Coming Out

by Brian 22. October 2013 21:29


I wonder if we are reaching the end of the divine saga where the Lord extinguishes the firestorm of complete nonsense sweeping his creation. Let me see if I have things straight: Many atheists are adamant their position is simply one of rejecting belief in God or gods.[i] Yet mere rejection of a belief (that P) is not equivalent to believing that not-P.[ii] These people are not by definition atheist (asserting God’s nonexistence) but agnostic. So even though they really don’t know, many act as if they do. This is shown by their rallying, suing, writing, speaking, arguing, complaining, and devoting countless hours of energy against those of faith. Now a famous swimmer comes along and says she can be an atheist and believe in a postmortem soul. But Oprah says Ms. Nyad is not really an atheist because by valuing awe and mystery she believes in God[iii] (someone please direct a C-130 to OWN immediately and douse that hot-spot!) Then the Friendly Atheist says the talk show host ought to apologize for mislabeling who atheists are. The apology is demanded even though on his view we live in a materialist universe where everything is absurd including talk show hosts [iv]. But through all of the noise and confusion, one thing is clear. Atheists are slowly admitting their religiosity and their need for denominational boundaries.[v]

I did find something positive in this recent string of events. As a result of Oprah’s comments, the Friendly Atheist has created some “highly-sharable images” which include the following text:

“Atheists feel awe and wonder just like ordinary people do…because we ARE ordinary people. We’re parents, teachers, first responders, engineers; we’re part of every community. And we feel hurt, too, like anybody else, when media figures use their influential platforms to spread misunderstanding and bias about our way of looking at the world.” [emphasis added]

Thank you Friendly Atheist for your candor and confirmation of what I’ve been saying for a while now. Despite receiving numerous comments and emails to the contrary, atheism (practically speaking) is a worldview[vi]. Here we have a notable atheist and his collaborators openly admitting this in a marketing piece. So now that this baby step has been taken, it’s time to come the rest of the way out of the closet. It’s time to accept the fact that for many: Living out the atheistic worldview looks a lot like a religious life. After all, you even have churches popping up from East London to Los Angeles to prove it[vii]. Quite frankly, these new steps are appreciated by some of us. At last atheists might receive the same religious tolerance as Christians and the same legal treatment under our convoluted view of church and state. I’m all for fairness here.

 



[i] Nielsen, Kai 2011: "Instead of saying that an atheist is someone who believes that it is false or probably false that there is a God, a more adequate characterization of atheism consists in the more complex claim that to be an atheist is to be someone who rejects belief in God…”

[ii] http://www.apologetics.net/post/New-Atheism-Epistemology.aspx

[iii] Oprah: “I think if you believe in the awe and the wonder and the mystery that that is what God is … God is not the bearded guy in the sky.” This after Diana Nyad says “So to me, my definition of God is humanity and is the love of humanity.”

[iv] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/10/16/boston-atheists-tell-oprah-to-stop-relabeling-atheists/

[v] Which atheist church do you belong to? The new, friendly, or ah-theist sect?

[vi] http://www.apologetics.net/post/Atheism-is-a-worldview-(II).aspx

[vii] http://theweek.com/article/index/250032/why-atheists-are-starting-their-own-global-church

Religion

by Brian 15. May 2010 21:01

Religion; I cannot think of a more misused word in our culture today. It is disappointing how often one hears statements like: “all religion is dangerous” or “all religious people are foolish,” etc. Does anyone even know what the word means anymore? I found a decent definition the very first place I looked online; especially the first entry:

Religion is: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

I would reword “esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies” as atheists are quite dogmatic and devoted to their metaphysical views on the cause, nature and purpose of the universe without appeal to superhuman agency. Philosophical naturalism (the logical position for an atheist) leads rationally to specific moral positions that can and have governed the conduct of human affairs. And every time I see a Darwin-fish emblem or an internet infidel T-shirt I have to wonder about their devotional and ritual observances. Yet when you hear your average irreligious American use the term they typically twist the word to mean something like:

Religion is: the institutional Christian church and Islamic radicalism, its members and their less than desirable actions today and throughout history.

These people ignore the central and most relevant aspect of the word and focus on secondary and less relevant meaning filtered through their biases. When you hear someone say “religion is dangerous” ask them to clarify what they mean by the word “religion.”  Or, just cut to the chase and ask if they are an atheist! If willing to answer; they will usually fall into one of three camps:

1.       “Yes, I am an atheist.” – Now I actually appreciate this answer because they are willing to step up to plate and with bold faith proclaim a universal negative (as if they have turned over ever stone in their multiverse.) So I can at least appreciate their misplaced conviction. On the other hand, if they are part of the “new atheism,” then see #3 as they are really closet-atheists masquerading as agnostics.

 

2.       Or..."No, I am a Christian [or Jew, or Muslim] but I think religion is dangerous when depraved man perverts it.” – This is not unreasonable. I agree; the institutional church is and has been the best and worst witness to the Gospel. Every time a TV-evangelist has an affair or flashes his gaudy jewelry; or every time a child is abused by a parishioner, unknown numbers of those seeking the Truth are steered away from it – Matthew 18:6 is an appropriate response from Jesus to these so-called leaders. But the key element of what “religion” means remains open: what do we believe about the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe?

 

3.       Finally..."I’m an agnostic” or “I believe we should be good to one another and tolerant” or “There is some higher power out there and we are all just working our way towards it,” etc. This sort of lukewarm, indecisive and incoherent position ought to be unfashionable; unfortunately it’s all too common. Some of these fall into the "I don't know and I don't care" self-absorbed crowd. Others fall into the "I took a comparative religion class in college" and now I have special understanding crowd. And there may be a few seekers out there who honestly do not know, but I have yet to meet one. Regardless, these are the people you have to drill down with and get them to clarify their position.

In conclusion, the next time you hear someone make a half-cocked generalization about religion, ask them to define the term. Help them to articulate something substantive. You will usually find a wholly different presupposition at the core. Ultimately Christianity is a system of truth, not a set of practices where we go through the motion every Sunday. Christianity is not the sum of behavior and actions of its adherents – especially those who are not acting according to its truth claims. Christianity, as a religion, does make certain claims about the cause, nature and purpose of the universe including: God physically raised Jesus from the dead putting a divine imprimatur on his proclamations about the way things are. From a Christian perspective, the truth of this proposition is paramount; today's twisted version of "religion" by comparison is irrelevant.

Critics of the Author

by Brian 20. September 2009 23:39

I've always found it strange when atheists conjoin the nonexistence of God with a critique of the way the world is. A former coworker, quite sure God doesn’t exist, told me if they met face to face, he would “punch him in the nose for creating such a miserable existence.” Now of course he had to be kidding for several reasons, the least of which is the obvious contradiction between God’s nonexistence and an audience with Him to vent disapproval of His handiwork. Yet, this fellow’s demeanor was not at all like someone joking. He had a serious look of anger and disgust. Who was he angry with if God doesn’t exist? Joseph Stalin died on March 5, 1953, after suffering a stroke four days earlier. I read his daughter witnessed Stalin’s last moments in bed raising his fist towards heaven and shaking it in defiance. Was he shaking his fist at a nonexistent God? It seems to me those who critique the Author of the material universe in one breath while claiming to know He does not exist in the other are guilty of inconsistent thinking. Yet I’m sure there’s a nontheist out there who will correct me and explain the argument actually goes something like:

 

An all-good, omnipotent God would not create a universe like P

The universe is like P

Therefore; an all-good, omnipotent God does not exist

 

The problem is the typical atheist I’ve encountered betrays another perspective by their behavior and the way they argue the finer points.

 

An all-good, omnipotent God could create a universe like P

The universe is like P

I don’t like P

Therefore; I don’t like an all-good, omnipotent God who could create P

 

I wrote a poem for those who claim God should have gone about creating the universe differently:

 

Total Disclosure:
Parade across the sky
Intrusion of mind and eye
In fear recoil and hatred lash
A thunderous call, a blinding flash
The Lord Almighty on high!

Freely choose the only path
To pasture calm or wild of wrath
Mere creation, charged to love
Awkward decrees, cries from above
Dividing the ranks in half

Remember the perfect way?
His invite day by day
Blatancy, the skeptic's plea
 Perfect love, he will not see
Critic of the Author you say?


Freedom from Pain:
Goodbye suffering and pain
Let pleasure wax and sickness wane
Broken heart, a distant thought
Pleasant feelings, painfully sought
Greater measure, time and again

Weary of pleasure, peak despair
Over the top and into the air
Ballast and net, both discarded
Author forgotten, Spirit departed
And wings he did not share!

Remember the perfect way?
Suffering's shout and brilliant ray
Need arise and grace befall
Humility breach Destruction's wall
Critic of the Author you say?



Create No Evil:
Forego the beast in cage
Fallen works He must not wage
Past arrow of time, look ahead
Into the furnace the inexorable dead
All budding sin to gauge

Endless worlds thy hand hath made
Not a one did make the grade?
Freewill given for love's return
To be an Author, each did yearn
And all the stars did fade

Remember the perfect way?
Thy or my, yea or nay
A love of darkness and inmost night
Or the one you critique and His glorious light
Critic of the Author you say?

About the author

I am a Christian, husband, father of two daughters, a partner and lead architect of EasyTerritory, armchair apologist and philosopher, writer of hand-crafted electronic music, avid kiteboarder and a kid around anything that flies (rockets, planes, copters, boomerangs)

On Facebook
On GoodReads