Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

"Live Right,Live Lite"

I've been active on a few blogs this week dealing with infidelity...'If he cheats, is it your fault?' and 'Damn right it's your fault.' I am continually amazed at the lack of personal responsibility in our society. We use society as a measuring stick for what is acceptable behavior and we look to our peers to tell us that our actions are not our responsibility but an almost involuntary consequence of someone else's behavior. In other words, we persecute the victim.

Have you ever noticed the opposition you will be faced with when you suggest that someone must take personal responsibility?'Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities.' Albert Einstein'In the religion (and philosophy) circles, I continually come across blogs that assert one extreme or the other. It's not surprising that I am often misunderstood by these people and any attempt at 'debate' I will lose.

Let's first attempt to define existentialism.Existentialism is a philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts.The laws of God, the laws of man,He may keep that will and canAnd how am I to face the oddsOf man's bedevilment and God's?I, a stranger and afraidIn a world I never made(A. E. Housman (1859-1936)

Jean-Paul Sartre's conception of existentialist philosophy focused upon the radical freedom that faces every human being. In the absence of any fixed human nature or absolute, external standards, we must all become responsible for whatever choices we make. Sartre recognized, however, that such freedom was too much for people to always handle. A common response, he argued, was to use their freedom to deny the existence of freedom — a tactic he called Bad Faith (mauvaise foi).

When Sartre used the phrase 'bad faith,' it was to refer to any sort of self-deception which denied the existence of human freedom. According to Sartre, bad faith occurs when someone tries to rationalize our existence or actions through religion, science, or some other belief system which imposes meaning or coherence on human existence.

Bad faith is an attempt to avoid the angst which accompanies the realization that our existence has no coherence except for what we ourselves create. Thus, bad faith comes from within us and is itself a choice — a way that a person uses their freedom in order to avoid dealing with the consequences of that freedom because of the radial responsibility that those consequences entail.
To explain how bad faith operates Sartre wrote in Being and Nothingness about a woman who is faced with the choice of whether to go out on a date with an amorous suitor. In considering this choice, the woman knows that she will face more choices later on because she is quite aware of the man's intentions and desires.

The need for choices is then heightened when, later, the man puts his hand on hers and caresses it. She can leave her hand there and thereby encourage further advances, knowing full well where they might lead. On the other hand, she can take her hand away, discouraging his advances and perhaps discouraging him from ever asking her out again. Both choices entail consequences which she must take responsibility for.

In some cases, however, a person will try to avoid taking responsibility by trying to avoid making conscious choices altogether. The woman might treat her hand as merely an object, rather than an extension of her will, and pretend that there is no choice in leaving it. Perhaps she cites uncontrollable passion on her part, perhaps she cites the presence of peer pressure that forces her to comply, or perhaps she merely pretends not to notice the man's actions. Whatever the case, she acts as though she is not making any choices and hence has no responsibility for the consequences. That, according to Sartre, means acting and living in bad faith.1)

If he cheats, is it her fault?Christianity is an Existential Communication Soren Kierkegaard wrote something in his journal that the remainder of his work would become focused on:Christianity is no doctrine, but an existential communication…Kierkegaard wrote this as a reaction to the Danish Lutheran church and the caricature it made of Christianity, but the distinction is just as true for today.

The prevailing conception is that a person is a Christian if he believes in the keydoctrines/truths (which vary depending on denomination), and if this belief is professed to God in a prayer. Accordingly the essence of Christianity is located in these doctrines; abstract statements that give someone the ability to know who is Christian and who is not. For example, if a respected Christian man acts selfishly in a given situation, it is never once doubted that he is a Christian. At most his action is deemed 'unchristian', but his identity as a Christian is left untouched.

This line of thinking climaxed with the doctrine of eternal security, which states that once you are saved (by professing these Christian truths), you can never lose your forgiven and righteous status, no matter what you do in the future.In the intellectual world this conception of Christianity is confirmed. People argue and philosophize about various doctrines, and call it Christian philosophy.

Christianity is defined today as 'a religious system of beliefs that comprise a worldview.'Existential Christianity's fundamental assertion is that Christianity is not a system of beliefs, but rather a lifestyle expressed existentially.

An 'existential communication' means something that is communicated and expressed to othersthrough our existence, the way we live and act within this world. Becoming a Christian does not involve a change of beliefs, but a change of how we live and exist inside a selfish and egoistical world.

This is revealed in three ways: The existential nature of Jesus Christ, how we express Christianity to others existentially, and how we express Christianity to God existentially. Despite the association of existentialism as a godless and sorrowful philosophy, Existential Christianity is primarily concerned with the teachings of Jesus within a paradoxical and meaningless environment.

2) Do you think a Christian can be an existentialist? Why or why not?

3) If you are a Christian, why do you think the church focuses on 'right beliefs' instead of 'right actions?'resources:

http://atheism.about.com/od/existentialistthemes/a/badfaith.htmhttp://www.existentialchristianity.net/ExistentialCommunication.pdfYou can either open your eyes (metaphorically) and see the spiritual dimension in human life and accept it as reality, or you can close your eyes and deny it. It is choice, not logic.

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