Posted by: serrels | May 13, 2010

Sitting on the Fence

“Sitting on fences is likely to get mighty uncomfortable, especially if people on either side decide to tug on a leg at the same time!”

That was a quote, directed at me, on a forum I joined recently to help me pimp out this very blog you’re reading right now.

It made me wince. Mainly because the idea of my precious testicles being sandwiched against a fence sounds absolutely brilliant [/sarcasm] but also because it hit me that certain people really are expecting me to – ultimately – choose some sort of ‘side’. At some point, at least.

So yes. I have had people tugging at my leg. In short, my balls have taken quite the pounding. There are the Christians subtly wishing me well on my ‘journey’ (ie, expecting Church attendance to eventually wear me down) and then there are the Atheists, warning me to watch my back during sermons… And more extreme reactions: Christians telling me that what I’m doing is disrespectful, both to God and to my own wife – Atheists flat out informing me that my marriage is doomed.

Ow… my balls!

But the way I see it, the only thing doomed is the proverbial testi-satchel hanging between my legs – and that’s just metaphorical anyway! Surely it can’t hurt that much! Admittedly there is some pain, mostly me getting a bit pissed off with ignorant people (in particular those that suggest I don’t respect my missus) but I can certainly learn to live with it.

Honestly? I’m happy to sit on the fence a bit for now. I’ve been vague with my own position, and that’s been deliberate – I don’t believe in the supernatural, and I guess technically that makes me an atheist, but I genuinely don’t want to influence or preach one way or the other.

Because the world is full of people intent on telling you what to believe – on both sides of the fence – and they’ll start tugging on your legs at the first sign of weakness.

Christians will bang on your door – because apparently you’re an empty vessel. Somewhere in amongst all those organs (I don’t know, I’m not a bloody Doctor!) there’s a giant hole in your heart, and it can only be filled with Jesus.

Atheists are similar – only they think there’s a giant hole in your brain. They’ll literally throw the book at you – usually The God Delusion, or that one that whatsisface wrote, The Origin of Faeces (I’m joking – I do believe in Evolution).

And both sets of thinkers bark at each other’s face in an endlessly indulgent dozy doh. I should know – I’ve dozied with the best of them. Each side thinks if I just tell him about Jesus/Logic he’ll understand. I’ll change his/her mind eventually. If only they would just listen

But no-one listens; or very rarely they do. The whole argument just devolves into some kind of weird competition – like a really rubbish game of monopoly that no-one wins. And no-one wants to give up, because when that guy lands on my hotel, he’ll have no choice but to quit.

Monopoly – tearing families apart since 1935

Then round and round we go – until someone eventually just launches the board across the room and uppercuts Grandma in the face.

And then no-one wins.

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Responses

  1. Breathing is a mutually exclusive action. You can only be breathing or not breathing. Even while you pause to consider which is your favourite, you’re still either breathing or not breathing. There is no third option.

    At the core, I think it’s the same for the great debate. At any point you will be leading your life like as if there is or there isn’t a God. Even while you’re considering which is your favourite, you’re still either believing or not believing. There is no third option.

    As far as I can see there doesn’t appear to be a fence. Just people getting a nice kick in the nuts from the other side, like our friend above. If you flutter between the two, you may even get a nutting from both.

    PS: where’d you get that pic anyway?

    • As always, I agree with everything you have to say Mario! It is likely true that whether it be consiously or subconsciously we have all “picked” a side of the fence even if we are still “keeping our options open”.

      I guess the point though is that from whatever side you come from – you are coming from a side – and there is an agenda, clear and visible, to any act or thought which is undertaken in this regard. And this is what we need to be conscious of as this is what leads to disrespect or narrow mindedness. Just because your side seems the most rational to you, does not mean that the people on the other side have not chosen their side just as rationally, in the best way they know how. Of course this is not true for everyone as there are many (although hopefully diminishing) who blindly follow the pack.

      And this is how this blog is so awesome! It should get people thinking and asking: What side am I on? Do I expect one particular action from Mark or another? Why might that be and what behaviour am I likely to show in response to this expectation/thought/feeling? Etc, etc. Awareness of self is the first step to true wisdom and open-mindedness NOT believing that you are the only rational human being and looking down on those whom you believe have not climbed to your level of consciousness.

  2. Cute metaphor, but I think you’re underplaying the spectrum of views that come between religious faith and atheism, particularly agnosticism. Perhaps you’re listening to the wrong people.

  3. I think the people telling you your marriage is doomed are really unsupportive and disrespectful of the choices you and your spouse have made.

    Having said that, perhaps you can find a positive expression of your values which you can proudly state rather than calling yourself technically atheist which says little about what you hold dear. Don’t be such a milquetoast.

    In an earlier blog post, in response to questions about your stance on the existence of gods and Jesus, you had spoken about how you “don’t know Jesus”. If you did know Jesus, would that change anything? Additionally you completely failed to elaborate on your actual position toward gods.

    Your response displayed a preoccupation with the significance of Jesus which is completely out of proportion to your implied metaphysical naturalism. What about Abraham, Moses, Muhammad, Bahaiullah, Joseph Smith, Ramakrishna, Shiva, Vishnu, Buddha, Zoroaster, Laozi, and all the here-unnamed masses people who have claimed divine or prophetic insights throughout history? Do you have a response for them as well?

    • I hasten to add: best of luck to you and your wife. I hope you’ll have a long, fruitful and loving relationship!

  4. i love your views and to read the others thoughts, very will written. However, i wonder if the one you really loved was facing a significant illness, who would you turn to? Do you pray, internalise it, or reach out to some higher power etc? ( this is the nurse in me….at this point nearly all, turn to a God, prayer or some sort of religion.)

    • @Julie: Doctors?

      • they do a good job, but don’t have all the answers, all the time!

  5. I think you’ve well described the downsides to the theist/atheist debate. While it may help us justify our decisions, in the end, it doesn’t really persuade anyone.

    My question would then be Why do you believe what you believe? What compels you to straddle the divide such that your head’s in atheism and your heart’s in church (or perhaps the other way around)?

    There is, of course, an irrationality to your “stuck in church” position (the church being a place of free association), which is what makes this blog and your life interesting. Do you care to justify your fence sitting beyond the mere fact that you can? Or do you just say, It doesn’t make sense, but I want to do it and I can and that’s good enough for me.

  6. You are making your wife happy by attending church with her. Deep down she expects that sooner or later it will “kick in” and you will join. As long as you both are happy with things as they are now, I see no problem.

    My mother was devout and attended church every sunday of her life, and I never saw my father go near a church. They just respected the feelings of each other and had a long happy marriage.

  7. No matter what anyone believes, or doesn’t believe, the truth is that no living soul really knows. Without faith one cannot believe in God. It also takes faith not to believe in God. The most honest state is to just admit that I don’t know if God exists, and neither does anyone else.
    And yes, i watched my wife die from cancer, and I do know how desperately I wanted to believe in live after death, because the pain of saying good-bye was beyond description. I do believe in love. Cherish what you have now, but accept that the only constant in the universe is change. Colin

  8. I understand why so many people choose not to think about which side of the fence they sit on; it’s an important decision!

    I have to admit, as a Christian, I do hope that one day you will give your heart to God. My Christian beliefs tell me that this life is a mere blink of the blissful eternity that waits, why wouldn’t I wish that for you if that’s what I truly believe?!?

    I’m really glad you’re taking on this blog. As Christians we so often just follow along with what we think we should believe rather than ever really investigating it for ourselves. I’m still in the process of really figuring out what I believe, and how I should live my life.

    I know that even if you never succumb to the pressures of church 😛 I’m still impressed to know that you gave it an honest chance. That to me just shows how truly committed you are to your marriage *pat on the back* haha 😀

  9. Hi Mark

    There is NO fence

    Read Matthew 6:24
    and
    1 Corithians 10:21

    • Reading the bible has nothing to do with this debate. If people can’t even agree on the base ie God/No God you can’t bring the bible into it. If someone doesn’t believe in the Christian God what authority does the bible have?

  10. whatever you do do not fence off your mind, confucious say he who sit on fence get sore rear end ( ok maybe not ) and do not take any notice of what i or anyone else says, u have a brain so continue to use it, this blog is very open minded and i am impressed and hope u keep it up! the idea of fence is quaint and immature, the only fence is the little coral with all the sheep in it who think that they are not supposed to think! personally i think to even consider the possibility u might be wrong is a huge step. I was horrified at the thought of SDA’s being wrong, now it is exceedingly easy to prove that they believe a lot of nonsense, some is good stuff but there is a lot of vege baloney out there .

    many prefer to be wrong in a group than correct on there own. the argument that it is better for man and wife to believe the same has some merit but can also be good if think differently so u can keep each other honest and have interesting conversations. the nonsense that yeah you should believe same stuff supports the muslim / islamic tradition of honour killings, yes let ut drown our daughter if she believes something different. what nonsense!

    your comments and insights deserve respect and a much better response than i can give. sda’s while usualy nice people can be hyperliteralists at times and some believe some utter nonsense
    ok sevies if u think universe 6000 years old the go outside at night and look up in the sky, see those stars in the milky way, well most of them are way further away than 6000 years, oh and dont look at the large and small Magellanic clouds cos they well over 100,000 light years away ( and of course actually much older than that, this just the distance away in light speed. try reading some science, bible has some great noble stuff and a whole lot of well just plain bull. if you really are stupid enough or plain ignorant enough to actually believe it is inerrant try actually reading it yourself or do u need help to understand it?

    by the rivers of babylon we lay down and wept – great song ( psalm 137 btw ) great power passion and sentiment about the evils of slavery and captivity etc, but read the whole chapter, last verse says the took great joy in smashing babies brains out on the rocks , have you actually read this? have you rocks in your own head? check it out, think for yourselves!

    did noah drop the koalas and kangaroos off in aussie then row to nz to let kiwis off? maybe a GREAT wind blows and noah’s dinghy make sit to africa to let the lions off, quaint story but historically and scientifically baloney

    he created the 1st day evening and morning ( with no sun ? are u kidding me? oh yes it must be correct the bible says so, hmm except chapter 2 puts things in a different order, ok so that order is correct also? are you nuts?

    ther is metaphor, eg Jesus says he is “the door” hmm a revolving door ? sliding door? wooden door i think we would all agree that at least this is metaphor!

    sure cherry pick the good texts, there are some great things there but even in the unlikely event that the babble is actually inspired there is still the touch of the human hand all the way through.

    i was fenced in by dogma but now feel free of silliness, i stil have sda friends and i like and respect them but not impressed at all about the nonsense their religion tells them, i know i have read more about it than the vast majority of “sevs” ..

    by the way the weekdays named after things in the sky not your sevenday creation myth

    let us agree to be civil and respect life etc but dont try to pressure nonsense on us nonstamp collectors !

    have fun – peace and think and laugh
    goal of rational discussion for the truth to win perhaps we could agree on that?

    dogma – if facts disagree with your hypotheses ( theory / idea ) throw away the facts

    science – if facts disagree with your hypotheses throw away the hypotheses

    • Hi Peter

      I wonder if you ever studied the book of Revelation. If not, I suggest you go the audio verse site and download the revelation series by Norman Mcnulty and Alister Houng. Once you have a comprehension of the book of Revelation and its prophecies (For it is written “whoever reads and understands these prophecies is blessed) then I am quite sure that your comment above and the questions you pose about SDA beliefs will seem to you foolish and irrational.

      God bless you brother, and may they Holy Spirit lead you if you decide to take this journey

      Sean

  11. Hey guys,

    I’m going to comment on this one mainly because reading back, I think I’m practically saying nothing at all in this post!

    What I’m saying here, basically, is that yes, I have my own beliefs and convictions, but to an extent they’re irrelevant. By that I mean that while my beliefs frame the perspective of this belief – a non-christian who attends church – I don’t want to get bogged down in what I believe or don’t believe because I’m very wary of presenting an agenda.

    I don’t want Christians to feel like I’m an atheist in church having a good laugh at their beliefs – because I’m not! On the flip side I don’t want those on the other side of the spectrum to feel like I’m selling out my own beliefs – because, again, I’m not!

    I’m straddling the fence! As simple as that. To those who would argue ‘there is no fence’ – fair enough. I suppose it’s more of a balancing act. In writing these blogs I’m very careful about presenting a direct agenda – this is about an experience. A non-christian attending church and participating in that community, as simple as that!

    Hope that explains a bit, and thanks so much for the support and comments! I’m extremely happy to see people reading my posts and discussing them!


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