Most of my readers are well-aware of Steve Skojec and his recent articles which, in my opinion, are an attempt to cry out for help (whatever else they are). Some folks also might be curious as to my take-away. Well, here I present an initial scratch to the surface. In a recent Facebook discussion, someone basically dropped the question of where Steve was at in his life, concerning his beliefs. Steve then said, “I am a human being…that is all I know”. I felt for him, and I had the following response to give, and I decided to share it with my friends in the case that it might help those who find themselves also trekking down a similar path as Steve himself is.
I think you can do better than that. Just “A human being”?? I don’t think you even believe that. Not even, “A human being who loves his family”? Of course, I *assume* that you love your family, which means you believe more than simply and purely that you are a human being, for if a human being minus characteristics (whether that of religious belief or functioning habit) is all that you believe you are, it would be an awful reductionism. And I believe you would agree.
I think the public commentary you’ve been giving is a rather deep and all-embracing revolution in your own perception of reality itself. While it might be a pain for certain people to read, especially for those who were greatly influenced by you in their own personal religious journey, we can at least appreciate your honesty and the clarity with which you deliver your experience. Those who are tempting you with an “Orthodox” alternative, or “some-other” alternative are not anywhere near the number of moves ahead in the intellectual chess game that you yourself have in mind. Your reflections go far too deep for anyone to think that “Byzantine Chalcedonian Orthodoxy” (or something akin to it) can shake a stick at your mental pain and existential crisis. Your struggle is far deeper. But I think I’ve been down this road many times, and I might be able to offer a little bit of help.
When you begin to delve into skepticism, at first it feels like you have gained good intellectual ground, especially against the Biblical, let alone Catholic, worldview. You see this in the post-enlightenment thinkers who all have compelling arguments against the Christian faith, if not against a religious worldview in general. They are easy to follow and appear to be devoid of an overload of “assumption” commitments that force you to have to account for. However, in my experience, when you dig for the gold in “skepticism”, you eventually learn that you are going to pay a far greater cost than the difficulties that one has to forebear with in upholding your Christian faith in the face of extremely strong tensions that, admittedly, easily give us urge to withdrawal our confidence. Examples of this are plenty, but I can give you one powerful one that you should let hover over your head.
You would admit that you are a human being “who loves his family”. I’m 100% sure you do. I would say the same of myself. Ok, now if we take skepticism to its bottom core, we arrive at the conclusion – “If I were a loving Father-God, I would never have created a world that allows the levels of unanswerable suffering as that which exists clearly before our eyes. Ergo, there is no loving Father-God”. With just a few months of some harsh, unabated, and brutally critical thinking, the “proof” of this absolutely abounds. All you have to do is begin listing the tragedies of life, and follow it with “Would I just let that happen to my children?”, and you are soon to be locked in. If you yourself haven’t experienced enough “God-destroying” suffering, talk to enough sick and dying people (mentally or physically), and you’ll see it. That, or just read about it. History is a deep well.
Ok, so let’s say you get there. If there is no loving God, then on what grounds do you have as a Father to love your own kids? If the Creator of humanity (or the Origin of humanity, let’s say for those weary of assumption-commitments) isn’t a loving Father, then how can you account for the moral obligation that you owe your children all the love you can work to give them? If the very origin and conception of humankind is devoid of a “love” factor, then the ongoing function and application of humankind does not require a “love” factor (and here, I do presume the theistic argument that without God, there is no account for moral obligation, but I can take the discussion in that direction if you’d like). But can you really sit in front of your children and tell them that there is no need for you to love them? Can you really tell them, “Well, children, I happen to love you with all my heart, but there really isn’t any reason that I *must* love you, nor is there is a reason that you have to love your own children one day”. Such a brutal consistency would be *necessary* if you take the attractive skepticism against a “loving Father-God” described above. At which point I ask, “Isn’t that cost far too much?” Can you really bring yourself to believe that?
I doubt that I am the only one who struggled to get myself to live consistently with that point. If you feel that you can hustle through it, please feel free to explain how. Otherwise, you are going to want to quickly return to the *smaller debt* of having to uphold certain tensions that can at least account for the fact that you, as a Father, must love your children. But now you are back at a theistic worldview that accounts for the moral obligation to love one another, in which case your skepticism is now blunt rather than sharp. But it does not stop there. I think if you think more deeply about this, you will begin to learn that the cost of where skepticism brings you gives a far greater toll than the meager small weight of living with the “tensions” that a Judeo-Christian worldview, uncomfortable as it may be, gives.
And I am not here attempting to say, “Ah! we determine truth based on comfortability when we can’t hack where objective truth painfully reveals to us.” Not at all. Skepticism, in the first place, is not a “truth-determining” course of action, necessarily. Often enough, our doubts only lead us to what appears to be better alternatives that simply appear better because of their lack of absurdity or lack of assumptions-gone-wild. And so gauging the cost of skepticism, as a way to test the value of skepticism, is a logical course of action that does not abrogate the authentic search for objective truth.
In short, the weight of where skepticism brings you will eventually feel thousands of times heavier than the weight of the difficulties that Patriarchs, Israelites, God-fearers, and Christians have experienced for thousands of years. And if you have not felt this yet, just keep my words in mind. And once you’ve turned the corner and are ripe to peacefully accept God (and all the tensions that come with Him) again, then you can legitimately begin to assess these ” Eastern Orthodox” or what-have-you alternatives to the Catholic religion. What I mean to say is that you need to get your head above water first, because where you are at is close to drowning, spiritually speaking. And it is actually more than simply a spiritual downing since the pain of this route can also start to destroy the “humanity” of Steve Skojec itself, and then, ironically, you won’t even be able to tell someone that you are, simply, “a human being”.