Rob Bell’s Talking about God

I’ll be honest with you: I’ve tried to get into Rob Bell’s Love Wins multiple times, but his writing style always defeats me. I’m used to a much more formal style, and his loopy, rambling presentation always throws me. Judging by this promo for his upcoming book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, I’m going to have the same problem again:

It starts out okay, with him talking about how the god concept doesn’t work for many people, but that many others have some emotional or esthetic experience that convinces them that there’s another level to reality. I don’t get the jump – why does a profound experience triggered by an outside event mean that there has to be more than the subject and the trigger? – but I suppose that’s why I’m in the first category of people.

But after the first few sentences, he goes into his writing process, which sounds horribly disjointed. He shows off some of the books he’s read in preparation. There’s a biography of the band Oasis and a book about Coldplay, which makes no sense and doesn’t fill me with hope for the book he’s writing. He ends by giving a quick sketch of his thesis, which is basically a summary of the god concept that I got from Spong and other progressives twenty years ago. Haven’t we made any progress since then?

There’s an old saying that the problem with talking about God is first talking – conveying real information rather than meaningless deepities and pseudo-profundity – and then God – the real God, and not an idol, or the contents of your imagination, or what you want God to be. I’m not convinced that Bell has a handle on either problem.

  • http://themikewrites.blogspot.com JohnMWhite

    I think the Oasis and Coldplay books are there because some find music transcendent and think it comes from some other plane. I suspect these bands experimented somewhat with getting music from ‘elsewhere’ (or making it sound like it was from ‘elsewhere’) but in all likelihood it just meant they got high before writing certain songs.

    The promo seemed rather incoherent. There were a lot of maxims, platitudes and just random words mashed together. The underpinning seems to be simply wishful thinking – some people do not want to accept that this is all there is, so they think there’s something else. That’s fine for them, but it is simply a guess. How do you write an entire book about a guess and why would anybody be interested?

    I haven’t read any of Bell’s work before, but I get the feeling from the quirky randomness and the attempting-to-be-modern filming style that he is simply going to argue in favour of a vague, ill-defined being of love to try to dodge criticisms levied at the god we all know from the bible. I suspect it’ll be a god that’s unknowable and mysterious except for how he totally loves you and we know he’d never do anything mean or cruel, everything he does has a reason.

    Am I on the right track?

    • Igor

      Sounds like a more coherent version of John C.

  • Brian M

    Awwwwww, Igor. At least John C has a tradition (Gnosticism) to draw from! This guy just sounds like a comfortable white upper middle class babbler stringing together platitudes.

    In looking at the world…or the universe…how can any thinking person believe that It is designed for us, that it is “good” or “moral” in any way?

    • http://www.triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

      Do we really have to say “white upper middle class” like it is a bad thing? :-)
      I agree about the platitudes etc .. it is marketing. But it may not be intentional. What makes something sell best is when the dealer believes his own shit. I know, I’ve done it and continue to do it. Don’t we all.

  • http://www.brgulker.wordpress.com brgulker

    I appreciate what Rob is doing because he is compelling evangelicals to talk about things they’d rather not.

    But yeah, Love Wins felt very amateurish in terms of writing style depth and mastery of content.

    • http://www.triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

      I agree, how can this be anything but a good influence on American Christianity?

  • http://recoveringagnostic.wordpress.com Recovering Agnostic

    I don’t know what to make of Bell. I can see that Love Wins might have been an important corrective to Christians who are buried deep in a whole portfolio of bizarre doctrines that aren’t even justified by a literal reading of the Bible, but his arguments ranged from self-evident to utterly ridiculous. I reviewed that one at http://recoveringagnostic.wordpress.com/2012/08/26/book-review-love-wins-by-rob-bell/

    Worst of all, though, was his prose style.

    Which is a bit.

    Like this.

    As if it was transcribed from an audiobook.

    Read by William Shatner.

    • Sunny Day

      Its the Huffing for Jesus style.

  • John C

    Wow, a Rob Bell clip on UF?

    *Progress :)

    • Noelle

      He’s kinda like a younger you.

    • Brian M

      Awwwww. John C. Don’t tell me you fall for this piffle?

      Go back and read some Dead Sea Scrolls or lost Gospels, some stuff with DEPTH!

  • vasaroti

    Just another guy who want the universe to be magic.

  • kessy_athena

    But we know for a fact that this isn’t all there is. The usual six senses only perceive a tiny fraction of everything that’s going on in the world around us. (No, not *that* sixth sense – I mean the sense of balance; you have a pair of accelerometers in your inner ears.) Actually, most of the interactions that give ordinary matter the properties it has are not things we can directly perceive – which is why it’s taken centuries of hard work to try to tease out just what those interactions are. Something that we’re still very much in the process of doing, by the way. No, that doesn’t mean the christianity is right, or that belief system X is right, or that the universe is the way one may want it to be. But I think it does make the idea that we know all there is (or nearly so) rather foolish. And while the universe may not be magic, it is certainly deeply, profoundly weird.

    • Sunny Day

      I’d classify the sense of balance as belonging to the family of the sense of touch.
      The motion of the fluid in the ear detected by sensitive membranes and hair.

      • Michael

        By that logic, hearing should be too.

        Sight, sound, smell, taste, pressure, pain, hot, cold, balance, proprioception, blood CO2, hunger, thirst, fullness of stomach, and many other stimuli can affect different “senses” depending on how general your definition, and I certainly see no reason to consider the sense of balance the same as the sense of pressure.

        • Sunny Day

          Rain drops falling on my head is definitely touch while a drop of liquid on my inner ear is not?

          • Michael

            Absolutely. The liquid in your semicircular canals is incompressible, and the sensory organs detect waves, much as the hairs in the cochlea detect shear strain. The labyrinthine nerves are completely different from the pressure nerves in the skin, and the sensation is completely different. Classifying them under the same umbrella is nonsensical.

    • http://www.triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

      Couldn’t agree more with what you are essentially saying, Kessy.

      In fact, many atheists could be trained to feel the world more deeply:
      – when chronic fear and greed drop, the world can feel fuller
      – when we learn more control and agility in our bodies (better balance) the world fills richer
      – when we train our musical mind the world blossoms
      – when we train our scientific and mathematical mind, the world shines.

      But obviously this works for theists and atheists alike. The world can be dull to people with or without a god. Some people use a god to brighten it up. I can be sympathetic to that if it is the only tool they have and they do it well. To acknowledge that there are different ways to feel the world, is a first step to a certain type of fruitful conversation with some theists.

      • vasaroti

        I would say that it is the religious who need to learn to experience the universe more deeply and accurately, and awe and tolerance usually follow. Instead, this “brightening tool” of belief in the supernatural leads them to irrational fear, suppression of “worldly things” like sports and music, and we need only look at our elected representatives to see how religion stands in the way of using science to help ourselves.

        • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

          @vasaroti:
          beliefs can be two-edged: dulling the senses or sharpening them. I’m not sure I would generalize about religion at all: too much variety and too many uses.

          Hmmmm, — I don’t see any way to follow comments here. Am I missing something?

      • kessy_athena

        Actually, Sabio, I was talking about the physical nature of the universe, such as how most of the familiar properties of matter are governed by electromagnetism that we can only perceive indirectly. It sounds like you’re talking about how the human mind works, which is a different topic.

        When it comes to the question of spiritual experiences and why you might or might not make a leap from that to a more mystical worldview, I think there are a couple of things at work here. The first has to do with the fact that some people have these sorts of experiences and some don’t. As with many things in life, it’s just hard to convey to someone who hasn’t had a certain sort of experience what it’s like. Imagine trying to explain what riding a roller coaster feels like to someone who’s never even ridden in an ordinary car. Different people have different experiences, and it’s only natural that affects how they look at the world. Some people have seen shooting stars and some people haven’t. That doesn’t mean that the people who haven’t seen them should think those who have are hallucinating, nor does it mean that those who have seen them should go around trying to convey the transcendent beauty (slight sarcasm) of it to everyone in the world, whether they want to hear about it or not. On the other hand, not everyone perceives the same experiences the same way. I happen to be tone deaf, and I generally have no idea what people are on about when they talk about how much they love their particular music. To me, most music is just a generally pleasant sound. But I neither begrudge nor dismiss those who experience music in a much more visceral way then I do – they have their things and I have my things, and it’s not a big deal.

        The other big question is what sort of attitude you have toward the way you experience the world. Some people place great value on logical and intellectual experiences, some people place great value on emotional inner experiences, some people place great value on immediate visceral experiences, and so on. It’s a matter of taste and perspective, and again, people working with different sorts of experiences are naturally going to put together somewhat different worldviews. And we all have a bad tendency to try to force new experiences to fit into our existing worldview, or ignore them if we can’t make them fit. Some of us much more so then others. If you go into a creepy old building, is the creepy feeling a spiritual insight, a product of subsonics and lighting, or a bit of undigested beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese?

        Building a worldview out of our experiences strikes me as being a bit like building things out of Legos. Different people get different kits, with different sorts of parts in them, and then different people choose to use different sets of the blocks they have in different ways. The fact that you’re going to get all kinds of different results doesn’t make them right or wrong, or some better then others. We just want to make sure that nobody chokes on a block or leaves them where people are going to step on them. In the same way, it’s only natural that different people will have different worldviews, and that doesn’t necessarily make any of them better or worse then others. We just want to try to discourage people from using them in ways that are dangerous or harmful to themselves or others.

    • vasaroti

      The sixth sense is proprioception.

    • Brian K

      But one problem is that the people who have the spiritual kit seem to see how they feel the world as The Truth. And the expand The Truth into all kinds of things, like the demand to murder apostates, or rigid gender roles, etc.

      The “spiritual kit” people also seem to be storngly prone to confirmation bias, group psychosis, etc.

      How far are you willing to take this, kessy? What means are we to use to assess these ‘different results”? Because some guru, or prophet claims to have a unique “kit of parts” we are supposed to obey him (it is almost always a him)?

      • kessy_athena

        Of course not. Having a spiritual worldview is one thing, how one behaves toward other people is something entirely different. Nothing related to spirituality is ever a valid excuse for bad behavior, nor does it legitimate the kind of authority you’re talking about.

        My point is that in general it’s neither necessary nor desirable to judge those different results, any more then it’s a good idea to grade kids on their Lego constructions. Make yours the way you want it and let your neighbors build theirs the way they want it. Even though you may wind up with wildly different constructions doesn’t mean you can’t play together. It’s only when people start doing dangerous things that you should intervene, like if one person is using their Legos to make something to hit their neighbor over the head with.

        And I’d point out that humans in general seem to be strongly prone to confirmation bias, group psychosis, etc, including thee and me.

        • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

          I agree

        • Nox

          In a world where the well wasn’t already poisoned, I would completely agree with you.

          In the world we’re currently stuck in, the institution which is causing the greatest interference to people’s ability to arrange their own legos as they wish, draws its legitimacy and power from appropriating the spiritual impulse.

          There’s nothing inherently authoritarian about our desire to have transcendent experiences. But those who wish to generate reforms should be very careful about what they defend, and very clear about what they are referring to. Generic defenses of spirituality which do not differentiate between good and bad ideas (this is more of a complaint about Bell than about Kessy) will generically defend all forms of spirituality. And for those who want to hit their neighbor, it will just be another way to be sure they are right.

          • kessy_athena

            You’re absolutely right, Nox. The current state of affairs is a huge nasty mess, and poisoning the well is a great metaphor for it. Spirituality and spiritual concepts have been badly abused and used as cover for all sorts of horrible things, and combating that probably should still be the main concern. I’m just saying that going to the opposite extreme and condemning all forms of spirituality or becoming intolerant of a spiritual worldview because of what some people have done with it would be a bad thing. After all, it was Hitler who built the Autobahn – that doesn’t make highways evil.

            • Brian M

              But the problem is in concepts and terminology. What does a “spiritual world view” even MEAN? Does it mead believing in spirits and gods and demons? Or just a vague “my eyes cannot see the weak nuclear force so MYSTERY!!!!”

              Why not? The terminology and concepts are so vague that they are effectively meaningless. The concept of “spiritual but not religious” devolves quickly into feel good pablum. And pretty soon one must defend the claims of faith healers and witch doctors, because they have a spiritual world view, dontcha know??????

            • kessy_athena

              @Brian M: First let me clear something up. I’m saying two things. First that only a few forms of spiritual belief are sufficiently pathological that they should be treated as societal problems, and not simply eccentricities or different points of view. Things along the lines of “kill all unbelievers.” Second that some forms of spiritual belief do not contradict known physical facts and are reasonable interpretations of the nature of reality. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t forms of spiritual beliefs that are completely ridiculous and silly, nor does it mean that there aren’t people who peddle woo for their own benefit. Of course, there are also forms of “scientific” belief that are ridiculous and silly, and there are people who peddle scientific sounding woo for their own benefit. Take late night infomercials, for example. Saying that Billy Mays’ latest miracle product that does everything is a complete crock doesn’t mean that science in general is invalid, nor does defending science mean you have to defend snake oil salesmen. And the last thing is to remember that any reasonable belief that conforms to the known facts can still turn out to be wrong, whether that belief is spiritual, scientific, or something else.

              Now, the term “spiritual world view” *does* have a real meaning, although I admit I may not be expressing it as well as I could. In this context, what I mean by a world view is some fundamental assumptions about how the world works. There’s a continuum of possible world views ranging between different extremes, and there are several different aspects that may or may not be equivalent to each other, so I’ll put forth a few examples, with the “scientific” end of the scale presented first, and the “spiritual” end presented second. Keep in mind I’m trying to illustrate the extremes here, so the “scientific” end may not represent current scientific understanding at all.

              Let’s first consider determinism vs randomness. Is the universe a Newtonian clockwork mechanism, or is it random and chaotic? Is causality an absolute principle, or do effects even need to have causes at all? If you can have two experiments that both start with the exact same conditions, will they always have the same outcome or not?

              Then there’s strict ontological inertia vs a lack of ontological inertia. Do things continue to exist as the were when nothing is acting on them, or can things change while you’re not looking? Remember, there are things that definitely don’t have ontological inertia – for example, if I close my browser before hitting “Post Comment,” this post will simply poof out of existence. So just how much ontological inertia does reality have in general?

              Impersonal forces vs conscious intent: do things just happen, or does someone or something make them happen? If something moves, does that mean there’s something or someone moving it? Is existence meaningless, or do things happen for a reason?

              Is the universe mostly known or mostly unknown? Do we understand what happens in our immediate environment, so that unknown weird and mysterious things can only happen far, far away, long ago, or at either inhumanly tiny or giant scales? Or do strange things happen around us all the time?

              If something is just in your head, does that mean it doesn’t exist, or do subjective feelings have a reality of their own? Is that feeling of someone watching you just your imagination, or does your subconscious know something your conscious mind doesn’t? Is your subconscious ever worth listening to? Is the subconscious mind some useless relic of our evolution, or is it a vital part of who we are?

              Are vision and hearing the only senses that count, or do humans have other sources of information? Are gut feelings and intuition nonsense or are they telling us something?

              I’m kind of just making this all up as I go along to try to illustrate my intuitive sense of things, so everyone please feel free to chime in on it.

  • http://www.triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

    Apparently Daniel, unlike for you some of us need much more mental strength to become Atheists. ;-)

    You write:

    …many others [theists] have some emotional or esthetic experience that convinces them that there’s another level to reality. I don’t get the jump – why does a profound experience triggered by an outside event mean that there has to be more than the subject and the trigger?

    Part of my mind still makes that “jump” occasionally. There are lots of different types of Christians and lots of different types of “jumping”. When I was a Christian, I was rather surprised to find so many other Christians that did not have supernatural-mystical experiences. You make it sound like a simple interpretation issue. But I think people feel these things very differently. So that much of the understanding issue is merely different types of brains simply not comprehending others.

    Maybe you Evangelical believer-brain was a hugely intellectual, social, know-it-all brain. So when you woke up from those tricks, it was easier for you to leave it than those of us who heard voices, saw visions, felt light explode in us and more. Maybe your mind is drier in general. OR, maybe I am essentially more wacky. But the point is, with a little study, we sometimes can understand why others are so different than us and not just think they have a weaker intellect, a sillier deduction system or such but maybe their personal data is far different from yourself.

    I am sure you have thought about this stuff before, but wanted to throw in a reminded. Do you feel you were more of an intellectual-cultural Evangelical or the mystical-magical type? [if I dare create such a false taxonomy for discussion purposes]

    Thanks for the video – the background music was nauseating. I agree with Rob here that the world is full of “gray fascinating truths and discoveries”. This is a common misunderstanding of atheists by many theists — they think we don’t enjoy mystery, shades of grey, uncertainty and such. Indeed some atheists have much flatter worlds but then so do many theists. “God” is not need to make the world more fun.

    You make fun of his writing style and his writing process — that seemed a low blow. But maybe I was sympathetic because my style is also “horribly disjointed”. Maybe yours is cleaner, more careful, more organized …

    BTW, you have an ironic typo right after your criticism: “preperation” ?
    :-)

    Finally, as a matter of generous translation, Rob’s last words were:
    “God has always been ahead of us, pulling us forward, into greater and greater peace, integration, wholeness and love.”

    I would translate that as: “My mind has been always moving into greater integration and I continue to feel happier and able to love more.”

    If he calls that experience “God”, I think he is mistaken. If he makes Gods and spirits out of wind on top of mountains, I think he is mistaken. But I understand the reflex deeply. That is why it was perhaps a little harder for me to leave Christianity than some other atheists. Maybe.

    • vorjack

      1. Not Daniel.

      2. I am not, nor have I ever been, an Evangelical. I was born and raised Episcopalian, and I’ll swear to that on my old Book of Common Prayer.

      3. I’ll never claim that my brain was social, else I wouldn’t have ended up as an archivist. Nor will I claim that I know it all. But there may be such a thing as a person who is just not spiritually inclined, and if there is then I’m it.

      4. I do not “make fun” of Bell’s writing style, that was an honest and straightforward criticism. I am trained as a historian, and taught that clarity is one of the highest virtues in writing. Maybe I’m just not one of the cool kids anymore, but I still value the old “tell it three times and spell it out” school of persuasive book writing – which, ideally, is what “Love Wins” was supposed to be.

      First, because writing is a form of communication, so you want to get your ideas across as smoothly and clearly as possible. Second, because organized writing is strongly indicative of organized thinking. If you’re not thinking clearly, take a break and then come back and talk to me when you are. If you can’t clearly articulate your thoughts, what chance do I have of understanding them?

      5. “preperation” – fixed. I would just like to point out that a blog post and a book are two different things.

      6. I have no problems with Bell’s ending statement. As I said, I found much the same thing in Spong and others back when I was a liberal Christian, *mumble* years ago. But Bell may have taken the jump into true non-theism, and thus your generous translation would be accurate, or he may not have. Part of my problem with Bell is that it’s impossible to tell.

      • Elemenope

        FWIW, it was hard to tell with Spong, too.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com/ Sabio Lantz

    @Vorjack:
    (1) Ah, missed that this was a “guest post” — or do you write regularly here. An intro from the start would have helped me. Sorry.

    (2) This mistake was explained by #1 – see the ABOUT of this blog.

    (4) Nit-picking. You were criticizing. His books sell, write as clearly as you like but if it don’t sell, it don’t matter.

    But, I am pretty sure I would highly dislike his books — I can only take that sort of jargon so long. But other folks suck it up , it seems.

    Did Nietzsche seem organized to you?

    (6) Yes, progressive and liberal Christians are very confusing in that realm. But I think they are good medicine for the other fellas. But I am sure they don’t care — the long ago left behind propositional Christianity, which seems like your main fight.

    PS — Do you know how to follow comments on this blog?

    • Elemenope

      Internet rule #whatever: always check the byline. :)

      FWIW, even the briefest of Nietzsche’s aphorisms always contained a complete thought, generally in pristine, grammatical (if a bit playful) German.

      Even if one restricts oneself to artists who lurve the sentence fragment, Rob Bell is no Hemingway. I appreciate what Bell is trying to do with Christianity same as the next guy, but Velvet Elvis made my eyes cross far more than is normal or healthy.

      • kessy_athena

        Is Velvet Elvis the painting in the background of the vid? When I saw that, I thought to myself, “Oh man, that’s not a good sign…”

      • http://www.triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

        @Elemenope
        It was a while since I had visited Daniel’s blog so I wrongly assumed Daniel was still the author. In fact, I checked the About just to remember his name and background. I missed the bi-line because I thought I knew who wrote this blog and just like cluttery advertisement signs on the road, my mind skips suspected noise. But I was wrong, the assumption was wrong, and all that resulted was a bunch of snippy, grumpy, nit-picky old guys going at it — ah, how I miss atheists blogs– I forgot about that culture.

        Nietzsche was not a systematic, organized writer — that is why aphorisms fit him well. Yet no one denies his influence and value to many people. To criticize a writer whose preparation method and writing style is not like yours, instead of addressing content, is like Joan Rivers poking fun ad Adele’s weight. Like we care — Adele, keep singing, you are fantastic. I see politician attacking other politician’s on irrelevant material too. It is poor generic rhetoric. Vorjack use to run a series of posts called something like “Stupid Theist of the Week” that did the same sort of thing. I thought he’d decided to stop that approach. But I guess in some circles, such rhetoric sells — kind of like Bell’s books, some folks are willing to overlook sloppy thinking.

    • Noelle

      :)
      The “about” tab is misleading. Though this is Daniel Florien’s creation, he has not been as engaged with it as of the last couple years. He offers many a drive-by sharing of a meme with no explanation. Now, some people like memes, and if that brings in newbies then happy to see ya. If you’ll scan the posts and authors of late, you will note they are almost all from vorjack. Were he to introduce himself at the beginning of all of them, it’d be a bit redundant. Perhaps he deserves his own “about” tab.

      How to follow? This here’s a nested system. Find the original comment and look for indents on the replies. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find it useful for discussion.

      • http://www.triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

        Good to meet you Noelle.

        (1) Yep, apparently it was time for a new About tab a while back. It could list the various authors, their backgrounds etc. And the purpose of the blog.

        (2) Why does Vorjack write here when he has his own blog?

        (3) My question is not yet answered. On all blogs I visit, I can click a box that says something like “follow by email” — here I can’t. So if I want to follow the conversation, I have to remember to come back and scroll through all the comments looking for replies.

        (4) BTW, I wrote a short thing here on the problems with hierarchical “nested” commenting systems. Many agree, BTW.

        • Noelle

          I didn’t know vorjack had another blog. Must not be enough work for historians these days. Philosopher, scientist, and recovering religious fanatic atheist bloggers are plentiful. I don’t know much about history, while I am quite comfortable with Biology, so it’s nice to have that perspective.

          There used to be an email follow thing on here, but I don’t know what happened to it. I did not care for it, as it gave me too much email to delete. And I already have enough of that.

          Yeah, some people like nesting, some people don’t. I like it. While it makes it more difficult to follow the thread as a whole, it allows one to have a discussion within a discussion, kinda like that Inception movie. Which, much like nested comments, some people people like it and some people don’t. For example, right now I am only talking to you. This comment has nothing to do with Rob Bell. If I wanted to comment on Bell, I would give that it’s own place and not nest it under someone else’s comment, unless my Bell observation were directly in response to their’s. Personally, I find Bell’s rambling style annoying and hard to follow. But then I was trained a scientist and not a pointless mushy mystical rambler. (and dammit, I went and commented on Bell while purposely making a point not too).

          If you stick around, you’ll get used to our style.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

    Noelle,

    Thanks for the info. I was probably mixing up a few things. I hope you get the “follow by e-mail” check box turned on again so that those who wish to follow can follow.

    I am curious how many writers contribute here and look forward to learning more in your new “About” page. Thanx again for your patient explanations.

    – Sabio

    • Noelle

      Not my blog, just trying to be helpful

  • Brian M

    Kessy: The nesting appears broken, so hoepfully you will catch this comment.

    I don’t disagree with a lot of what you say. I guess what leads to my somewhat intemperate reaction is baggage associated with the term “spiritual”. And, although they may not be harmless per se, I am still suspicious of many of the claims of the spiritual or relgious and I agree…to an extent…that relgiious ways of thinking are inherently dangerous.

    Many of your questions may be better described as “philosophical” in nature rather than “spiritual”. I am more comfortable with that kind of terminology, at least. Your mileage may vary! :)

    • kessy_athena

      I understand completely. The word “supernatural” always makes me cringe, and I know a lot of people have much more reason to react strongly to certain terminology then I do.

      The way I was using the terminology I would have described the questions as “philosophical” and the answers as varying between “spiritual” and “scientific.” That doesn’t really seem satisfactory to me, but I’m not sure that switching it to contrast “scientific” with “philosophical” would be much of an improvement. I think what it really comes down to is, “Is the way you see the world more like an engineering diagram or an impressionist painting?”

      I’d argue that the dangerous aspects of religious ways of thinking are very real, but are not common to all forms of religious thinking, nor are they unique to religious ways of thinking. My opinion is that the impulses that led to inquisitions and crusades are pretty much the same as the impulses that fueled the destructive ideologies of the last century.

  • Bob Mahlstedt

    You probably have a hard time with Bell’s approach to sharing ideas because you have been spoon fed factual information all your life which is the opposite of the spiritual concepts Bell writes about. I LOVE Bell’s approach because he isn’t dogmatic, but rather throws out ideas, concepts, questions that allow for his readers to contemplate and have those “ah-haaa” moments when something “clicks” in their mind/spirit. Spiritual reality cannot be put into exact words and formulas…which is what I think you are looking for. But that will never happen … you either get beyond words and thought… or you write columns like the above. :-)


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