Saturday, May 26, 2007

The God Question

The most interesting of the Holy Wars these days is the one between hardcore Atheists and hardcore Christians: two fundamentalist religions (yes, atheism is a religion, in my book) battling it out over a set of beliefs that leave out the middle ground of true rationality.

I discovered an opinion here that I am inclined to agree with.

See what you think.


Ms. Theologian said...

I love anything that uses "peckerification"....

juffie said...

As my British friends, say, "There is No God, and Richard Dawkins is His Prophet".

Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed. I have vivid memories of my time as a Christian. Raised a Methodist, I turned to Episcopalianism after marrying a Mexican Catholic. I gave it my best - singing in choirs and running the RE programs, and even donated my ex to the vestry. I prayed, observed Advent, and followed the church calendar.

After I left Christianity I found the UU congregation in my city to be a breath of fresh air. I could still sing in the choir, put one together for children (my own were too old for RE by that time) and enjoy fellowship with people of all different faiths. And no faith. I found people I could talk to, reason with, and whose belief structure allowed me to explore all manner of ideas.

I am an atheist, and it's nothing like when I was a Christian. Calling it a religion only gives power to the far right, and they don't need any more.

Naming the way my mind works now reminds me a little of those snooty people I used to clump with during my Episcopalian days who used to say, "Unitarians? They don't believe in anything!"

My Unitarianism is a religion, without question. My stance as an atheist, however, is not.

Happy pondering...


LinguistFriend said...

I am not sure why a battle between hardcore atheists and hardcore Christians is interesting. On the negative part of the atheist side, the destructive work was done in the 18th century. The more interesting and positive part to my mind is how such a view can deal with poetry, religion, and justice, linking such notions to a way of thinking which is compatible with science; that of course has been undertaken seriously by a number of people, such as Julian Huxley and Richard von Mises among my favorites.
Whom should we consider hardcore Christians? The fundamentalists may be admirable in terms of the passionate character of their belief, but at times terribly sad and destructive in terms of their inability to update their beliefs to modern knowledge, and their susceptibility to political manipulation. I am not aware of any possible advocate they have who could sustain a rational argument with the more reasonable atheists, tiresome though the latter often are.
Even in a nominally mainline and moderate group, there is no doubt, for instance, that the regrettable Archbishop Peter Akinola is correct about the views of the OT and St. Paul against (at least male) homosexuality. But such an admirable and capable man as Archibishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams so far has no mechanism to say that Paul was wrong on that point, without admitting the same possibility for every other aspect of Christian theology, and causing even greater risks to his major endeavours. That inability for considered revision and updating is tearing the heart out of many mainline churches which have much to contribute to our society and to human thought. For me, the closing of mainline churches is a very sad thing to see; even though I disagree with many of the surface aspects of their theology, they contribute a great deal to the world. I hope that the work of such revisionists as Borg (e.g. "The Heart of Christianity") and Spong can be productive.

kim said...

LF -- what does this mean?: "Even in a nominally mainline and moderate group, there is no doubt, for instance, that the regrettable Archbishop Peter Akinola is correct about the views of the OT and St. Paul against (at least male) homosexuality."

LinguistFriend said...

I am referring to the Anglican Communion as a whole, e.g. Episcopalians in the US, as a mainline and moderate group. It varies, of course, but if you look at e.g. the "Oxford Companion to Christian Thought", which I think of as having considerable Anglican content, one finds a reasonable and humane level in the articles on such touchy subjects as homsexuality. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

LinguistFriend said...

To Kim again - my explanation was incomplete, I see. Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria is head of a church of about 17 million members; I see him as jockying for position by trying to eject from the Anglican Communion, or at least partly supplant, the American Episcopal Church. Thus he is destructive, and regrettable. The main Hebrew Testament references to male homosexuality are in Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13. Male homosexuality is there punishable by death. The OT has no interest in female homosexuality. Later rabbinical thought reflected in the Babylonian Talmud tended to disapproval of female homosexuality, but not remotely in the extreme way that male homosexuality was treated as a capital offense. It is this later development that is reflected in Paul's comments against both male and female homosexuality in
Romans 1:27, 1 Cor. 6:9-10; the same view is in 1 Tim. 1:10, but Paul did not write this. So, Akinola is certainly correct in referring to traditional Jewish and Christian disapproval of homosexuality. The lack of a mechanism to reject this antihomosexual view of the OT and St. Paul as out of date leaves an opening for Akinola to
denounce the more liberal American Episcopal church. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and Episcopal presiding bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori have behaved with restraint and diplomacy in this situation, although their positions are difficult. I take this painful issue as an example of how difficult even the mainline and moderate Christian positions can be in the lack of an accepted mechanism to update doctrine explicitly rather than just tacitly.

Joel said...

Well, I've been several kinds of Christian (Baptist, Evangelical Quaker, and Papist), but I've never been able to understand the atheist point of view.

I got about halfway through the link before one of the kids needed something, but what I read made excellent sense. It comes down to the 90% principle: Roughly ninety percent of people - divide them into whatever categories you want - are good, decent people who would rather be on friendly terms than not.

I don't understand atheism's appeal, and I assume most atheists don't see my religion's appeal, and for the same reason - we both think the other has embraced silly, unsupportable dogmas. Which simply makes us both silly dogmatists. I know enough of those on my side of the divide; I should be able to get along with one on the other side.

faded said...

Your comments about the atheists and the fundamentalists are well taken. Both groups are motivated by the same thing -- Fear. Both sides want to make the world over in their own image. They believe that if they can make the world look the way they want it to, then they have eliminated their source of fear.

Unfortunately it does not work that way. They are afraid of something so they project their fear onto the world around them. This allows the create an enemy without that surrounds and threatens them. Both groups define themselves in terms of the enemy they are fighting. The people in the group find a sense of security in knowing they are united by and against a common enemy.

You can insert anything you want for the enemy. It could, proving God does not exist, proving God does exist, making the world safe from big companies, whatever enemy your heart desires. The only requirement is that you must be fighting an enemy. This make the dynamic of the group negative at its' core. All activity is designed to control, modify, suppress or extinguish the enemies' behavior.

They are failing to look for the true location of their fear. It is inside themselves not outside. Much of life is about making choices Do I choose to live a life ruled by my fear or do I chose to live a life where I confront my fear and find out what underlies the fear. There is usually a great gift to be found when you learn what makes you fearful. Being free of fear opens up whole new ways to be a creative servant to the people around you.

A note, I am a "non religious, unchurched, Christian." I have learned that the Gospel is about inner transformation and service so that I can love people. That lesson has gotten me thrown out of a couple of churches.

Jesus calls me to confront anything in my life that separates me from Him. That list is long. It is so long that, "if all were written down, the world would not hold all the books that would have to be written." ( a paraphrase of John 21:25) So I start at chapter one, start reading, and appeal to the Holy Spirit for help and pray that I do not die of embarrassment over the contents of the book. It turns out that reading that book causes me to take a life long journey of transformation from selfish to less selfish and may be to being a little bit of a servant

Please notice the absence of me telling you what you need to do. This is about me engaging in a journey of transformation. As I transform into a genuine servant of God and servant to the folks around me, the hope is that you will see the power of that transformation and ask to start your own journey.