Posts Tagged ‘atheism’

Atheism

July 27, 2013

nocross

One of the fastest growing segments of the “religious” landscape is none other than atheism.

The Christian community is disheartened over the numbers and wonder what they can do to turn the tide against the “non-believers”…

Actually, they don’t have to do anything. Since the journey on this realm is really all between the Creator and the individual, is has nothing to do with all the Christians around, despite their “do-gooder” attempts to “save” everyone around them.

That was really not what their Jesus was talking about. Paul, perhaps, and the early Church Fathers for sure.


One thing that need to be understood about atheism is that there isn’t just ONE branch of it, there are quite a few.

And just like all the variant forms of religion in the world, so too with atheism: it is not set in stone.

As many people leave the ranks of atheism to “get religion” as those who “lose faith” and leave the church.

And there are many followers of atheism who are still actively involved in the search for whether or not there is actually a God.

So cut all these people some slack – both those in or out of “God’s favor”.

We are all on our own journey anyway, wherever it may lead us.

And people find their comfort in many varying philosophies.

There has to be said something for all the diversity under creation…


a Rationalistic View

November 24, 2012

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.


What’s Wrong With Religion?

January 25, 2012

I have often heard people – believers as well as atheists – moan about what is wrong with religion, whether one specific one or merely religion in general. Having spent a lot of time involved in a wide variety of religions I think I have the answer to that question.

There is nothing wrong with religion.

Each religion, each cult, each philosophy answers a need in someone. And as we were all created different, we have different needs. Hence the plethora of religions. Many people have converted from the religion they were raised in to join another that more closely answers their individual needs. Thank goodness we have religious freedom!

The only difficulty arises when one person belonging to one of them thinks it is so wonderful that everyone should get involved. Starry-eyed evangelism can be very annoying to many.

Still, we should take it in the spirit it is given. People love to share the joy they found with others. They want others to find the same joy. That the joy they have found will not resonate the same with everyone else does not occur to them. Many people don’t seem to know this, fully expecting it to mean as much to everyone. Their exuberance can rub people the wrong way.

Still that does not mean there is anything wrong with the religion. Or the adherents.

So rather than get annoyed and try to change or shut up the person spouting their faith at us perhaps we could simply alter our own feelings of annoyance. It is far easier to change yourself than others, after all. Allow them to proselytize without lashing out at them, revel with them in their joy, and move on with your life.

I believe that is the sort of thing Jesus was teaching.

a Word on My View of Religion(s)

January 18, 2012

I really don’t think many people have taken the path I have journeyed.

There are some, I am certain, but not many I am sure.

Mother was a Baptist preacher’s kid, Dad was an atheist.

That was a strange beginning, for sure, but it got even more bizarre.

Dad was a scientist working for NASA – and you know how prevalent atheism is among that crowd… scientists, I mean – but then Dad got involved in the paranormal and psychic research.

Eventually he became religious but it was a very backdoor sort of method, and he wound up being a Buddhist.

My path went a little different. Sure, I had the very scientific upbringing but I did not go into any of the hard sciences. I started down the road to nuclear physics but wound up in history. Quite a change!

And history is a fascinating subject. Not merely the names and dates of the cursory overview you get in public education, but the in-depth look of how ancients people lived and thought – as much as we can figure that out. And also the history of science.

One area I differed from others in that field was that I assumed the ancients were very much like we are, working toward survival just like everyone today.

And the one constant throughout history is religion.

Many have called prostitution the world’s oldest profession. I think, if anything, it would be the second oldest, priest being the oldest profession.

Our need to understand what is beyond our immediate experience has always been vital to man… especially so the realm beyond life.

And much of the history of the race has been our struggle to come to grips with this one concept.

In my researches, I have come across hundreds of varying religious systems throughout the history of the planet. I suppose it would be easy for a historian to simply write off all such as a cultural necessity for the race and find no meaning in it. Still, there seem to be less atheists in the historical fields than in the sciences.

But in the broad sweep of history there are threads that bind the race together from those earliest times to today.

The concepts we hold on life, death, and the Divine have been in play for much longer than Christianity or even Judaism has been around.

The overall picture showed me that there was something behind all this struggle. Underlying themes kept repeating, patterns reiterated.

And, I suppose with the same wonder Pythagoras noticed in natural geometric shapes, Newton pondered in the motions of the spheres, and Bach marveled over in the harmonics of sound, I began to see the hand of the Almighty at play. The repeating patterns could have been a mere coincidence or a mysterious quirk of our race, but appeared to be something more infinitely attuned to the universe around us.

For years I called myself atheist, or agnostic, or indifferent.

Now I have come to know the Almighty. And like Bach, and Pythagoras, and Newton, among many others, I can see the patterns of the Divine Hand in everything around us.

It has been an interesting journey. And that’s probably why my take is so very different than many others.

This does not make my version right for you, but its the version or path that worked for me.

We all come to the Almighty in different ways, none any “better” than the other. Perhaps that is why we were all created to be different.

the Miracles of Jesus

January 15, 2012

Many authors have tried to explain the how and why of the miracles performed by Jesus. And by that I mean, translating them into “believable” scientific explanations… as if “miracles” require any sort of basis in our sciences.

Laurence Gardner explains the walking on water as nothing more than a plank they normally used to baptize people on; when Peter walked on it later he did not know its course and slipped off it. Funny, that someone would not already be familiar with such a local custom, if such it was, and slip off the darned thing.

Raising Lazarus from the dead was nothing more than an initiation into some sort of Mithraic cult (raised on the third day like JC was later, mirroring the cult thing… although why JC would need such initiating is never explained). True there was a strong following of this cult throughout the Roman Empire at the time and later and perhaps its inclusion somehow resonated with the Roman audience, but I really don’t see how the Cult of Mithras would get conflated with this story.

And several writers have mentioned that the feeding of the multitude (or multitudes, if you include the second such event) was nothing more than feeding them intellectually, filling them spiritually. It had nothing to do with fishes or loaves. (Although why would they be able to pick up more after the event than the original fishes and loaves?)

Okay, whatever.

Perhaps some of the miracles could have been metaphor or even sleight-of-hand in a way to get people’s attention or the use as a learning aid.

Maybe.

But, if such was the case, why would He bother saying “These things I can do, you can do and greater”? [John 14:12] If He had engaged in nothing more than semantic posing, ancient sleight-of-hand, and metaphorical mind-games, what were we supposed to be able to do “greater than”… nothing!?

So, what we have boils down to this: if they were actual miracles, as the book says, then they do not require any “scientific” explanation whatsoever. If you think they do require some sort of verifiability from an outside source, then you are probably not ready for taking the “leap of faith”.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, God created atheists as well. And I don’t think He created them so the religious would have someone to argue with or try to convert. His ways may be mysterious but some of His actions are very transparent, and that is one of them.

And, of course, I will touch on the subject of atheism again. It is territory I am completely familiar with.

What You Don’t Know About Atheists

January 11, 2012

Most people think atheists are simply people who do not believe in God.

They are not people who don’t believe in one god or another, as most people in one religion look down upon the gods in other religions… sort of a “our god is better than your god” attitude.

No, atheists no not believe in any deity whatsoever. They believe that the world is nothing more than the mechanical, physical existence we see around us. To them, there is no more. What they see is what they got.

But, as in any other sort of theism, there are shades and degrees of atheists.

No foolin’!

My father called himself an atheist for years, then changed it to “agnostic”, and finally called himself a Buddhist before he left this Earthly realm.

I wavered between agnostic and atheist for years. My eldest son went from Gnostic to atheist to pagan to shamanic back to atheist. My youngest son wavers between deist and atheist.

A recent study was done and found that “atheists” knew more about the Bible than Christians. The radio host who announced this little tidbit added that it was because the atheists knew more so they could argue the points with the Christians.

Ah, if the answer we only that simple, that self-gratifying to the Christian thinkers. Unfortunately, as usual, it is not all about them.

The reality is that it is so much easier for some people, seeking truth on a level they can understand, to simply announce themselves as “atheists” so they cannot be corralled into a single way of thinking. They are still looking for the answer. That is why so many are well versed in the Bible: they are still searching.

Christians are already comfortable with what they have found and feel no need to study the Bible. Some read it, as a matter of course, but most are familiar with the stories and tales they get from Sunday School or the weekly sermon. They already “get” it and do not have to try and understand the scriptures… or the lines between the lines of scripture.

The majority of atheists I have met are in this transient phase of atheism. Many will stay there perhaps for the rest of their lives, still seeking an answer. Many more will find an answer that satisfies and will move from the ranks of the godless.

So, when you encounter someone who calls themselves an “atheist”, please remember that for most it is a temporary address only. Allow them the time to find God in their own way, in a manner that answers their own particular needs.

Trying to sell your particular brand of faith is not something they will be able to respond to very well. As with most searchers, they probably know infinitely more about the facts and figures of your religion than you.

Simply allow them their search and allow them the means to come to God in their own way, their own time, if such should happen, as they say, in God’s own time.

After all, the Almighty created us different. And do you think He did that as an oversight or as some horrible mistake? Or a cruel joke allowing some to easily find faith and others who would struggle with the concept?

No, I believe it is a lesson for each of us to learn. There is more than one way to skin a cat and more than one path to finding God.

To the faithful, it is an easy answer: faith. To the ones who question everything, the path is harder to find – all the paths in our religious world seem to be marked for those who can find the faith so easily. Perhaps if we opened a method for the other sort of people to understand the Divine, their journey would be easier as well.

But that would require the faithful to stretch themselves a little.

To those who have had such an easy journey, perhaps you could do some of the work rather than simply lament over the lost sheep or by calling them names? If God created atheists – or people prone to that sort of thing – it might have been put there as a problem to solve for those who so easily grasp faith.

Something to solve, rather than gripe about. You could simply call them those “shallow-minded” people as one popular Christian song labels them, or you could put your mind to doing some charitable works instead, and something that might actually stretch you.

I’m not trying to be judgmental on this topic but it seems name-calling and turning your back is not the solution to the question.

Is that what Jesus would have done?

Thank God for the Atheists!

January 9, 2012

On my way home from work every day, I pass by the county courthouse. A quaint old building with a long and glorious history, having survived the Civil War and a couple of battles in the vicinity.

Recently, a poster has been set up on the lawn near the street corner by the courthouse. It started early last year and was interrupted just before Easter but resumed shortly afterward.

The posters are from the American Atheist Association and they have some novel concepts.

One poster displayed a quote on scientists (by a scientist, of course) and regaled them as heroes for bravely searching for truth in the face of the opposition of ancient misconceptions.

A very nice poster…

But first you have to agree with a couple of opinions in the quotation: 1stly, that science has actually found “truth”, and 2ndly, that the ancients’ beliefs were misconceptions.

I am certain most viewers driving past would have agreed with the statement, never questioning the definitions of the terms like I did.

Perhaps you might have as well.

But I had seen the earlier posters. I found their choices exceptionally humorous.

First they showed the stable of the atheist pantheon, Charles Darwin. Darwin himself was shocked when people tried to use his theory to take God out of the natural equation. He was a very religious man.

Next they showed Jefferson, a father of modern thinking, and a devout believer in free-thinking. Strangely, he too was a very religious person. It’s true that he did not subscribe to the institutionalized religions of his period but he was a firm believer in the Almighty.

And then they had the quote of Einstein about God not playing dice with the universe shows that his mathematics and physics – at least to his own mind – verified what he knew of the creator.

And how could they forget the founding giant of all modern mathematics, that darling of the ungodly, Isaac Newton? Except that his volumes on calculus were being used to verify the existence of God.

Why the atheists have to use so many very religious people to bolster their notion that God does not exist may seem very strange.

But that is one of the anomalies of this existence. You know, not seeing the forest for the trees.

Now all we need for them to do is honor, Copernicus (a cleric of the Church), Pythagoras (who used geometry to understand the Divine), Gregor Mendel (a monk), and the originator of the Big Bang Theory, Georges Lemaître (a priest at the Catholic University of Louvain).

As many already know, the history of science is littered with the very religious folk.

And every now and again we need to be reminded of that.

Thank you, atheists, thank you.

Seventy Years and Counting – Happy Birthday, Stephen Hawking

January 8, 2012

Unquestionably one of the greatest mathematical minds of our time, Stephen Hawking has defied the odds and continues to function mentally even while his body is practically useless.

Like many in the scientific community, Hawking is an atheist. In his early book, A Brief History of Time, he spoke metaphysically of the Almighty: “If we discover a complete theory, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason—for then we should know the mind of God.”

Since then, however, he has either altered his views or simply ceased being as politic.

More recently he has said, “The question is: is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can’t understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second. Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.”

This seems to imply that there were working rules in place before the universe actually began. He thinks “the universe is governed by the laws of science. The laws may have been decreed by God, but God does not intervene to break the laws.”

Most religious people would say that Hawking simply chooses to ignore the vast implications of God in our daily lives or the miracles spoken of in the Bible. But, like most those with a scientific bent, the Bible and all those miracles of God’s intervention are no more than myths. Hawking believes there is no heaven and no afterlife, calling it a “fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

But Hawking can see the world only through one lens – the scientific one – and may not even know there are two sides to this coin. Not all scientists are atheistic and many can see the other side as well. It is not so hard to do, especially when you come to realize that there are at least two ways to view the universe.

Hawking contrasted religion and science recently by saying one is based on authority (religion) and one is based on observation and reason (science). To learn a bit how authority governs science, I direct you to Stargazers and Gravediggers by Immanuel Velikovsky. To learn a bit how observation and reason governs religion, check out Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas.

I may not agree with everything in the two volumes I just mentioned but I mention them only to show that Stephen’s defense of science’s freedom and the dismissal of religion’s authoritarianism is nothing but one view of the situation. I am sure there are more than I have mentioned as well.

Also, it should be noted that though Hawking seems to think God is somehow under the direct control of religion, such would actually be far wide of the mark. The last time I checked, religions were instituted by Man, and not by any Divine action, regardless of what claims stand to the contrary within certain religious institutions.

Still, Hawking’s achievements are monumental to our understanding of the universe and – regardless of the view or interpretation derived wherefrom – I believe all understanding is good for all our futures.

And Stephen Hawking stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the greats in the scientific world: Copernicus, Newton, Galileo, Pythagoras… even though each of the latter were using science and math to prove the existence and plan of the Almighty, we can benefit from all of their contributions.

Atheism

April 28, 2010

Both of my sons have claimed to be atheists, but on closer examination, they are not… quite. They both merely have some objections to religion that prevent them from admitting the existence of a God.

The elder son rants a lot about people trying to shove their religion down his throat. Hey, but it’s hard for anyone to find something really great without wanting to share it with everyone else. That’s human nature and it’s a good thing to want to share in their joy. But it is a turn-off for a lot of other people.

Another objection he has is that most people have not read the Bible they profess to believe as the unvarnished “word of God”. This is, unfortunately, too true. Most people only know certain parts of the book and are completely unaware what the rest of the volume talks about. [This has been discussed in an earlier entry – “Reading Scripture”]

The younger son complains that you cannot prove the existence of God one way or the other so the whole issue is moot. I don’t know if he expects it to be something blatantly obvious – though it seems patently obvious to a lot of people – but he just has not found the signs that point him in the right direction yet.

I was there before, so I understand what they are going through. When you are not on the same wavelength as the religions you see around you, you think there’s no God. And you might start looking for the answers in science or math or data of some sort. That’s good… at least you are still looking! As long as you are looking, you will probably find some answers.

All too many people have quit looking, so firm are they in their belief that there really is no God. And that’s fine too. If God had intended we all find Him so quickly or in the same fashion, He probably would have given us similar brains, but He did not.

We need to respect the differences – even the atheism – as it is all part of God’s creation. I am not going to say that I understand what His design is and start forcing my opinion on others. I am not privy to His plans, not even those for me.

So don’t knock atheists. Some of them do come around.

I did.

There and Back

April 5, 2010

I was raised a Southern Baptist, what with mother’s father being a minister it was the natural course. I attended services every Sunday, Vacation Bible School in the summers, and was being groomed for the ministry.

My questions were brushed aside by granddad, who said for me to simply read the Bible cover to cover and all my questions would be answered. Unfortunately, I had even more questions. Specifically, I wondered how they made a religion based on the whole book when the God of the Old Testament certainly didn’t sound like the God Jesus was talking about.

His response was for me to read it again because I seemed to have missed something. Needless to say, I never made it to the ministry.

And because I could not find the answers in the Baptist church, I went looking elsewhere. Eventually, I was beyond the realms of Christianity. Islam, like Christianity, is based on the Jewish faith. It is different, for sure, but not as different as most people make it out to be. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam seem to dislike each other because they are so much alike. Like three children fighting over dad’s inheritance.

The Hindu religion was quite a refreshing change from the western religions but their many-headed pantheon of gods still has one supreme deity… all the rest stem from that one. It is very similar to a lot of the religious systems in the Americas.

Speaking of which, the Native American religions are closer to shamanism and spirituality than a strictly “one god” type of religion.

After a while, I found myself leaning more toward atheism because I could not see where God lay in any of the religions – rather there seemed to be too many of Him. And most of the religions have this concept that theirs is the only one true religion. Hand in hand with this notion was that if you did not follow their outlines to salvation, you were doomed to purgatory.

Which is one thing I don’t really think God would do.

Eventually, though, I found that atheism was not very satisfying. Even with my strong foundations in science, there was really no answers to be found there. Despite what the learned scientific community claimed: there was definitely something behind this universe of a spiritual nature.

Coming back through the realm of spiritualism, I uncovered foundations that led me back to the Almighty – though one at quite a remove from traditional religions. And from this growth, I came to understand that all the religions in the world are right – as right as they can be – at least for the people involved in them. If the religion did not answer some need in the person, they probably would not exist.

And God is fine with this. All roads lead to Him, after all, for He is everything in the universe. How could we not be led in His direction?

And if people made some mistakes along the way, no problem.

I don’t think time is really an issue for Him. He has all eternity and – as some have observed – there is no place else for us to go. In our own way and our own time we will all find our way back.

If only we could stop trying to force other people to take our path. Like I said, all roads lead back to Him anyway. Relax, mind your own steps, and let everyone else take the road they want, long or short.

The journey is as important as the destination. He created it so it must be important.