184 Pages
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Searching for Faith


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184 Pages


Searching for Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey is intended for the general reader. It is not a scholarly book; however, it is the result of a decades-long interest in how readers read and how texts convey their meaning, leavened by a very personal commitment to the quest for faith. It explores timely questions that must concern anyone who thinks about faith, particularly insofar as faith is based on the Bible.



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Published 20 August 2004
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EAN13 9781932559323
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SEARCHINGFOR฀FAITH:฀A฀SKEPTICS฀JOURNEY฀is฀intended฀for฀the฀general฀ reader.Itisnotascholarlybook;however,itistheresultofadecades-longinterestinhowreadersreadandhowtextsconveytheirmeaning,leavenedby฀a฀very฀personal฀commitment฀to฀the฀quest฀for฀faith .฀฀It฀explores฀timely฀ questions฀that฀must฀concern฀anyone฀who฀thinks฀about฀ faith,฀particularly insofar฀as฀faith฀is฀based฀on฀the฀Bible. Readersareinvitedtojointheauthorinthinkingaboutfaithandtheindividual’s฀ own฀ history;฀ the฀ nature฀ of฀ prayer;฀ the฀ problems฀ of฀ reading฀ scripture;฀the฀nature฀of฀sin฀and฀guilt;฀the฀apparentl y฀insuperable฀enigmas฀ of฀the฀Bible;฀conceptions฀of฀God;฀the฀“messages”฀tha t฀the฀Bible฀conveys;฀ and฀capitalism฀and฀Christianity.฀฀Finally,฀Searching฀for฀Faith฀offers฀a฀view฀ of฀faith฀based฀on฀the฀great฀poetic฀and฀pragmatic฀tr aditions฀of฀the฀United฀ States:฀the฀philosophy฀of฀William฀James฀and฀John฀Dew ey฀and฀the฀poetry฀ of฀Walt฀Whitman฀and฀Wallace฀Stevens. Written฀ in฀ a฀ graceful,฀ accessible฀ style,฀Searching฀ for฀ Faith฀ is฀ an฀ introduction฀to฀faith฀that฀rational฀people฀can฀embrac e.
W.฀ ROSS฀ WINTEROWD฀ is฀ the฀ Bruce฀ R.฀ McElderry฀ Professor฀ Emeritus,฀ University฀of฀Southern฀California.฀He฀has฀authored, ฀co-authored,฀or฀edited฀ twenty-twobooks,includingndontTihaalsilgnEetrapeDhan:ntmetutinsI Personal฀History991(8),The฀Rhetoric฀of฀the฀“Other”฀Literature9019(,)The Culture฀and฀Politics฀of฀Literacy฀(1989),฀The฀Contemporary฀Writer฀(3rd,฀1989),฀ Composition/Rhetoric:aSynthesis฀(1986),฀and฀toheRdancrinigrWti฀(1965).฀ He฀has฀also฀authored฀numerous฀essays,฀reviews,฀and฀ poems฀appearing฀in฀ such฀journals฀and฀magazines฀as฀College฀English,฀College฀Composition,฀and฀ Communication,฀sopmoCdnoitioJlofurnaanceAdv,฀leulBDEAnti,฀Pre/Text, and฀Plainsongsnadofdednuhtdineenualtiocd.Heplannemraogprlrato in฀ Rhetoric,฀ Linguistics,฀ and฀ Literature฀ at฀ the฀ Univ ersity฀ of฀ Southern฀ California,฀ where฀ he฀ directed฀ the฀ program฀ for฀ twelv e฀ years฀ during฀ its฀ period฀of฀tremendous฀growth.
Parlor Press 816 Robinson Street West Lafayette, IN 47906 w w w. p a r l o r p r e s s . c o m S A N: 2 5 4 - 8 8 7 9 ISBN 1-932559-32-9
Parlor Press
Searching for Faith
Searching for Faith A Skeptic’s Journey
W. Ross Winterowd
Parlor Press West Lafayette, Indiana www.parlorpress.com
Parlor Press LLC, West Lafayette, Indiana 47906
© 2004 by Parlor Press All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America ISBN 1-932559-30-2 (Paperback); ISBN 1-932559-31-0 (Cloth); ISBN 1-932559-32-9 (Adobe eBook); ISBN 1-932559-33-7 (TK3)
We gratefully acknowledge permission to reprint from the following works: “Cy Est Pourtraicte, Madame Ste. Ursule, et Les Unze Mille Vierges” and “The Emperor of Ice Cream.” FromThe Collected Poems of Wallace Stevensby Wallace Stevens, copyright 1954 by Wallace Stevens and renewed 1982 by Holly Stevens. Used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. FromA Rhetoric of Motivesby Kenneth Burke. © 1969 by Kenneth Burke. Published by the University of California Press. Cover photograph:“Wheeler Peak at Sunrise,” Great Basin National Park, Nevada. Copyright (c) 1999 by Don Baccus.
S A N: 2 5 4 - 8 8 7 9
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Winterowd, W. Ross.  Searching for faith : a skeptic’s journey / W. Ross Winterowd.  p. cm.  Includes bibliographical references.  ISBN 1-932559-31-0 (alk. paper) -- ISBN 1-932559-30-2 (pbk. : alk. paper) -- ISBN 1-932559-32-9 (adobe ebook) -- ISBN 1-932559-33-7 (tk3 ebook) 1. Christianity. 2. Pragmatism. 3. Winterowd, W. Ross. I. Title.
 BR124.W56 2004  230--dc22  2004018205
Printed on acid-free paper.
Parlor Press, LLC is an independent publisher of scholarly and trade titles in print and multimedia formats. This book is also available in paperback and cloth, as well as in Night Kitchen (TK3) formats, from Parlor Press on the WWW at http://www.parlorpress.com. For submission information or to find out about Parlor Press publications, write to Parlor Press, 816 Robinson St., West Lafayette, Indiana, 47906, or e-mail editor@parlorpress.com.
For our grandsons: Christopher Ross Winterowd Bryce Watson Winterowd Braden Graham Winterowd
1  Prelude 2  Prayer 3  Seeking Faith: Scripture 4  Saint Augustine Learns to Read Scripture 5  Sin and Guilt 6  Augustine’s Sin 7  The Bible: The Enigmas 8  Conceiving God 9  God: The Message 10  Christianity and Capitalism 11  A Pragmatist’s Faith
This is not a scholarly book (though underlying it are a massive amount of reading and hundreds of pages of notes and abortive at-tempts to get my thoughts down). It is also not a confession (though my beliefs and idiosyncrasies are inevitably apparent throughout). In these pages, I explore questions that must trouble anyone who searches for faith: What is the nature and logic of prayer? Why does prayer seem to be a necessity, even for skeptics? How do believers rationalize the apparent contradictions and the obscurities in the Bible? (In the brief fourth chapter, I give an account of how my fa-vorite saint and theologian, Augustine, explained the Bible to him-self.) How can a Christian reconcile twenty-first century American capitalism with his or her faith? What “message” do the Old and New Testaments convey? I conclude this book with a plea for a native creed, completely American, not imported from the church fathers or the fashion-able Gallic philosophers, but derived largely from the joyful, ami-able, and brilliant works of John Dewey and William James and expressed in the poetry of Walt Whitman and Wallace Stevens. Dylan Thomas told us,
Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
As my end nears, I do not rage against the dying of the light; I rage in the glare of horrors that surround me. The air that my grandsons will breathe is becoming more and more polluted, and there is no remedy in a world that is dominated increasingly by cor-porations, those impersonal nonentities that have stolen the rights
with which citizens were endowed by “The Bill of Rights” and the Constitution. My grandsons will choke on the effluence from out-of-control capitalism. The National Science Foundation tells us that the world is now spending its capital of natural resources rather than living on the interest. In the future (in the lifetimes of my grandsons?), water will be a commodity available abundantly to the wealthy, but the increasing masses of the wretched of the earth will go thirsty, and they will starve, for global warming will compound the ravages brought on by overpopulation and the diminishing ability of the earth to yield its bounty of grains. Who can be so out of it as to think that nuclear war isnota pos-sibility moment by moment? Will my grandsons survive a minor exchange or a major nuclear holocaust? Will humanity? I now realize that this book on my search for faith ought to con-sist of two parts: the first, my view of politics and economics, only the second part dealing with the search. For, after all, my terminal condition and my existence in a world gone mad prompted me to read, think, and write. (As for my terminal condition: for a person who spent a good deal of his life abusing his body, I am amazingly healthy. However, the condition of each of us is terminal; it’s just that my end is nearer than the ends of many of us.) What makes life in this horrendous world possible is one aspect of my faith: my hope for the future. I have hope that my grandsons will live in a better world than the one I now inhabit. The revival of interest in the Christian life brings me hope, not, of course, through the rantings, the madness, or the smooth truisms of some popu-lar preachers, but in various church groups, such as the Society of Friends, who commit themselves to social action. And through Christ’s message of love, I have joy in the moment of living. Alfred North Whitehead’s statement about the person and his or her religion is the epigraph for my first chapter, but so meaning-ful is this thought that I don’t hesitate to inscribe it twice in these pages.
Your character is developed according to your faith. This is the primary religious truth from which no one can escape. Religion is force of belief cleans-ing the inward parts. For this reason the primary religious virtue is sincerity, a penetrating sincerity. (Religion in the Making, 15)
In the first chapter, I have attempted, with, I hope, a penetrating sincerity, to tell of the development of my character through my early years. However, this autobiographical narrative is quite dif-ferent in tone from the rest of the book, for Chapters 2 through 8 background my own experience and foreground the problems of faith. I do think, however, that the first chapter explains my mo-tives and the experiential equipment that I bring to the questions that I ask in this book. I hope that those who go through these pages will find the book as valuable in the reading as it was to me in the writing. Finally, I would like to thank editor-publisher David Blakesley for his wise guidance and for his meticulous work on the manu-script. David is a bookperson in the great tradition of Lawrence Fer-linghetti of City Lights and James Laughlin of New Directions.
Searching for Faith A Skeptic’s Journey