Monday, September 14, 2015

Thoughts about addressing unbelief of others, and asking God to help with unbelief

At a Christian fellowship group meet today at school, a member leading the session went through the passage of Psalms 88 and Mark 9:14-29 where Jesus healed a boy with an evil spirit. The member leading the session talked about how the Psalmist in Psalms 88 experienced moments of doubts about God in his hardship, so much so that he made rather seemingly irreverent remarks about God in his lament that might seem blasphemous in nature. The member talked about how it is possible for fellow believers to experience similar doubts about God, and that quite often, such doubts go suppressed in Christian settings, and it is quite convenient for fellow Christians to push away such doubts from a fellow Christian because of their discomfort with handling it. The member referred to the Mark passage, and made the point that at times, what we can do about our doubts is to ask God to help us with our unbelief.

This session resonated with me because I have been experiencing some grave doubts about my faith in recent years given my hardships in life. And I can quite identify with the point made by the member that such sentiments are not too well accommodated in Christian settings at times. But to be fair, I am not sure what would be the right way to address such sentiments as well. There are Christians I know who would approach this by boldly telling the doubting person that he should just trust God and not doubt. Some other Christians would just try to allow the doubting person to talk out his sentiments without offering too much comments. Then there are those Christians who would try to afford an explanation, or some wisdom to the doubting person. For me, I will tell the doubting person that I too have similar doubts, but that I think it is okay to doubt, and that God is bigger than to be upset at our doubts, but that we should also try to give God the benefit of the doubt. I suppose different people may respond differently to different approaches, so I wouldn’t want to overly criticize any of the different approaches. But there are some which I find myself adverse to, so much so that I prefer not to relay my doubts to that Christian person whom I know would simply belittle my doubts.

Where I am with my own doubts right now, I think I am at the point where I think that there is a distinct possibility that God does not exist. It seems to me that he is virtually absent from the world, or from my life at least. Regarding the point made by the member that we can ask God to help us with our unbelief, I wonder to myself why I should even ask God to help me with my unbelief when it is quite possible that God does not exist in the first place. I guess my unbelief is the one talking there, rather than the believing part of me. I once watched a video featuring a talking session amongst four prominent atheists who are colloquially known as the Four Horsemen of Atheism– Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. In that dialogue amongst the four individuals, they talked about why believers seem so persistent in their belief in God. Christopher Hitchens made the point that one of the chief reasons which he identifies for persistence of belief is the act of the believer to ask God to help him with his unbelief. I guess from an atheist point of view, the asking for God’s help with unbelief is a rut which prevents the believer from embracing his unbelief and coming to the truth of atheism. Where I am at right now, I am pretty inundated by unbelief so much so that I don’t even want to ask God to help me with my unbelief. I tell God that if he wants to help me with my unbelief, he should remove my hardships in life, rather than demand my psychological attitude of belief towards him. I am not sure how God, if he does exist, will respond to my attitude towards him. I told the group that I think that God helps us with our unbelief even if we do not ask for it. Honestly though, I am not sure. But if there is any reason why I still continue believing in God, it is that I hope he would do something to alleviate me of my hardships in life.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Some thoughts about the Singapore general election – Coming to a tacit consensus for apportioning constituencies between PAP and the opposition.

The Singapore General Election is just around the corner. This would be my first time voting, since the last time the election was held, which was 5 years ago, I was a year too young below the minimum age requirement to vote. What are some of my thoughts regarding voting at this general election? Well, I believe that I should vote for what is good for my country, which would affect me and my loved ones as well in one way or another. As to what is good for Singapore and Singaporeans, I am not too sure, but I believe that the status quo of majority PAP as the ruling party, with WP as the minority opposition is comfortable and desirable.

I believe that the incumbent government composed of chiefly the PAP party has done a pretty good job since coming into parliament in the last election. But I can also empathize with the desire by Singaporeans to maintain a proportion of opposition members within the ranks of parliament to provide checks and balance on the ruling party, and also to keep the ruling party on their toes and not become complacent. The ideal composition I believe that most Singaporeans want would be a parliament with PAP as the majority ruling party, and an appropriately sized opposition in the minority.

I think it would work well if Singaporeans can come to some form of tacit consensus on who should vote for which political party based on the constituencies they reside in. I believe one such tacit consensus that may already be prevailing would be that those living in currently-held opposition constituencies should continue voting in the opposition, whilst those living in constituencies currently held by the incumbent ruling party, the PAP, should continue voting for the PAP. The difficulty however lie where Singaporeans wishes to vote in more opposition, but also keep the PAP as the majority ruling party. The difficulty and danger in an election though is that in trying to vote for more opposition representation in parliament without any form of tacit consensus, it is possible to swing too greatly in favor towards the opposition and grant them more seats than what ordinary Singaporeans would be comfortable with, or to be too adverse towards voting any opposition and not vote in enough. I am not sure what the prevailing sentiment amongst the majority of Singaporeans is regarding the number of opposition that should be voted in, whether this should be maintained at status quo, increased, or decreased. In my opinion, the status quo number of opposition is just right, and I don’t think there needs to be so much checks and balance on the ruling party by voting in more opposition if the PAP has been doing a good job, and remain clean and honest as the government given the existing number of opposition members. In my opinion, it would do well for similarly like-minded Singaporeans to vote along some lines of tacit consensus in order to reduce uncertainty of outcomes in the election, and my suggestion of where that line of tacit consensus would be is the status quo, both in terms of the numbers and the current constituencies held by the respective parties. 

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