I welcome anyone to this site to comment as they see fit. I fear that I may have lost a reader in my move over here. But, if not, it would be appreciated if they would drop a line. You know who you are!
I am currently in the process of studying Christianity, particularly Catholicism (you have to choose a flavor, is how I’ll put it for now) so a lot of posts will be on that topic. I will do other topics as time goes by, and I hope to touch upon some of my thoughts on fiction writing, and even some of my stories.
But first this.
Despite a smattering of Christian education in my youth, I have been a thorough atheist most of my life. Of the Christian education, this consisted of Bible Camp for a summer or two, my father reading my sister and I the Children’s bible at some point, and a couple of trips to church (Lutheran). This also includes the mores of home-life that are instilled, the perspective that your parents try to have you see through, etc.
Of the atheism: this consisted of the usual atheist behavior, a complete repudiation of any upbringing (at least in word, not so much in deed) and the regarding of any non-naturalist subject as silly folly. Jesus and the Tooth-fairy are interchangeable members of a fantasy world. And, as it turns out, a complete ignorance of everything religious.
I held all the atheist-correct views such as the following: religion (and we always meant Christianity) is opposed to science. The one example, that every atheist finds sufficient, was Galileo. A current one is the opposition to embryonic stem-cell research. The argument is that any so-called advancement in medicine, i.e., progress, is good. That is an article of faith that is not to be questioned. Whether it is good, right, to use aborted fetuses to benefit those fortunate enough to not have been aborted, is not to be asked. To ask it, let alone to oppose it, is to oppose science itself.
The unquestioned assumption is this – the opposition to any instance of progress, or, in this case, science (which, usually, in the atheist worldview is synonymous) is to be against science itself.
What you do as an atheist on this question is 1) be entirely ignorant of such things as the development of the university system, the establishment of modern hospitals, the staggering number of Christian scientists (that would be Christians who are scientists, not the denomination that goes by the name Christian Scientist) particularly those that were instrumental in developing our modern science, and also the fact that the standard model of the origin of our universe right now, the Big Bang, was made by a Catholic priest. 2) you ignore such knowledge and fixate on a set category of such historical tidbits that fit your perspective, a la Christopher Hitchens. 3) you bifurcate man and history into two mutually exclusive camps – Reason vs. Faith a la Ayn Rand. And on this last option, when presented with a case of a man of science (reason) and religion (faith) you state (without proof) that he achieved the desirable end reason/science in spite of the undesirable end faith/religion.
The result of the above is to be party to the following sort of quote by Madelyn Murray O’Hair,
“An atheist believes that a hospital
should be built instead of a church.
An atheist believes that deed must
be done instead of prayer said.
An atheist strives for involvement in life
and not escape into death.
He wants disease conquered,
poverty vanished, war eliminated.”
Of the first sentence. one would suppose, knowing nothing of the history of hospitals, that many of them have names like St. Joseph’s or St. Mary’s because the name sounds cool. I submit this – almost all the atheists I ever met, ever, were not interested in hospitals at all – unless they were in need of one. I am not saying there are not caring atheists out there with a sense of justice, but I am saying Christians built our hospitals, not atheists. It is precisely what a Christian is called on to care about. An atheist is not called on to anything. The rest of O’Hair’s doublets follow the same error.
To sum up. I lived the atheist view that we lived in thousands of years of black ignorance and voodoo-like stupid superstition until – bam – the enlightenment (with a slight nod to the antecedent Renaissance). Christ, or rather his followers, killed Rome, and kept the West down until they were defeated by the forces of science.
Now that whole part of my life and how I climbed out of it could be, should be (may very well will be) a series of posts of its own. And I would be justified in naming it thusly: IT IS A LITTLE MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT.
Another aspect that got me thinking about the validity of what I held so dear was simply observing people. I had to lose some of my pride to do this honestly or clearly. I spent over a decade waxing my pride, and deriving pride from that fact. Pride in my pride? Yes, and it is self enforcing. My specialty back at my height was catching people in contradictions. A little exposure to Christian thinking on ethics quickly got me seeing it in practice all around me at this point. I began to see vanity and pride at work, the workings of selfishness, of self-obsession.
I began to see the arguments of the atheists as absurd, dangerous and even insane. Peter Singer and his suggestions of abortion being extended far beyond birth. Sam Harris’ rejection of volition. A semi-prominent Objectivist professor’s serious consideration of whether it would be advantageous to use anencephalic babies as food.
I read after Roger Ebert died that he considered himself Catholic in every respect except for the faith in God part. I found that not only amazing but very sensical as well. The more I read the more sense it makes. Certainly the veneration of Mary is superior to the veneration of Madonna. A sense of sin is superior to the denial of sin. Certainly the unity of man to woman in marriage is superior to the hook-up culture. Certainly St. Thomas is superior to Sartre.
Another aspect that brought about my questioning of my cherished atheism was the result of pursuing a science fiction story of mine. Metaphysically, cosmologically, God seems to be an improving option in my mind.
Although I hasten to add again, IT IS A LITTLE MORE COMPLICATED THAN THAT. Or, as far as God’s nature is concerned in relation to general views of his nature – IT MAY BE A LOT WEIRDER THAN YOU THINK. I cannot buy a conception of God as a bearded guy in the sky, nor of a literal Hell as Dante conceived. I can understand the need for some, and the young, for something more relatable, something more on a level and less abstract. But I believe what lies behind, if something lies behind, would, of necessity, be beyond the grasp of man.