David Kuo, most famous for being formerly of George W. Bush’s office of faith-based initiatives, and for later exposing much of that initiative’s cynicism, submits to Andrew Sullivan’s “ask me anything” videos. The question in this video, which is rather too simplistic for my taste: “Is faith foolish?”
I don’t want to beat up on Kuo, for a number of reasons: He is obviously not, himself, a fool, but a wise, intelligent, well-meaning fellow, and his variety of religiousness is among the most harmless. And, if you’re not aware, he’s also enduring utterly dire medical circumstances.
All that said, I remain baffled by the construction set up by Kuo here, one similar to that used by many of his ilk (such as Sullivan) who despite being rational in all other areas, rejecting unfounded absolutism, claim themselves to be certain of not only God’s existence, but of a particular sectarian variety of God.
Look at the way Kuo describes his certainty, that he is intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually convinced of Christianty’s veracity.
Two of those three, bluntly, are meaningless.
To be “emotionally convinced” of something at least has a real-world manifestation, even if it is empty as a claim to something’s actual truth. I can feel emotionally convinced that a salesperson is being straight with me, or that a job interview has gone well, or that, gosh, there really is a lot of good in this ol’ world, but that wouldn’t be the same as saying that the facts presented to me have made a strong case. It just feels one way or another, and that’s not good enough when we’re talking about whether or not there’s a timeless, all-powerful superbeing lording over us and sacrificing his offspring for us.
But “spiritually convinced”? That is, I think, literally meaningless. You can talk in terms of how your brain, your intellect, has amassed enough data to come to a conclusion, and you can also invoke a kind of dualism in saying that your heart, or your gut, or what have you, have led you in a particular direction. But how does one convince one’s spirit? Even allowing that such a thing exists (it does not), how is that different than one’s mind or emotions? It’s not. It’s rhetorical filler.
I’m sure Kuo would disagree. I’m sure he feels like his spirit really is somehow given assurance of the truth of Christianity. But all I want to say here is that it’s actually redundant, unnecessary, or just plain meaningless to talk about being emotionally or spiritually convinced of grand claims made about the nature of reality.
And if one really is intellectually convinced of the divinity of Jesus, et. al., well, you’re just doing it wrong.