Thursday, December 29, 2011

Do atheists (yes, even Dawkins) do a service to believers?

There's been a lot of late about the relationship of religion and atheism, not just from me, here, but in response to Christopher Hitchens' death.  Here's another one from  Paul Wallace in the HuffPo: (my emphases)
I am convinced that atheists -- at least the ones I have read and the ones I know -- are working largely with conceptual idols when it comes to their rejection of God. They are not rejecting God; they are rejecting ideas. What is more, they are rejecting idols of Christians' making: a God who deals in rewards and punishments, a God who created the world in six days about 6,000 years ago, a God who shames their sexual desire and shuts down their intellect, imagination, and curiosity. It is easy for Christians to lament the fact that that atheists never seem to go after real theology, but we can hardly criticize them for not looking beyond our own idols. 
It's a good thing for atheists to clear out our conceptual idols. We surely don't need them. Such idols are precisely what Christians also must reject. This does not mean a loss of the divine. On the contrary, without a little deconstruction the divine remains gray, flat, and thoroughly boring. 
Atheists, rightly understood, are doing nothing less than prying the husk of our misunderstanding from the brilliant, living actuality of the divine. They're helping us recover God. It's hard work and we've been putting it off for a long time. We should just let them do it.
 So, lots of you often say "I don't believe in the God Dawkins doesn't believe in, either."  But what do you think of the idea that the Christianity specifically, and religion generally, that the new atheists are going after, consists of false idols made by Christians themselves?

So this is another way in which, as we discussed before,  nonbelievers can be important to a community of faith.

(I should point out for those who are new that I don't particularly care for Dawkins and his war on religion, which is why I prefer the term "non believer" or "gratheist" for myself).


Wormwood's Doxy said...


Next question? ;-)

Seriously--I am always grateful to the atheists who ask tough questions--or, like you, hold people of faith to account.

It's the ones who assume I'm an idiot for believing in anything I can't see that get under my skin.


MarkBrunson said...

It depends on how you define Christian.

I'm not one of the polite types who believes just calling yourself that qualifies you.

JCF said...

See re difference between Christians' Jesus, and Christianists' (phonetic) GeezUs.

The former is discerned (prayerfully and HUMBLY) via Scripture, Tradition and Reason.

The latter dictates, (fearfully and contemptuously), via a set of Power-Over Talking-Points, passed down through an almost-exclusively all-male hierarchy [in the Roman or Fundamentalist iterations, respectively. Pavlovian reactions to S~E~X (i.e., abortion and homosexuality) can prompt these two rivals to come together. See re the Manhattan Declaration]

Re the Christians vs. Christianists model, some may cite the "No True Scotsman Fallacy". I would argue that fallacy doesn't apply. Someone either IS or ISN'T a native of Scotland, so the category of "True" is specious.

Whether one is a True Christian, is an absolutely arguable point.

Christianists aren't (I argue!).

Ann said...

Yes -- helps me to clarify my beliefs. I don't spend much time worrying about what others believe or don't believe - I have enough trouble with my own life - just living it in the way that shows I value the gift.

Muthah+ said...

Doubt is absolutely necessary to faith. It is the way those of us who claim faith are able to speak of the ineffable.

If that is the way that they are going to describe Christians, I am not a 'Christian' either. But I know great faith that Jesus the Christ is the Incarnation of God and he came to show us "the Holy One." I am beginning to feel like the Navajos, they are known by a name that is not of their own language.

My question is "how do we take back the name Christian now that it has been hijacked by those who would use it to sell products, get elected, and make money?"

Erp said...

@JCF actually one can have doubt about whether one is or is not a native of Scotland. Does it depend on parentage (both or just one) or on birthplace or a combo. I should point out one of my cousins were born in Scotland of English born parents (though the father had Scottish born parents) but now lives in England. Is she Scottish or English?

BTW some of the Scots are still arguing about whether to celebrate the pagan holidays of Easter and Christmas (look up wee wee frees).

JCF said...

{I SO knew someone would bring up Qualifications of Scottish Nationality! O_o}