I didn’t want to talk about souls in my book, but I am going to have to. The whole point of all of it is souls.
When we think, we construct logical syntheses, and offer them to the conceptive mind.
The conceptive mind may accept an offering as a whole, as second-natural — and take it together as a given.
The conceptive mind may reject the offering as a mere construct, as artificial — and regard it as a put-together claim.
It is true that a synthesis might, with time and practice, become habitual and what started artificial might become second-natural.
But it is also true that some syntheses stay artificial forever.
An overwhelming need to assert the truth of some synthetic claim — as often happens with religious dogmas or political ideologies — seduces a soul to dishonesty about how they experience truth, or to a permanent commitment to artificiality.
Let’s refer to such souls as synthetes — people who impose their synthetic truths on themselves, and almost always, eventually, on everyone around them.
The intense need of a synthete to believe certain sacred claims is produced by a faith, and a change of faith would relieve this need to believe. But a new enworldment entails the death of the existing enworldment — and nothing wants to die, least of all a faith. When a religious fundamentalist fears eternal death caused by sinful thoughts, or when a political ideologue claims that some language (really, some ideas) are a form of violence, this is the terror of a synthesis-armored faith facing its existential death. The conceptions it holds at bay — all the givens it must suppress, discredit, shout over, excommunicate, ostracize and deplatform — threaten to flood in and force reconception of everything and every thing.
If there is one thing a born-again fundamentalist rejects as a matter of faith, it is the fact of death and resurrection of soul. If there is one thing a political radical rejects on principle, it is revolution and liberation of mind.
Both types of synthetes want to dictate what is true, to limit questions to what its doctrine answers, and to produce a mirage of reality through artificial consensus by compelling all around them to support their unsupportable beliefs. They want the mechanical immortality of the belief system, the only form of duration their bad faiths can both conceive and accept.
Faiths believe, and are not themselves made out of beliefs.
Bad faiths also believe, but they believe they are made out of beliefs of their choosing. They think they can tell themselves the story they want to believe, and that saying they believe it makes it believed — if not now, eventually. So the synthete fantasy goes.
This does not mean our faith is fixed, or that we must take what is given as given.
We can change our faiths, and through our faiths, our enworldments.
But we cannot change through force of will. Precisely that element in our soul who calls itself I, the self who dictates belief, is the being who must change if we want new and better faith.
We must treat our whole souls — the entire intuitive swarm who is ourselves — especially wordless intuitions, who only feel, or respond, who are incessantly talked over and talked down — with perfect respect.
A new self-respecting soul self-organizes and emerges liberally and democratically from a liberated intuitive swarm who has learned mutual respect.
A self-respecting soul does not impose beliefs on itself, but offers possibilities as gifts which may be taken as given or politely refused. A self-respecting soul must not tell itself what to believe, but ask itself — its whole self — what is actually believed.
We must be brave and inventive in making gifts.
We must learn to do without beliefs until we are given one we can accept.
We are not who we think we are.
3 thoughts on “Self-respecting faith”
Why not use the label “self” instead of “soul”? Then a “self-respecting soul” would be written as a “self-respecting self”, eg as opposed to a “self-loathing self”. Soul connotes immortality and mysticism, while self does not.
Also, I’m out to redescribe religious ideas in genuine experience-near terms. I’d like it if people who share my long list of atheistical disbeliefs* would learn to see souls, faiths and metanoia events all around them in the everyday — and through this to feel a genuine link with humanity’s religious history and with their religious neighbors.
My main reason for wanting to avoid talking about souls was not bound up with the word “soul” and all the various secular dumbings-down of religious thought. I’m much more worried about opening a new front on the borders of psychology and neuroscience. In some ways, casting these problems in religious terms gives me permission to speak in first person.