I’ve always attempted to make this blog an outlet for very rational thoughts, and I don’t intend to change that. However, I feel drawn to mention about a part of my life which is important to me, but may seem irrational to others.
I am ordained, currently as a deacon, but “in-training” for the priesthood. The ordination was into a small independent Church which has a very interesting history, and has members around the world. It can be classed as a Christian church, in that it follows the philosophies surrounding Christ. However, its theology is a little different from mainstream churches, and radically different from what we might call the fundamental/evangelical churches. The church that I am involved in is very liberal and inclusive, it is very open to ecumenical work and does not attempt to “convert”. However, it does have apostolic succession and does make use of ritual. Its theology could be classed as “gnostic” in that its members attempt to get to know the divine. The divine which is everything that we can perceive, it is not supernatural, but very natural. In this way, we approach theology with both belief and knowledge, and apply the tools of logic and scientific thought. Its members can engage with and build friendships with atheists and theists alike.
This part of me, which could be classed as spiritual beliefs and knowledge, is important to me. I value it greatly, and it permeates and intermingles with my political and ethical thoughts, and enriches my knowledge-base and altruistic tendencies. However, I am always worried about talking about to my friends and contacts in computer science / engineering / mathematics. The reason why I fear talking about it, is simply because I know that many class themselves as atheist, and I worry that they may discredit my work and opinion in other areas simply because I am involved in religious work.
On the one hand, how can I call myself Christian, when (for example) a large amount of loud Christians espouse a creationist viewpoint (whereas I follow a evolutionary perspective firmly found in science)? On the other hand, why do so many atheists seem to denounce all forms of religious belief when (for example) religion provides prayer and meditation to billions of people – which has been proven to improve cognitive function (e.g. here), not to mention the positive impact of societal/communal work that a local religious community can offer?
It is really tough. It also does not help when the big churches “just don’t get it” when it comes to issues such as equality of gender in the episcopate, or equality of differing sexualities. I think this is probably why I ended up in an independent church – it is small and distributed, it doesn’t have the silliness of bizarre traditions (e.g. we’ve had women bishops for many years, and we would be happy to marry same-sex couples), and it approaches theology and life really logically and sympathetically.
So, I am torn. I have a few options. I could either (1) fully integrate my lives as both an applied computational intelligence researcher and an ordained person, getting the most value out of my belief and knowledge network and being happy but being in constant fear that some people may discredit my work. Or, (2) I could keep them separate and have separate lives, and continue to be frustrated at some of the things espoused by both the christian communities and the atheist communities. Or (3) I could carry on “as-is”, sort of having separate lives, but sometimes mentioning it carefully and after much consideration – but then never really being open and also being quite worried that people will misunderstand because I’ve not explained adequately enough.
Perhaps, what is most important is actually living a life of love towards humanity, and doing my best for the future of humanity. Living altruistically and ethically.
I’d be interested in reading your thoughts on this – particularly from those involved in computer science, and particularly from those who class themselves as atheists.
Once again, I’d like to highlight that I in no way wish the reader to convert to my belief system. That is certainly not my intention. From my perspective you can believe what you want, providing it doesn’t hurt yourself, me, or anybody else. Freedom! Equality! Community!
I will continue to think about this issue. However, in the meantime… Your thoughts?