Why believe in a god?

whybelieveDuring my recent DC trip I came across an interesting ad campaign.  There were posters on the Metro train that asked the question, “Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness sake.”  I couldn’t wait to find out more about what was going on here.  I’ve blogged a bit before about the idea of atheists starting to “evangelize,” for lack of a better term.

After I got home I looked up their website (whybelieveinagod.org).  Turns out this is an ad campaign put out by Free Thought Action and the DC Area Secular Humanists.

ftabillboard6j

Both of these  organizations cast themselves more as humanists than atheists or agnostics.  Not that they shy from those terms, they just seem to avoid those labels, which is probably a good idea and more accurate.  Regardless of their level of disbelief, it’s fair to say they put human logic and knowledge above faith in their “belief system.”

What I found most interesting is the focus on logic as a defining characteristic.  Free Thought Action chose their name with reason when they say, “We hope you’ll join us to promote eyes-wide-open facts, not blind faith, as the foundation of our society.”

The implication here is that humanism uses reason, facts, and science to come to its conclusions, while religion is more naive and close-minded.

On the one hand this characterization bugs me.  I can’t speak for the other religions they speak of , but I think Christianity is miscast too much as a foolish, non-thinking system of belief.  Faith is not the absence of all doubt; it’s not just “believing in what you can’t see.” It’s belief based on what we do know, and being willing to take the next step into we can not be sure of.  In that way I think it is actually more intellectually honest than humanism in many ways.

But I can’t help but wonder if we (christians) have painted ourselves into this corner.  By fighting against culture and society and refusing to engage, we come off bull-headed, foolish, and weak.  When we are too quick to lash out and defend, it makes us look afraid.

I think we may have asked for people to assume we don’t know what we’re talking about.

If  God is so defenseless, if culture is so scary, if our religion is on the verge of disaster at every turn . . . why believe in a god?

I know I don’t want to believe in that God.

Honesty is the Best Policy

One final thought on this weeks atheism discussion:

Justified or not, many people still like to consider America as a “Chrisitian Nation.” Most americans identify themselves as Christians, say they believe in God, they pray, etc. But what this amounts to is a christian culture that is not the same as a christian lifestlye or worldview. Everyone likes to say they are christian, but ultimately what does that mean?

I’m not trying to be legalistic here, far from it. But giving yourself or your group/culture a name generally identifies you as something. What does being a christian mean?

Some might say that “evangelical” means something, but I’m pretty unhappy with that label as well. But that’s another blog.

Back to this christian culture. In my experience, many/most people are lifestyle atheists. That is by no means meant to be a cut against atheist or their morals. But just as atheists have no reason to give thought to what God may have to say about what they think or do, most people who claim to be christian are in no way different. And if I’m honest, a large amount of the time I can do the same thing. So what does it all mean?

It is not our decision what other people do, so I doubt we can actually “fix” the problem of the lifestyle atheist. We can be realistic, however. We are not a Christian nation, and we need to deal with that. Facing the facts leads us to a path of solution.

We who claim to be Christians need to be honest and forthright about our failures rather than brushing them under the rug. Along with that we must show grace and love to those who fail.

One additional final thought to the atheists who have read/may read the blog: I acknowledge that we Christians are broken and that we fail to live up to our own ideals. We often hold culture to standards that we ourselves do not keep. However as we try to extend grace to others we also want to be honest and stop pretending. We want to be real. We know that we can’t begin to discuss issues of science if we can’t even be honest about the issues of our heart.

So keep us real and keep us honest. Call us out when we don’t love God and love Others. We promise to keep you on your toes if you keep us on ours.

Save a Tree, Hug an Atheist

(Sorry about the title, I couldn’t help it)

I receieved some interesting thoughts this weekend after my post related to Atheism.  I posed a question at the time, how should Christians approach atheism & atheists . . .

For me I would say as a friend and as someone we can disagree with civilly.  Someone we can work with when we have similar goals, as we often do.  I talked before about how we should not act out of misguided fear.

Atheists are definitely not people to be fought.  Hopefully I’m not splitting hairs here, but there is a difference between disagreeing with a worldview and fighting against a person.

I will also say that I have plenty of Christian friends who do not disrespect or fear atheists.  Not every Christian fits the stereotype any more than atheist fit the stereotype of being a bunch of God-gating, orgy-having hippies.

I have learned over time that it seems like everyone, both  religious and secular, feel as if they are in some way discriminated against by society and each other.  So what does it mean to show respect to each other’s ideas?  What are we missing are doing backwards that large groups in both arenas feel they have been wronged?

More later . . .

New Atheism

From Wired.com by Steve Piexotto

Image from Wired.com

I was referred to an excellent article today on atheism by Tall Skinny Kiwi.  

It comes from Wired magazine.  The story is a discussion of the views of New Atheism.  If you’re not familiar, this movement basically asserts that atheists should not be passive, but be secular evangelists.  Some provocative books have made headlines recently from this group, one of the best know being The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  

To varying degrees this group of atheists believe religion is actually a source of evil, and should be systematically eradicated; it is not a system to be tolerated.

But that’s another blog.

What I do plan to talk about today is how I’m not running scared.  Nope, not today.  I’m also not going to cry “apocalypse.”  The fact is there has always been disbelief in God.  Yes, their is a certain fashion to the New Atheism lately and a bit of media frenzy.

But I do know that God is not giving up any time soon, and my beliefs are strong enough not to be afraid of someone else’s disbelief.  I rather like this quote from Daniel Dennet, an athiest: 

“if you have to hoodwink – or blindfold – your children to ensure that they confirm their faith when they are adults, your faith ought to go extinct.”

I think his point extends beyond children to all of us.  If we have to run in fear and anger from atheism, then how strong is our faith really?

So how do we approach atheists and atheism then?

That’s also another blog.  One for next week at least.