"Some Email Dialog about Religion", a response by David G. McDivitt
Thanks for your reply. I'll respond below:
>I appreciate your candor and your thoughtfulness, but I believe you have, as most religious people have, ignored certain points. Of course, the points I make here will be generalized as were your's, and do not include the whole of any philosophy/religion/sect.
I fail to see how I've ignored anything. Our perspectives are simply different. Because they are different, you cannot assume I have ignored anything. As you, my opinions are based on my experience. Reductively speaking, whatever experience produces whatever result. Try as you might, but you shall not effectively make any claim with regard to any absolute values or absolute knowledge, therefore making your opinion more significant than mine. You are welcome to try, but I assure you, I am well experienced at debating with people who seek to take the high moral or subjective ground. The only way you can do so is to convince *me* of your perspective. Do not confuse convincing yourself with convincing me.
>1. Atheism is a religion insofar as it is a belief system in reference to god/God. The word "atheism" itself contains reference to God ("theo").
No it is not. On the outset, I do not agree with your definition of terms. The root "theo" is merely an encumbrance having to do with culture, and the fact some people in our society accept the fantasy of God while others do not. If I was a Christian, living in a Moslem country, calling myself Amoslem or Aislam would have no significance whatsoever, except with regard to my relationship with the culturally established definition of Allah. To effectively debate the issue, you must be willing to meet me on equal terms, accepting how your belief in God is an opinion, just like my lack of belief is one as well. Are you willing to do that, or do you wish to continue viewing reality and other people merely with regard to the way they line up with your narrow minded definitions?
>2. Instutional religion has never represented the heart of the religion itself. "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24). This does not imply that Christian religion is exclusive, but that many will seek their own righteousness, their own philosophies, their own salvation.
When I was a Christian, I readily criticized the way other people practiced the same religion. You shall not be able to illustrate to me any effective way of practicing Christianity, except as a simple moral and cultural model, laying alongside many others of equal verbiage and dogma.
>3. Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucionism, Islam, Taoism, and Christianity, among others, seek mystical enlightenment, which involves, first of all, coming to terms with oneself or being introspective for the purpose of discovering the mysteries within one's own being. Your own personal quest for truth involved something similar, as you searched the scriptures, reading them in the ancient languages. The fact of those internal mysteries seems to be more and more apparent as we read headline news about children shooting children and their parents claiming their child would not have done such a thing. Paul writes about his own struggles with personal mystery in Romans 7 as he describes his struggles. Frederick Buechner describes his own struggles as they intersect the lives of others in various books (Telling Secrets, The Sacred Journey, Alphabet of Grace, Now & Then, to mention a few).
I fail to see how Christianity is any different than other religions you note. It is simply the Western variety of the same thing. A parallel is French hand-to-hand combat as compared to the better know oriental variety. They each contain many of the same elements.
>4. Judaism, Christianity and Buddishm claim that human beings seek to displace Truth by their own intervention/invention/ego. The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis is about trying to replace the truth of God with human endeavor. Adam Smith's invisible hand proposes that human selfishness will create an economically just system for all. The philosophy of egoism, which I have been recently contemplating, proposes that human selfishness, operating within certain pure principles and rules, will create a just society. Karl Marx and his companions proposed that human justice could be achieved if the lower classes would rise in violent opposition to the authoritarians and create a new world order. Capitalism continually creates its own powerful who oppress others by virtue of the fact that they can, given the wealth and power they have attained. Victims are always created out of human selfishness. Perhaps egoists, in the tradition of Social Darwinists, believe this to be a good thing; the weak will eventually fail and become extinct and, as Adolf Hitler imagined, a superior human race would evolve from the ashes, once corrupt races were gone. Of course, evolution and biology teach us that propogating the genetically weak is ultimately harmful to the whole species, but that supposes that persons like Stephen Hawkin and others have no socially redeeming value. Perhaps it is a codependency, but my own experience, however mystical and misinterpreted, teaches me that we must look beyond human wisdom to find the truth that saves the human race, rather than destroying it. Of course, due to the real fact of human selfishness and the human god Ego, human beings will continue to falter and fail. Failing to do good is as great a misdeed as doing evil. Both allow evil to continue in the world, which reality is evident throughout history and religious people, absent of religion's ideals, have propogated evil's reality.
You make some good points, but it all has to do with whatever identity a person happens to fixate upon. Your understanding of egoism philosophy is partial, at best. The egoist acknowledges the fact, if a person fixates on whatever social identity, that person shall never fully dissociate from all representations of self. Such a person shall continue to have some aspect of self awareness. Even Jesus speaks in terms of self on occasion. To eliminate this duality, Christians readily indulge in what they call "theology", in an attempt to logically reconcile this hypocrisy. Please give me example of one Christian sect, fully without any aspect of hypocrisy, then show me how God successfully represents himself through such fantasy, without regard to any aspect of human will in trying to discover who he is. Egoism is simply a model whereby people allow themselves to cut this hypocrisy short, thereby living more effective and logically satisfying lives. If you wish to continue having society and culture establish your logic for you, then continue being a Christian. I assure you, I have no problem with your continuing to do that.
>5. It would be easier, in a modern scientific world, not to believe in a God who allows such evil to exist, but that God cannot be replaced by human philosophy or by scientific empericalism or imperialism, because both have fostered and perpetuated human evil, destruction, and oppression, as well as threatening the global well-being on which all earthly life depends. The real answers, the real truth, the real salvation of humankind lies beyond present knowledge, ideals, practice, philosophy, or even theology. Isaiah has God say, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The real salvation of mankind rests in nothing more than social evolution. Recognize the great evolution which has taken place in Christianity itself, then explain to me how Christianity is any different than any other social system.
>6. Egoism proposes that religion is only relevant insofar as people accept it as such and that religious leaders have no authority or office apart from that ordained them by the people of the church/congregation/community. Of course, this relies on a belief that there is no God and the same criteria must be applied to egoism; otherwise, egoism has no basis. Egoism therefore has no authority or truth apart from that people are willing to give it. But then, Christian faith and others have long asserted that human self-centeredness has always been the greatest source of evil, of deception, and of human suffering.
First of all, failing to subscribe to the fantasy of God is not a belief. What does a rock believe? It just sits there. Can you effectively say nonbelief on the part of the rock is in any way proactive? Please make your claim to this effect. By the same token, my lack of any profession of faith is in no way proactive. It is merely empty and absent. Rather than categorizing me as believing the wrong thing, is it possible for you to categorize me as believing in nothing? This is the most difficult thing for theists to do in their consideration of atheists. I do not accept God as any reality or standard, thereby rebelling against that standard. An atheist is not merely a rebellious human being, going against the will of God. An atheist is a person who rebels against cultural fixations and fantasies, only. An atheist does not wish to be subverted to these things, in thought or action. An atheist recognizes the history of cultural change, realizing as well, no true representation of God exists except through whatever social and cultural model. To put your mind at ease, I am for the most part an ethical person, and I do not seek to kill you. I am much more willing to *allow* you to have your perspective, than you are willing to let me have mine. Does the fact I am happy, successful, intelligent, ethical, and at the same time totally godless, bother you? Well it shouldn't. I will only resist you to the extent you wish to subvert me to your fundamentalist, fascist, controlling view of the world and social order.
>7. Your experience of Christian theology seems rather narrow. Perhaps you gave up on the tradition in which you had believed. Perhaps it was one in wihch you grew up, but there are different expressions of the faith. Of course, there must be if the way is narrow and human beings are always looking for their own truth.
You are correct, no doubt. There are limitless variations. Please feel free to continue sacrificing yourself to whatever cultural representation. I no longer choose to do that, and saying so pretty much sums up my view.
>Again, thanks for your thoughts. Your quest and your present location are provocative for me.
>Of course, there is much more we could discuss. Many more points to be made in either direction, but if there is a God, and I believe there is, then that God will be the ultimate judge of what is true, regardless of wavering human wisdom or grandiose human rhetoric.
>Allen W. Snider
I am glad I have titillated you. Truly I am. When it turns out there is no God, you unfortunately will never know that. Your reward is in this life, through the satisfaction you gain by being willfully obedient to your particular cultural expression. I wish you all the best, and may you enjoy your life. I am now enjoying mine as well.
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