An Incredulous Creed

An Incredulous Creed

Editor’s Note: Chris Highland, Clergy Project member and frequent essayist for the Rational Doubt blog just wrote this creed, encouraged by Mark Rutledge, a previous “creed” writer and me. His creed is different in tone and substance from the other two we’ve recently seen – and why not? Why should we all recite the same creed, like they do in church? Sure, we are all humans living in the same world, but we are individuals, too, with different motives, desires and points of view. Here’s how Chris sees the world. 

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By Chris Highland

Remember the song with this sappy line?

“I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.”

 

That’s horse manure.

horses

Except flowers do need rain (and manure). It seems the drama (and droppings) of belief can have seeds of truth, but it takes some cultivated thought to find any green, and therein lies the soiled rub.

It would be good to hear people say more often,

“I don’t give credence to that.”

It shows a rational process is operative.  Also,

“Don’t you find that incredible?”

would be a good question to hear more often. So, using reason and the art of questioning would both shape our “I believes” and perhaps eliminate them.

As I see it (but don’t believe it), we have more issues with “credulity” than with creeds. Credulous: too great a readiness to believe something. “I heard it on NPR” can sound like “Rachel Maddow says” or “Sean Hannity thinks” (sic). As we can see, when we’re honest (another major problem with creedal statements), credulity is not only a propensity on the “right” side of things. Ortho-doxy (correct opinion) feeds into RC—Religious Correctness—much more an issue than the so-called PC.

Creeds mean credulity-in-stone and the long tradition of etching “I believes” in our mental cement always—always—leads to “We believe” and then things get messy— except when religious ritual cleans it up, for credulous consumption. We all know that if you ask 10 Christians to explain God or God’s “plan of salvation” you’ll get 11 responses—the flowers wilt but the manure grows.

I simply don’t think in belief-words any longer. My incredulity as an infidel keeps me cautious and alert to my own mental compost as well.

For my weekly Religion Page column in a local USA Today affiliate (you heard that right—a Freethinker writing for a newspaper’s Religion Page, a few columns removed from my neighbor, Billy Graham, and his syndicated sermon), I sometimes interview local clergy to see what they think about nonbelievers. Recently I asked a “nurture” leader in a progressive congregation how she views seculars like me and her answer surprised me. After confiding that one of her kids is an atheist, she said, “We don’t know what people believe” in our church. That’s one of the most refreshingly honest statements I’ve ever heard from a “faith community.”

Maybe that’s the point, my point, when it comes to making up “creeds”—we need statements of honesty, not guesswork about things we can’t possibly know.

Therefore, since I don’t use the word “believe” much, I suppose I would say “I Think.”

I think that thinking is more important than believing.

I think we need to question all creeds and practice radical honesty.

I think it doesn’t matter much what I think, unless I can reasonably discuss it with others and hear what they think—to learn to think better.

I think people, faith or no faith, can find ways of working together to solve issues of common concern—I’ve seen it; I’ve done it; it’s possible. “All things are possible to those who [Think – and Act].”

I think we need to look to the thinkers, the scientists and naturalists as the (new and improved) “spiritual teachers” and “saints.” In other words, seek them out for useful knowledge and practical wisdom.

I think the more we learn to appreciate the beauty of this world the more “other worlds” and the creeds of “super-nature” will fade.

I think more secular-minded thinkers need to tell their stories by all means and media at hand.

I think our current Embarrassment-in-Chief is a big – (I think I’ll leave it at that).

I think therefore I am.

Finished.

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Chris Highland 2008Chris Highland teaches courses on Freethought at the UNCA Reuter Center in Asheville, NC and writes a weekly “Highland Views” column for the Asheville, SC Citizen-Times. Check out a list of his published articles here. His wife, Carol, is a Presbyterian minister—what Chris used to be. Check out his website here.

>>Photo credits: François Marchalderivative work: Dana boomer (talk) – Nokota_Horses.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9456234

By Alvesgaspar – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3427848

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • alwayspuzzled

    “I think we need to question all creeds and practice radical honesty.”

    On the other hand, maybe one of the best answers to a question is the question(s) that follows from it.

    • mason

      I agree, and think the Creed or Creedo should reflect how we actually live and honestly intend to live our lives. Creeds historically have been largely steeped in religious superstitious nonsense, and with absurd ideas like love your neighbor as yourself (which nobody does) or turn the other cheek which might appear to a masochist.

      • alwayspuzzled

        Or, every act of kindness adds a little bit of good karma to a world desperately in need of good karma. Since most of us, as you suggest, are both kind and selfish, perhaps the best we can do is maximize our acts of kindness and minimize our acts of selfishness.

  • Mark Rutledge

    Did you hear the story about Descartes who once walked into a bar with a friend who ordered a fancy martini. The bartender then turned to Descartes and asked him if he wanted the same. Descartes responded: “I think not.” And vanished.

    • http://www.chighland.com/ Chris Highland

      Ha and ha, Mark. Actually, my original essay ends, “I think therefore I am. . .finished.” A bit of a bow to Rene, but not quoting the French thinker. So, I think that explains it, so I will now vanish.

      • Linda_LaScola

        Chris, come back! we need you here on the blog!

  • See Noevo

    Chris,
    Marriage is considered by many Christians to be a sacrament,
    with God being the third member of the union of husband and wife.
    Now that you’ve dismissed the Third Member, does your wife
    feel as though she’s gone through a partial divorce?

    Or is she the type of Presbyterian minister who’s essentially an atheist?

    • Linda_LaScola

      Are those the only choices? Partial divorce or essentially an atheist? I somehow doubt Chris’s wife thinks in those terms.

    • http://www.chighland.com/ Chris Highland

      Strange question, but I’m used to that. The answer is no, though the notion of being a member of the trinity has some appeal.
      By the way, we were married in a ceremony at a Zen center presided over by a Buddhist Priest, Christian Minister, Jewish Rabbi and Wiccan Witch
      (all friends within the Interfaith community).
      So, that “third member” might have been Buddha, but I’m not sure.

      • See Noevo

        Is your wife also a Wiccan witch?

      • ElizabetB.

        Neat… do you have a link to that Wikkan community? I’m always wondering what they *think* : )

        • http://www.chighland.com/ Chris Highland

          Always good to find out what people think, Elizabeth.
          You might ask the greatest god ever made: Google.
          Seriously, I’m not sure if our Wiccan friend is a member of a particular coven right now.
          Like the Satanic Temple, there are good ethical teachings in Pagan and other “alternative” religions, though the “god of love” has tried to exterminate them during particularly loving moments, e.g. Salem, “missions,” etc.

          • ElizabetB.

            Thank you, Chris! I’ve seen some very appealing descriptions; others, not; so I’m always interested to hear what a group thinks. Taking your tip to take a trip to Wikki, sounds like maybe your friend is an “eclectic Wikkan” — individualistic — “the most popular variety in America.” It’s very fun to picture that marriage gathering! Beginning a unique new chapter in a unique journey

        • ElizabetB.

          [just to be clear… I was playing *think* against *believe* : ) ]

  • Anthrotheist

    Nice.
    “Sean Hannity thinks.”
    “I don’t give credence to that.”

    I think I use the terms “it seems to me” or “as far as I can tell” fairly often to express the same willingness to be incredulous of my own beliefs that you appear to advocate.

  • mason

    Chris, Reading your fine article reminded me of when, as my belief house of cards was collapsing, I realized that revered word “belief” was toppling from its credibility pedestal where it stood enshrined since my earliest childhood days. And in that epiphany, I painfully realized how my natural innocence and child credulity had been used against me to enable theistic indoctrination.
    That day, and the mixed emotions of the several subsequent days, are still vivid to me. While incredibly curious and experiencing a new wonder and joy pulling back the curtain and exposing the lying Wizard, I also felt intense disappointment and anger at the intellectual betrayal and ignorance foisted upon me by a culture of superstition, and my loving but unenlightened family. Since then, I’ve always required the modifier -verifiable evidence- before extending belief in anything or anyone.
    Within days of this experience I came across Carl Sagan’s amazing book, The Demon Haunted World and from that point in my life forward the saying, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” took deep root in my life. Carl offered strong warnings about the dangers of pseudoscience and absurd religious belief.
    My philosophical arch enemies, the Evangelicals

    • http://www.chighland.com/ Chris Highland

      Well said, Mason. Sagan is always a sage in this saga. Thanks.