Posts tagged ‘freethinking’
As a Christian, New Years Day was always a very special day for me. It was the day I would turn my back on all the past mistakes of the previous year and pray that God would make me a better individual in the year to come. I forgot those things which were behind me and pressed on towards the prize of the higher calling.
However, now as a de-convert, I cannot simply forget any of my mistakes of the past year. It is my responsibility to make sure I deal with them in order to move ahead. I cannot simple “give them to God” and know that they have been cast into the sea of his forgetfulness where he and I would remember them no more. I cannot accept that that I can simply confess that there is now therefore no condemnation for those actions but if I deserve to be condemn, then I have to pay the necessary price.
Also, I cannot simply expect my invisible diety to help make me a better person, I have to make the choices to change areas of my life which I deem as needing improvement. In other words, the responsibility sits squarely on my shoulders. I have to admit that it was so much easier to give things to God than for me to accept now that they are my responsibility. Throwing away my crutch and standing on my own two feet is sometimes a difficult feat to accomplish…
This couple were the “senior” (head) pastor and his wife at the church where we spent 10 years working. She was one of those “super Christians” (at least in her mind). However, the reality of it all is she typified all the things I have learned to loath about religious people. She always had “all the answers,” and anything that deviated from her set theology was wrong. She could tell you how to live, while her own life was crumbling unnoticed around her. She pursued “ministry” based on her desire to have acceptance and really could not wrap her mind around love at all.
Saying all this, I’ve learned to pity this woman. Circumstances have moved this couple far away from our lives, but today we attended a funeral of a mutual family member/friend. It was good to see her and her family, but sadly, nothing has changed for her.
That’s the problem with religion. Things stagnate, because that’s the only way they can be controlled. Theologies become calcified, and they become fodder for liturgies…
Myth 2: Atheism is just another religion.
This myth is being resurrected again by people ranging from academics trying to counter some of the influence of the recent spate of books challenging faith, to extremists wanting atheists banned from American schools by using the ruling that religion and state must be kept separate.
It was the good Catholic G.K.Chesterton who sought to tease atheists by saying ‘there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it’. Atheists would reject his categories and go on to argue that there are at least three kinds of people; the two that Chesterton mentioned and a third category who know an unhelpful and untrue dogma when they see it and are quite capable of rejecting it.
Atheism, of course, is not another religion. Although non-theistic religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism exist, most religions, are based on a belief in gods or a god, and atheists reject such a notion. Let me quote A.C.Grayling who makes the point so elegantly:…
Personally, I feel that most arguments for or against the existence of God are too rooted in normative conventions for my personal beliefs. In other words, I cannot accept arguments based on supposedly established conventions such as good, evil, right, wrong, etc., because those conventions were primarily established through man-made religions.
This is not to say that employing norms such as good and evil are not useful in arguing against the existence of a deity. Using religiously established conventions (Christian norms, in this case) of good and evil, and by understanding the hierarchy of God’s characteristics, we can show that the God that Christians imagine to exist contradicts himself, and therefore cannot exist.
The Christian tradition holds that God is many things: God is love, God is merciful, and so on. One characteristic, a seemingly unavoidable prerequisite to being a deity, is that God is omnipotent. God, according to the Christian tradition, is also good and cannot be or do evil…
Lately, Christians have been challenging me on the intellectual case for Christ based on the evidence for the resurrection and his miracles. For most/all Christians their faith hinges on the resurrection, so I find that it’s best to concentrate on this as opposed to the water-to-wine or heal-the-blind events. However, apparently I’m not intellectual enough to grasp this evidence.
Here’s the main points of the evidence/proof they proposed (unfairly I’m sure they’ll say):
- The disciples claim to have seen him alive and later died for this belief – ‘people just don’t do that’
- 513 (or so) saw him alive after the resurrection.
Before I get to the main point of this, let me give my simplistic and probably ignorant assessment of these points…
In my previous post on this subject, Independence in Thought, I discussed a point made by Phillychief in his post entitled Insularity?, where he stated that atheists, by and large, are critical thinkers.
Another point that Phillychief made, with which I agree, is that atheists are not as prone to hero worship and personality cults as theists appear to be. He cites the examples of Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennet, et al, and notes that their positions are scrutinized incessantly. What he implied but didn’t say outright, which I will say, is that much of this scrutiny comes from people who generally accept these writers’ ideas. The critics criticize because they want to sharpen their own thinking skills and also because they want to challenge these writers, and others like them, to put forward the strongest possible arguments for their positions and to articulate those arguments clearly, succinctly and coherently.
I, for example, like Richard Dawkins, and I enjoyed reading The God Delusion. That doesn’t blind me to the fact that the book has some substantive flaws. My atheism does not depend on Dawkins being infallible. Ditto for all the recent flap about Antony Flew – the fact that he shifted from atheism to a deist position doesn’t undermine my atheist position at all. My atheistic view does not depend upon the Gospels according to St. Antony and St. Richard…
In Phillychief’s post entitled, Insularity?, one of his points was that atheists, by and large, are critical thinkers. I agree with this view. Even those atheists who are born into atheist families and have never held religious beliefs often, at some point in their lives, weigh their non-belief against the theistic and other religious alternatives to which they are inevitably exposed, and choose atheism as the most rational choice. For many, this process occurs in their childhood or teen years.
The other set of atheists, those who have de-converted from a particular religion, usually do so after a period of critically scrutinizing their beliefs. My cruises around the blogosphere, plus nearly 5 decades of living and interacting with evangelical theists, have shown me that many theists refuse to believe that de-conversion is a rational decision. Instead, they typically ascribe de-conversion to a multitude of other causes, such as (this list is selective and representative, not anywhere close to exhaustive):
- anger or disappointment at being hurt by another believer
- a desire to embrace a wanton lifestyle free of the moral constraints religion imposes
- having been a false convert rather than a real Christian
- failure to practice such spiritual disciplines as daily prayer and Bible reading
- having a flawed understanding of Christian doctrine
- harboring a secret sin that is getting between oneself and God…