As noted in the two previous blogs in this series, none of these comments are intended to suggest that Atheist views or Christian views are correct on key issues.
Rather the goal is to offer foundation questions and to highlight deep personal experiences of people in either group that led them to the beliefs they have. The hope is that this will stimulate and encourage serious study and reflection on the part of Christians, Atheists, and those of any other belief system who are committed to following the search for truth no matter where it leads.
All that I am sure of is that some of the ancient and post-modern beliefs are true. And some of the ancient and post-modern beliefs are serious errors that need to be uprooted and set aside.
As to which is which, that is what will be shaken out over the next few decades and generations. My hope is that you will find this great endeavor worthy of your best and most honest efforts.
If you have a moment, please read the previous two posts in this series as background.
Here is another primal challenge presented by Evolution to traditional Christian beliefs:
There was no Garden of Eden. There was no fall and no original sin of Adam and Eve. Humans emerged from apes and have known the joys and struggles, the peaceful days and violent clashes of life from the beginning to the present.
If there is no original sin, there is no special role for the “saving grace of Jesus.” There also is no need for the special mission of the various Christian churches to dissolve the bondage and death of original sin. At the very least the role of Jesus and priests and churches and monasteries change considerably.
In short a great deal of the foundation of Catholic, Protestant, Greek and Russian Orthodox views on salvific history collapses. For those new to theology the term salvific history is the story of how man fell into sin and death through original sin and how the life and death of Jesus was essential to repair the damage caused by original sin.
Certainly most conservative Christians will continue to read their readings and conduct their sacraments as though original sin is still the explanation of why there is so much suffering and violence in the world. What they do not dare to admit to themselves is how much their church services will change and how much their tradition will continue to decline as the truths of Evolution and the criticisms of Atheists are accepted by wider sectors of the world’s population. Progressive Christians such as those in the United Church of Christ and the liberal Episcopalians and Catholics are stuck between two worlds. Their church services follow the ancient ways and their focus on Jesus follows ancient practice. But in their hearts many members no longer believe in original sin or that only Jesus can save them or that all other religions are less than true faiths. These churches will also wither away.
On the other hand, what Atheists miss is this: science has no credible explanation at all for the elemental questions of how the universe, or the multi-verse, was created or how it is sustained.
Inflationary cosmology is based in math that has not been verified with empirical data.
Physicists bend themselves, and their math, into contortions trying to explain how a ball of matter smaller than a baseball could possibly expand into 100 billion galaxies each with approximately 100 billion stars.
The proponents of String Theory who say there are 10 or 11 or more dimensions admit they have no evidence of these dimensions or what the shape or nature of these dimensions may be.
Only a few scientists speculate that God is the power that gives birth to universes. Only a few dare speculate that it is the will of God, or some likeness of universal mind or consciousness, that is the power that causes them to expand over billions of years and hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of light years.
Only a few dare speculate on the nature of life not just on other planets like ours, but in the countless other universes and dimensions that seem to abound throughout the rooms and landscapes of existence. What will be found when more freely speculate and explore along these lines?
What do you believe is the true nature of existence?
What truths speak most deeply to you in the center of your heart as to whether God exists or whether the universe is just a large lifeless thing governed by interesting equations?
Please let me know what you find in your search. All constructive comments will be posted.
Will Raymond Author of “The Simple Path of Holiness” host of MeditationPractice.com
I’m not comfortable with the scientific approach that you write about; perhaps because I don’t know enough about it.
I favor an anthropologic approach; that we are affected by tribe/family stories, and that our understanding of things, especially our spiritual beliefs continue to evolve.
I see nothing wrong with using a Garden of Eden myth to help me decide what I believe. I just wonder if atheists do the same thing in some way. What myths might an atheist be comfortable with that helps to shape his or her idea of how things are. I’d be very glad to see a response from one or two of them.
Raised by parents who were anti-religion, I was not exposed to formal or established religions except on holidays and inconsistently. I did try to become more involved
with established religion in my Boston neighborhood, namely the Unitarian
Church, which became a very frustrating experience. I am not an atheist and have
come late to establishing principles of a practice which still is not orderly. Contemplation and meditation has been very gratifying and expanding. I can’t imagine taking a stand and advocating atheism when the power of the universe
radiates and enlivens us/me every day.
Deborah, you wrote that establishing principles of a practice (of your faith?) is still not orderly. How are you able to contemplate and meditate? I think it takes a fair amount of order or discipline which I do not have. Will, this is a question for you, too.
Very interesting subject. I don’t call myself an Atheist but someone else might. I’m a Buddhist and feel that our God Like nature comes from within. I believe in energy that we generate from the actions we take. I’ve met some very vibrant and good Christians that do and try to do good works which I think is what it’s all about. I don’t like the tendency of many religions to exclude people for any number of reasons. I do believe in the spirit going on after death and that life is eternal. I also agree with the idea that we need to look for similarities and not differences in our beliefs.