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Do you have courage to believe?

January 1, 2011

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri quote on this site (think: there have been zero SMAC quotes on Irresistible (Dis)Grace for the year 2011!), so I’m here to rectify this terrible mistake.

Usurper Judaa MarrRisks of Flowering: considerable. But rewards of godhood: who can measure?

~Usurper Judaa Marr, “Courage : To Question”

I somehow doubt that this fictitious extraterrestrial (not to mention extra-centauri) xenophobic warmonger had any concept of ascending to godhood that Mormons have, of questioning, and of relating courage to that questioning role, but in response to my last post, John G-W said something that made me make all the right connections. As he wrote:

When in doubt, we long for the certainty that will enable us to move forward with the courage (and presumably happiness) of our convictions. We have to wrestle with uncomfortable emotions, with an awareness of personal weakness, with conflicting desires…

A person of integrity should doubt. But there, of course, also comes a moment when a person of integrity must choose…But if we don’t choose, if we refuse to move forward and commit for fear of later having to admit we were wrong, we miss out on the greatest gifts and the greatest ultimate happiness life has to offer.

I remarked in a comment how strange and twisted I thought the nature of doubt turned out to be. John says when we doubt, we long for certainty that gives us courage. But generally, when people talk about courage, courage relies upon uncertainty…or maybe not uncertainty, but fear. This idea can be found in several different media — it seems everyone has a quote that summarizes it, like Nelson Mandela:

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

This leads to a comment back on my article from Syphax, about a hypothetical man who is afraid of airplanes. I’m not sure what all that comment was supposed to signify, but my response was that even if the person didn’t change his beliefs or feelings about airplanes, he can still act around those beliefs and feelings. In this way, courage is a choice, which negates the fact that fear is not a choice.

…The thing that gets me about the titular question here is its context-dependence. What is it that we have courage to believe or do? Is someone who stays in the church courageous? Is someone who acknowledges doubts and leaves courageous?

Or do we have to go one step further and look at motives and methods? That person who stayed in the church…is he still courageous if the way he pulled it off was to “shelve” all of his doubts and strive at once to return back to blissful ignorance (however successful or unsuccessful he ends up)? And that person who left the church…is she still courageous if the reason she left was to shrug off the weight of the tensions she had faced?

This isn’t to say that everyone who stays and everyone who leaves fits these categories, of course. After all, plenty of people who stay develop the absolutely incomprehensible “faith” that has a decent repertoire of critical facts and unexpected interpretations and assumptions under its belt. Plenty of people who leave walk in the face of more tension, more loss, and more estrangement.

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2 Comments
  1. Becky permalink

    Personally, I think leaving is a lot more courageous. But what I really wanted to say was, where did you get that pic? Creepy. 🙂

  2. It’s from the game Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri…or more precisely, the expansion pack, Alien Crossfire.

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