A Personal Relationship With Reality

Someone I am connected with on Facebook shared this recently:

When I saw the image, I at once had two reactions.

The first was to think, yes, of course, the idea that one is the focus of the universe and everything revolves around you is a problematic one, which has more to do with modern individualism than Christianity itself. And our awareness about the size of the universe helpfully challenges this view of ourselves as the center of cosmic attention.

On the other hand, I’ve heard people who self-identify as atheists talk about their own worldview as having “a personal relationship with reality.” And depending on what sort of language one is comfortable using about the immense universe, and anything even greater that it may be a part of, that could well be the same thing as a personal relationship with God – even if not what Evangelicals mean by that phrase, which is itself, as most people know, a relatively recent appearance in the history of Christianity.

Both are metaphors. And both can give expression to something meaningful. Would you agree?

Of related interest, IO9 had a piece about Lee Smolin’s evolutionary view of universes.

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  • Scott F

    The question is not the nature of your relationship with reality/God but that of its/His relationship with you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Evans/100000619020207 David Evans

    I’m an atheist, but I’m unhappy with that first image. I think C. S. Lewis answered its argument well in “Miracles”:

    “For no man was, I suppose, ever so mad as to think that man, or all creation, filled the Divine Mind; if we are a small thing to space and time, space and time are a much smaller thing to God.”

    • http://www.rationalist.club Steven Borthick

      Looking at some of your other posts, as I figured, you’re not an Atheist, you are a Theist. I figured that was so, since you quoted C. S. Lewis to explain why you “weren’t happy”. Another case of pretending to be on the opposite site, while dissenting. Liar.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        This is a despicably nasty comment. Please think before you write. I am not an atheist, and yet I do not agree with everything that C. S. Lewis says. Why would an atheist be obligated to disagree with everything Lewis said? There are not two sides, but many. To top off an illogical comment with a nasty accusation is inappropriate.

        • http://www.rationalist.club Steven Borthick

          It’s called a clue. He left a clue. I find some of what C. S. Lewis writes interesting, as well, but I tend to recognize patterns, and he left one. I followed the clue. Turns out, my intuition was correct. The man claimed to be an Atheist, above, but elsewhere, he has talked about believing in his version of “God”. Atheos is Greek for “godless”. Thus, David lied when he said, “I’m an atheist.” I thoroughly dislike lies. So yea, I was rude.

          If you claimed to be Muslim, but you quoted Richard Dawkins, I would not conclusively determine that you were an Atheist, but it would certainly leave an impression. I would investigate. If you claimed, elsewhere, you were an Atheist, then one way or the other, I’d know you were lying.

          If a man does something wrong, and another investigates and points it out, is it really logical to attack the man that brought forth the truth? No. Don’t let your emotion dictate your reason. Appreciate truth, despise lies.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            Appreciating truth and despising lies would, I think, lead one to ask someone that one does not know “Why do you describe yourself as an atheist when you wrote X?” rather than simply calling them a liar.

            Atheism as a term was applied in ancient times to Christians who denied and refused to worship the gods. In modern times, it has been used by those who reject every god of every sort, and those who reject theism. There are atheist Christians, and spiritual atheists, and pantheists whose precise distinction from atheists is debated.

            And so I do despise lies, and unnecessary insults, and the lowering of the level of this conversation. David Evans is a longtime commenter, and did nothing to deserve the way you treated him.

            • http://www.rationalist.club Steven Borthick

              Agreed, you’re right. I applied today’s definition of Atheism to what can actually be applied to every religious person who doesn’t accept someone else’s God. I knew of the Greek history of the word, but I did not apply the original concept to today’s model of the word, and spoke presumptiously. In that I erred, I will refrain from further comment. Sorry, David, @facebook-100000619020207:disqus.

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                I have great appreciation for those who offer apologies. Please do not hesitate to comment here in the future – just try to be a little less quick to issue insults! :-)

  • Beau Quilter

    When I use the phrase, “I have a personal relationship with reality”, you may take note of the slight edge of sarcasm in my voice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=501915913 Roger Wolsey

    IMO, it’s a non-issue as — in the Greek, John 3:16 says — “For God so loved the “kosmos” (the entire created order), that he gave his only begotten son….”

  • Pseudonym

    Yes, religion is parochial. But you know what? So is art, so is music, so is history, so is linguistics… hell, so is biology, if you want to get technical.

    You have heard it said in the past that you are insignificant in the face of the vastness of the universe. Very truly I say to you: I’m part of the universe, and you matter to me.

  • Austin R

    Notice how they changed 13.75 to 93, they got no idea about what they’re talking about.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      You must have missed the last line, which is a correction. Whoever made the original confused the size of the universe with its age.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ VinnyJH

    The problem with having a personal relationship with reality is that reality can be kind of a jerk.