instead of believing in another religion?
So asked Rachel Lucas in a blogpost titled
"This should turn out really, really well."
[Correction: Rachel is not an atheist. She believes in God, yet does not self-identify with any religion.]
Her opening sentence:
"Sometimes I get in the mood to debate Christians. WHY? Dunno."
It's a credit to Rachel that civilized Blog Comments discussion broke out over the ensuing 24 hours, and has yet to abate.
Rachel's question is a gift. It motivates valuable reflection about one's most intimate beliefs.
My first comment (slightly edited):
The wisdom of the Christian Gospels clunks deep inside my soul. It is profound. I find it illogically conspiratorial to believe uninspired men dreamed that wisdom up — whether in the interests of self-aggrandizement, or even in the cause of doing good. I do not believe men created the lessons of the Gospels - inclu. the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees - on their own initiative.
Watergate figure Chuck Colson’s writing affected me. Colson focused on Jesus’ resurrection. If the resurrection didn’t happen, Christianity is a lie. Colson focused on the Apostles. After the resurrection, the Apostles spent the remainder of their lives travelling the land, preaching the news about Jesus. This was not materially beneficial to the Apostles. They suffered for their actions. They left behind their families, and their former material prospects. They suffered threat of death and imprisonment. If Jesus had merely died; if the Apostles had not witnessed His resurrection, their subsequent actions are illogical.
Compared to Christianity, I find other religions shallow and wanting.
For instance: Part of Buddhism’ shallowness is that it is largely about avoiding pain. I believe pain exists for eternal purpose.
Hinduism: Many Gods? No.
Islam: Purports legal rules for governing + Allah has freedom to act in unreasonable fashion. No.
Judaism: I love Judaism. However, I believe Jesus updated Judaism(perfecting it, natch). As an example, there is no modern day purpose for keeping certain foods separated from each other.
However, I don’t discount Judaism on the basis of nitpicks. I’m not certain I hang on every single word of the New Testament, either. The main reason I am not Jewish is that I believe in the Christian Gospels.
Most atheists refuse to acknowledge truth which cannot be explained via Earthbound logic. This is where most atheists fail to comprehend religion and spirituality. Our existence is not merely about our time on Earth, and our existence is not merely about what humans can logically, horizontally understand and conceive.
My second comment:
I have read or skimmed all of these comments. Most non Christian comments are focused on Earthbound logic. Most Christian comments are focused on truth the Christian commenters can sense, yet cannot explain via Earthbound logic and language. This separation between Earthbound logical understanding vs. Christian spiritual understanding is the gap which must be breached if one is to make the leap from non Christian to Christian.
I know what it is like to stand on the non Christian side of this gap. From there, the Christians look like illogical idiots. I can only say, if you are standing on the non Christian side of this gap: as a Christian, I believe there is more to existence than what can be explained and understood via human words. There is tangible truth which does not exist at a level of understanding definitions and concepts. This truth only exists at a level of experiencing it; of interacting with it; of living it. One cannot understand a Christian unless one is a Christian. Christianity is either experienced, or not understood.
People who have life after death experiences frequently say the same thing:
“I suddenly understood everything. There are not human words to describe what I understood.”
The Christian experience is somewhat like that.
When commenters use descriptions such as “inspired”, or “faith”, they are trying to describe what cannot be described, and what can only be experienced. There have been outstanding, educational comments which have been blessings to me. Rather than those, I have picked out some comments which focus on the unexplainable:
Mighty Samurai @ 10:15 pm: you are basically asking them [Christians] to explain that which is fundamentally inexplicable.
Bob(a nonbeliever) @ 4:25 pm: Subjective experiences…evidence that was sufficient to convince him… but for him, his “faith” was a rational thing supported by the evidence of his own senses.
Jacob @ 5:07 pm: I choose to believe based on personal, subjective experience. I feel a connection with God, a certain peace or joy, when I pray. There’s simply no better way to put it.
Cosmo @ 6:05 pm: So why do I practice my Latter-day Saint faith today? It has less to do with what I’ve read as it does with what I feel. That’s the sticky item with things spiritual. I believe, based on personal experience, that God reveals his truths to those who seek him….
abd @ 6:11 pm: I forget who wrote this, but I remember a quote that went something like, “I was an atheist until I looked at my sleeping child and admired his ear. The perfection and beauty of the ear made me believe in God.” (Not the exact words.) I’ve had similar experiences. When I’ve been at my lowest, such as when I wanted to kill myself about ten years ago, I remember praying as a last resort, because everything else I tried didn’t help me feel better. After I prayed, I felt more calm and at peace. When I have specifically asked God for help in dealing with a difficult situation, there has been an “answer” for me in that I feel what’s “right.” There is a feeling that I have experienced from time to time, and it’s the proof I need.
Chris @ 8:30 pm is a scientist who spends many words on logical evaluation. Yet, his Christianity finally comes down to unexplainable conception which is guaranteed to drive most atheist readers crazy:
I became a Christian as an adult… I have never questioned that decision, because I know it to be right. I cannot debate it, or argue it, but I know it to be right just the same. I have on numerous occasions wondered whether I was wrong, or whether I really believed, but when I examine myself, I know that what I believe is true.
Richtermarc @ 10:42 pm: I demand logical arguments and proof. And yet, every so often, the Creator of the Universe will break through and show me something so freaking amazing that I have no choice but to fall down and worship Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength.
Wondering Woman @ 10:05 am: I wish I could give you something concrete because I know exactly what you’re asking because your words were mine not so long ago…. You know the pictures you have to stare at for awhile and then they suddenly pop into 3D and after that you can never see them any other way …. I think that’s why Christians have such a hard time explaining how they know — you just do.