Posts tagged ‘skepticism’
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…
Anyone who has struggled through leaving Christianity cannot help but be aware that those still in the faith often have trouble categorizing us. Regarding their belief system as overwhelmingly desirable and, moreover, obviously true, they seem compelled to try to explain this anomaly that we represent, apostasy. And we all know the answers: generally, either we weren’t really Christians in the first place or, the minority view, that it is somehow impossible to de-convert (“once saved always saved”), so we’re still Christians despite ourselves.
Or, sometimes we see them declare that we never really understood Christianity – again, obviously, because if we had, we wouldn’t have left! No amount of elegant theological exposition on our part will convince them that we really did, in fact, understand it – and freely, knowingly reject it – because there are an endless number of hairs that can be split to prove we got this or that wrong.
So I, like most former Christians, have had to think a lot about this issue. Who, really, is a Christian? Was I really one? How do I respond to this criticism? After some study, and some thought, I will here suggest an answer…
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…
Today is the day we set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Even though there are many questions as to whether this event actually ever took place, we cannot deny the impact this story, related a few decades later in the gospels, has had on the world. This “good news” did not bring the promised peace on earth but resulted in wars and fear. However, as LeoPardus recently pointed out, there are some good things that can be attributed to the birth of the church.
As I meditate on the meaning Christmas used to hold for me, there is one particular point that I can no longer reconcile as rational. This event was supposed to be a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for man. That God, so loved the world, that he gave his only son, to die on a cross to redeem me from my sins and thus restoring me into a relationship with him.
Upon reading the scriptures, one cannot help but conclude that God’s love is anything but unconditional. The Old Testament is packed with what I will refer to as “if…then” statements. If you do a list of things, you will be blessed but if, on the other hand, you disobey you will be cursed. In many cases, the curses included genocide, violence, killings, diseases, sicknesses, fire and brimstone, floods, plagues, and a variety of other demonstration of God’s wrath and judgment. How can any of this be described as unconditional?…
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…