Monday, December 17, 2007

"Rational Christianity" Isn’t an Oxymoron

I wish I knew where to begin on this one. I have a million thoughts I want to get out, and immense frustration at certain people's misconceptions of the world and people that believe differently than they do. I'm frustrated with intolerance and judgmental attitudes, with the Teflon Belief that no one else has a right to call them out or judge them in return. You are not Teflon. I'm rubber, you're glue, and whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you. That about sums it up, and that's all I have to say about that.

Warning that this is going to be a bit of a religiously geared rant/explanation/vent. It's not aimed at anyone in particular, and is NOT intended to bash atheists or other religions that do not line up with Christianity.

We (as religious/spiritual folk) are somehow not supposed to defend our faith, and yet are expected to prove that God exists in debates/discussions about religion and God. The burden of proof actually lays with the atheist because the assertion that there is no God of any religion is not the majority view, nor has it ever been the majority view. Obviously, majority belief in something is not proof of that something's existance. Only that the minority view must work to prove their belief when there is no proof one way or the other. Believing without proof is the entire basis of faith, and faith can only be proven through sincere actions and prayer. Anyway, I always find it amusing when nonbelievers use lack of proof as proof in and of itself that God can't exist. Just as I'm sure there are atheists about to laugh their collective asses off at the rest of my entry.



So, I'm just going to yonk forth my thoughts, which may or may not have been expressed by me elsewhere at various times. If you've seen it before, well, keep in mind that this entry is a vent, and maybe somewhere, someone will be educated by the bits of wisdom I'm about to impart. Take it for what you will. It's organized only by virtue of the fact that it's in paragraphs ha ha ha. If you're insulted or offended by my views below, well, then you don't have to read my blog. And then I might ask you why my beliefs and opinions offend you in the first place. As long as I'm not insulting you personally, singling you out and calling you names or hurling profanities in your direction, try to assume that I'm making an attempt at an open dialogue, even as I post my thoughts in my blog. MY blog.


I usually hesitate to speak for other Christians, because even within the Christian faith, there are numerous denominations. There are very few safe generalities one can make about ANY denomination or faith or religion. But I think it's safe to say that we, as Christians, don't need the Holy Bible to teach us morality. The Bible is a divinely inspired tool to help guide us through the path to Heaven. Humans, by nature, are NOT moral creatures. We have to work at it. If that were not true, then why does society have laws that are punishable if we violate them? It is unlawful to commit murder. It is unlawful to steal. It is unlawful to lie and present yourself falsely (scams, fraud), especially when bound in a court of law to tell the truth. If you do not follow society's established laws, which are also MORAL codes that happen to be in the Bible, you are punished justifiably according to the laws. Doesn't that suggest that not everyone is capable of determining right from wrong? That any guide we use ought to be considered a benefit?

If you don't believe in God or that Jesus was the Messiah, that's all fine and dandy, but the teachings in the New Testament are still worthy of notice, as his teachings of love and morality are still worth living by. How can it be wrong or mock-worthy for genuinely spiritual people to look to the Bible for guidance in living morally? Working to better every aspect of ourselves is far from absurd and insulting to human intelligence or human nature. Now, I'm NOT claiming at all that people of faith in a Supreme Being and Creator are morally superior to anyone else. I'm acknowledging that WE ALL need help and guidance in living a moral life. Do we NEED the Bible to teach us morals? No… but the Bible is a gift and is a tool for us to use in that never-ending quest.



Atheists are no more rational in thought or process than theists. That is a fact. Being one or the other doesn't make you better or more capable of critical thinking. It doesn't make you more rational either. Obviously, as a Christians, I believe that whether you believe in God or believe that there couldn't be God, that belief system simply forms your relationship to God, and how you relate to Him. If you don't believe in God, that doesn't make Him false or imaginary or myth… it simply means, for me, that *you don't acknowledge Him. I repeatedly see the misconception that atheists are somehow more rational, that they are free-thinkers and believers are sheep who can't think for themselves and prefer to believe in imaginary beings. I believe it takes more of an open mind to have faith in God than it takes to discount Him completely. It takes an open heart, mind, and soul with deep introspection and educating one's self to make a conscious decision to believe. If my belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah is unappealing to you, and I have done no harm to you personally and have proven myself to be a rational, caring, generous, moral person, how am I offending you? How am I harming anyone in my sincere belief that Jesus was born and died to wash away sin and give me a chance at redemption and entering Heaven? I see God's existence in my children's eyes and hear it in their laughter. I see it in the waves of the ocean, and the brightness of stars that are billions of light years away. My beliefs come from experience and introspection, and a calm and rational choice to believe. But it seems that the fact that I believe, despite weighing evidence and lack of evidence, that there are people who believe I came to the wrong conclusion, and must not have done so with logic. What it comes down to is I feel something you don't, and I interpret the information I've been given differently that you do.


I am very emphatic about trying to educate people that we who believe are NOT back wood hicks who can't think for ourselves without being spoon-fed our beliefs. We believe because we interpret truth in different ways, including what our own intuition tells us. We all must question our beliefs, whether we believe in God or not, so that we can grow and change and not just have blind faith, and assume that we are right no matter what. Blind faith does no good to anyone, and removes the benefits we have in the freedom of choice. I CHOOSE to believe in God and have faith in Him because I regularly question my beliefs and through looking at proof and feeling it in my soul, I simply reaffirm my faith. Yes, feeling His presence is proof. Not to the world, but proof for myself. When I quiet my thoughts and pray, I listen for a response to touch my heart and soul, and I FEEL it and HEAR it. I feel His presence. I don't know how to explain a lack of that feeling, only what it feels like for me to know that it's there. I don't need science to prove God exists because I feel it in my instincts and my very soul.


I've said this before, but I think that eventually, perhaps thousands of years in the future, science will even prove God exists. That if we could prove the Big Bang theory beyond a shadow of a doubt, it would actually prove God's existence. I don't think that it'll actually ever happen, though. We are meant to choose to believe, so that when we make the choice, it's more meaningful to us. That said, I believe that science and religion can go hand in hand. They don't have to be mutually exclusive or rule each other out. Science must come to its own conclusions exclusive of religious influence, but religion can embrace science. There are many scientists who are also believers in a Supreme Being and creator, and will tell you that the Big Bang and Evolution and all other scientific theories (being ordered and non-random as they are) exist only because there is God, who made physics and life possible. God uses science and all we've discovered through it. He gave us reason and intellect to help us discover and explain our world. And we're still nowhere near close to understanding more than a miniscule percentage of our universe or our planet. Even Albert Einstein believed in God, and he's still considered to be one of our greatest scientific minds of not only human history, but of modern day.


Rather than assume that Science is out to prove God doesn't exist… rather than generalizing that scientists must not have a belief in God or the Divine to obtain their facts… rather than becoming angry when people thank God for the good things that happen in life… how about thanking God for the intellect and science and talent that doctors have for finding cures to diseases that occur in nature naturally? How about not being so general in your assumptions that you recognize there are many scientists and doctors and common average people of faith that believe in science AND God? You're quite mistaken in your assumption that all doctors and scientists automatically deny the existence of God. Yes, we Christians can actually believe in God and be rational enough to recognize the truth in science too.


And yet… say this stuff to a nonbeliever, someone who puts no credence in religion or spirituality, and all I see is a head nodding and not really listening because what I say discredits what is believed about Christians. That is to say that we're not idiots, or at least, we statistically have as many idiots as any other social group on the planet. Sure, there are fanatics, just as in any other religion. There are fanatics just as there are some extremely narrow-minded atheists. It's assumed that the instant you admit to believing in God, you're a crazy nut job lunatic who is incapable of rational thought. I certainly don't thrive on being hated. It's not a very good feeling to be hated, looked down upon, and assumed to be less than intelligent and incapable of critical reasoning and rational thought. I have never passed judgment on someone else's religion or lack thereof. What matters most for me MY own belief in God. What matters is staying strong in MY convictions. Living life as morally well as I can and teaching my children the same.


I've studied other world religions and faiths, especially during a few years where I questioned my OWN faith and beliefs, and came to the decision that I still most identify best with Christianity. I believe every religion holds some truth in them, and that every religion is simply a different path to the same God, so why would I look down on them in judgment? I don't, and because I do think I have very high standards of living, I expect the same consideration of others who believe differently than I do.


I have a few thoughts on the "war on Christmas" too. There are accusations left and right about who is waging war on Christmas and taking Christ out of it. It is no one's fault except the Christians who even acknowledge that there might be such a thing, giving in to the idea that there is a war on Christmas. As long as you hold strong in your own faith, and live a good life, and celebrate Christmas as it should be celebrated, then what does it matter if we say "happy holidays" or "Merry Christmas?" I submit that it doesn't matter unless you allow it to matter. Someone else's lack of faith should have no effect on your own faith.



I think we've all heard by now that Christianity "stole" December 25th from the Pagans and one of their holidays. That the date was chosen to make the conversion of paganism to Christianity smoother and more familiar to the people the Church wanted to convert. However, that doesn't mean that Jesus didn't actually exist, only that that December 25th is a pretty arbitrary date that merely REPRESENTS Jesus' birth. That it doesn't mean we can't still celebrate his birthday at that time. There is much evidence that Jesus did exist, and the only real controversy and debate is what Jesus' role actually was… great prophet and rabbi or Messiah, Son of God? We suspect he was born during or very near the "100 year gap" between 01 BC and 01 AD. We know that he was born at the same time as a celestial event that occurs only once every 7,000-odd years, when certain stars as well as planets in our solar system converge in the sky and appear as if they are one gigantic, bright star that's visible both day and night. I *think* that pegs Jesus' birth to around the 5th year BC, in March. The Magi, or the Three Wise Men, were highly respected intellectuals of the time and were also astrologers as well as scientists who interpreted the celestial event as being important for spiritual reasons as well as scientific reasons. Depending on your resource, only the Magi were aware of this configuration, although it's believed that the event WAS visible by common people who knew nothing of astrology. The Bible is actually considered to be real proof of this celestial event, since no one before or since has recorded this event. There are other events in the Bible that have been shown to be reliable as archeological evidence of specific events. The Great Flood. King Solomon. There's even proof that it's possible for the story of David and Goliath to have occurred. There's also proof that Mount Ararat existed, and it's been narrowed down to one particular mountain in the Middle East. And yet… people still insist that the Bible is pure fantasy and myth and Christians who are not fanatical fundamental literalists are still viewed as uneducated, ignorant, irrational people.


Ah well. As long as I know that my beliefs are respected by those whom I choose to be friends with, I'm happy. Even if those friends don't agree with me. The purpose of this entry was not to set out and convert anyone. I didn't mock anyone's beliefs. I haven't set out to prove the improvable. I set down to get all of my thoughts out there, and hopefully help someone understand where I'm coming from despite a world of distance in our basic belief systems. If I failed, well, there's always a new blog tomorrow.


*DISCLAIMER: All "you's" are general and not directed at any single person or groups of persons.


1 comment:

A. said...

Hello,

I came here on a long and winding road from the Cooking Board at BBC!

I'm an atheist, so I thought I'd share a few thoughts in response.

I understand your frustrations at being asked or expected to somehow 'prove' the reality of your faith. Even as an atheist I agree that it's unfair, because of what the word 'faith' implies - one cannot prove something that relies on faith rather than proof by its inherent nature. I do think many atheists understand and accept this.

You say that it takes more of an open mind to believe in God than discount Him completely. While I agree in a sense, I'm not sure that lends sense or weight to religion. It also takes more of an open mind to believe in the tooth fairy than to discount her completely, but that doesn't make her any more of a reality.

Atheists also feel frustrated by the expectation that we somehow prove a negative (that there is no deity). One reason the burden of proof is placed on the faithful is that they hold positive belief, while atheism is simply the absence of belief in a deity, a-theism. This is why the allegation that atheism is a religion is rather odd - it is not a positive belief, but simply the absence of belief. Proving a negative universally regarded as difficult, too!

On to science. Thanking God for enabling man to cure diseases "that occur in nature naturally" makes no sense to atheists because God is omnipotent, right? If so, he created the diseases Himself, and could also remove them entirely at will if He desired. It makes no sense to thank God for creating disease and then for allowing a small number of diseases to be cured by man. Diseases exist because of God, if he is omnipotent.

The overwhelming majority of eminent academic and research scientists simply are atheists (90%) - that is why you hear that quoted a lot. But that quote is not meant to include doctors, other medical professionals and all employees in science, in fact I'm quite sure it does not. They would be better represented by faith statistics for the USA in general, which means overwhelming belief in God, yes. I think the two groups get mixed up in articles and news stories in the media, which leads to allegations of unfairness all round.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for what they are worth, I enjoyed reading.

Back to the Cooking Board!