Monday, 13 September 2010

Where does God fit in an increasingly godless culture?

Something i wrote a few years ago in Omelas.

Reading a few of the recently reborn, anti-god books, I couldn’t help but notice that the arguments are as old as some of the trees they were effectively writing on. Even in my young age I found myself incredulous to a good amount of the content. It is not as if the writers prose was inadequate, quite the opposite actually, It’s just I generally abhor repetition.

The books I am of course talking about here are the three most-discussed in the mound of this literature. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins for one, God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens for the second and of course, The End of Faith from Sam Harris. All of these books were a compelling and fascinating read and I do recommend them highly. However, for the many of us “plebiscites”, they will require the attendance of a learned theologian or, just as good, years of counter-study of the other side of the argument.

Now I do mean argument because, for some reason, the issue of where God has his (or her) place in the lives of a big-government influenced West is becoming vocal once more. It didn’t really go anywhere I suppose - there has always been an atheistic belief of sorts even in the time of Plato – the wellspring of otherwise non-militant secularists was with respectable day jobs had been muffled. I presume this muffling of such intellectuals and “enlightened” folk just needed a few flag bearers to start waving again.

Christians on the other hand have been getting increasingly vocal since their religions inception. Their advocates are well-read and have attended universities (shock)! The same questions of Hell, Redemption, Divine Conception, Sanctity and so forth have been asked in every angle conceivable. Some questions, simply because of how they are deemed to work, cannot and will not ever be satisfactorily answered. Christians with little real understanding of their religion bridge God conveniently over these chasms and call the mystery solved. This poor attempt at a “science of the gaps” usually ends in tears and frustration. Understandably Atheists become more and more belligerent and bellicose and vice versa.

Advocates of an atheistic world view - the so called “Brights”, a term coined by the biologist Richard Dawkins – are not immune from reciprocal admonition at all. They’re belief in Natural Selection and the Theory of Evolution constitutes a religion also and when under request to provide evidence for their belief –just as the do to other religions – they fail miserably. In fact every new scientific advance or discovery that may in some way verify their outlandish beliefs is grasped with tight security even in the face of intense examination. Such “confirming discoveries” generally end up on the wacko side of the scientific realm. Examples of Archaeopteryx and the fraud of the human single cell to full form are but only two.

Both sides have fair and honestly defended viewpoints on what exactly should be taught to children, used as political fulcrums or concentrated on in the laboratories. However, I think the atheists are on the right track in regards to Christianity and Islam.
Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris all come to pretty much the same conclusion - more or less. They agree that the world’s two largest religions are effectively defunct in our modern world. Two largely medieval faiths based on a heinous mix of both man’s and a purported “God’s” divine word. Countless individuals - echo the three Brights - have experienced misery and pain at some of these tightly held dogmas murderously entertained by power hungry men of history. Events such as the Inquisition, the Crusades, the raiding sweep of the Saracens into Europe, and the continuing genocide of thousands of Muslims by Muslims in the Middle East, are held in disgust by the authors.
And rightly so, these events are a terrible blot on our planets history and serve as a reminder that absolute power can indeed corrupt absolutely.

But just because something doesn’t fit or has failed does not for a moment mean that it should not be at least attempted to be repaired. Imagine how dark it would be if Edison had given up after his first bulbs failure. And so it should be with religion this writer says.
I grew up in a Christian home and have attended a church for the greater part of my discerning life (my years of church attendance before age 14 I regard as the pure obeying of parental orders). This has given me, like many in the West’s recent generations, a biblical background. What I was told was good and righteous I commonly let flow right past my critical defences and let it become part of my intellect if you will. Stories that many adults past forty years-of-age will regard as instrumental in their childhood – Jonah and the Whale, Noah’s Ark, Jesus and Christmas – I share in having appeared in my childhood as well. And just like those adults I was also expected to believe without speculation or inquiry.

Upon reading these books at my young age (20) I found my childhood foundations being rocked. Suddenly none of what I was told made sense and I began to get a feel for what was correct and what was fallacious. I have never read the Bible cover to cover but had heard enough sections read aloud almost to count as a personal reading accomplishment. So to follow what some of the Atheistic authors pointed out in the Bible was fascinating for me.

I have discussed what I have read with many learned people of faith much older than I and their answers to the many questions I had just discovered were mostly unsatisfactory. However, they succeeded in giving me fresh insight into what was once a naïve and childish view of Christianity. It has since evolved into a more critical- this is a good thing I believe – view and what Dawkins et al had revealed to me was intriguing.
Church for me has always seemed like a waste of perfectly good time and since I have stopped attending I have rediscovered a whole two hours (sometime three) I never had on Sunday mornings. Church is a performance and a vehicle for entertainment purposes only. Some people find this appealing, although I find it repelling. What is preached and how it is rejected by Dawkins and crew as convincingly and compellingly as I came to expect. What surprised me though was just how much I agreed with them.

God snuggles into our individual lives obviously as best as He sees fit, and how he fits into our culture as a whole will be up to Him if he is as omniscient and omnipotent as he makes out to be. But our church leaders over the centuries since Christ have doggedly held onto repulsive dogmas and beliefs from a bronze-age culture that lived in a completely different time period to ours. Their culture and way of life was remarkably different from ours now and retention of their laws/customs is detrimental to our collective progression.

I think it is high time we had another “Council of Nicea” or “Trent” to figure out exactly where God fits in to our twenty-first century world. To continue down the path that we are taking – of the holding and obeying of extremely time-specific laws – will only lead to more blots on the world history I fear. Rediscovering what many older Christians hold as dear and what Jesus actually said will be critical if Christians are to gain any relevance in an increasingly godless culture.

No comments: