Considering a happy atheist: 9-18-14
September 18, 2014
Theists and atheists continue to make their arguments, sometimes in a friendly way, often in ways that are, to say the least, disrespectful and inhospitable.
Those latter qualities were one reason I shut off comments here on the blog. The comments had turned into one more nasty platform for uncivil discourse, and I didn't want to be responsible for offering such a useless and even destructive thing.
Sometimes atheists offer fascinating, cogent, respectful but revealing explanations of why they have abandoned belief (if they ever had it).
For instance, this Patheos blog describes the benefits the author feels he obtained by leaving religion. It's worth a read.
But as you read it, ask yourself if the religion he left is one you, too, might have left. In reading between the lines, I discovered that the faith tradition to which he was attached is one I wouldn't want to be attached to, either.
For instance, he writes that without religion, "you don’t have to be ruled by your need to have answers to all your questions." No healthy religion would promise answers to all your questions. Indeed, healthy religion simply helps you live with the questions and accept that at times we don't have answers. Instead, we have silence or ambiguity.
He also writes this: "My change of mind energized my dormant scientific side." In healthy, open religion, there is no reason to have a dormant scientific side of one's mind. All questions should be asked, including hard scientific ones. Religion that pretends to answer all or most of the questions of science is a fraudulent faith.
Finally, he says that "Religious belief taught me, for example, to judge the LGBT community for being attracted to anything other than 'the appropriate sex.'" Well, yes. Certain segments of certain faiths get that wrong (for my essay on what the Bible says about homosexuality, look under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page). And it's a good thing to ditch an approach to faith that misreads scripture in this way, but that doesn't mean all of religion gets this wrong.
Well, there's more, but this is one more case of someone saying he doesn't believe in God and it turns out I don't believe in the God he describes, either. But there is, nonetheless, a credible, loving faith available. Sorry this guy hasn't found it yet.
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WHERE IT STARTED
A historic church in Atlanta could soon get national recognition for its role in the formation of the civil rights movement. Good. Let's not lose that history.
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THE BOOK CORNER
When Saint Francis Saved the Church: How a Converted Medieval Troubadour Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages, by Jon M. Sweeney. The world was surprised and intrigued when the first Jesuit pope chose to be named after St. Francis of Assisi, the 13th century visionary who, Sweeney argues, remade the Catholic Church in his 44 short years on earth. Sweeney does his best to draw our attention away from the saint of the myriad statues seen around the world and to the real human being, especially what he calls his "revolutionary approach" to friendship, "The Other," provery, sprituality, care and death. In fewer than 200 pages, he gives readers not just a look back at St. Francis but also a sense of how the new pope who took his name may be changing the church in harmony with the old saint's life and thinking. One complaint about this book is that, like so many others that need one, it doesn't have an index in the back. I'm not sure how this no-index trend started, but I wish it would end.
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P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online here.