Robert Bellah

New-old habits of the postmodern heart: 'When people choose not to believe in God, they do not ... '

New-old habits of the postmodern heart: 'When people choose not to believe in God, they do not ... '

It is without a doubt the most famous quotation that journalist and Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton either (a) said, (b) never said, (c) might have said or (d) said in pieces that were latter assembled by someone else into one memorable thought.

I am referring to this statement: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

You can click here for a fascinating investigation into the origins of this statement. The bottom line: There are all kinds of Chesterton statements that may have evolved into this quote. I liked this part:

... Robin Rader of Zambia argued that the epigram can be found divided between two adjacent Father Brown stories:
It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense. [“The Oracle of the Dog” (1923)]
You hard-shelled materialists were all balanced on the very edge of belief -- of belief in almost anything. [“The Miracle of Moon Crescent” (1924)]

I bring this up because this famous Chesterton semi-quote offers a perfect summary of what I felt recently while walking the streets of Prague, thinking about some recent Pew Research Center survey work about religion in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Czech Republic in particular. That turned into my "On Religion" column this past week, which then served as the hook for this week's Crossroads podcast. Click here to tune that in.

But before we get to that, please do this for me. Read the Chesterton statements again and then read this headline from a recent "Gray Matter" essay in The New York Times: "Don’t Believe in God? Maybe You’ll Try U.F.O.s."

Interesting? Here is a key chunk of this fascinating piece:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Journalists: What do emotions have to do with spirituality? Dalai Lama says a great deal

Journalists: What do emotions have to do with spirituality? Dalai Lama says a great deal

Still not sure about the whole spiritual-but-not-religious-thing?

Fuzzy on how someone can claim to have a transcendent worldview while insisting that organized religion is just not their bag?

Then this recent piece from The New York Times may be of help.

The story details a project backed by global Buddhism's unofficial exemplar, the Dalai Lama. The "simple monk" -- as the Tibetan Buddhist religious leader, Nobel Peace Prize-winner and all-around pop culture icon of inner-peace and outer-calm often refers to himself -- is the force behind the ambitious Atlas of Emotions.

The project is an attempt to explain the panoply of human emotions and their influence on human actions using the language of Western transpersonal psychology (Full disclosure: In the late 1970s I was a media liaison in India for the International Transpersonal Association.)

The Dali Lama's hope is "to help turn secular audiences into more self-aware, compassionate humans," as the Times article put it.

Here's how the Atlas explains itself:

This Atlas was created to increase understanding of how emotions influence our lives, giving us choice, (at least some of the time) about which emotion we are experiencing, and how our emotions influence what we say and do. While emotions are central to our lives – providing the joy, alerting us to threats, a force for change, a warning against what is toxic, and calling to others for help – we don’t choose what to feel or when to feel it. The Atlas of Emotions was created to give us more awareness of our emotions, and sometimes even some choice about what we are feeling, through better understanding of how emotions work.

The combination of deep self-awareness, emotional self-management as an essential life skill, and compassionate action to a grok degree is as an encompassing definition of the spiritual-but-not-religious (hereafter SBNR) ideal as I've heard.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

At Obama inauguration, not all religion is biblical

Yesterday was a big day for the country, with the second inauguration of President Barack H. Obama. The president gave a very important speech and the media are, excitedly, poring over it. But how were the day’s religion angles covered?

Please respect our Commenting Policy