Monday, April 30, 2012

War: what is it good for?

Among the spiritual buzzphrases most likely to glaze-over my eyes: "spiritual warfare." I don't get it; I don't like it. It seems excessive and histrionic. I react to it like a teenager hushing her mom in a public place.

But I've encountered it three times in the past week -- in Mark Galli's book, Jesus, Mean and Wild; in my aunt Dian Wells Matlock's book, Come Walk with Me to Glory, and at the kind- of- hipster- but- also- unironically- evangelical church I attended Sunday morning -- so I feel like I should try and work out who I'm warring against, why I need to, and how I can do so without alienating the people I love or feeling like a fraud, given that I usually see the world as pretty good, not a place in which I need to make waves, let alone wage war.

I suppose, when I think about it, that maybe some aspects of the world could justify language about war. My ability to eat sushi and drink lattes in a world where people are dying because they do not have water, for example, seems like a deep wrong, something I should be fighting against, perhaps by not eating out twice a week and then worrying if it's "right" for me to donate money to the Fistula Project or ADRA when I'm about to borrow a large chunk of it to go to school.

More immediate and insistent are the often-debilitating fears that I am worthless, that terrible things are going to happen to me, that life – all life but particularly my life -- is meaningless. I suspect that many of the terrible things people do grow out of that kind of darkness, and I feel obligated to wonder if an infinite God makes distinctions between sins like turning a blind eye to Him and the work He'd ask you to do and sins like cheating on your taxes or your spouse, or directly hurting another person.

He must, right? Obviously, my bulimia wasn't as bad as if I'd killed someone; obviously, enjoying a meal out isn't as bad as if I were taking away someone's food myself. If I am kind of wasting the life and resources I've been given, well, it's not like I'm out killing people or doing any other really bad things, right?

But there's always going to be someone whose sins have more visible effects on people than my own. Cheat on your wife? Hey look, there's some gay guys who want to get married! Bitch incessantly about TFA? Hey look, there's someone even more negative and snarky than you! Ignore the needs of others? Did you know that Mitt Romney pays less taxes than I do?

Look, my biggest discomfort with the concept of spiritual warfare is that it's the kind of idea I gravitated towards when I was a kid and later came to suspect was kind of emotionally unhealthy and black and white. But that may have more to do with the way I processed information at twelve, at seventeen, than with the concept itself.

Things don't have to be either/or; most things, I think, are both/and. My most immediate, pressing commitment is to my child, and part of that commitment is to model love and faith and hope to him, to guide him to become someone who thinks of others and sees himself in a relationship with the world. I have to work out how to relate to God as well as to parent him lovingly. I have to have faith that those things aren't in conflict, that when I want to leave him at home to go Help People, that's my ego and talking and not so much my God.

Similarly, I can value and care for myself and still admit that I need to be changed. I can believe I am loved without having to torment myself over whether or not I "deserve" to be loved. I can admit that I often don't do the things I wish I did, that I often fall short of who I want to be, and see that as a human limit rather than a unique and personal flaw. And I can hate fighting and still affirm that there are things that are worth fighting for: my health and sanity, my marriage and my child, and the kind of world I can imagine, the world I believe God is calling me to work for.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

not ideas about the thing but the thing itself

It struck me recently that, in my anxiety about whether or not I believe, I'm not exactly clear what I'm trying to believe in. There are a lot of ideas of God in circulation, maybe always, but especially now. A friend of mine who is an atheist carries around a very particular image of the God he doesn't believe in, one he claims is dominant in our society: it has never occurred to me to believe in that “God”, either. But when I actually read the Gospels, it occurs to me that my idea of God, and Christ in particular, may be so limited that for all intents and purposes it is no more meaningful than my friend's.

Here are some things I'm pretty sure Christ wasn't: a model for how we should live, a solution for everyone's problems, a get-out-of-jail-free card with respect to the law. What He was – is – and what He's offering is harder for me to work out. He said Follow me and Believe in me, but: follow Him where, and believe what? That He's real, that He's God? That the resurrection really happened? Is deciding that those things are true going to transform my life? Because I grew up believing that, and judging from the parched nature of my life much of the time, the water Jesus is talking about must be something different from what I grew up drinking.

However: in college and grad school, I wrote papers on the nature of poetry: how poems gesture towards something other than what they are saying. Lately, I've been thinking that the Gospel works the same way. The words we have at our disposal can only set the stage for the Word that they are trying to talk about; they can't contain it. Reading them doesn't so much tell you what God is as it provides a starting point, a place from which you can begin the work of opening yourself to ghost in its particular machine.

I think this is why people who have no real interest in God or Christ can read the Bible and not feel anything powerful in it, can get caught up in the ways in which it doesn't function well as history (it doesn't) and doesn't really answer a lot of legitimate questions about God (nope). Like prayer or church or the 12 steps, the Bible can bring you closer to God, to the Gospel, but it's not a substitute for experiencing Him/It. Jesus deals in absolutes for a reason. Engaging the divine isn't easy, a thing you accumulate along with your career, hobbies, friends. It's meant to consume you, to take over, to permeate every other area of your identity and life.

This terrifies me because it seems to indicate a conflict between my relationship with God and the other relationships I have -- with my husband, my parents, my son. I don't want my faith to supersede my love for other people, and it seems like the natural conclusion of what Christ is saying here is that it must.

But that same atheist friend is also polyamorous, and in his experience, loving more than one woman actually enriches his other relationships. While I work hard to not have an opinion on polyamory, I am willing to shamelessly employ it here as a paradigm. It seems reasonable that a love for God would enrich my love for people rather than supplanting it, that by loving God more, I access a source of love that runs over into other parts of my life -- so that instead of grasping at the people who matter to me and finding I've somehow missed out on what is most essential about them, I can love them without being afraid to lose them or mixing up what I love in them with what I want from them. I can recognize that they are like God in the sense that I can't contain or limit or define them; I can only hope to approach them, to come close enough to know them, rather than my ideas about them.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Religion, Politics

At sixteen, I was kind of a stereotype: Doc Martins, buzz cut, college guide in my lap in trig, the entries on Reed and Eugene Lang dog-eared. I held a little garden of political views that mattered more – I thought then -- than anything else: let the political prisoners free, feed people in developing countries, stop female genital mutilation/child slavery/factory farming.

A part of me deeply misses that kid and wishes I'd kept that passion, and the lack of ambiguity that made it possible. Another part threw up her hands at some point because, when I was like that:

1. I was missing out on huge parts of life, basically ignoring my terrific boyfriend and my parents, never more than 70% present at any given party, lunch period, or coffee shop outing.

2. I had no sense of my worth independent of what I did, had, and believed. As a consequence, nothing I did, had, or believed seemed like enough.

3. I essentially reduced the things that mattered to me to a catalog of hipster causes. I believed in them to the extent that I was capable of belief in anything, but my passion was shallow: in retrospect, I didn't take those causes to heart so much as I used them to identify myself.

Consequently, I'm a little anxious about the idea of letting my faith inform any kind of political activity. Gary Burge's commentary on John takes Jesus's storming of the temple and reads it as a call to "zealously pursu[e] God's passions in the world." But in my experience, the periods in which I have been most devoted to doing just that, I have also been largely absent from my own life – a lousy daughter, partner, and friend. I also tend to overlook the work I'm doing right now, which is never as important as what I could be doing. Writing papers on critical theory? But I could be teaching underprivileged kids to read! Tutoring at-risk kids? But I could be having a bigger impact! Supervising 220 kids after school? But I could be affecting the policies that impact them! Working in ed policy? But I just sit at a desk every day!

This isn't to say I disagree with Burge -- only that I feel the satisfaction derived from political action that can make it hard to know for sure that it's God's passion one is pursuing. And that I get held back from fighting for economic justice by the spectre of my own privilege: who am I to want Mitt Romney to pay more taxes when I've eaten out twice this week already? And that I often don't take the time to inform myself enough to have an opinion: is our current war unjust? What does God think about abortion?

I'm not sure which is worse: the appalling inadequacy of the Prosperity Gospel in a world where people are dying from dehydration and rotting alone in nursing homes, or the cacophony of crusaders whose God is apparently unambiguously against/in favor of abortion/a living wage/ gay marriage/ universal health care.

I mean, I know what "my God" thinks, at least about b, c, and d. But if my God is Rick Santorum's God, is George Bush's God -- well, what then?

I end up both compelled to act and incapable of action. I think of people who are oppressed, who are affected by the horrible systematic oppression, class warfare, actual warfare, and it seems there's really time for me to fear and tremble as I try to work out what "God's passion" actually is. But I'm not sure I'm in a place -- or ever will be in a place -- where I can see the world and its institutions as God does, or be fully convinced of the righteousness of my cause.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Happiness Project, watering camels

I'm reading Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project, which I like in spite of myself, though I have to skip most of the parts where she attempts to justify the project by somehow connecting her "spending out" (that's where you intentionally spend money on things you really want, rather than thoughtlessly spending money on things you only kind of want, I think) to feeding starving people or intervening in acts of violence or environmental destruction (since not starving or being blown up or developing cancer all make people happy, too!)

Anyway, the book is really the anti-Genesis; while Rubin allocates a month to spirituality, she sees spiritual practices as activities that function to improve your quality of life, rather than disciplines that are intended to fundamentally reshape your life. Unsurprisingly, the ones she chooses -- keeping a gratitude list, reflecting on mortality, and "reading books about catastrophe", don't exactly work out for her. She downgrades from writing the things she is grateful for to simply thinking about them as she turns on her computer. From her catastrophe reading list, she determines that:

a. her life is easier that those of your average cancer-stricken individual, and
b. she and her husband -- who actually has a potentially life-threatening illness -- should really rework their wills.

I'm not reading Rubin's book just to harp about it; I actually think it's a pretty useful counterpoint to a different extreme in orientation, one to which I am much more vulnerable -- the one in which a person believes that every thing that happens to you happens for a reason, and that your primary focus in life needs to be, not deciding what you want, but preparing yourself to live the life you're called to live.

At times, my tendency to see my life in these terms seems to me to be a weakness, an effect of spending so long dismissing everything I did, wanted, or valued as useless and crappy because it was associated with me. Other times, I just recognize it was the way I was taught to live -- putting others first, aspiring to serve. While in some ways I am incredibly selfish, it's usually unconscious; if asked, I'd tell you that I shouldn't be that way, that my life, in the end, isn't, and shouldn't be, all about me. It's never felt as legitimate to say: "I want to _______" as it has to say "I want to do what God wants me to do."

Like Rebekah did, I guess. I'll point out that acting according to God's directions is more straightforward in these stories, which leave you with the impression that God is going around talking out loud to people -- though, on second thought, I'm not entirely sure that Genesis has to be read that way. I get jealous of these characters because it seems so easy for them; if God were talking to me, I'd listen, too. It does kind of rework the story to imagine that the God telling them to leave their families and kill their sons is a spiritual, abstract one.

I know how people with no real spiritual orientation think about this kind of quandary. I sometimes think it too -- though I know I'm not supposed to and though I generally see this line of questioning as my own weakness and not a flaw in the concept of faith itself: what if I really believe I'm in a relationship with Christ, and that the choices I make step from this higher purpose, and it turns out I was just talking to myself?

More pressing: what do I do if I'm really trying, praying and withdrawing and going to God, and I don't seem to be getting any direction beyond what I already knew? What was Rebekah doing all that time before Abraham's servant shows up all "God sent a sign" this and "come marry my master's son" that?

Well, honestly, it seems that in those meantimes, what Rubin's doing works for her and might for me: she does come up with any number of things to fill her life with, and whether or that's what we're here for, as she argues it is, she does seem to be happier for doing them.

Towards the end of the book, her husband suggests that she benefited from the project because it gave her a sense of control. But I wonder if some of the satisfaction actually came from living in accordance with her values. There's a disconnect if you say that you love your family more than anything, but you're always crabbing at them, or if you are passionate about x, but you spend your life doing y. This is as true (or more so) if those values are largely about God and others, but you spend your life in pursuits that are largely self-serving, which, you know, is me, on a lot of days.

And it's also true that while Genesis is organized around a chosen people fulfilling their chosen purpose, there's a lot of down time that doesn't get covered. Rebekah's not meditating on God's purpose for her life when it comes up and finds her; she's doing the very ordinary work that comprises her life right now. The Bible seems not to have time for all those ordinary moments in which its characters are becoming the kind of people who are able to fill the purposes God works out for them. It may be the case that God expects us to participate in that process a little more concretely.

And it's also true that if you've been given a great deal, as I have, and if you believe those things come from God, as I do, then it's kind of an insult not to embrace those things, appreciate them, and fully live the life you've been given. And that, spiritual or not, most people seem to struggle to live deliberately, in accordance with what they value and believe, and that I am one of those people.

When I take a breath from finding fault with what Rubin's done with this book (and the accompanying website, of course), the bulk of her project seems to be focused on resolving that dissonance. That is something I can get behind, until or unless some sort of divine purpose stumbles into my lap.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

anxiety, meaning

So, you may have noticed that I'm on kind of a hiatus from my ordinary practice of reading a chapter of Genesis and then free-associating about it. A couple of things about that:

Not being bulimic is, itself, kind of a spiritual exercise. And in the process of living almost a year without bulimia, I've come to realize that the level of anxiety that I experience when I'm no longer regularly bingeing and purging is itself a kind of problem. For example:

My husband, upon finding that my shoes are not on and the baby is not ready to go shopping for the groceries we need: "Are you ready? Let's go!"

Me: "Hold on.... okay, well, it says here only 11,000 people sustain spinal cord injuries each year."

Husband: "Seriously? Is that what you've been doing?"

Me, furtively Googling "population of the USA": "Maybe. Do you have a calculator? On your phone?"

So far in 2012, I have tripped from fear of SIDS to fear of shaken baby syndrome to fear of Lou Gherig's disease to fear of my parents dying to fear of my own death to fear that there is no God. I spend therapy sessions on this, and then, because I both have some kind of anxiety problem and am acutely aware of this problem lately, I spend therapy sessions worrying that I only even believe in God because my anxiety problem is otherwise totally unmanageable.

My therapist, I think, doesn't really think about God. Of course, I don't know, because she is a good therapist and because I didn't choose an explicitly Christian therapist, but I'm thinking probably not. She says what everyone ends up telling me, which is -- we can't ever really know. You have to be able to live with that, because you don't have another option.

Occasionally, this puts me in an impossible situation, because the brand of faith I was raised with took for granted that you know. Of course you know, and since we're saved by believing in Jesus, the only real unforgivable sin is not to know. This sucked for me, because I really wanted to be good, and I tried so hard to be good, but the very specific things I was supposed to know/believe were so hard. Years later, reading John, I'd come across the part where everyone kind of throws up their hands, all, "This is a hard saying! Who can accept it?" And I'd be like, exactly.

And then, on the other hand, there's this really hip reductionist worldview that's all, You know why this is so hard to understand? Because it's made up! Really, things are as they seem: you live and you die, and that's it. Should your spine snap, should you lose something irreplaceable, should you get sick, well, game over.

And the same part of me that repeatedly assumes the worst, then sets about proving it to myself over and over, freaking loves this. It's the antidote to the culture of my childhood church and school that wanted to attribute a meaning to everything: here's what Heaven is like, and here's who goes there, and here's a primer for making sense of the book of Revelations and connecting it to current world events, and let's draw pictures of our guardian angels.

I'm not trying to make fun of these things -- just to suggest why it might feel like relief, sometimes, to strip the whole world to something bare and material and nihilistic. It might even, I think, be an awesome way for people who are essentially as soft as I am -- white, middle class college kids and twenty-somethings who critique the 1% in one breath and the buying of non-locally-sourced beer in the next -- to feel dark and hard and bad-ass.

I excelled at this kind of dark-hardness, creating a life-threatening situation for myself in an environment that could have just been comprised of feeling left out, Tori Amos, and AP English. A chunk of my recovery has been about realizing that it does not erase my privilege that I spent an appreciable portion of my teens and twenties coming to terms with that privilege. Believing that things, in their essence, are so essentially shitty that you can somehow contextualize in the same "human experience" both your life and that of a raped and murdered child, or that child's mother, doesn't imply that you are stronger than all those weak people who "need to believe" that the world is good and has meaning.

I know a little about this "giving life meaning." I created a system of meaning entirely around eating fewer than 500 calories a day, and I followed it devoutly, fiercely, and I would say now that, however invulnerable it made me feel, however "legitimate" the process by which I developed it, that system of meaning is not as good as, say, Christianity or Islam.

That whole existential creating-of-meaning and all truths being arbitrary and therefore equally legitimate -- I understand that some people experience it as true and liberating, but in my experience things only appeared that way when I was at my most impoverished. And as I get better, as I see my life through something less thick and consuming than my eating disorder, God becomes more and more apparent to me. This is not to say I understand Him, or It, any better, or that I can now think the right things about Him or the Bible or Creation. It is to say, though, that I'm able to see clearly the following things:

  • To the degree that I do good things, that I am useful to others or valuable in and of myself -- none of that is intrinsic to me. Now, I don't really go around doing good things; for every good intention I have, I seem to end up spending an unnecessary half hour reading blog posts. However, I believe there is value in me that I cannot attribute to any quality, effort, or achievement of my own. I love my husband and child, I do my best at work, I try to help people and I no longer am bulimic -- and none of that feels at all connected to my will, to who I am. That's not brainwashing or low self esteem talking: it's just my experience. 
  • To the degree that I fuck up, however, I feel those mistakes and failures stemming directly from my will, my fear, my weakness. I don't hate or blame myself for this; I just acknowledge that I am very small and imperfect and that I function one way when I listen to myself and another way when I listen to God as I understand Him.
  • I feel certain that whatever my experience when I pray, I'm not accessing some better part of myself. I appreciate that others who used to be religious found this to be the case -- that what they thought was God was actually them. That is not my experience.
  • I imagine there are lots of ways to manage my anxiety, to stay not-bulimic, that don't rely on God. If I was only operating out of fear, I could choose one of those. I could even do what it seems other people who doubt end up doing, embracing the absence of a higher power as liberating. But the concept that there is nothing beyond myself does not provoke anxiety half as violently as it contradicts my experience of my life, of who I am and where and how I'm living. If I feel sure of nothing else sometimes, I feel certain that there is something larger than myself, better than myself -- so much so that the idea that I am limited and weak seems, not demeaning or threatening, but true, natural, and fine.

Friday, April 13, 2012


My brother, in the car once, musing over my eating disorder and the accompanying diagnosis of desperation to please: "But my sister shaved her head! She doesn't care what people think of her!"

Well, yes. But I shaved my head only after trying to kill myself. I shaved my head, really, while I was actively starving myself out of one life and into a bizarre kind of purgatory. There's not caring what other people think because you have an intrinsic sense of your own worth, and there is not caring what people think because you hate yourself more violently than they ever would, than they had the capacity to. The incredibly cathartic thing about hating yourself in this way is that, for once, you are undeniably visible, at least to yourself. To everyone else I was so small, but to me I was titanic.

Or you can say: I jumped out of the frying pan of your local suburban high school, out of the 1990s and the backlash and an environment in which, being female, you were expected to appreciate all the power you almost had, that you would have if you'd just stop being so fat and loud and embarrassing.

So most of the time the fact that I emerged from my adolescence and young adulthood without much of a sense of who I am and what I want really seems inconsequential, like someone who comes back from a war with a couple of cavities. Except for those moments when I realize that I have started so many degrees but finished only one -- that  while my friends get their PhDs and MAs and JDs, I'm just working, writing papers, getting accepted and getting As but never really directing enough energy in a single direction to "get anywhere". Cs get degrees, right; As get... letters from Columbia Law School, but no actual status as a lawyer.

And if I'm really honest, yes. There is a huge part of me that wants to be a lawyer --

-- is there a huge part of me that wants to be a lawyer? Is there any part of me, anywhere, that knows what I want?

I want to feel like I've Done Something. And going to Columbia Law School -- even going to NYU -- is Doing Something. I don't want to feel, ten years from now, that I sold myself short because I thought God didn't want me to be a lawyer. I don't want to devote myself to something because the stereotype is that it is less self-serving and then find that I don't feel satisfied. God, I don't want to find in three months that I'm a really shitty nurse, that I'm just not the kind of person who can suck it up and deal with blood and poop and pain and death, that I really am only good for writing papers.

But here's the thing I am scared of, in a nutshell: going to Columbia won't make me worth more, but it may make me feel that I am worth more, and I've been down that road before, and it's a bumpy, lousy ride. And being a nurse won't make me dumber, but it may remind me that I am something, someone, apart from my intelligence.

Apparently, it's time for another iteration of pro-cons lists. But the part of me that is defensive, that is, honestly, kind of a cracker, that couldn't deal with being paid to write papers about language and power and economic injustice, is there too, saying I shouldn't borrow money to become Big and Important; that changing someone's bedpan or starting an IV or hanging chemo is work and drafting legal opinions is not; that my child can have more of me if I am a nurse and that nothing I do, professionally, is as important as being a mother.

It's saying my decision about all this was made before I thought about how all my classmates in high school seem to have advanced degrees and I'm as smart as them.

It's saying that really, this is about entitlement, my thinking that someone who tests at the 99th percentile on the LSAT, minutes after staging a third-trimester meltdown on the streets of Queens, someone who applies to Columbia as a bet and then gets in, should go to law school, is meant to be a lawyer. And it's calling bullshit on that sense of entitlement, of preciousness, and pointing out that I am deeply, deeply conflicted about that way of thinking and that as much as I like to bitch about leaving my PhD program, basically every good thing in my life at the moment stems from that decision, and that the regret I'd feel at "turning down this opportunity" would likely be trumped by the regret I'd feel at making the same mistake again, and spending two hundred grand to do it this time.

It's easy to be a PhD candidate and talk about how the standards by which we measure accomplishment are fucked; easy, but not comfortable. It's a lot harder to have the opportunity to indulge in serious intellectual diva-tude and hover around it, half-thinking you're just afraid and half thinking that, to the degree you know yourself, your identity depends on not borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to an Ivy League law school.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Some people break with Christianity because they resent the restrictions it (often) imposes -- they don't want to give their money to the poor or stop having sex or get married (or give up the person they love because that person is the wrong gender, which, again, "gay" was not a thing in antiquity, Rick). For me, the deal-breaker cropped up back in those few years in high school and college when I really, really wanted to be a scientist.

I love science, and the closest thing I have to a regret in my life is that, back in college, my need to obliterate who I was -- in a million all-you-can-eat dining halls, in the scuzzy dorm rooms of a series of scuzzy boys -- distracted me, made me believe that I couldn't do it, that it wasn't worth trying, that getting smart boys to want to sleep with me was as good as being smart, myself.

I'm over all that now; in a serendipitous turn of events, my marriage to a non-edgy, politically moderate Southern frat boy  turned out to be the instrument of my liberation from the "sexual liberation" that required me to starve, puke, and drink dangerous amounts of hard liquor in order to live in my skin. And within the structure of my marriage and motherhood, rather than chafing, I've started to dream again, in a way I stopped dreaming almost ten years ago.

From my bed now, all clean sheets and familiarity, I dream of going back and finishing a science degree one day, once I've got a career that doesn't wrench away time I want with my family, faith, self, community for things like commuting to Manhattan and revising spreadsheets. In the meantime, I don't want scientists to stop doing their science; it's what allows us to not die of cancer as frequently and allows me, in particular, to still have teeth. And, like many people who like science, I'm troubled by "Intelligent Design". While no science can be completely divorced from a historical or political agenda, it seems to me that a reasonable person has to reject a science that is so clearly developed to support a specific conclusion, whatever that conclusion is, and however convinced of it we feel.

But I'm equally unconvinced by other laypeople's efforts to compel science to serve functions commonly -- and better -- served by faith.In evaluating scientific explanations for what we once attributed to the supernatural, I'm essentially pushed back into the realm of faith, anyway. I can't interpret the numbers behind string theory with any more sophistication than I can explain the Incarnation. But the first proposal comes to be within a rhetoric that explicitly limits itself to the rational and discrete, whereas the second locates itself precisely beyond my understanding, in the infinite. One contradicts itself; the other points elsewhere, to a space where contradiction is meaningless. To deny the existence of such a space -- one that is visible to me at the interstices of so much of everyday life -- seems as wishful a way of thinking as trying to force it into the language of the material and prove-able, as saying, Here's how we prove God made the world or, Here's how I know I'll be kicking it with my friends, playing bass for Lord up in Heaven.

For the most part, the scientists actually doing the research seem to recognize what the bloggers appropriating their work seem not to: that science is a paradigm, and that, as such, it exists inside the limits of modernity, of History. It functions best (and, possibly, only) when it recognizes those limits. While the material to which it attends is objective, the language on which it depends never is -- because language never is.

The terrible (dangerous and potentially devastating, as well as personally annoying) Achilles heel of "rationality" is its assumption of objectivity as a defining characteristic of its own rhetoric. This leads to bad science -- such as intelligent design. Such as eugenics, social Darwinism, and the over a century of bullshit about women, black people, and disabled people being genetically inferior, about intelligence being static, and et cetera.

Ultimately, no evidence or argument for a God has been able to convince me He exists; in this, I can relate to atheists. But -- and this is also like them -- my personal experience has convinced me that one way of understanding the world is more reasonable than the other. In my case, seeing the limits of every scientific explanation I've encountered, and seeing around me so much that seems to gesture beyond these limits, I make sense of that world by understanding that beyond as God: something organized, but Whose organization is larger than what I can comprehend. There are other people who don't see a reason to believe this -- who, I think, believe that beyond their limited understanding of the world is something that either can be understood, eventually, or that cannot be understood, but is essentially more of the same: rational, systemic, material.

That's not a bad conclusion. But it's one for which we have no more "real proof" than we do for a God. And it's one that is largely contradicted by current scientific models of the universe, in which gravity and time and matter don't mean the same things anymore and proof, as we understand it, is elusive. To believe that that model of a universe is more likely than a theistic one takes its own leap of faith, one that ultimately comes down to: this unprovable thing fits better with the world as I have experienced it than does that other unprovable thing.

My experience -- however personal, however unverifiable or unscientific -- indicates to me that there is a God. Beyond the arena in which science can possibly be useful, I find semantics, and I find my experience. The first is easier to talk about, but the second is more convincing -- so much so that I find myself with very little to say about it, with very little that needs to be said.