Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The restorative powers of atheism

I’ve heard many an atheist claim that Christianity is dangerous, Jesus is a myth and God, well, God is just some imaginary friend. When it comes to curing the ills of the world, atheists suggest that we get rid of what Christians believe and replace it with, surprise, surprise, we should replace it with what they believe. If we all adopt what atheists call reason, all will be well with the world.

As a counsellor, I’ve worked with thousands and thousands and thousands of people from virtually all walks of life. Out of all those people, I have never known a single individual who has said s/he was on the verge of suicide but coming to atheism turned h/her life around. I’ve never heard a single person whose marriage was about to blow apart, say that becoming an atheist restored love to the relationship. I’ve never known a single person who claimed that becoming an atheist transformed h/her life from dishonest to honest, hatred to love, cold to caring, disengaged to becoming interested in others. Never have I heard an atheist say, “Now that I’m an atheist, my children love me and trust me. Not once have I heard of the restoring powers of atheism.

Now, to be fair, I have read atheist bloggers who claim that since coming to atheism they feel much better about themselves, particularly in the area of guilt. Apparently all that is required is that under the banner of atheism, one is able to reinvent, so to speak, the rules of society so that they correspond with how one is already living. In so doing, wonder of wonders, the atheist is now a pretty good person.

On the other hand I could give you the names of thousands of people who have become characters of integrity, peace and joy because of gaining an intimate, healed and forgiven relationship with Jesus. Jesus really is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Disregarding Him will do nothing of value for the world.

9 comments:

Darron S said...

You seem confused. Atheism isn't something you "come to" like a religion. Atheism isn't something you "embrace" like a delusion. It's simply a lack in belief in gods. You seem to have the opinion that you can hold theism in one hand and atheism in the other and compare them like you would compare the features of an apple and an orange. But that's just not accurate. Of course atheism offers no guidance for the unsane or consolation to those who grieve, in the same way that lacking belief in Santa Claus does not offer consolation or guidance. And I'm curious why you would even think it would. What makes you assume that atheism, the lack in belief in gods, is any kind of belief system like a religion? There are no songs to sing, no bronze-age rules about what we can and can't eat, who we should kill and why, no predictions of doom, no instructions on when we should pray, etc. It's just a simple lack in belief in gods, much like you're lack of belief (I assume) in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. How much of your belief system comes from your lack in belief in these things? I'm fairly certain the answer is zero.

If you're curious about my belief system (and many others who lack belief in gods) please take a look at this wiki page and check out the 7 tenets listed near the top of the page.

Secular Humanism Wiki

I think you'll find that they are far better, as well as more in touch with our times, than ideas written down in a book by camel herders wandering around a desert several thousand years ago.

In fact, if you're honest with yourself I'd say you can read the list of tenets and see yourself reflected in many of them.

To your main point, I honestly find the tenets of secular humanism much more inspiring and enlightening than anything I've read in any religious texts. I've read the OT and NT, and started reading a translation of the Qu'ran after 9/11 but never completed it. Reading these texts it is completely evident they are of human origin, and from a time when our species was in it's infancy. We need to grow up and embrace new knowledge that is far more beautiful and wonderous than anything offered by any religion!

Cheers!

Makarios said...

“It's simply a lack in belief in gods.”

So you don’t deny that God exists. It’s just that you don’t believe in Him?
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“Of course atheism offers no guidance for the unsane or consolation to those who grieve, in the same way that lacking belief in Santa Claus does not offer consolation or guidance.”

My thoughts exactly; atheism and Santa Claus possess roughly the same relevance for the world :)
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“And I'm curious why you would even think it would.”

Because that’s what most atheist bloggers propose. Atheism is equated with reason and logic. Christianity is deemed to be anti reason. Because of this, atheists practically “pray” that one day atheists will rule. A wise man directed me to this quote on Wiki, “A conviction that with reason, an open exchange of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children.” Atheists seem to believe that this cannot be done within Christianity.
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“What makes you assume that atheism, the lack in belief in gods, is any kind of belief system like a religion? There are no songs to sing, no bronze-age rules about what we can and can't eat, who we should kill and why, no predictions of doom, no instructions on when we should pray, etc.”

Please allow me introduce you to the dogma of atheism.

1)“Better by far to embrace the hard truth . . .”
Here Carl Sagan is instructing younger atheists what their attitude should be in the face of atheism’s hopelessness.
2)“We must develop expressions of awe and wonder regarding the workings of the Universe.” Carolyn Porco, Richard Dawkins.
This is now standard and expected fair when atheists are describing, to who ever will listen, how they will turn the next generation in to wonderful individuals as well.
3) “All atheists must get out there and begin doing good works.”
We’ve heard the now familiar call to all atheists to become good citizens. An example of this tenet can be found in the instruction to donate blood during the World Day of Prayer. This demand that you become a good person is in contrast to the standard atheist attitude that was clearly sounded in a recent atheist blog when a young man, lamented, “Can’t I just fuck around and watch tv in the evening if I want to?”
4)“No religion tells us what to do.”
Noble individualism has of course been an attractive and required attitude for budding atheists for centuries.

The next six points of atheist dogma deal with one subject but are voiced in detailed point form for extra emphasis. There is to be no room for misinterpretation in this part of the atheist belief system.
5)“Nothing regarding God can be mentioned in the presence of our children.”
It is not science per se, not even evolution as such, but a special brand of anti-God-Darwinism that atheists want to be taught in the schools. A belief in God must be removed from ALL children’s minds. This is a standard required goal for all atheists. As Richard Dawkins preaches, “Faith is one of the world’s great evils, comparable to the small-pox virus but harder to eradicate.” The real reason for the exclusive teaching of evolution is that atheists see it as being anti-religion. And that’s a good thing. Dawkins again, “Religion is capable of driving people to such dangerous folly that faith seems to me to qualify as a kind of mental illness.”
6)“Teaching Christianity is harmful, even abusive to children.”
Hitchens writes, “How can we ever know how many children had their psychological and physical lives irreparably maimed by the compulsory inculcation of faith?” The atheist answer? Inculcate all children with atheist beliefs.
7)“Children are not the property of parents.”
Richard Dawkins, “How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents? Should [Christian parents] be free to impose their beliefs on their children?”
Again, the atheist answer is to impose atheist beliefs upon not just their children but upon everyone’s children.
8)“Atheists know best what children need to learn.”
Daniel Dennett suggests that atheists become the defenders of the world’s children, “Parents don’t literally own their children . . . [Christian parents] ought to be held accountable by outsiders (read atheists, perhaps Dennett himself) for their guardianship, which does imply that outsiders have a right to interfere.”
9)“Christian parents have no right to teach their children about Jesus.”
Psychologist Nicholas Humphrey, “ [Christian] Parents, have no god-given license to enculturate their children in whatever way they choose . . . to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma . . . or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.”
All the while claiming that no two atheists think alike, I’ve personally experienced this developing atheist dogma from an atheist blogger. His stated hope is that our children will be taken from us to keep them from being taught about Christianity. This of course implies the hope that someone else will raise our children and teach them the tenets of his faith.
10)“Children must be taught a reverence for science.”
Carolyn Porco, “We should let the success of the religious formula guide us.”
11)“The universe is the single exception to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.”
True, this isn’t a totally accepted dogma of the atheist faith - today. Nevertheless, so necessary was this theory to ruling out God as the cause of the universe, that until 1960 fully 2/3's of the world’s Brightest atheist scientists clung for dear life to the belief that this tenet was true. Today’s grudging acceptance of the “Big Bang” highlights how atheists see the constant altering of their former untenable creeds as one of their Belief System’s strongest points. Of course, they wouldn’t need to change their beliefs if they would only go where the evidence leads, instead of trying to force the evidence to take them in a predetermined direction.
12)“No Miracles!”
Even though the universe came into being by a force that operated outside the Laws of Physics, and even though this is a working definition of a miracle, in atheist dogma, No Miracles Are Allowed Or Possible. As Lee Smolin says, “Must all of our scientific understanding of the world really come down to a mythological intelligence . . . [that] wills matter into being? It seems to me that the only possible name for such an observer is God, and that the theory is to be criticized as being unlikely on these grounds.”
13)“It is a given that humans would eventually evolve in conditions present on primordial earth.”
Atheists believe that against impossible odds, it is no accident that OUR KIND OF LIFE finds itself on earth.
14)“Evolution is such a powerful force that life is now, even as we speak, coming into being on other planets.”
15)“Material and natural reality is all that exists.”
16)“Science has proven that God cannot exist.”
17)“Because God cannot be discovered through scientific inquiry, God does not exist.”
“Modern science directly implies that the world is organised strictly in accordance with deterministic principles of chance. There are no purposive principles whatsoever in nature. There are no gods and no designing forces rationally detectable.”
William Provine.
18)“Any knowledge that does not conform to materialism and naturalism will not be allowed into the discussion.”
19)“Reason and scientific inquiry can tell us all that we need to know and all that we can know.”
20)“Atheists are smarter than anyone who believes in God.”
21)“There is no “I” to the human animal. We are a mass of cells and neurons that operate according to the Laws of Nature.”
As atheist actor Woody Allen stated in his defence after he started screwing his daughter, “That heart wants what it wants. Who can understand it?”
22)"Death is the end.”
23) “There is no cosmic purpose.”
24) “There is no Divine justice.”
25) “Free will is an illusion.”
26) “Evil and suffering prove that God does not exist.”
27) “Living by these Beliefs, Tenets and Dogma of the atheist faith is emancipating.”

The following individual best describes today’s modern atheist:
S/He is a lonely, intrepid figure, deprived of cosmic hope, abandoned to h/his own wits, navigating h/her way through the heavens, pitting h/herself against the unknown, refusing to accept the tyrannical sovereignty of God, rebelling against the divine decree, and determined to build out of h/his own resources a rival empire devoted to happiness in the here and now.
This of course is Milton’s description of satan in “Paradise Lost.”
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“It's just a simple lack in belief in gods, much like you're lack of belief (I assume) in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.”

Are you suggesting that Jesus is no more factually and historically true than Santa or the Easter Bunny?
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“I think you'll find that they are far better, as well as more in touch with our times, than ideas written down in a book by camel herders wandering around a desert several thousand years ago.”

Hmm, sounds like you think that truth has a best before date. If you desire insight into the workings human nature, there are few more concise than that found in the description of the fall of man.
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“In fact, if you're honest with yourself I'd say you can read the list of tenets and see yourself reflected in many of them.”

I’d say that I’m in all of them. See tomorrow’s post.
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“We need to grow up and embrace new knowledge that is far more beautiful and wonderous than anything offered by any religion!”

What new knowledge would that be?

Kevin VanDenBreemen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Samuel Skinner said...

Read "The Jungke". It is about the healing power... of socialism. You too can be part of the Proletarian Revolution comrade!

... No, seriously, that is the point of the novel. If you don't believe me skip to the end where the main character is celebrating the fact that the vote returns for the party had double compared to the previous election.

Or look up Hellen Keller's life story- communism gave her purpose.

As it is, the ideas were off from reality (well, not necesarily socialism- we do have worker safety laws, minimum wage and social security as well as some other of their goals).

As it is, it is an effect all ideologies have. However, people who convert to atheism DO report side effects based upon the religion they leave.
http://www.cheerfulatheist.com/

Makarios said...

“You ought to have gone even further and said simply that under any belief system one can feel better about one's actions, so long as that belief system jives with one's actions.”

Yes except that the teachings of Christianity don’t jive with anyone’s thoughts, feelings, actions or motives. How Jesus told us to live is entirely counter intuitive to our “natural” way of thinking and dealing with relationships. Nevertheless, those who are changed from the inside, not by simple force of belief or desire but by the living spiritual power of our Creator are directed to a way of life that, while on the one hand we would have never chosen on our own, yet on the other hand we come out the other side with a peace that truly is beyond understanding. We experience a transformation of character that, while on going or never ending is entirely not of our doing or effort. It's almost like an out of body experience although that is stating it too strongly. Perhaps it's best summed up by the saying, "I'm not who I'm going to be and I'm not who I should be, thanks to God alone I'm not who I used to be." Now anyone can to some degree make improvements in their lives, but the Christian is saying, God did it.

Samuel Skinner - Yes I know. I’m quite aware of how humans work. Before I retired it was my living.

Samuel Skinner said...

"How Jesus told us to live is entirely counter intuitive to our “natural” way of thinking and dealing with relationships."

Except that the theme of self sacrifice and general love pops up again and again. Buddhist monks, several Greek philosophical schools and several major religions also embraced it.

It gives you the feeling of purpose, a feeling of control- that everything will be alright in the end and that you don't have to worry. You can see how come this is- it occurs in every election cycle. A lot of the time we want some one to look out for us and take care of us.

"We experience a transformation of character that, while on going or never ending is entirely not of our doing or effort."

Except that sounds like what you get from self confidence, having support from a community and dedicating yourself to a cause. Not really an inexplicable change.

As it is, Occam's Razor shows we have to take the simpler of the two explanations because they have equal predictively.

Kevin VanDenBreemen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Makarios said...

“Except that sounds like what you get from self confidence, having support from a community and dedicating yourself to a cause. Not really an inexplicable change.”

Oh dude, you don’t have the slightest clue what I’m talking about.

Could you please explain the difference between "force of belief" and "the living spiritual power of [your] Creator?"

Umm, nothing profound. I was referring to the self-improving that virtually anyone can undertake. You don’t have to be a Christian to quit abusing chemicals, you don’t have to be a Christian to quit screwing around on your spouse, you don’t have to be a Christian to lose weight or to become more responsible. Most people try self-improvement at some point in their lives - New Years resolutions are an example.

Others force a belief in personalized spirituality or even a forced belief in Jesus. That’s why when something goes wrong, they no longer believe in Jesus. It wasn’t a genuine belief or a genuine relationship with Jesus, it was forced. They were pretending to themselves that they believed.

For me personally, and for other Christians with whom I’ve spoken, what we know as the Holy Spirit works in us a sanctifying process. It’s a changing from who we are today to something better down the road. But the thing is, it is not by my might, nor by my power but by His power that this change comes about. All I have to do to change is hang around with Jesus, be in His presence, soak up His thoughts and His love.

If you met me today and we began to hang out together, you may or may not think that I’m a “good” guy. But I guarantee you that if you had known me for the last 30 years, you would be knocked on your butt but the transformation that's taken place in my character. I can tell you with all honesty that if I had not become a Christian, my wife and I would be divorced today. My children would hate me. I’d be jail or dead.

As stated, none of this change has been by my effort. Something, Someone has been changing my character little by little into one that more and more resembles the character of Jesus. That’s a terribly uncomfortable thing to say, because I am still such an asshole. Like C. S. Lewis once said, “No one knows how bad he is until he tries really hard to be good. A good man knows how much evil is still left in him while a thoroughly bad man thinks that he’s pretty good.”

“Could you please describe this 'natural' way?”

Me first.

Samuel Skinner said...

That is a non-answer- everything you said could be explained naturalisticly... an using Occum's Razor... you get the picture.