Two years ago I participated in a panel made up of several MIT chaplains called “Love, Sex and Religion” hosted by PLEASURE @ MIT. I had always meant to post the audio recording of that, but I’m just finally getting around to it now.
In this audio file you’ll hear Swami Tyagananda (Hindu Chaplain) followed by me (Blue Ocean Faith Chaplain) followed by Kari Jo Verhulst (Lutheran Chaplain) followed by Gavriel Goldfeder (Orthodox Jewish Chaplain). My part starts 14 minutes in. I was very impressed by the level of wisdom and nuance in what my esteemed colleagues had to say. I aspire to be that insightful and articulate.
I am pretty excited to announce that on Thursday October 5th, 2017 author, speaker and podcaster Mike McHargue (known in some corners of the internet as ‘Science Mike’) will be coming to MIT. I want to introduce Mike and share why I am so excited that he’s coming to spend time with us.
SCIENCE MIKE’S STORY: Using Science to Deconstruct and Reconstruct Faith
Mike has a really fascinating and unusual spiritual journey. He was a fundamentalist Christian who was a well-respected leader in his faith community. A unexpected family crisis caused Mike to urgently read the entire Bible four times in one year. Each time he found more contradictions and had more trouble holding onto his faith. One day Mike’s belief in God collapsed and he admitted to himself he was an atheist.
This was an IAP event that I co-hosted with MIT’s Secular Society. I’ve heard too many stories from people who have been mistreated and traumatized for being honest with themselves and engaging in a sincere search for what’s good and true and helpful. We’ve lost sight of the fact that many people have very good, legitimate reasons for wanting to put distance between themselves and church/Christianity/God.
It was followed by some really powerful and heartbreaking stories of what people experienced as they deconverted. The hope was to provide a space that could provide both catharsis for healing and catalyst for productive dialog.
This little anecdote feels especially timely to me right now.
When the London Times invited a collection of famous thinkers and authors to weigh in on the question, ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ the Catholic thinker G. K. Chesterton reputedly wrote a brief letter in response:
G. K. Chesterton.
I am what’s wrong. An example: I project my self-hatred and fear onto whole groups of people and convince myself they are the problem.
There’s no transcript this time because this was talk was completely unscripted—which is very unlike me. In addition to the audio, the text selections1usually in these selections I like to include some connection to non-religious stuff for the sake of inclusivity, but since I did this one with virtually no prep, I defaulted to Bible verses that were top of the mind. I used are below.
usually in these selections I like to include some connection to non-religious stuff for the sake of inclusivity, but since I did this one with virtually no prep, I defaulted to Bible verses that were top of the mind.
Another talk that I gave at my church. This one was focused on the wonderfully simplistic yet deeply powerful ancient spiritual exercise called “the Examen” that uses emotional awareness to integrate self-reflection and prayer.
Bringing together this summer’s Pixar blockbuster Inside Out, classic episodes of the original Star Trek and the gargantuan, impenetrable novel Infinite Jest, here’s my Tuesday’s in the Chapel talk for this semester (as audio and transcript):
First Reading: From Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, p. 695:
Hal, who’s empty but not dumb, theorizes privately that what passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human (at least as he conceptualizes it) is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic, is to be in some basic interior way forever infantile… One of the really American things about Hal, probably, is the way he despises what it is he’s really lonely for: this hideous internal self, incontinent of sentiment and need, that pules and writhes just under the hip empty mask, anhedonia.
In my previous post about centered sets, I proposed the idea that there is some “Good Life” that serves as the center of the human set. To reiterate, even if all of us would have very different ideas about what that good life is, the idea is still that there’s one center. Now, I have no idea if this is true and I’ll make no attempt to prove it. But I wanted to talk a little bit about how I personally think about this idea of a “center”. Continue reading →