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Faith By Reason Contents




Chapter 10 ~ Conclusion

DEITY is the uncaused basis of existence, as much sustainer as source of all being. If we apply the principle of parsimony, which states that the simplest solution is most often the correct one, the world itself— all nature, cosmos, and being— is likely uncaused rather than caused, and therefore divine.

Based on the above, a materialist might reason that there is no God— none is necessary. On the other hand a spiritual person might argue that the universe and everything in it is deific, since it is ultimately without cause. Unitheistically both are right— all of existence is natural and at the same time divine.

Theists and atheists connect with the ultimate in their own ways— the former by giving or praying, the latter by admiring a sunset. But theists also admire the works of nature, and atheists do philanthropy. What the theist might call worship the atheist might call humanitarianism, or vice versa. At a fundamental level it is much the same thing.

Perhaps this can be illustrated with a story:

It’s the 1950’s. On second thought let’s not go back in history. Let’s do it this way.

It’s present day. A boy is spending the night with his grandfather, wanting him to tell a story before turning out the lights. The grandfather agrees, telling the boy that the story he is about to tell is true and that it’s about growing up with his own father.

It’s the 1950’s. The grandfather himself is a young boy, not much older than his grandson is now. He has two younger sisters. His father keeps the books for a retail store and his stay-at-home mother writes a weekly column on gardening for a local magazine. They recently purchased their first modest house.

The boy starts noticing that his father, after work and on weekends, has become much more desirous of immediately settling into his favorite chair and burying himself in books that he has obtained. The boy asks his dad what the books were about— technical books on television transmission, how to design and build antennas.

The father explains that he thinks he has a new way to pick up TV stations that would save everyone in the world a lot of money. The boy is excited, and asks his dad to tell him how it works. The father says he got the idea from an ad he saw in a magazine for a device that was supposed to turn your whole house into an antenna.

The father shows him one of the ads— it has a picture of what looks like a giant radar antenna. It promises that with their gizmo you could use all the electrical wiring in your house as one giant antenna. The boy is transfixed, asking his father if they were going to get one.

The father says he already borrowed one from a friend to try in their house, but it had not worked nearly as well as he thought it would. He’d been puzzled because the idea sounded so good. So curious he resolved to try to figure out why it didn’t work, going to the public library and finding an introductory book on radio and television electronics.

While real antennas have a specific geometric structure, with parallel rods spaced to optimize signal strength, he found that house wiring actually worked against itself because it was at all angles and curved, going between various switches and outlets. His brother-in-law was a contractor who built houses, so he was familiar with wiring.

It was while he was thinking about his brother-in-law’s houses that inspiration struck. Besides wiring, houses also have plumbing. Pipes are much straighter than wires. The spacing between hot and cold pipes tends to be regular, also that between steam and return pipes to and from radiators.

The next Saturday the father comes home with a large bag of supplies from the hardware store and spends the afternoon in experimentation, running wires throughout the house from the television set and flipping through the channels. For the next several weeks everyone has to get used to avoiding tripping over wires in unexpected places.

Early results aren’t promising, connections tried to pipes in the kitchen, bathroom, from underneath the house in the basement, and to the washing machine hookups. A friend from work who lives in a large house with steam heat offers to let the father come in and experiment there one weekend when the rest of his family is away.

There he discovers that radiator pipes are most likely to provide the best results— many stations seem to come in quite well, and a couple of them better than from using only a set-top antenna. He decides he will market his product primarily to people with steam heating systems and apartment dwellers with radiators.

There is more work and studying to do, as well as just thinking— there are evenings when Ed Sullivan’s face on TV is almost obscured by pipe smoke. The mother, while seeming a bit more nervous than usual, finds her agitation underscored by a barely-perceptible excitement. The boy asks if they are going to be rich, and the mother says maybe.

One weeknight the father returns home later than usual, explaining that he had met a few friends after work at a neighborhood bar and they had introduced him to buddies of theirs. After a couple rounds of beer several had agreed to try out the device and keep the design a secret.

That Saturday the boy gets to help his father make a dozen or so of the devices. The boy’s job is to measure and cut wire, while the father works the soldering iron. The following afternoon the boy gets to ride along in the car as the father distributes several of the units to friends and acquaintances.

For the next couple weeks things around the house return pretty much to normal, with work and school routines. When the boy asks his dad when they were going to make more units the father replies that he doesn’t know, promising that when the time comes he would again get to help.

As the weeks go by the boy starts seeing less of his dad, the father stopping after work once or twice a week at the local bar for drinks with the other regulars there and spending Saturday afternoons playing billiards. After one such Saturday he returns home very excited, having through his connections gotten in on a very good business opportunity.

It was in real estate, buying and selling hotels and casinos in the Caribbean. A month earlier he had given, with much trepidation, an acquaintance of a friend, upon highest recommendation from the friend, $500 to invest, and that day collected $600. He announces that with some of the $100 they made he was taking the whole family out to dinner.

While the restaurant food was good and change of atmosphere pleasant, later that evening the boy could hear loud voices coming from his parents’ bedroom. Until then they had almost never argued.

The following week the father invests $2,000 with the real estate man and a month later gets back $2,500. Instead of taking all the money this time he pockets only $200 and reinvests the rest in another deal.

Things start getting more difficult at work, and he talks about quitting his job. Still the following month he invests an additional $1,500, most of the rest of their savings, in a hotel deal, and the month after that takes $600, just a few weeks’ profit, back out of the investment for a much-anticipated family vacation to Disneyland.

Soon after returning from a week in Southern California, the after-work and Saturday visits to the neighborhood bar become a regular routine. Now only Sunday is reserved for the family, and during much of that day the father keeps to himself, reading the paper and smoking his pipe. Bedroom arguments become a frequent occurrence.

Weeknights the father arrives home usually around eight. Whereas previously he might unwind with a beer while warming his dinner plate, he now plops a couple ice cubes into a tumbler and fills it almost to the brim with bourbon whiskey. Some Saturdays he follows afternoon pool with evenings visiting friends, playing cards and drinking rum until very late.

Meanwhile the magazine his mother is working for gets a new editor who decides to eliminate the gardening section. To fill in the time and budget while looking for a new writing job she starts taking in ironing, which she does afternoons while watching her favorite soap operas on television.

A few weeks later the store the father is working for unexpectedly closes and he too is out of a job. His account with the real estate investor is up to around $5,000, so he decides to take out $1,000 to tide him over. But the real estate man is nowhere to be found. The other investors at the bar are in a turmoil.

Fortunately the man calls from the Bahamas and says he will be back in two weeks, plus he made another $500 for the father in a casino licensing deal he just finalized, promising him not $1,000 but $1,500 as soon as he gets back. The father knows he’ll be okay financially for two weeks so is ecstatic about yet another windfall.

Over Sunday dinner the father assures his family that the job loss was actually a blessing in disguise— the work load and stress had become exhausting, which was why he had been spending so much time out with friends. He already has leads on at least two better accounting positions. In the meantime they have large investment returns to live on.

Despite the leads the job hunt falters, which the father chalks up to not being a CPA. Two weeks later the real estate man is still not back. Midweek the man calls again, apologizing for the delay but saying he decided to stay a few extra days to close the sale of some small beachfront apartments for a $200 return in addition to the extra $500.

The father thanks him for getting the additional money and says he’s happy to wait another week, but asks the man to immediately wire him $500 of the $1,700 to hold them over until he gets back, explaining that he was between jobs. The man says he would be happy to, but that wire transfer was complicated there and the added expense wouldn’t be worth it.

The father asks how much it would cost and the man says about $300 to take care of all the paperwork and smooth the transaction with the authorities. So the father asks him to take $1,000 out of his account and use $300 of it to get him the remaining $700. The man hesitates for a moment and then says okay, he would get it started right away.

A week goes by. No man and no wire transfer. The father waits another couple days for the usual apologetic telephone call before trying to call the hotel in Nassau where the man was last staying. The clerk there tells him that he had checked out three days before and did not say where he was going, but the clerk guesses he returned to the States.

Back at the local bar the friend that so highly recommended the real estate man in the first place is now so upset with him that he contacts the authorities for help, saying he has over $7,000 invested with him. The police say they have already received complaints from other people concerning the man’s dealings and that they are looking into it.

Weeks go by and no one hears anything. Finally it comes out that the whole thing is a scam— there never were any real estate deals in the Bahamas or anywhere else. The man is indicted but found to be broke, having squandered all the investors’ money on an extravagant, weeks-long Caribbean holiday of gambling and night life.

With the loss of their savings finances become very tight. Electricity has to be conserved and meals are modest. One day the boy’s sister tugs on the father’s shirt asking, “Daddy are we going to have to live in a hole in the wall?” It turns out she had overheard her mother talking on the telephone. They were going to have to sell the house.

Things aren’t all bad. They quickly find a buyer who offers enough that after expenses they would clear $1,500 on the house. They put down a deposit on a three-room apartment in an older section of town for $20 a week, with clanking radiators and peeling maroon wallpaper. “A little fixing up and it will be really nice.”

The job hunt is still stalled, so to tide them over the father takes a job selling encyclopedias door-to-door. But he quickly realizes that sales ability is not one of his talents. Meanwhile in the living room of the stuffy flat there’s barely room between the TV set and the davenport for the mother’s ironing board.

One bright late-summer day, when things seem at their bleakest, the father on impulse decides to stretch his legs and take a walk. Immediately upon exiting the apartment building a perfect breeze gently fans him. The sky is clear and blue, the air dry. Something is stirring.

His tentative destination is an English-style pub tucked on a corner several blocks away. A shortcut is along a quiet lane of tightly packed bungalows with postage stamp yards, most comprised more of flower garden than lawn. Compared with the main street he finds himself in silence so hushed that he steps more quietly on the sidewalk to not break it.

Ahead of him he can faintly hear the sound of a water sprinkler. There is another breeze, this one even slower but long and steady. He decides to just stop and enjoy the moment. For at least a minute he just stands there, his mind emptying of all thought. He blinks, then hears distant voices, perhaps two people talking in a nearby backyard.

The spell broken, he resumes walking. But something seems different. The thing is he can’t figure out what, other than that it had something to do with that moment on the sidewalk. He forgets the pub and decides to just wander for a while, exploring a small park he didn’t know existed, and finally returning to the apartment an hour or so later.

During the remainder of the day he is distracted, puzzling over the meaning of the moment on the sidewalk. As much as anything he is puzzled over why he is puzzled. After all it was just a brief moment of bliss, a break in the stress of care, a lifetime of rest— even renewal— in one instant.

All he knows for sure is that he is changed. He is beginning to think permanently changed. For no apparent reason he is happier, not all the time but more of the time. Besides that the future seems brighter. While always a hopeful person, hope seems stronger now. But how could one instant have done all that?

Discussing it with his friends one of them admitted a similar experience. He had just finished painting an upstairs room of his house and was sitting down, staring at the smooth colored walls, resting and reflecting. Without warning his whole body was charged with energy— not scary but in a warm, pleasant way. Just as suddenly it ended, too soon.

While differing from the father’s experience of mind-emptying without a charged feeling, the aftermath of the friend’s experience was similar— more optimism, happiness, and hope. While the circumstances of the friends life didn’t change for better or worse afterward, his experience of his circumstances was as though they had significantly improved.

In fact the financial hardship of the father and his family does not improve after the moment on the sidewalk— things get more desperate as the money from the sale of their house dwindles. But if anything the father is still happier than before, and his friends and family enjoy his company even more than before.

By Thanksgiving the prospect of a meager holiday season is staring them in the face— their turkey is so small there are few leftovers. The father jokes, “Look at the bright side, no turkey sandwiches.” Then the following Monday an old store buddy unexpectedly calls and asks, “Hey are you still looking for work?”

The friend, along with two partners, is opening a large, new appliance store and needs someone to keep books. The philosophy at this store is have fun and get rich. Okay no one really gets rich, but the pay is good and the work environment such that the father comes home every day— well most days— with a spring in his step.

By now the family is used to living economically, so the following June a down payment is made on a new house on a large lot in a quiet neighborhood, much roomier than their previous house. That fall the mother successfully launches her own regional gardening journal and the ironing board is put away for good.

As more is learned about how things work, differences in belief will fade; distinctions between theism, atheism, and agnosticism declining in significance in favor of an all-encompassing ultimate. Yet even as we find ourselves agreeing more on metaphysical issues, we will continue to find disagreements on cultural and even moral ones. triform

Faith By Reason Contents
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© 1999-2007 Warren Farr — revised 9/29