I have been periodically answering some claims made by a person who says he “lost” his faith. I think in the end it becomes rather more clear that said person never had a real faith. Certainly when he came up against logical issues with faith as he understood it, he was not motivated to look for a way to reconcile those issues with the faith he was presented. Pity he did not. He might have found some answers.
In any case, this person now declares himself an atheist. And sad to say, his blog is not the thoughtful questioning I had hoped it would be, but is the more common one which consists of making fun of a faith tradition and making claims that are unsupported by real facts. In so doing, the speaker, doesn’t realize that the person who is made to look silly is himself, mostly for a childish, pedantic, and ill-informed list of claims about what Christianity lacks in his opinion.
I have often said that I find seasoned atheists rather intellectually challenging. They seldom engage in snickering jokes about believers and call them names. They don’t refer to God as an “imaginary friend,” and liken Him to the Easter bunny. They are wise enough to actually know a few things. But in reality, most intellectual atheists are way to smart to really be atheists at all, which is why they differ so magnificently from the wannabe atheists.
Definitionally speaking, an atheist denies the existence of God. That doesn’t get us very far does it? I can deny the existence of a material reality and claim that we are all living an illusion. As long as no one asks me to prove my claim, I’m proudly the holder of it. And the atheist too, can deny that God exists, and when he proves that God does not exist, then he can continue with that appellation.
The atheist will protest that he does not have to prove a negative, that it is incumbent on the believer to prove the existence of God. I suppose that is correct as far as debate rules go, but then, we aren’t debating. I have no particular interest to “prove” the existence of God, for I believe that intellectually, that cannot be done. I make one claim only, well, actually two.
First I claim that I believe that God exists, and second, I claim that it is rational for a human being to come to that conclusion. Not that the atheist should or must, but that it can be rational for anyone who does so believe, to believe.
So the atheist, if he wants to prove that he has the right to ridicule me for believing, better darn well prove that God doesn’t exist. Otherwise I have no patience with you, because you are merely expressing your lack of knowledge of what can and what cannot be proven.
The agnostic, on the other hand, doesn’t fall into this trap. The agnostic says, I find there is no believable evidence for God’s existence, and I’m not sure there is any means by which God can be proven ever. So I maintain that I have no idea and no one else does either. That is a position that is sensible and I can relate to. For I agree, God is not provable, except to one who already believes. When you believe, you can find any number of reasons why you believe. They do not meet an objective test however, and that must be admitted.
Either you have experienced that something, that creates within you a certainty of belief, or you haven’t. And frankly, we don’t feel that certain every day. Plenty of the time, we question, we doubt, we spend hours of time thinking, trying to reconcile things that don’t make sense. There is not a thing wrong with that. That is what drives us in part to continue searching on this marvelous journey.
Contrary to the second illustration above, anyone who discards God because of the standard fundamentalist litany of Christianity, was never much of a believer in the first place. They are the ones who were “raised” in a faith, but never paid much attention to it. When confronted with real facts that some things in the bible were not as reported, they are shocked and then use this as an excuse to walk away. God is a joke. I know this because I found out that the Bible isn’t reliable as “the word of God.” So goes their thinking.
Now they can start a blog and look up neat websites that list all the inconsistencies in the bible, and they can look up neat quotes of other non-believers, and they can post sentences here and there from ancient believers who make statements of their present realities which we find archaic and not in keeping with scientific knowledge. Haha, aren’t we somethin’? Sticking it to the Christians, those dopes who believe in all this voodoo.
And guess what? They are the ones who are silly. Because they are so limited in their understanding of any religion that they didn’t know they barely scraped the surface of what it is about. Most of us didn’t get stuck in fundamentalism. We realized it for its extreme limitations and we long ago moved on. We have matured, need I say, and our theology of God reflects that maturation.
It is in the end, too boring and tiresome to talk to adults about faith when they are at the child’s level and most of us are at least still moving along the path. We haven’t figured it all out, or even a tiny bit of it rightly probably, but we have realized that it is our responsibility as creature to make the effort to discern God, not God’s responsibility to hand it to us in some singsong simplistic fashion. In that effort, God supports us, I’m convinced, and guides us to what we need to read, what tradition we need to be in, and where. We make mistakes, we come unto roadblocks, we get confused, we find paradoxes and contradictions, and we continue to puzzle and think and read and study and pray, and we work out a knot here and there.
In the end, I believe, as I’ve stated here before, in perhaps not so clear a fashion, that we must each of us create a workable but ever changing theology that clicks for us. The atheist in his lack of intellectual prowess has given up and makes claims that he cannot support. The agnostic is still open to being persuaded by evidence. I get the agnostic, but I’m not wasting any more time on the dullard who claims he doesn’t care enough to think any more.