sending them back around for another trip?They both seem like nice stories. But I don’t find either one very plausible.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Wow, thank you all for the comments – I didn’t expect this post would generate so much discussion!When I said that I don’t find the evidence for reincarnation particularly persuasive (and getting souls into new bodies with their memories wiped seems at least as complex as any other idea of the afterlife, and presumably would involve significant supernatural micromanagement), I didn’t intend to suggest that I am pitting that against the typical Christian view of afterlife. I’ve talked about the afterlife in Christianity before, so I won’t repeat those same things here.If enough of us start using this moniker, then we can organize and perhaps even move things up to the next level…and have an acronym!


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