I have to give a huge thank-you to a person who uses the name RoastedBruno on his comments posted on one of the evangelical websites called Christian Post. Bruno has coined a very useful new word: Christianism. This word he uses in reference to misinformed evangelicals whose version of the Christian faith involves bigotry and willful ignorance. Thanks, Bruno!
As I peruse serious websites devoted to faith, such as the excellent Huffington Post Religion page, there is a constant drumbeat from atheists who claim that they don't believe because they haven't seen proof. In other words, prove the existence of God and they might convert to something. This is an untenable position, although it seems like none of them realize it.
We have to define faith, then. I went to Dictionary.com and got the following:
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.
2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.
4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.
5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith."
Look at definition 2: belief that is not based on proof. Okay, atheists, the whole point of faith is that it takes place without proof. So, in the spirit of Pontius Pilate, let's ask: what is proof?
1. evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true, or to produce belief in its truth.
2. anything serving as such evidence: What proof do you have?
3. the act of testing or making trial of anything; test; trial: to put a thing to the proof.
4. the establishment of the truth of anything; demonstration.
5. Law. (in judicial proceedings) evidence having probative weight."
We are going with definition 4: the establishment of the truth of, in this discussion, the validity of a given religion or denomination, or the establishment beyond doubt of the existence of God. I have never read anything, anywhere, that claimed to prove either the existence of non-existence of God.
Atheists and agnostics will point frequently to human behavior as a pretty good argument that God does not exist, however. They will say that if God existed, we would see several things:
First, God, if he existed, would step in (figuratively speaking) and overrule at least the most egregious acts of human wickedness.
Second, God, if he existed, would stop the progress of disease and interfere with the normal processes of nature.
Third, God, if he existed, would not allow human beings to fight wars.
Fourth, God, if he existed, would somehow force human beings to put an end to human suffering such as hunger.
Fifth, God, if he existed, would not allow forces of nature to do harm, as in tornadoes striking communities and causing damage and loss of life.
Let's look at this idea of God overriding human beings and their desires. Should God make all the guns miss their targets and turn the knife blades of muggers into rubber? Should he change the nature of the human body so that we spend eternity on earth, falling down and getting hurt in no-fault auto accidents? Should God change the personalities of terrorists and soldiers so that they are no longer the people who want to do harm, but all go home to their families to spend their lives as nice guys? Should God rain down food from heaven like the good old days when the wandering Hebrews gathered manna from heaven? Should God wave his hand and send the hurricanes out to sea and stamp down earthquakes before they happen?
And what would that make us? Puppets acting out a controlled life in a prison, that's what it would make us. Do we live lives of consequence, or not? So we want God to control our personalities because he knows better than we do, what's good for us? Or is God supposed to take away all the consequences of bad behavior, so that we have no opportunity to repent or even see the error of our ways, because we won't be allowed to even think bad things? Where would you draw the line?
What do you think of this list? Don't we know already what is good for us? It is religion that tells us once in awhile to please listen to our consciences and do those good things- the unbelievers say that they want to live for today and never worry about consequences.
Now we have the emerging Atheist Church in the U. K., who want to tell us to do the right thing and be happy and live in harmony with the world. Well, why should we if there's no tomorrow? Human nature tells people that they can get away with quite a bit if they are charming and can get people to listen to them. You see them everywhere, in the Church and in other faiths, in politics and running Wall Street.
Could human beings do more about the prevention and cure of diseases?
Could human beings put an end to war all by ourselves?
Can human beings organize to put an end to severe poverty and hunger?
Could we organize to provide more for catastrophic natural events, like building appropriate housing or moving away from vulnerable seacoast areas and areas that are in dangerous volcanic or earthquake zones?
I think the answer to these questions is Yes. And I think that screaming into the wind is not an answer. If you are angry at God because children are hungry in poverty-stricken areas of the world (and the United States), how angry are you with government officials who ignore it and would prefer to pour money into the United States Department of Defense?
If you are angry at God because justice is not always served, how angry are you at corrupt justice systems and bigots who preach hate and encourage one group of people to bully their chosen targets?
Don't get me wrong; people have lost their faith over these issues. There is no shortage of the victims of clerical abuse, to name just one thing, who hate and despise the religion that they were brought up in. Why? Because officials looked the other way when they were abused by preachers and priests.
If you read the autobiography of C. S. Lewis, which is called Surprised by Joy, you will read the ghastly chapter about physical abuse--beating and whipping--of schoolboys in the early Twentieth Century. Any teacher who conducted themselves the way Lewis observed would be in prison today, but their appalling brutality towards schoolboys was considered right and proper by the educational establishment in his time. It was considered the way to make little boys learn to respect their elders and their "betters."
Nowadays we don't allow teachers to beat students, but that should not give us a false sense of superiority. Evangelicals who are trying to inflict their brand of Christianism on the Western World want us to allow them to discriminate against LGBT Americans, abridge their rights, deny them equality before the law, break up the families they try to start, and even drop our objections to hate crimes. How angry does that make you, compared to child abuse? Is it okay if the victims are just a couple of gay guys?
And I can't blame the unbelieving community for holding that against the Christianists who put themselves forward and claim that, as the atheists point out, they have the only true doctrine and the only true understanding of the nature of God. So I will point out once again that there is no such thing as Old Testament Christianity.
There is nothing to prevent American helicopters from carrying food to poverty-stricken communities--nothing except politics. The priorities of America are elsewhere, aren't they? Don't we see a classic example unfolding right before our eyes right now, as the Republican Party carries out their determination that they will never work with President Obama because a black man has no authority to consider himself president? Eight years of obstruction seems to be a small price to pay for refusing to work with that uppity black man, as Rush Limbaugh spelled out on his show when he debuted his musical production, "Barack the Magic Negro."
So it is going on five years now that Republicans have refused to do anything to help the American economy recover--a decision that meant incalculable suffering for thousands of Americans--and they are hanging tough. Obama will not get anything that they can prevent. How angry does this make you, atheists, you who are screaming into the wind about what God is not doing while intransigent Republicans suffer virtually no repercussions, and even get re-elected in their gerrymandered voting districts?
And this conduct is not some kind of natural catastrophe. It is premeditated murder of the American economy and actual living American human beings who will die for lack of nutrition, shelter, medical care...those people would survive this period of hard times if Republicans were not so obsessed with their racial hatred of our President that they will crash the economy and cause this suffering with no apparent hesitation. They don't want to be primaried by the Teabaggers, don't you know.
In Arizona our Governor has finally awakened to the fact that her precious Sequester, which Republicans will not fix because they don't want to give that to Obama either, is going to impact her Border Patrol, and the border watch along the entire southern border of the United States. What did she expect? Cut those programs, funnel all the money into tax cuts, and to hell with common people. Public education, to Jan Brewer, is fluff--but furlough her Border Patrol and she gets the galloping epizooticks.
If you want to do something constructive with your anger, direct it where it belongs. Are Christians telling you, or are they not, that such behavior is wrong? I do not refer to the Christianist evangelicals, but to the denominations that have been working against poverty and injustice all along. You may have no inkling that there are uncounted thousands of monks and nuns operating Catholic shelters for indigent, sick street people.
Have you ever heard of the Reverend Arthur Blessitt, who operated a shelter called His Place on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, where he rescued five or six runaways every night and put them in contact with their parents? He was also the informal Chaplain to Hell's Angels, and visited them in their compound in one of the canyons of the Los Angeles area. He is now more or less retired, but others have taken up his "street Christianity" and carried on that mission. One of them is Jimmy Bakker, son of Jim Bakker the disgraced evangelist, who operates a street church in New York and takes the Gospel to the streets.
Listen, you are not going to get complacency from Christianity. You will find acceptance and unconditional love from Jesus, and you will find a real role model in how to live. But human life is trapped in time, and we are all going to age and die. There is no way to prevent it; we can prolong healthy life, but we cannot make human beings live forever. And for those of you who want to drink, smoke, live on sugar, salt and fat, and live to collect your Social Security--hey, don't blame it on God when you are committing suicide every day.
If there is one thing that is needed in America today--and in particular, in Arizona where people continue to mindlessly vote against their own best interests--it is clear-headed skepticism and analysis of just what is going on. Now if the atheists would direct their healthy skepticism towards our politicians, we might begin to see real progress in some of the things people are publishing and putting out there to start dealing with our problems.