Friday, May 11, 2007

Travel, Talk, and Holes in the Dike

Travel over the last couple of days has been lovely. None of us had ever seen the southwest, and we've been really enjoying ourselves -- despite the thermometer hitting 108 today. We drove from Kansas City, through Oklahoma, through the Texas panhandle, and into New Mexico on the first day. We stayed in a historic Route 66 motel and had a great time (other than my daughter doing a face-plant on the sidewalk, creating an unsightly set of scrapes and bruises on her face -- just in time for her flower-girl wedding photos!). The next day we finished the ride to Phoenix, and got to take a few side trips.

The first place we stopped at was the Petrified Forest national park and painted desert. We've also stopped at the Red Rocks state park in Sedona, AZ. Both places were well worth a little hike. We slung the kids on our backs and just had a great time. I sometimes feel guilty at how little of this fabulous planet I've seen. After this trip, I feel a bit better.

Another exciting advanced I've made on this trip is regarding religious discussion with my wife. The events I discussed in my last post were like the holes in the proverbial dike. I'm not letting the little Dutch boy stop it back up, though! I'm looking forward to seeing where this will lead.

My wife -- who nearly had enough world religion classes to have received a religion minor in college -- has a very spiritual approach to life. She's reading two books right now -- a [moderately] skeptical book on the existence of the afterlife and reincarnation (yay!), and a Sylvia Brown book (boo! -- but I would never discourage her from enjoying whatever she wants to, of course). And she is absolutely one of the most benign theists you can imagine. But she worries about my soul. She doesn't believe in hell, but she's concerned that when I die [and assuming there was a heaven] that I wouldn't accept it even in death.

This was a simple concern to alleviate, because my non-belief is based on lack of evidence, not rebellion or anger. I wondered how many rebellious or angry atheists she has known, to unknowingly consider me in that group? I think perhaps it is my use of the term 'atheist' instead of 'agnostic.' I think it is a good choice because, although I would accept incontrovertible evidence of god if I was given it, I find the odds of there being a supernatural deity so highly unlikely I feel that I am only an agnostic by slight technicality. On Dawkin's 7-point system, I am a strong 6.

Given this discussion, though, maybe the term 'atheist' is more misleading than I understood? Is it being read not as a belief, but as a position? From my perspective, this is something that I feel should be solved by educating those, like my wife, who do not understand that atheism is based on the principle of reason not denial. But how much weight should we give to our perspective in this matter? Shouldn't we be concerned about the perspective of the larger population? This is another time when I think a new term, like Bright, will do us all a lot of good. The biggest problem we face is misunderstanding. It doesn't have to be a fundamental misunderstanding like thinking that atheists worship the devil. It can sometimes be simply being unaware of where atheist stops and agnostic begins -- and where they overlap.

We also "talked shop" a bit, and discussed some more mundane topics. We discovered we both have a preference for the NSRV bible. I was able to recommend the ESV, and she was able to recommend the NIV. She helped clear up a few of the distinctions between different denominations that I'm still fuzzy on. It was a very productive talk, and although I felt fairly tense when we started I was considerably more comfortable by the end. I'm not sure how she felt about this -- but I am taking the fact that she initiated the most recent discussion (in a very conversation manner!) as a good sign.

Sometimes I feel a little silly for feeling like there is such a wall between us that talking about religion can be such a problem. But I've decided that it's mostly a matter of respect. We both respect each other's beliefs to the point that we are afraid of unintentionally hurting the other's feelings. I'm starting to learn more of her boundaries, and where I've inadvertently crossed them in the past. And I think she's starting to understand where I am on the atheism/agnosticism line. Progress all around.


vjack said...

Sounds like a good trip with some meaningful discussion. I absolutely love New Mexico. It sounds like the really encouraging sign about your wife's religiosity is that she is willing to think about it and discuss it. I'm not sure one can ask for much more than that.

Jude said...

Having been raised in a church, I would say that I *am* an angry atheist. It's something I've just been coming to terms with lately--how angry religion makes me feel. If I hadn't been raised in a church, I figure that 1) I might not be an atheist and 2) I might not be an angry atheist. Give me that old time religion...Yeah, right.

Sacred Slut said...

Kudos on the great dialogue. Your trip sounds fantastic. I haven't seen nearly enough of the US either...we traveled far when I was young but I don't remember any of that.

Anonymous said...

An early "welcome to Virginia." I was going to say something snarky about Sylvia Browne, but it's really 2 sides of the same coin, isn't it?

Naomi said...

I can't believe you didn't mention the second tallest xian cross in the western hemisphere! You could not have missed it - it's even lit up at night? And you can see it, even if it's foggy or snowing!

Are you blind? A 190-foot tall cross and you. did. not. see. it?

See if this looks familiar to you:

Or, maybe you were sleeping and your wife was driving and forgot to mention it. But, still, you would have had to hear her gasp!

Unless...a texas-twister finally took the damned ugly thing down! Yeah! Finally!

Hi, David!

Naomi said...

Oops! I hit publish instead of preview - you'll have to reassemble the URL in your browser...


David W. said...

Oh yes! I certainly did see the giant cross. Actually it was wife sleeping while I drove past (the first time). The sign still says "largest cross in the western hemisphere" -- what cross now makes it number 2?

Naomi said...

You can use the link to see that the new #1 is 198-feet and at the crossroads of I-57/70, near Effingham, Illinois. Between the cross and the six truckstops at the next three exits, along with the other services, the lovely terrain is quite ruined...

I hadn't read the Texas sign announcing "largest in the western hemisphere" for a while. I wonder if anyone has called him on that? Or is he's just trusting no one will really care about his lie?