Yesterday, Novaseekeer wrote a thoughtful critique of “Spiritual Rationalism,” the philosophy found in The Mustard Seed. It's definitely worth reading. But just in case Nova decides to pull a Vox on me, here’s what I wrote in response…
Nova: Let me begin by sincerely thanking you for taking the time to consider my ideas and analyze them. In our periodic discussions, I’ve also found you to be someone who prizes facts, reason, and good-faith dialogue. And this essay is no exception.
OK, now that we’ve gotten the foreplay out of the way… ;)
Regarding your critique of my starting principles, “Reality is real and reason is the tool to master Reality,” I would say the following…Personally, I am interested in human life, and what is necessary for a happy, successful life…I am certainly open to the possibility that there IS, in fact, more to “Reality” than what we – as human beings – can perceive through our senses and analyze through our brain at this given moment of time. Indeed, as a big fan of science, I would say such things almost certainly exist even if we don’t apprehend them. As the centuries unfold, we will learn a lot more about “Reality” – including things that could potentially alter what we understand “Reality” to be (quantum physics comes to mind).
But at the end of the day, the scenario I’ve laid out is still consistent with the starting principles I articulated: Leading a happy, successful life is contingent on our ability to understand Reality to the best of our ability. Progress in that understanding of Reality will still be done by 1) perception through the 5 senses, and 2) rational analysis of that perception. What would be the alternative? That’s a very important question: What would be the alternative? I can think of only 2: An emotional commitment to some creed, independent of reason (Kierkegaard’s commitment to Christianity is an example) or a commitment to NO moral creed (moral relativism, at best; nihilism, at worst).
Are these compelling alternatives? Well, that’s for each individual to decide on his own. Personally, as someone who’s been a Christian, an agnostic, and an atheist at different points in my life, I find all of them to be insufficient in very important realms.
On to the next topic…the idea of moral “consensus” and “authority.”…A few points…Today, on Planet Earth, there is no “consensus-based moral authority.” And indeed, there never has been. We have Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, Agnostics, etc…Even Christians are composed of competing sects which – throughout history - have been quite eager to kill each other over relatively minor issues…But ultimately, this whole topic is irrelevant…Personally, I am not interested in developing a rigid moral law for society as a whole (although other people are welcome to try, if they so choose). What interests me is a moral code for the individual. A set of principles for good, happy living. And yes, 2 people who share those principles might not achieve a “consensus” on every issue (one might decide to get married and have children; one might decide to remain a bachelor for life, etc). But that’s fine. We’re a diverse species. I accept that. Also, I should mention that from an historical perspective, reason has been consistently shafted by philosophers. Indeed, I can think of only 2 philosophers who prized reason: Aristotle and Ayn Rand. Everyone else denigrated reason: Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heiddeger, Rorty, the whole gang.
Last but not least…I do not share your pessimism that science will “crowd out room for a personal God.” Indeed, in the last few decades, there has been a quiet revolution in the scientific community – especially in the areas of physics and biology – whereby a growing body of evidence leads to an inevitable and surprising conclusion: it is “rational” to believe in God, and even better, a personal God who has a loving interest in our lives. Despite the hopes of millions of atheists who hoped that science would eventually destroy God, today there is more “reason” to believe in God than at any time in history. And thus, a union between reason and faith – seen as polar opposites by the vast majority of people even today – is indeed possible. That is a very welcome development, in my opinion.
***UPDATE, OCT. 1, 2009***
Nova has responded to my rebuttal, and per the Vox Rule, I'm cross-posting my reply here...
You’re challenging me. Good. I like that.
First, let me provide a little context that I think might be useful: I’m not arrogant enough to presume that if I could go back in time and have a deep, heartfelt conversation with a young Joseph Stalin, I could convince him to give up his Communist ambitions and have him continue to study becoming a priest (Yep, he was studying to be a priest. True story). And why not? Because, to paraphrase Hamlet, “To think, or not to think, that is the question.” And I don’t think young Stalin (like 95% of human beings) wanted to think too hard about the feasibility and inherent “goodness” of his ambitions. And this leads me to a related point: I don’t think anyone could’ve deterred a young Stalin (obviously, the priests in his school couldn’t). Think about it: If we can’t convince a person to be “good” based on their rational self-interest, what chance do we have to convince him by stating, “God said to do it! It’s all in the Bible. And you must trust the Bible.” Again, we come to a question I asked earlier: “What is the alternative?” Is there a better alternative to the one I’m suggesting? If there is, I haven’t heard it yet.
If a person said to me, “You know, Todd, I think you’re onto something here, and I’m going to start adopting your principles into my daily life,” I honestly don’t think that person would use those principles for negative purposes. No, his recognition that happiness lies within himself would be sufficient to make that a very unlikely possibility. Now, can I guarantee he wouldn’t use those principles for evil? No, of course not. There are no guarantees in life. And on a related note, if another person said, “I accept Christ into my life,” that too is ultimately no guarantee of good behavior (as we’ve seen throughout history).
Having said all that, let me address your major point: “Happiness is inherently subjective.” To that, I would say: That depends on your meaning of the word “subjective.” If we mean, some people find happiness in baseball, others find it in football; some find it at Abercrombie and Fitch, others find it at the Gap, then yes, there is a great deal of subjectivity. But ultimately, these are peripheral issues; they are not primaries. Can we reduce happiness to a primary? To that: I would say, “Yes.” And I think you would too. Consider: Can we agree that being told “I love you” by a woman is a source of happiness? Can we agree that having your arm broken is a source of UNhappiness? Yes, I think we can. There are some universal human traits upon which we can build a philosophy of happiness that extends to every person who thinks happiness is actually valuable (regardless of whether they’re a baseball fan or a football fan). And that’s precisely what I’ve (humbly) tried to do.
***UPDATE, OCT. 2, 2009**
The latest round of my discussion with Novaseeker is below...
Nova: I suppose you would say that people who act in evil ways are simply being irrational.
TW: For the most part, yes. Although I would certainly add that genes, environmental factors, etc. make some people more prone to be “irrational” than others.
Nova: To me, people act in evil ways not because they are irrational, but because they are immoral -- or rather that they have chosen to defy the objective moral law precisely because they perceive (perhaps rightly) that it is in their own self-interest to do so.
TW: See for me, the abandonment of one’s capacity to reason (and to behave in a way that cripples one's rational capacity) is NEVER in someone’s self-interest. Even if a criminal declared “It was in my self-interest to kill my business partner,” I wouldn’t accept that justification; the fact they’re rotting in a jail cell proves my point.
Nova: I think that theistic religion, with its emphasis on some kind of personal evil in the universe, is more descriptive of how evil actually works (regardless of whether one believes in the personal evil) in terms of being rebellion against the moral order, placing one's self-interest at the core and so on, than the idea that evil is irrational.
TW: For me, most evil comes from the refusal of the individual to think critically about himself and his relationship to the world around him. An evil person is one who engages in “magical thinking” that has no basis in Reality (“If I bomb the World Trade Center, I’ll get 72 virgins in Heaven!,” etc.) Or they might not think at all! In his writing, Theodore Dalrymple, the conservative doctor, discusses that very issue. When interviewing criminals, and asking “Why did you do it?” they’ll say stuff like “the knife went in” instead of “I stabbed her because…” They’re clueless. They’re just genuinely stupid people.
Nova: Some individuals do have different highest aspirations than personal love. For an artist, or another creative person, or an athlete, or even a business executive, other prerogatives may make them more "satisfied" than pursuing personal love of the opposite sex.
TW: That’s fine. The thing that links all of those activities together is that it gives the individual the ability to have control over their life and express themselves creatively. Those desires are very deeply ingrained in human nature. I think very highly of Dr. Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” (and I’ve heard praise of Dr. Maslow in other parts of the “Manosphere”). He put “the need for self-actualization” at the top of his hierarchy. That strikes me as very wise. And fulfilling that need is what I’m advocating.
Nova: Similarly, it is not "irrational" for someone to decide that, for them, their highest personal value in terms of happiness and fulfillment will be their career, or their art, or their athletic passion or what have you. Now you may say "these people are kidding themselves", but since this is based on reason, and no higher values, all that is needed is for them to articulate their rational self interest in a defensible way which is different from your own.
TW: I wouldn’t say “they’re kidding themselves.” That’s totally fine.
Nova: “If that is done (and I think it's quite doable), then it's demonstrated that there is no universal, rationally-determined self-interest, but rather personally-determined, subjective yet defensible, personal articulations of rational self-interest.”
TW: In my work, I’ve advocated a basic principle which (in my humble opinion) can be applied universally: “Use your rational power at all times to secure the Good: The Good being your own Life. And every goal and value that affirms your life.” Whether a person uses that principle to become a bank executive, a full-time mom, or a blogger is up to their discretion, and does not (in my mind) invalidate the principle.
Nova: “If there were such universals determinable by reason, our metaphysics experts would have reached that consensus a long, long time ago.”
TW: You really think that?
Nova: It's not as if massive brainpower has not been used to grapple with these issues for a long time using the tools of human reason.
TW: Nah. There was a blossoming of reason in ancient Greece and in the early period of the Enlightenment (which – carried out by the Founding Fathers – made our tandard of living today possible). But for 97% of human history reason has been casually dismissed. There has only been faith and force.
Nova: So while it's true that the appeal to a super-natural, super-rational basis for morality and "the good" is, in itself, not a guarantee of good behavior by all, due to the existence of evil as a reality, using rational self-interest as the baseline for determining the "good" will lead to a good deal less consensus on that issue than the idea of a super-natural basis.
TW: Even if I was willing to concede that a philosophy of rational self-interest would result in a great diversity of what is “good,” and thus, increase the possibility of conflict (because there was no single standard of “good” (and I *don’t* concede that point, but let’s just along with it for now), couldn’t we also state that organized religion (especially of the Abrahamic variety) – by imposing a one-size-fits-all dogma kills diversity of thought, and by giving the believers the authority to kill those who disagree with them makes it more likely that “evil” will prevail? In the same way that political freedom has worked well for West, I think it’s a good thing to give people some religious freedom to define what is “good” for them (within certain parameters, of course). While it’s true that what's in YOUR self-interest may not be what's in MY self-interest, if we both followed our unique paths, it’s quite unlikely we would find ourselves in conflict (especially in contrast to a religious tyranny in which everyone MUST obey the same rules or die).
***UPDATE, OCT. 5, 2009***
On Friday, Nova critiqued my "Five Humble Suggestions to Improve the Church." Not surprisingly, he wasn't too impressed. But I don't give up easily! Here's my latest response...
Regarding Recommendation #1, I think it’s interesting that you wrote, “Many Christians today would say that the Church has already erred way too much on the side of ‘what can my church do for me’ in an effort to compete for attendees.”
Aren’t you confirming my point: That the Church SHOULD de-emphasize the message of sacrifice because many people in today’s society DON’T want to hear that message?
You also wrote, “For Christians, that personal growth comes through service to others in a way that other activities (personal growth) cannot replicate.”
I’m just one person, so this is only anecdotal evidence, but I tried that approach and I didn’t achieve “personal growth.”
Regarding Recommendation #2, you wrote, “Different Christian traditions have different approaches to their use of the Bible, but all of them find it central to life… So as far as leeway goes, there is an awful lot of leeway already within Christianity.”
I don’t necessary disagree, but once again, you’re indirectly proving my point: There IS leeway to interpret the Bible. The problem is that the growing parts of Christianity come from churches which make the Bible central to the faith. And how are they doing it? They are bringing in Christians from other churches. They are not bringing in agnostics or weak Christians from my generation. And therein lies the problem. It’s a demographic problem. The older generations will fade away, and what will be left? Not much.
Regarding Recommendation #3, you wrote, “There is no lack of Christian apologetical activity, both between Christians of various traditions, as well as in defense of Christianity as a whole.”
Then we have a major, major problem, my friend. I hope I’m not insulting my Christian friends and family members when I say that I can only think of ONE of them who could give a cogent answer to the question, “Why are you a Christian?” The rest of them would say something like, “That’s just the way I feel,” or “That’s the way I was raised,” or “It’s just the Truth; you can either accept it or not.”
Needless to say, I – as a person outside the church – don’t find any of this compelling. So if there is – as you suggest – “no lack of Christian apologetical activity,” going on, that activity has been – to put mildly – a spectacular failure.
You also wrote, “For the average believer, it is important enough that they understand their faith in a way that impacts how they live their own lives.”
Sure, that’s fine, but that’s not a way to keep the faith growing for the reasons I spelled out above.
Regarding Recommendation #4 about sex, you wrote a very eloquent response – dare I say, the most eloquent response I’ve heard a Christian make on this topic. Indeed, I share a lot of your ideals.
But we have a paradox: You are making a *faith-based* argument for controlling one’s sexuality. But the main reason so many young people remain outside the church is…wait for it…all those restrictions on sexuality!
In other words, I can’t see how your arguments can work unless a person has already committed to God (and specifically, Christianity).
So what’s my solution? Well, exactly what I said in my essay: DE-emphasize the sexual rules. Let people come to God/church without the fear of being condemned for being a “sinner” because they haven’t haven’t “waited until marriage” to have sex, etc. Then, once they’re inside the church and accept the “truth” of Christ, they’ll be open-minded enough to accept all of the sexual rules.
Regarding Recommendation #5, I share your view that this will be a “hard recommendation to follow.” As I said, I think the Church has an inherent right to be involved in the political process. But after 3 decades of the “Culture War,” I question how effective all this political involvement has been.
Think about it: What are the public policy successes of Christian conservatives? Not much. And at what cost? The news articles on my blog make clear that my generation has negative feelings – dare I say contempt – for the Christian Right, especially when it comes to sexual issues (see above): the rights of women and gays, abortion, etc. So what we have here is not a question of rights, but strategy: Is it good strategy for the Church to be a main player in politics? I say “no.”
In conclusion, I don’t want to put words into your mouth, but your rebuttal can be summarized into two points: 1) From a theological perspective, the Church just can’t change the sway you suggest, Todd, and 2) Most Christians wouldn’t want to change it that way, anyway.
If that’s true, then, in my humble opinion, the demise of Christianity in the West is irreversible. And if that happens, few Christians would be as sad as me. Why? Because I do think a strong, healthy Christianity is probably our best bulwark against the demise of Western civilization.
Just like the Roman Gods died with the fall of the Roman Empire, Jesus will die with the fall of the West (at least in the Western nations).
Luckily for me, I think the church can and will change. Perhaps quite soon. In the next 5-10 years. For me, the most relevant question is: Will it be too late??
**UPDATE, OCT. 6, 2009**
TW: Nova, you think I’m wrong? Impossible!
But seriously… You wrote, “What we see happening now is a consolidation of Christianity… The unbelievers who were ‘nominally’ Christian are leaving the church, But the believers, the ones who really *do* believe in God and Christ and so on, are consolidating into the more traditional churches.”
Yes, that is my interpretation too, although I don’t share your jolly attitude toward it. There just aren’t enough men and women in my generation who want to submit to Christian fundamentalism. Thus, you’ll end up leaving a lot of folks out in the cold.
You wrote, “If anything is going to change, it’s that the demographics of whites are going to skew heavily in favor of people who grew up in one of these churches, because the whites who did not are being substantially outbred by those who did.”
If Christianity can survive the enormous cultural upheavals of the next 40 years largely intact, then yes, you’ll have a solid chance of winning the “breeding” game. But as I wrote above, I think it’s no better than 50/50 whether Christianity can do that. And if the Christian leaders adopt your inflexible attitude (“let the heathens go”), then I think the demise of Christianity as a cultural force in the West is already “baked in.”
You wrote, “You may not be aware that there is one of the larger Bible churches in the country located near Tyson’s Corner.”
Yes, I’ve been there twice. In fact, that church was the setting of Chapter 2 of my novel.
You wrote, “There are Christian ‘churches’ that have adopted your changes. Have you ever been to an Episcopal church? No judgment there about sex…So why aren’t people flocking to the Episcopal church?”
Simple. Because they rather not to go to ANY church. Even the most liberal church requires faith in Jesus, Jehovah, and the Bible and an ethic of self-sacrifice. To that, a lot of people are asking: Why bother?
You wrote, “They do not need the church. So they do not go. They only go, generally, when they have children, to put them through the stages of Christianity and so on, but then they fade away again.”
Yes, precisely. That’s the point I’m making above. You obviously see this as a neutral, even positive, development. I see it as dangerous unless it can be reversed. A strong, rational Christianity could be a useful bulwark against nihilistic atheism and Islamic terrorism. At least that’s my hope.
**UPDATE, OCT. 7, 2009**
Nova: “Christianity doesn’t exist to form a bulwark against radical Islam. It exists to be the church.”
TW: That’s fair. I have no criticism of that. Yes, the Church should be about advocating the “Truth,” not appealing to the masses. Heck, that’s my philosophy too! I’m just making a prognosis of where “The Truth” of Christianity – at least the “Truth” it’s advocating *today* – will take the church given current trends.
Nova: “In any case, it isn’t strictly fundamentalism that is doing well. The Catholic churches around here at least remain pretty vibrant places.
TW: The Catholic church may be vibrant compared to the mainstream Protestant churches, but it’s not growing, per se – at least not among white people. As others have pointed out, the growth is coming from the fundamentalist sects.
Nova: “There are plenty of tolerant churches out there where you don’t need to believe in anything… People are not flocking to these churches…because they offer them nothing of substance, spiritually. The idea that there is no nominally ‘Christian’ church out there for rationalist skeptics is simply inaccurate.”
TW: I’ve been to those “tolerant” churches,” and I agree with you that they offer “nothing of substance spiritually” – but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the REASON for their lack of substance is because the pews are filled with “rationalist skeptics.” The rationalist skeptics have no church.
Nova: “Are you familiar with the writings of Shelby Spong?…If people are looking for churches out there that endorse their rationalist skepticism and modern humanism, they’re pretty easy to find.”
TW: I don’t agree. Shelby Spong and his pals are advocates of irrational mysticism, NOT rational skepticism.
Nova: “It’s illogical to think that if McLean Bible started preaching the gospel of spiritual rationalism, all of these skeptics would flock there while they have ignored the available options that are already out there today.”
TW: I’m not inclined to tell the leaders of McLean Bible Church that they should start advocating my ideas from the pulpit. They already have a successful business model. To paraphrase Lincoln, “For the sort of people who like that thing, that’s precisely the thing they would like.”
However, I must challenge you when you casually state that there are similar “available options” to my philosophy “out there today.” As I said above, if you consider Shelby Spong and his pals to be a “similar option,” to me, then I couldn’t disagree with you more, for reasons I’ve already stated.
As a side note, I would say that there’s a large potential market for my ideas. Why? Because there are literally tens of millions of Americans who are inclined to faith but don’t find the current religious options compelling. Of course, not all of them would find my ideas agreeable, maybe not even a majority. But I would like to flatter myself into thinking that – at the very least – a large number of them would agree that my philosophical foundation is sound and that the foundation itself is a useful guide for happy living.
We’ll see, though. That’s what makes the future so exciting. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen.
**UPDATE, OCT. 7, 2009, PART 2**
Nova: “If that’s the way they feel, then they should found their own church.”
TW: Personally, I wouldn’t advocate that – at least for the time being. As Larry David would say, “It’s a big to do.” And I’m not sure how much it would actually accomplish.
Nova: “That’s been done in the past, with different degrees of success. It probably won’t be considered ‘Christian’ (look at the Mormons), but that doesn’t mean it can’t be successful, if there really is this critical mass of pent up hunger for rationalist faith out there. I am skeptical that there is, because I think a good number of these people are into new age, buddhism and similar esoterica like Robert Wright and his crowd, but we’ll see.”
TW: Yes, we’ll see. I’m not sure myself. You raise a fair point, though. It’s hard to understand the motivations of ANY single person when it comes to religious matters (so imagine how hard it is to speculate about millions of people!). Needless to say, the whole thing is a very complicated subject – mostly because each individual himself contains a competing swirl of motivations, which are usually quite contradictory. However, I remain optimistic about what I can bring to the table of current religious thought (which – while original as an entirety – is really just a synthesis of already-existing concepts). So in that sense I am hopeful.
Nova: “One thing I do know, however, is this: churches like the RCC, the EOC and the evangelicals are not going to become rationalist.”
TW: Yes, I think that’s almost certainly right. The main candidate for a “rational, muscular” Christianity would be the mainstream Protestant church. To be honest, I’m not familiar enough with the Orthodox community to make a judgment on their future. The Catholic Church could also be a candidate (don’t laugh!). I’ve actually been impressed with some of Pope Benedict’s speeches on this subject.
Overall, I think there’s reason to be cautious optimistic about the future of Christianity and the future of faith, overall. But that confidence on my part rests on my conviction that people – once exposed to true ideas – will gradually adopt those ideas. We’ll see, though.
**UPDATE, OCT. 8, 2009**
Nova: “The Catholics will never agree to put reason first.”
TW: Actually, fwiw, a few weeks ago, a Catholic friend of mine (who is pretty dedicated to his faith) was trying to convince me that under Catholic theology, Reason DOES come before faith. I wasn’t familiar enough with the subject to know whether he was right or wrong, but just the fact he was under that impression was intriguing to me.
Nova: “The mainline Protestants could be a source for your rationalist faith — a place like the Episcopal church (I keep coming back to them because they are the least confessional of any of the mainline ones) could be a place to do that.”
TW: Yes, I think that’s probably the best bet. The mere fact that the mainline Protestants give themselves permission to be flexible and innovative on these matters is what makes them the best candidate. But as I said above, I think there’s room for nearly all of the Christian denominations (except maybe the most hard-core fundamentalists) to move in the direction I’m suggesting.
**UPDATE, OCT. 8, 2009, PART 2**
TW: Nova, your summary of the Catholic Church’s position strikes me as accurate. And it’s precisely for that reason that I stand by my earlier assertion that the Catholic Church DOES – at least in principle – have a healthy respect for the concept of reason (especially in contrast to most of the evangelical churches).
For example, if you’re interested, Bryan Cross, a Catholic Professor at St. Louis University, has a blog in which he often writes about the role of reason in religion.
A few quotes from one article:
“‘Faith’ as an epistemic starting point is not what the Catholic Church teaches faith to be. If one’s epistemic starting point is faith, rather than knowledge of the world through our senses, then faith is an arbitrary, non-rational, leap in the dark. By contrast, the Catholic Church teaches that the assent of faith is ‘by no means a blind movement of the mind.’ Rather, the assent of faith is guided by motives of credibility that are grasped by reason.”
“We access Scripture through reason; we read it or hear it, and interpret it with our reason.”
“It is precisely by and through reason that we know that God is to be trusted, honored, and obeyed. Grace doesn’t bypass reason, or ‘inject’ faith into the soul in a way that bypasses reason; grace elevates reason, so that we know (through our reason) God as Abba Father, and love Him as Father. So reason makes possible true faith (as opposed to a fideistic leap), even though faith itself is a supernatural gift of grace.”
Just to clarify: I’m not a Catholic (heck, I’m not even a Christian). I’m merely pointing out that there’s room for my ideas within most Christian denominations – at least as a practical matter.
**UPDATE, OCT. 8, 2009, PART 3**
Nova: As I wrote in a previous essay...
The principles of Spiritual Rationalism are compatible with Christian teachings to the extent that Christian teachings are compatible with Reality."
I have only been alive for 29 years in one body. I am not presumptuous enough to say that I have access to all truth. There may be people out there whose experiences are radically different from mine – and based on those experiences – they have come to different conclusions about Christianity. That’s why Spiritual Rationalism isn’t a religion; it’s a philosophy.
To flesh that out: Let’s say – for the sake of argument – that a person came up to me and said, “You know, Todd, I think you’re onto something here. In fact, I accept your philosophical premise (which is really Aristotle’s philosophical premise, but whatever), and it’s precisely for that reason, Todd, that I DO accept the Resurrection, the sacrament, etc. etc.” That would be fine with me. Personally, I do not accept those Christian teachings because I am not convinced of the truth of Revelation – but since Christianity hasn’t been debunked either, I’m not in a position to say that Christianity is false.
**UPDATE, OCT. 8, 2009, PART 4**
Nova: When I first brought up the subject of Catholicism, my point was that I didn’t think my philosophy was in OPPOSITION to Catholicism, and that – contrary to the way Catholicism is portrayed in contemporary society – there is a healthy respect for reason within the church.
Ultimately, yes, the way I interpret Reality (through the use of reason) leads to conclusions that I think many practicing Catholics would find objectionable. I have no problem with contraception, for example. Heck, I’m a big fan of contraception!
Perhaps, in my last few posts, I’ve been too eager to blur the lines between Christianity and Spiritual Rationalism – and if I’m guilty of that, it’s because I don’t want people to feel like they have to make a choice between the two (because they don’t). The vast majority of Americans have a loyalty to Christianity (even if many of them are just in it for the Christmas presents), so I feel the need to be non-threatening in that regard. But ultimately – in my own personal life – I have no need to embrace Christianity because I don’t find much wisdom there; I find more wisdom through my own personal experience.