April 24, 2011

  • Opening words at Ethical Society


    The Ethical Society I go to asks different members to do the 5 minute "opening words" to each Platform on Sunday.  Incidentally I happened to be asked to do the Easter version.

    Good morning. My name is Ben Schuldt. I’m thirty years old and I’ve been a member of the Ethical Society since near the beginning of last year. I’m now running the monthly forum, Responsible Public Debate during the school season, where we promote respectful dialog between competing perspectives on important issues in our culture.

    I’m a former Christian fundamentalist. I was raised in a moderate Lutheran household and started taking the religion seriously of my own accord at age 16 through the young earth creationist literature. At age 22, I discovered that a different Christian denomination, Eastern Orthodoxy, was more convincing to my sensibilities. But in the transition between denominations that scorned each other’s religious conventions almost equally and oppositely in terms of divine justifications, I found myself in mid-air with no Christian net. Their criticisms of each other made too much sense. Further, I was coming of age and making difficult life choices that impacted people I cared about. The ideologies and the belief system had significant implications in those decisions and the level of actionable conviction certainly wasn’t there. In some senses, you could say, it got real.

    I felt it necessary to start from scratch with what I believed, an intellectual resurrection if you will, determined to take my skeptical thoughts equally seriously and be willing to ask any question and live with the best answer I happened to have available regardless of whatever ideology that happened to be in favor of. I’ve never seriously regretted that and it opened up a whole new world of explanatory success I could not abandon.

    I’m a proficient blogger online and I know how difficult worldview transitions can be and how complicated the many big grand issues we little humans have to wrestle with thanks to the peculiarities of our culture. It seems to me a type of calling that there ought to be people with some experience out there on the non-believing side of things (or the pro-reality believing side of things) to help the next generations of folks over and through those hurdles even if the culture at large does not change. And so that’s what I try to do.

    Incidentally a particular hot-spot of debate that comes up between Biblical Christianity and Metaphysical Naturalism is the historical evidence surrounding the origins of Christianity, specifically the stories about the resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament and whether there’s any good reason to believe they happened in any way resembling what is told. I have many online writings about that and much more forthcoming as I review some popular literature on the subject and attempt to condense that conversation between educated skeptics and believers into something we can all follow.

    It’s a little perplexing from the get-go why this convoluted historical inquiry would be necessary from a divine perspective. We’re not all historians and certainly very few people in history have even had the opportunity to attempt to sort these issues out. Layers and layers of ambiguity resist clarity. History is a poor carrier for miracle claims and realistic levels of confidence.

    I also find compelling the arguments from evil against the existence of a divine good shepherd of our souls, and so the Christian Easter for me is a bit of an ideological slap in the face. Jesus has an unverifiable bad weekend once and somehow that’s supposed to make up all the negligence for the rest of history. If that sits well with a sizable portion of this country, then I would say that perhaps they need a resurrection of their own when it comes to their humanity and their conscience.


    I had a lot more to say, but trying to be on topic rather limited the scope.  Oh well.  Next time.


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