I’ve been thinking about atheism and whether it makes sense to be one since listening to Point of Inquiry, the free podcasts of the Center for Inquiry. I’ve listened to most of their podcasts in the past few weeks. I’m fuzzy on which podcast had the greatest effect, but suffice to say that their diabolical plan to push atheism into the consciousness of mainstream America is working: Atheists, I get it!
The most serious indictment I’ve heard against faith was from the fellow who said that if Christians really believed that the creator of the universe had spoken to humankind through the book they kept in the drawer in their bedside table, then there would be no “moderate Christians.” He targeted Christians who say they don’t go to church much, and they only pray occasionally, but they maintain some vague belief in God because “it makes me feel good.” He pretty much asked, “How lame is that?!” And I have to say, I agree.
Even so, after hours and hours of listening to some of the world’s smartest English-speaking atheists, some of them prize-winning scientists and writers, I have to say I am a little disappointed. I thought that, sooner or later, I’d hear from someone whose argument was so cogent and intelligent that it could knock the faith right out of me.
Well, I didn’t.
But I figured out why. Having been raised without faith, I had only myself as righteous-judge-of-all-the-earth. Only I could pull myself up by my bootstraps, and (in fact) it was obvious that those bootstraps had to be self-made, or perhaps that they had evolved from a lesser form of bootstrap, or even a boot without a bootstrap; or maybe one day enough energy built up in the universe that a big cosmic burst of radiation occurred, spewing bootstraps everywhere and thereby giving me something by which I might pull myself up in the world in which I could be anything I wanted to be if I put my mind to it.
It didn’t work out quite as well as Mom and Dad said it would, sadly, because I learned later (as all good psychologists do) that the very person most likely to let us down is ourselves, and that the places of our undoing are within ourselves, indicating that not only is the kingdom of heaven within, but all nine circles of hell, too.
After all that, it’s easier to see the deficiencies of oneself-as-god.
But, I still get it, dear atheists. Really, I do. I think everyone should have a long go at life without faith, because possibly a person can’t say he’s really lived until he’s lived without faith in anything larger than himself. It makes one a sort of a pioneer in his own inner landscape, and I can’t think of a better place to live than that.
I’ve been reading some blogs of lapsed Christians and the “de-converted,” and I feel sad when I read them. Not, as some might imagine, because I feel sorry for the poor, de-converted, lapsed Christians. I don’t. In fact, I “hurrah!!” them because perhaps now they’ll be on a path that will lead them somewhere. Maybe they’ll arrive at a place of meaning, and that place will sustain them in away that their shallow religion never did. I have hope for such atheists because there is every reason to hope for those who actually think about these things. People who are unconscious to their own divinity we simply call neurotic; but those who consciously set themselves up as righteous-judge-of-all-the-earth have a good deal of excitement coming their way, I’ll wager.
Even so, I’m still sad, and here’s why: I feel sad when I read these blogs because so many Christians, particularly those in leadership positions, have contributed to the de-conversion of intelligent people. So few Christians live the sort of lives that are good. So few Christian leaders seem to live like Jesus and those early Christians might have lived. Is it any wonder that people fall away from the sort of faith that is taught and practiced by such Christians? If so many Christians are neither good nor intelligent, can we really blame the “de-converted” for shrinking back? Maybe a robust doubt or even disbelief is preferable to weak faith. Jesus said that salt without flavor and the lukewarm were equally useless.
Jung wrote that “a man can make a moral decision to go his own way only if he holds that way to be the best. If any other way were held to be better, then he would live and develop that other personality instead of his own. The other ways are conventionalities of a moral, social, political, philosophical, or religious nature. The fact that the conventions always flourish. . .proves that the vast majority of mankind do not choose their own way, but convention, and consequently develop not themselves but a method and a collective mode of life at the cost of their own wholeness” (The Development of Personality, Princeton University Press, p. 174).
My dear atheist and agnostic friends, keep reading. Keep pondering. Keep grappling. I’d rather wrestle with an angel and walk with a limp for the rest of my life than miss the chance of the blessing of a lifetime because I was too fearful or lazy to wrestle with the divine. I’m glad you’re wrestling with yourselves and with (God) rather than developing a “collective mode of life” and calling it faith.
Some interesting atheist and thinking Christian blogs: