I have been reading some more since we got back from our trip. I started with The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. The author was raised as a completely secular Jew. That is amazing even in this day and age to have no religious training at all. He says that he is open to religious ideas, but I can tell by the tone of the book that he finds belief/religion embarrassing.
I have found this book very interesting. The author calls himself a reverent agnostic. How can an agnostic be reverent? "The Agnostic suspends judgment, saying that there are not sufficient grounds either for affirmation or for denial." What is he exactly being reverent of, the possibility that there may be a God if he decided to get up the nerve to make a decision? It sounds like he wants some fire insurance. Another way to look at it is through Pascal's wager. Blaise Pascal, a French philosopher, put forth that one should live one's life as though God exists since it leaves one with everything to gain and nothing to lose. Though he criticizes Pascal, I think that is just what he wants, perhaps without the confining belief part. He wants to be able to have all the wonderful uplifting experiences that a person in relationship with God gets without having to limit himself to one idea or way of acting. In fact, I think he's just deeply humanist. Just be good for goodness sake. But he somehow doesn't get that it is God that allows for that goodness. I realize I am judging him according to a rule book he doesn't follow, but he opened the door with his question whether one can be holy just by following the Bible. Everybody breaks the rules is what he decides, which is completely true those are called sins. However, he decides that everybody who believes in God is just picking and choosing the parts of the Bible that they want to follow. He admits that he cannot follow all the rules, but explains it away that he has just started to learn about religion. I think what he is missing, most of all, about anybody who follows God is that we don't have all the answers, that it is very difficult. I find that as I get older I have more confusion about how I am to love others yet still hold people accountable. I realize that it is not all cut and dry. I think that is the main place the author and I diverge, he doesn't think anybody should be held accountable for their sins because we all sin.
In the end what this book has helped me understand is those coming from a completely humanist perspective. At one point I had hope that he would start to believe in something, but at the end he decided to use the Bible as a self-help book. I think he ended his year where he started it, completely embarrassed of religion/belief in God.
cross posted at The Book Loft