Some people look at things so bizarrely.
Like Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, authors of the hugely popular "Left Behind" series of books that takes a fictional view of events surrounding the Second Coming of Jesus—which for LaHaye and Jenkins won't be fiction when the Big Day comes.
Yesterday I heard them interviewed on a right-wing Portland talk show. The host asked them how they were faring on their book tour to the least-churched state in the nation.
(Whenever I hear that fact, I always feel like cheering, Yay, Oregon! We're #1!)
LaHaye and Jenkins said, "Just fine. We've got a lot fans here." Which I'm sure is true. To a certain sort of Christian, it's got to be hugely appealing to hear that unbelievers are going to be consigned to some nasty suffering come the Tribulation—I'm short on the details, never having read any of their books.
When asked if it was fair that non-Christians were going to be treated so badly when the Good Times start to roll, the answer basically was: "Well, that's what the Bible says, so that's the way it's going to be. End of story."
Weird! I thought, turning off the car radio as I pulled into the natural food store's parking space. So freaking weird. How could anybody believe that stuff?
And yet…during my Eastern religion fundamentalist phase I believed in equally strange weirdness. I was certain that the guru had implanted his radiant astral form in my forehead consciousness at the time of my initiation, and that this being now was aware of my every thought and action, stepping in now and then to tweak my karma as he saw fit.
If LaHaye and Jenkins heard that, they'd be entirely justified in saying: So freaking weird. How could anybody believe that stuff? Yet millions of Sant Mat disciples all over the world do.
Here's the thing: to some extent everybody is weird from any perspective other than our own. Close to home, my wife thinks that my habitual failure to shut kitchen drawers all the way is completely mystifying. Well, she has her own quirks, believe me.
According to Wittgenstein, a world picture is a set of fundamental beliefs comprising a fixed framework that, for the one who adopts it, is groundless. This means that it does not rest on deeper grounds or foundations: it is not derived from and justified by appeal to other, supposedly more fundamental, beliefs or evidence. "At the foundation of well-founded belief lies belief that is not founded." [Wittgenstein quote]
Fascinating. I love it. We're all floating free in well-structured belief bubbles, but each of us is supremely confident that mine is tethered firmly to reality—as contrasted with how blowing-in-the-wind the belief structures belonging to other people are.
When pressed, none of us, not one, could point to any solid evidence that the way we personally view the world leads to an objectively true understanding of reality. Science has a pretty good claim in this regard, but science isn't a person. And it relies on mathematical world pictures, which are much less subjective than beliefs.
Thus religious world pictures (Munitz says Wittgenstein preferred this term to "world view") are as groundless as any other sort. There are people whose life largely revolves around the fortunes of their chosen sports team. My mother wasn't quite this extreme, but when "her" San Francisco Giants won, you could sense an elevated mood in the Hines home.
Similarly, finding a choice empty parking space elicits a "Praise Jesus," "Allah is great," or "Guru's grace!" in those whose world pictures filter reality in a certain fashion. Every day events get attached to a structured belief system like ornaments being placed on Christmas tree limbs. Ah, another little miracle.
In a recent issue of Newsweek, mega-church pastor Rick Warren speaks of the evidence he sees for God.
I see the fingerprints of God everywhere. I see them in culture. I see them in law. I see them in literature. I see them in nature. I see them in my own life.
Okay. But the impressions Warren takes to be divine fingerprints appear much different to non-Christians with an alternative world picture. For example, as a mark from the hand of Darwinian natural selection.
Personally (as if it were possible for me to start off a sentence with "Impersonally"), I find the notion of pruning my belief structures increasingly appealing. Like everyone else, my world picture always will determine the lens through which I view reality.
But I can see through the glass more darkly, or less darkly. Pulling into a parking space can just mean that I'm pulling into a parking space.
As noted in a previous post, I like the world picture of David Ignatow, a poet:
I should be content
to look at a mountain
for what it is
and not as a comment on my life.