First, a short quiz…
Who am I?
- I attend small groups alongside those with similar convictions, and yet also massive conferences where international speakers celebrate and justify our shared beliefs.
- I have a whole bookshelf in my house dedicated to literature supporting the beliefs I adhere to, quote passages from books to show others where they are going wrong in life, and devote myself to the promotion and expansion of my beliefs by converting those around me.
- I even annoy my friends on Facebook with status updates and sometimes humorous, sometimes not-so humorous pictures/memes that justify my position of faith.
If you guessed ‘a Christian’...you’re wrong.
If you chose ‘an atheist’, give the lady a cigar!
Yup, atheists are just as dogmatic about their beliefs…their faith…as the most fundamental Christian. So why, may I ask, do Christians cop such a beating over their beliefs when atheists rarely do?
Go to any website that even hints at ‘God’ and sooner or later you will find the comments section degenerating into a war-zone of hyperbole and condescending self-righteous dogma (on both sides of the argument) between the ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers.’ Much like the schoolyard, it doesn’t take long for the name calling to begin, with ‘mental illness’, ‘idiot’, ‘infidel’, and ‘ignorant moron’ being thrown around…and those are the more pleasant terms…
Allow me to be upfront here – I believed in God from a young age. When I was younger I used to go to church and served in the ministry, and I still try and live my life based on biblical principals.
It may surprise you to know that I don’t drive down the freeway with my eyes closed safe in the knowledge that the Lord will guide me. Nor have I sold all my possessions in case the rapture happens tomorrow. And you might need to take a seat so you don’t fall over when you find out I don’t actually know what happens to someone after they die.
I am offended because due to my beliefs, some think of me as mentally ill or delusional in some way. I don’t think of myself as a dumbass that goes through life with my eyes closed to the real world, clapping my hands and singing about rainbows and bluebirds.
I like to think that I use the brain God gave me on a daily basis to learn new and interesting things.
And one of the things I have learnt with my God-given brain is that atheists are just the same as me – suffering from the same ‘mental illness’ and ‘ignorance’ commonly referred to as ‘Faith’.
Bertrand Russell, one of the great philosophers of our time, said: The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubt.
The thing I like most about my faith is that it’s not absolute – there is room for doubt and the ‘what if?’ scenario.
In every belief system you get your nut-jobs so enamoured with dogma and strict beliefs that they will actively repress the thoughts and actions of others under the guise of living by their convictions, while actually taking it upon themselves to make sure the world lives by their beliefs, no matter the cost.
Regardless of one’s beliefs, I think we can all agree that suicide bombers, holy wars, genocide, religious persecution and abuse under the statute of doing the bidding of a higher power is wrong on every level. So when you consider that we have become a world where radical Buddhists violently persecute Muslims, led proudly by a monk calling himself the ‘Burmese Bin Laden‘, you know we’re in some kind of strife.
It would be easy for an Atheist to draw examples of evil people justifying their actions with religion, but what about all the good things in the world because of religion? The Salvation Army, Red Cross, World Vision and Compassion are just some companies that enrich the world with the work and help they give. Mother Theresa, Buddha and the Dalai Lama are just some examples of specific religious people that promote peace, charity and compassion.
Crazy comes in all shapes and sizes, but you also need to give credit where credit is due.
My brand of Christianity promotes and even encourages open thought and doubt. Romans 12:2 encourages me to renew my mind daily, taking stock of what I think I might know and then put those thoughts to the test to sift what may be bullcrap and what might be truth. Many atheists assert their absolute truth – ‘there is no god’, with science as their bedrock, championing the gospel of ‘Logic and Truth’.
T.H Huxley (known as ‘Darwin’s Bulldog) and Stephen Jay Gould (paleontologist, evolutionary biologist and historian of science) both state that the scientific method cannot adequately settle and adjudicate the problem of the existence of a God.
The popular arguments are that:
- It has not been proven that God exists THEREFORE God does not exist.
- It has not been proven that God does not exist, THEREFORE God must exist.
Atheists and theists alike love to argue about upon whom the onus of proof falls, but lack of proof neither confirms nor denies a proposition. Both sides hold equal responsibility to justify their beliefs. It can’t just be about proving the other person wrong. It must be balanced out with testing your own faith – about trying to prove yourself wrong.
For me, this is the only reasonable way to approach the concept of ‘belief’ and ‘faith’.
This idea was fleshed out in a June 2013 ‘TED’ Talk by Lesley Hazelton.
For those who don’t know about ‘TED’, it is a non-profit organisation that, in its own words, is devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading.’ Hazelton’s talk, The Doubt Essential to Faith, had as its central premise the idea that without constantly challenging one’s core beliefs, extremist fundamentalism has the space to propagate and spread.
It follows from this that questioning one’s faith is the only way to avoid extremism and is vital in creating a world where differing faiths can exist alongside one another.
Let’s face it – no-one actually has all the answers in life, and I’m pretty sure atheists are not privy to some infinite absolute knowledge about life that the rest of the world is not. If they are, then they’re stuck in a bit of a pickled paradox where they themselves are something of an ‘Infinite Being’ and co-incidentally wouldn’t believe in themselves.
At best, an atheist is just an agnostic wearing a different hat, suffering, like the rest of us, this disease called ‘faith.’