I mentioned before that for most of my life I have been content to let people think I was an atheist.
That is a word that will immediately conjure up the pictures of hell-fire and eternal damnation in most Christians but I believe such a destination is really far from the case.
Most atheists I know – including two sons – are not strictly atheists by definition. They are most definitely anti-religionists and that should not surprise anyone as there are even a large number of theologians who have noticed the trend even among the faithful to stand apart from organized religion.
Being against organized religion is not the same as atheism as most “atheists” are actually still looking, still searching for answers, still… hoping. That they have not embraced the answers offered by the Christian faith does not make them “lost”.
A case in point is Uta Ranke-Heinemann. She was born a Protestant, converted to Catholicism, educated in the same class as the current Pope and the two studied together and discussed doctrinal issues for years. She graduated to become a university professor at a prestigious university in Germany.
Everything went fine until she had what some people called a “crisis of faith”. She contends there was no crisis. It was more like an epiphany. Still, she lost the Catholic Chair at the university.
She came to the rational conclusion that there was no actual “virgin birth”.
The article of faith, she said, was just that: an article of faith, and not a physical truth.
She has issued what she calls a “negative creed” and it is very rationalistic in its view. It includes seven points and I include my own meager commentary to each:
1 – The Bible is not the word of God but the word of men. This is really a “no brainer”. Anyone who can understand several words strung together can see fairly quickly that there are not only a few “discrepancies” in the text but one heckuva lot of definite contradictions. The purported “word of God” sounds as if He is confused, regardless of the conviction coming from the pulpits. And if God is not good enough to keep the story straight from one end of such a small work as the Bible, I doubt He could be trusted with anything as massive as the whole universe. But as He is in charge of the whole shebang, the book has to have been written by fallible Man. And even by those who claim doctrinal infallibility.
2 – That God does exist in three persons is imagination of men. This whole Trinity thing has always perplexed me. Where did we get that idea from? Well, from Paul, of course! You remember him? Saul of Tarsus, who stoned Stephen and troubled the earlier disciples before he “found religion” got converted and announced he knew more about Jesus than anyone else. What a heck of a guy he was, huh? But did it come from Jesus? Or from God, perhaps? Not a chance.
3 – Jesus is man and not God. When asked repeatedly – and he was, of course – Jesus denied being either God or “the Son of God”. He said he was “Son of Man”. Of course, theologians now say that the phrase means “Son of God”. Then why didn’t Jesus just come out and say so? Was he being – ahem – duplicitous, circumspect, lying? I don’t think so. As for him being God, why would he keep talking about God as someone other than himself? Why wouldn’t he have prayed “Me, who art in heaven, hallowed be my name…”?
4 – Mary is the mother of Jesus and not the mother of God. See above. And as Uta had already renounced the virgin birth, it is included in this as a given. If Mary was the mother of a man, she would no longer have been a virgin at the birth and the birth would have been the same as for any other human being.
5 – God created heaven and earth, hell is a product of human fantasy. The “hell” mentioned by the ancient Jews was a desolate valley outside of Jerusalem… not the thing we consider today as being “under the ground”. Although there is a very healthy mythology built up over the subject it is just that: mythology.
6 – The devil and original sin do not exist. And, as I have said before concerning Satan, God – by the very definition of the concept – can have no “equal” who could be contesting against Him for the human race. The very idea is ludicrous. Original sin is a concept created by Paul and his Catholic Church. It implies that God created defective merchandise. It is nothing more than a control mechanism used by the Church to control Europe for quite a few centuries. (And, you know what? It worked for a long, long time.) And the idea that it was the fault of a woman seems a rather transparent attempt to degrade half the human race. Unfortunately, that seems to have worked too damned well. Shame!
7 – A bloody redemption at the Cross is a pagan sacrificial slaughtering of a human being, based on a model from the religious Stone Age. This may require a little more study for the casual reader but it is also correct.
Now that the rationalist view has been set forth, both Uta and I have a disclaimer.
There is nothing wrong with believing any or all these things to be correct even if any rationalist could argue otherwise.
In the final scheme of things – church rules notwithstanding – the exact and precise definition of any of these tenets is really up to you. If it has more meaning for you to think that Jesus is one and the same with God Almighty, go for it. If you think he was only the son of God in the flesh, more power to you. If it is more meaningful for you to know that he was nothing more than a very wise and miraculous human being, that’s all right too.
Uta is still a follower of Christ even if not a Catholic. I am very much the same. Jesus had some very interesting viewpoints to share with us while he was here. And one of my favorites is that the journey is really about your connection with God.
He mentioned nothing about requiring the intercession of a priesthood or a hierarchy of theological professionals, or even the ear of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
How could he even go there when he had already said that each of our bodies is the temple of God? And why would we need an organization to contact God when He is already in each of us? To deny either of those facts – in other words, to justify the existence of the church as the only way to God – is denying what Jesus said. And if you deny this part of his teachings, why bother with complaining that other people are wrong with their beliefs?
Regardless of the ideology they ascribe to.
God made us all different.
The path to salvation is wide enough to encompass every difference.
And what you believe will not hamper your advancement along the road.
So allow others their own separate beliefs and assist them in whatever way you can to help them along on their way.
Divisiveness never has and never will achieve much of anything, here or in heaven.