Atheism and Religion
(This is a guest post by Just Thinking)
In one of the comments (at The Agnostic Monk) I posted, I said:
“Sometimes I think the atheists’ arguments AGAINST the belief in God is closer to God’s truth than the Christians’ arguments FOR our belief in God.”
To which Matt asked me to elaborate and come up with something to post here. At first, I declined in fear of being seen as a complete nutcase. But then, my daughter challenged me further by saying, “If you do really believe what you believe to be the truth, what are you afraid of?” So here I am.
My hat’s off to Alex and Matt for letting a nobody like me have a voice on their blog. Please feel free to challenge my views and enlighten me.
WHY I CHALLENGE RELIGION
I am a follower of Christ. And yet I oddly find myself frequently challenging the Christian perspective rather than the Atheist. And I may even go as far as siding with the atheist’s argument. This may be because I understand why the Atheist says what he says. I’ve been there and done that. At least the atheists, for the most part, are consistent in their unbelief.
What I find to be puzzling is when Christianity repeatedly talks about unconditional love that is somehow conditional, Grace that is somehow determined by works, and freedom that is somehow attached to shackles.
ABOUT CHOOSING THE TRUTH
Alex said somewhere that “There is undoubtedly a spiritual dimension were God seeks to interact directly with our heart... the very core of our being. From what I have seen God is seeking to reveal himself to all mankind, yet being the free agents I believe we are, we often do not respond to him.”
First of all, I don’t think being free agents is what prevents us from responding to God. If, as we claim, God in fact is the Truth, then what prevents us from seeing the Truth? I believe it’s the Lie that deceives us. The choice, in actuality, is the choice to believe in the lie. The truth is not a choice. Truth just IS. It is the lie that poses as the truth that makes us think the choice is in our hands.
THE LIE WE’VE BEEN TOLD
I also asked him, "When the child hears the loving voice of the parent and recognizes that love as unconditional, wouldn’t the child merely react to it rather than make a conscious choice?”
To which he replied, “In the beginning yes it is more of a reaction than a choice, but as we mature we come to see that true love is a choice much more than it is a reaction.”
Alex, you know I love and respect you, but let me challenge your response here: Don’t you find it ironic that you chose the words “in the beginning,” to start your reply? Please don’t hate me for making this analogy, but your very statement brings this picture to mind:
In the beginning, we were created and were in perfect relationship with God. We trusted God as the be all and end all to our existence. Then the serpent asked, “Did God REALLY say?” which prompted us to start questioning why He says what He says. The serpent pointed us to the fruit which offered the knowledge to be able to decide for ourselves who God is and the choice to decide our own destiny. What would be better than that? We chose the fruit. And we became blind to the truth.
In my belief, God is not a god of action but He just simply is. He is the I Am. He is the Truth. How do you choose truth? Truth just is. The choice is only in rejecting the lie. When you reject the lie, all that remains is the truth.
In each of us, at the inner most core of our being, there lives a child who wants to be loved, accepted, and validated for who we already are, not who we can strive to become. That is why we rebel against anything that tells us that we’re not good enough. And yet we spend our lifetime trying to perfect ourselves to become worthy. Worthy of whom? In the end, as King Solomon stated, all of it is vanity. It truly is all for nothing if we cannot understand the true meaning of grace.
I responded to a post over at Agnostic Monk by Dr. Incitatus, where he posted a video of an interview with Daniel C. Dennett. I agree with him especially on the following points:
Dennett talks about how it’s unacceptable in today’s society to be frank or rude when it comes to questioning what people hold sacred. I don’t believe that we should go as far as being rude, but I definitely think we would be able to talk openly, honestly, and frankly about the differences in beliefs. Questions should be raised and discussions should ensue. How else are we going to see the truth? That’s why I love it here – here, where the words can flow fairly freely.
I absolutely agree with him when he says most people do not actually believe in God; they believe in the belief in God. And I believe it is a true statement regarding the majority of the people who follow religion. Religion has a way of having a hold on people, because they believe God is synonymous with religion. But I hold the view that religion is a huge part of the Lie that I spoke of earlier.
RELIGION AS THE OPPRESSOR
In response to the Dennett interview, I commented and asked Dr. Incitatus if he had ever been a victim of religious oppression. He answered with this:
“ It (religion) is certainly sometimes used as an excuse for oppression, but not to an extent that I would consider to outweigh it's stabilising effect on social groups….” About oppression, he said, “No. That's not to say that I might not do so in the future, but I think there's a certain level of hysteria among secularists right now. There seems to be a battle between specific Christian denominations and secular Americans for who gets to hold the apparently much lauded title of "The Persecuted".("We're oppressed!" "No you're not! WE ARE!")…”
“As it is, us godless heathens run a close second with the Baptists as one of the largest groups in the US (15%). With the exception of abortion and the fact that God is rather important, the Baptists and the Catholics can't agree on anything, including evolution. So I don't fear a ruthless Christian hegemony in the US anytime soon.”
I don’t think we’re looking at oppression in the same light.
I’m speaking of the kind of oppression where the fear of God’s wrath, God’s rejection, or even the fear of being unworthy of His love that is so deeply imbedded in your brain that failing to do what is believed to be “the right thing” results in self-condemnation and self-loathing. The kind where you always feel short of being good enough and always striving to do more for God with no end in sight. The kind of oppression where you know deep in your heart what is true and yet the very religion that taught you where to look for Him is also preventing you from being completely in His embrace. The kind of oppression where you feel more at home in the company of who they call their enemies than the very people that are supposed to be your brothers and sisters.
I mean, have you felt that kind of oppression? In saying “stabilizing effect on social groups,” is that what you mean? And who’s stabilizing the “godless heathens” you refer to?
I apologize for getting emotional...but that’s what I mean when I say that religion has power over us.
GOD AND RELIGION
I read this quote on Timmo’s blog, Thalesian Fools, in which James Cone states that “theology ceases to be a theology of the gospel when it fails to arise out of the community of the oppressed.”
It is a brilliant quote. Cone may not have been referring to the religion itself when he talked of oppression; but to me, there isn’t a more powerful oppressor than religion. I wish Timmo would have expounded more with his thoughts on this, as well spoken as he is. The irony, in my view, is that the desire for freedom cannot exist without the feeling of oppression. I have to wonder if it is possible for us to sustain a relationship with Christ without an oppressor. Perhaps God and religion must coexist…
I should have some sort of a grand conclusion here where I tie everything together. But I don’t. To me, there is no conclusion to this ongoing dilemma. One side continues to falsely represent God, and the other side continues to reject the idea. All I’m saying is that the one who continues to search for an answer is closer to the truth than the one who thinks he already has the answer.
In closing, let me just clarify myself so you know where I stand: I am a Christian yet I do not subscribe to Christianity as the force that dictates how I live my life. I believe in the unconditional love of God, and yet I don’t see it as a choice. I believe in the freedom that Christ offers us, yet I remain a part of the religion that chokes the hell out of me. I rebel against everything, yet I love all those people that I challenge and confront. Sometimes, I even catch myself saying something totally out of line with what I really believe. Do we not need to constantly question ourselves and be questioned by others so we can together get closer to the truth?