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I read a blog that had some good reasons for life without television.  Compelling, I must say, and it would great if I could live without it someday.  I think I’m almost there…

1. Avoidance of commercials and the fueling of the consumer mentality — It’s all about the sponsors, as we all know.  And to watch a TV show is to be bombarded with constant pitches for products one neither needs nor, properly, desires.  Even the most circumspect person cannot help but be impacted by this.

2. Better stewardship of time — Amy and I spend much less time watching shows because we only view the DVDs and videos we plan ahead of time to view.  We don’t end up watching shows that we didn’t want to watch (which, strange as it sounds, is a common phenomenon among viewers).  Without TV, relative to my life before, I virtually have a 27-hour day, so I can get more accomplished with family time, reading, and creative projects.

3. Protection of children — Our kids are not exposed to inappropriate images, language, and lifestyle choices which even find their way into “innocent” shows (e.g. foul language, disrespectful attitudes, undermining of authority, the normalization of premarital sex and homosexuality, etc.).  Of course, in our culture it is impossible to perfectly shield one’s kids from some of these influences, but without TV there is a dramatic reduction in this exposure.

4. Avoidance of narcissism, bad ethics, and poor reasoning — Whether it is sitcoms, reality TV shows, or even news programs, the me-first mentality is ubiquitous in television land.  And from what I’ve seen of such shows as Friends and Survivor, the moral-decision making and logical thinking skills are rather suspect.  Let’s just say that, as a Philosophy professor, I always know where to find vivid illustrations of moral vices and logical fallacies.  So thank you for that much, Mr. Television.

5. Enhancement of aesthetic sense — Most television shows are just not very good from an aesthetic standpoint.  A rare exception is The Simpsons, at least in previous seasons which I sometimes watch it via Netflix—so I can’t speak to how strong the show is currently.  But generally speaking, constant exposure to television injures one’s aesthetic sensibility.  Occasionally we hear someone recommend a show to us as “one of the best on television” (e.g. Lost, 24, Arrested Development, etc.).  Invariably, when we take time to check them out, we are disappointed.  To say a show is one of TV’s best is, well, damning with faint praise.

Remembering…

This month marks a strange anniversary of sorts for me.  It was 2 years ago this month that I was sitting in a chair looking at my unborn baby in 4D.  She was precious!  We had previously found out that our baby had several “markers” for down syndrome and had enlarged kidneys which may have required surgery upon birth.  Thus we were monitored more carefully and had a ton more ultrasound shots at a hospital.  This was the first level 3 ultrasound with this pregnancy (I had had one with my 3rd with no problems).  I got to gaze upon my baby for almost a full hour – it was wonderful!  I was there alone as my husband was out of town.  The specialist doctor called me in after the ultrasound to go over the findings.  The first words out of his mouth to me were “Well you will have to come in tomorrow for your abortion because of how far along you are.”  I was utterly shocked and devastated.  All I could do was mutter “What??????”  He then proceeded to tell me that my baby had more “markers” for down syndrome and it didn’t look good.  I was more shocked that his automatic assumption was that I would abort my baby.  I almost couldn’t comprehend what he was telling me in that office.  All I wanted to do was run as far away from that man as possible.

As soon as I was able to speak again I called my doctor.  He was able to calm me down and after talking to him I decided against the amnio to find out for sure and thus my pregnancy went on not knowing whether or not I was going to have a baby with down syndrome.  For me at that point the risk of miscarriage outweighed the need to know.  What I did do was to research as much as possible about down syndrome to prepare.  What I found out is what I want to remember and never forget.  I do not know what the implications of this knowledge will be for my life but I am confident that this ordeal was not an accident.  I found that over 90% of babies that are diagnosed with down syndrome are aborted.  Those words the doctor spoke to me were for a reason and out of his experience.  This has chilled me to the bone.  Another fact I found was that even if your baby is diagnosed with down syndrome there is no way to tell what function level the child will be at.  Some children with down syndrome go on to graduate from high school and lead independent lives.  Others will require continual care.  The point is that they can not tell you what the function level of the child will be.  Having a special needs child is hard.  It is life changing.  It alters the family in ways that are not predictable.  But who are we to judge who lives and dies?

Our fourth daughter was born in August with no physical problems.  Her kidneys were fine and she did not have down syndrome.  What my heart went through in the months of not knowing I hope and pray will never leave me.

(Source: http://beautifulwork.wordpress.com/2009/06/10/remembering/)

Fewer college grads have jobs than at any other time in recent memory—a report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers annual student survey said that 20 percent of 2009 college graduates who applied for a job actually have one.  So, what should the unfortunate 80% do?

How about a post-graduate year doing some combination of the following (not just one, how about all):

  • Spend twenty hours a week running a project for a non-profit.
  • Teach yourself Java, HTML, Flash, PHP and SQL. Not a little, but mastery. [Clarification: I know you can’t become a master programmer of all these in a year. I used the word mastery to distinguish it from ‘familiarity’ which is what you get from one of those Dummies type books. I would hope you could write code that solves problems, works and is reasonably clear, not that you can program well enough to work for Joel Spolsky. Sorry if I ruffled feathers.]
  • Volunteer to coach or assistant coach a kids sports team.
  • Start, run and grow an online community.
  • Give a speech a week to local organizations.
  • Write a regular newsletter or blog about an industry you care about.
  • Learn a foreign language fluently.
  • Write three detailed business plans for projects in the industry you care about.
  • Self-publish a book.
  • Run a marathon.

If you wake up every morning at 6, give up TV and treat this list like a job, you’ll have no trouble accomplishing everything on it. Everything! When you do, what happens to your job prospects?

(Source: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/06/graduate-school-for-unemployed-college-students.html)

by Marcus Buckingham for The View
April 14th, 2009

Losing one’s job is never easy. Act your way into a new way of thinking. Don’t get down, get a plan.
GET CLEAR:

1. Financial assessment
Begin by doing a thorough review of your current financial situation:

What are your monthly necessities? (rent, utilities, food etc..)
What is the amount that you will need to cover these necessities?
What choices do you have to make to ensure that you cover your necessities for at least three months?
What costs can you reduce immediately?

Hoard your cash. Look for opportunities to save money: eat at home, downgrade cable packages, buy less expensive brands, borrow books and movies from the library, consolidate debt into one low interest payment- there are myriad money saving tips – seek them out and apply them.

2. Self-assessment
Take this time to get really clear on what you want your next career step to be.

What are your strengths?
What are the activities that you want to be responsible for in your next job? What have you always (maybe secretly?) wanted to do?
What aspects of your previous jobs have you loved? Why?
What will you never do again?

Give yourself a chance to recharge and re-evaluate what you want to do in life and how you can best contribute. It can help a great deal to discuss this with someone who is objective: a coach, outplacement counselor, that friend who always listens without imposing their opinions.

GET READY:

3. Update your resume
Ensure your resume includes all relevant experiences and education, and then customize it for each specific job that you are applying for. Remember:

Keep it simple. Flooding your resume with inane details is distracting.
Highlight relevant experiences and describe them in quantifiable terms. Be specific about the results you have achieved and the contributions you have made to the business.
Incorporate Company Terminology from the job posting into your resume. You raise your chances of having your resume noticed when you demonstrate that you know the organization’s internal lingo.

Once you have updated your resume, connect with your references and let them know that you are job-searching. Only include those references that you are confident will give you a favorable review. If you’re unsure, ask them.

4. Hire yourself as a headhunter
You do have a job. You’ve just hired yourself as a full-time headhunter. Take the position seriously. This is a 9-5 job with daily objectives and weekly goals. That includes celebrating your successes with meaningful rewards. And, by the way, rejection is one of those successes. Use the interviewing process as a way to gain valuable information:

What did you learn from the interview?
What feedback did the recruiter give you for what you did well?
What feedback did he/she give you for doing better the next time around?
What did he/she say was missing?

Be Curious. This is your opportunity to learn valuable information about how people perceive you. If they don’t give you any tips, ask for some. This feedback will help improve future performance.

5. Network
It is part of your headhunting role but important enough to single out on its own. Now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself, or let pride get in the way of letting people around you know that you are looking for a new position. Instead:

Frame Your Situation Positively: When networking, you don’t need to share the sordid details of how you lost your job. You can say: “I am searching for a career that is going to allow me to contribute my best. I am letting you know because I trust you and I could use your help in making helpful connections. Here is my resume.” This will yield better results than: “Sigh. I lost my job. Do you know anyone who’s looking for people?”

Keep all channels open: Stay in touch with colleagues (particularly your manager) in your former organization as well as those who also lost their jobs. Re-hire opportunities may be more readily offered to those who’ve maintained contact, and people who’ve moved on could help you land a role at their new place of work.

6. Get your mindset right
Having a confident mental attitude serves one immensely in the process of finding a new role. This is not just about thinking positively, this is about acting positively. Part of your weekly goals should include removing things that you’ve been tolerating in your life that have added to your stress.

What are the 3 things you have been tolerating in your life?
What would have to happen to ‘fix’ these tolerances?
How would it make you feel to address them?

Whatever you’ve been putting off in other areas of your life because you’re “too busy working”- tackle it now. Not only will you feel productive when you tick these things off your list – it will also help reduce your stress. So, if every time you’ve stepped into your garage for the past seven years you’ve thought to yourself “I’ve got to get this place organized,” get to it. If you’ve been planning that backyard garden, start digging.

GET GOING:

7. Expand your skills
Now is a great time to build your competency. What are the activities that you have a natural penchant for and interest in but no formal training? How about finally finishing your degree, learning a second language, honing an area of strength? Future employers will value the investment that you made in enhancing yourself enormously.

8. Take a platform job
There is no shame in taking on a job that helps you pay the bills even if it’s not your ideal role or if it pays you less than previous positions. You are doing what it takes to take care of yourself and your family. No matter what role you are in, frame it as an opportunity to learn new skills, hone existing talents, meet and network with new people. There are a lot of benefits to taking a platform job while you continue the search for your ideal role.

9. Volunteer
Many organizations understand when a person has been out of work following a lay-off, particularly during times like these. They do not understand when a person has nothing concrete to show for that time. On top of contributing to your community, volunteering is a great way to demonstrate that you’ve shown initiative and not let your skills atrophy while you searched for gainful employment. Volunteering is also a very effective networking tool. You may meet a fellow volunteer who will be so impressed with your abilities they’ll offer you work with their organization.

(Note: if you are receiving unemployment benefits, be clear whether volunteering impacts your eligibility. You may be considered “unavailable to work” on days when you’re volunteering so you have to be very clear about when you will be available.)

10. Start your business.
Have you had an idea for a business that you’ve been working away on but never had the time to fully formalize? There are myriad free resources for individuals who want to start their own business and now you have the time to investigate and take advantage.

(SOURCE: http://marcusbuckingham.com/site/about_us/press_articles/?p=173)

NY Times.com has a cool tool on deciding which one is better.

by John Bettler

In this case study, John Bettler describes how to help someone struggling with sexual sin. He concludes: “If you just deal with outward behavior, you’ll have little success”. See what strategy he recommends instead.

How do you counsel someone with a sexual problem, particularly a problem of pornography or masturbation? This article assumes that a counselor has a sound biblical theology on matters related to sexual sin; it intends only to offer a brief sketch of a counseling model that might be effectively used. The model I often use is the three-level pyramid pictured here, which I call the pyramid of lust. The operative verse for this model is Galatians 5:16: “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.” A person is either living in the flesh, which is this world’s system (not necessarily the human body), or living in the Spirit. When you are energized by the power of the Holy Spirit, He works through the Word of God to enable you to live a godly life.

Lust Object

This pyramid illustrates the different levels or degrees of lust or desire. At the top of this pyramid is the object of your lust for pleasure or release. It might be a magazine or an X-rated movie. Whatever it is, it is depersonalized in your mind and is simply an object for your use. If you are promiscuous sexually, for example, you are not having sex with a person; you are having sex with what to you is only an object. A man who is promiscuous is focusing only on objects of his lust, on breasts and vaginas. He is not focusing on the person who is his sexual partner. One of the first things I find out when I’m counseling somebody with a sexual problem is, what is the object of that lust? What are the objects of his desires?

Relationship Lusts

The second level of the pyramid focuses on the desires of relationship. Remember, the Bible never intended sex to exist as something to pursue in and of itself. It’s always meant to occur in the context of relationship. So, when I talk to a counselee, I want to know what his relationship desires are. What are the relationship lusts? What does this person want out of relationships? For example, does he want to be close? Does he want to be distant? Does he want to be safe or does he want to be risky? Does he want to get involved in the lives of others? Does he want nothing to do with people? In short, what are his relationship desires?

Life-meaning Lusts

Finally, the base of the pyramid looks at what the person wants out of life—not just pleasure and gratification, not just relationship, but life. What does he believe makes life work? What’s important? What isn’t? What does he believe he must have in order for his life to work, to function, to be successful? What we mean by that, of course, are the issues and idols of the heart. What are the person’s idolatrous desires? What are the heart desires that he thinks make his life work?

As foundational as this life level is, it’s important to note that if all you do is focus on this when a person has a problem with sex, you’re trying to invert the pyramid and leave it resting on a point. That doesn’t work. You must begin where the counselee is and find out what the object of his desire is. Then you want to know what relationship desires color his desires for those objects. And finally you want to know what his life desires or life lusts are. Those are either going to be desires of the flesh or of the Spirit.

A Case Study

Let me show you how I applied this model to one young man’s situation. This was a young, well-educated, professional Christian man, very active in his church. He was unmarried but had had a couple of dating relationships, none very serious. He came to talk to me about a problem with pornography and masturbation. This man wouldn’t fit the profile of someone with an “addictive” sexual problem (or what the Bible would term an enslaved sexual problem). He frankly didn’t put a lot of energy into his sexual sin. He would buy an occasional Playboy or Penthouse, but it wasn’t hard core pornography. He didn’t go to adult bookstores; he just went to the local drugstore for his magazines. He wouldn’t even rent X-rated movies; he’d just find R-rated movies that the newspaper said had “a lot of nudity.”

He’d bring that movie home and read his Playboys and masturbate. A young man is sometimes enslaved with masturbation and masturbates several times a day. This fellow did it only once or twice a week. However, this man was a Christian. He was under conviction, and he wanted his behavior to change.

A Counseling Strategy

As a counselor, how do you help him? First, you gather the information. You ask, “What’s the pattern? What’s going on? When does he do it? When doesn’t he do it?” Get him to keep a journal of when he is tempted and what’s going on around those temptations. That gives you what you need to deal with the top of the pyramid, the object of the lust.

Next, what about relationship lusts, relationship desires? What does this guy want out of relationships? Just as he didn’t put a lot of energy into his sin, this fellow didn’t put a lot of his energy into relationships either. He didn’t have any close friends. He had a lot of people he knew but not a lot of people with whom he was really intimate. One family in the church was trying to take him under wing and spend some time with him, but he was having a hard time opening up to them. He didn’t let anybody get very close to him.

So what do I find here? What I find at the level of relationship lusts is: don’t get close. Keep your distance. What this man desired from relationships was safety. He desired cordial relationships but not intimate ones. He wanted it safe. Who’s he thinking about? He’s not thinking about the other person; he’s always thinking of himself.

Then we come to the bottom of the pyramid, the life desires, the life lusts. What makes this man’s life work? What is his idol? What is in his heart? You’re probably already figuring it out: be safe. Don’t take risks. Don’t do anything with a lot of energy. This was a man who just got by. He kept his job, but he was never promoted because he never put much energy into anything. He just wanted to be safe and alone. Then his life would be okay. There are lots of things in his life experiences that led him to that point, and in counseling you would explore them. But you want him to see that this is what’s going on in his life.

“Get release whenever you can.” That’s of the flesh. “Don’t get close to people.” That’s of the flesh. “Be safe. Don’t take risks.” That’s of the flesh. I submit to you that the latter lusts are a lot more foundational than the first one. As serious as masturbation is, if you concentrate only on this and tell this guy to take cold showers so that he won’t yield to his temptation, you’re not going to help him. You have to deal with his relationship lusts and his life lusts as well. How do we do that?

A Three-Pronged Solution

I take a three-pronged approach. For the top part of the pyramid, my counsel is 2 Timothy 2:22: “Flee youthful lusts.” The strategy at this level is simply to get out of the way of temptation; flee. It’s the Joseph strategy. To help him do this we found someone in church to whom he would be accountable. This man was willing to call my counselee every day and say, “How did it go today?” He was also going to pray with him. It’s important to structure things so that it’s much more difficult to yield to the desired object.

For the second stage the operative verse was Philippians 2:3-4: “Let not every man look after his own interests but rather let him look after the interests of others.” When this fellow was trying to play it safe and not get close, the only person he was thinking about was himself, his self-protection. To get out of that he needed to find out how to get involved in the lives of others. We began to explore that, especially in terms of the family that was trying to “adopt” him. How could he begin to minister to them? How could he open up to them? What risks could he take to reveal some things about himself so that this family could help bear his burdens, pray with him, encourage him, confront him, and admonish him? He had to take the risks of getting close, and in his case that meant getting a little more honest about some of the things that were going on.

When we come to the level of life lusts and desires, the verse to turn to is 1 Timothy 4:7, where Paul says we have to “discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness.” We have to work at it. This fellow didn’t work at anything. He took it easy for the purpose of protection. He didn’t discipline himself for the purpose of godliness. He didn’t trust God enough to know that God could protect him and care for him and sustain him in the midst of all of life’s difficulties. So here the assignment was “take risks” and all that implied for work, relationships, and everything else.

With that brief summary, my point is that if you’re going to counsel in relation to what we call lusts, sexual problems like pornography and masturbation, you need a robust approach that deals with all of them. If you just deal with outward behavior, you’ll have little success. Find out what the relationship lusts are, find out what the life lusts are, and develop a biblical strategy to deal with them all.

A N Wilson writes on how his conversion to atheism may have been similar to a road to Damascus experience but his return to faith has been slow and doubting

Unlike his conversion to Atheism, Wilson’s path back to faith has been a slow one

By nature a doubting Thomas, I should have distrusted the symptoms when I underwent a “conversion experience” 20 years ago. Something was happening which was out of character – the inner glow of complete certainty, the heady sense of being at one with the great tide of fellow non-believers. For my conversion experience was to atheism. There were several moments of epiphany, actually, but one of the most dramatic occurred in the pulpit of a church.

At St Mary-le-Bow in the City of London, there are two pulpits, and for some decades they have been used for lunchtime dialogues. I had just published a biography of C S Lewis, and the rector of St Mary-le-Bow, Victor Stock, asked me to participate in one such exchange of views.

Memory edits, and perhaps distorts, the highlights of the discussion. Memory says that while Father Stock was asking me about Lewis, I began to “testify”, denouncing Lewis’s muscular defence of religious belief. Much more to my taste, I said, had been the approach of the late Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey, whose biography I had just read.

A young priest had been to see him in great distress, saying that he had lost his faith in God. Ramsey’s reply was a long silence followed by a repetition of the mantra “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter”. He told the priest to continue to worship Jesus in the Sacraments and that faith would return. “But!” exclaimed Father Stock. “That priest was me!”

Like many things said by this amusing man, it brought the house down. But something had taken a grip of me, and I was thinking (did I say it out loud?): “It bloody well does matter. Just struggling on like Lord Tennyson (‘and faintly trust the larger hope’) is no good at all . . .”

I can remember almost yelling that reading C S Lewis’s Mere Christianity made me a non-believer – not just in Lewis’s version of Christianity, but in Christianity itself. On that occasion, I realised that after a lifetime of churchgoing, the whole house of cards had collapsed for me – the sense of God’s presence in life, and the notion that there was any kind of God, let alone a merciful God, in this brutal, nasty world. As for Jesus having been the founder of Christianity, this idea seemed perfectly preposterous. In so far as we can discern anything about Jesus from the existing documents, he believed that the world was about to end, as did all the first Christians. So, how could he possibly have intended to start a new religion for Gentiles, let alone established a Church or instituted the Sacraments? It was a nonsense, together with the idea of a personal God, or a loving God in a suffering universe. Nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.

It was such a relief to discard it all that, for months, I walked on air. At about this time, the Independent on Sunday sent me to interview Dr Billy Graham, who was conducting a mission in Syracuse, New York State, prior to making one of his journeys to England. The pattern of these meetings was always the same. The old matinee idol spoke. The gospel choir sang some suitably affecting ditty, and then the converted made their way down the aisles to commit themselves to the new faith. Part of the glow was, surely, the knowledge that they were now part of a great fellowship of believers.

As a hesitant, doubting, religious man I’d never known how they felt. But, as a born-again atheist, I now knew exactly what satisfactions were on offer. For the first time in my 38 years I was at one with my own generation. I had become like one of the Billy Grahamites, only in reverse. If I bumped into Richard Dawkins (an old colleague from Oxford days) or had dinner in Washington with Christopher Hitchens (as I did either on that trip to interview Billy Graham or another), I did not have to feel out on a limb. Hitchens was excited to greet a new convert to his non-creed and put me through a catechism before uncorking some stupendous claret. “So – absolutely no God?” “Nope,” I was able to say with Moonie-zeal. “No future life, nothing ‘out there’?” “No,” I obediently replied. At last! I could join in the creed shared by so many (most?) of my intelligent contemporaries in the western world – that men and women are purely material beings (whatever that is supposed to mean), that “this is all there is” (ditto), that God, Jesus and religion are a load of baloney: and worse than that, the cause of much (no, come on, let yourself go), most (why stint yourself – go for it, man), all the trouble in the world, from Jerusalem to Belfast, from Washington to Islamabad.

My doubting temperament, however, made me a very unconvincing atheist. And unconvinced. My hilarious Camden Town neighbour Colin Haycraft, the boss of Duckworth and husband of Alice Thomas Ellis, used to say, “I do wish Freddie [Ayer] wouldn’t go round calling himself an atheist. It implies he takes religion seriously.”

This creed that religion can be despatched in a few brisk arguments (outlined in David Hume’s masterly Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) and then laughed off kept me going for some years. When I found myself wavering, I would return to Hume in order to pull myself together, rather as a Catholic having doubts might return to the shrine of a particular saint to sustain them while the springs of faith ran dry.

But religion, once the glow of conversion had worn off, was not a matter of argument alone. It involves the whole person. Therefore I was drawn, over and over again, to the disconcerting recognition that so very many of the people I had most admired and loved, either in life or in books, had been believers. Reading Louis Fischer’s Life of Mahatma Gandhi, and following it up with Gandhi’s own autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, I found it impossible not to realise that all life, all being, derives from God, as Gandhi gave his life to demonstrate. Of course, there are arguments that might make you doubt the love of God. But a life like Gandhi’s, which was focused on God so deeply, reminded me of all the human qualities that have to be denied if you embrace the bleak, muddled creed of a materialist atheist. It is a bit like trying to assert that music is an aberration, and that although Bach and Beethoven are very impressive, one is better off without a musical sense. Attractive and amusing as David Hume was, did he confront the complexities of human existence as deeply as his contemporary Samuel Johnson, and did I really find him as interesting?

Watching a whole cluster of friends, and my own mother, die over quite a short space of time convinced me that purely materialist “explanations” for our mysterious human existence simply won’t do – on an intellectual level. The phenomenon of language alone should give us pause. A materialist Darwinian was having dinner with me a few years ago and we laughingly alluded to how, as years go by, one forgets names. Eager, as committed Darwinians often are, to testify on any occasion, my friend asserted: “It is because when we were simply anthropoid apes, there was no need to distinguish between one another by giving names.”

This credal confession struck me as just as superstitious as believing in the historicity of Noah’s Ark. More so, really.

Do materialists really think that language just “evolved”, like finches’ beaks, or have they simply never thought about the matter rationally? Where’s the evidence? How could it come about that human beings all agreed that particular grunts carried particular connotations? How could it have come about that groups of anthropoid apes developed the amazing morphological complexity of a single sentence, let alone the whole grammatical mystery which has engaged Chomsky and others in our lifetime and linguists for time out of mind? No, the existence of language is one of the many phenomena – of which love and music are the two strongest – which suggest that human beings are very much more than collections of meat. They convince me that we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true. As a working blueprint for life, as a template against which to measure experience, it fits.

For a few years, I resisted the admission that my atheist-conversion experience had been a bit of middle-aged madness. I do not find it easy to articulate thoughts about religion. I remain the sort of person who turns off Thought for the Day when it comes on the radio. I am shy to admit that I have followed the advice given all those years ago by a wise archbishop to a bewildered young man: that moments of unbelief “don’t matter”, that if you return to a practice of the faith, faith will return.

When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love. It is not that (as they believe) they have rumbled the tremendous fraud of religion – prophets do that in every generation. Rather, these unbelievers are simply missing out on something that is not difficult to grasp. Perhaps it is too obvious to understand; obvious, as lovers feel it was obvious that they should have come together, or obvious as the final resolution of a fugue.

I haven’t mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer’s serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.

My departure from the Faith was like a conversion on the road to Damascus. My return was slow, hesitant, doubting. So it will always be; but I know I shall never make the same mistake again. Gilbert Ryle, with donnish absurdity, called God “a category mistake”. Yet the real category mistake made by atheists is not about God, but about human beings. Turn to the Table Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge – “Read the first chapter of Genesis without prejudice and you will be convinced at once . . . ‘The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’.” And then Coleridge adds: “‘And man became a living soul.’ Materialism will never explain those last words.”
Don’t miss our web exclusive Q&A with A N Wilson

A N Wilson is a novelist and biographer

(from: http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2009/04/conversion-experience-atheism)