Sunday, April 14, 2019

Christianity 101 for Atheists

One of my favorite atheists likes to post Facebook memes about magical thinking and fairytale stories that gullible Christians eat up without question.  Some of them are quite funny because they contain an element of truth.  Magical thinking is a hole some fall into.  Treating scripture too literally can lead to interpretations that sound like fairytales.  On the other hand, fairytales retain their place in history because they reveal real truths about human nature, and our collective fascination with magic unveils a deeply held sense that we are connected to spiritual realities in ways we don’t understand.  

Knowing that doesn’t help explain Christianity to fairytale loving atheists, but it might create an opening.  Among other things, the fairytale god they don’t believe in is one I don’t believe in either.  But I do believe there is a God, and that God has revealed God’s self to us in many ways.  I also believe in spiritual reality that is not the same as biological reality, although biological reality is one way through which we can experience spiritual reality.  

There are a variety of ways people believe in any religion, and some of them leave us scratching our heads, but each religion has its own foundation for how some people believe or don’t believe in it.  One problem with today’s Christianity is that many believers quit learning anything about it back in church school.  A juvenile understanding of one’s faith is not adequate for the adult world, but we seem to be stuck with it.  Maybe that’s why so many Christians appear to believe in a fairytale religion.

At its core, Christianity can’t be adequately understood without first understanding its Jewish roots, and the story scripture tells about it. Sometimes literal, sometimes poetic, sometimes polemic, but always metaphorical, the Hebrew texts, covering 2,000 years of experience trying to understand God, unveil a deep understanding of the human condition and divine intention.  If you have trouble taking some of it seriously, ask yourself how it can be understood metaphorically.  As rabbinical literature attests, there is no end to how metaphorical reading sheds new light on old questions.

By contrast, the New Testament of Christian scripture covers a mere 65 years, with its greatest emphasis on only three.  There are some basics.  The Word of God became flesh and lived among us in Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus established parameters for understanding divine intent by defining what the commandment to love means, declaring that God’s love extends to all people, everywhere, in every time, and by demonstrating that life, as we experience on earth, is not the whole picture.  He made it clear that to believe in him meant to follow him, and not something else.  

What Jesus isn’t is just another good teacher of love and morality.  For Christians he is the living presence of God dwelling among us.  Therefore, he has ultimate authority.  We have no king but Jesus was a threat to the rulers of his day, and still is to the rulers and bosses of today.  His death and resurrection are understood by different people in different ways, but all agree it was, and is, the definitive demonstration that there are no powers of any kind, however brutally applied, that can force God into submission.

Jesus said he came that we might have life in abundance, and he interpreted the ancient scriptures to more fully explain what that means.  He laid out the path, led the way, and invited all to follow him on it.  He is not a best friend, spiritual teddy bear, magical healer, fairy godmother granting wishes. He is the Word of God made flesh.  In him all humans are made worthy to stand before God as one of God’s beloved.

You may not buy it, but I hope these few words have offered a bit more understanding for you.  Feel welcome to contact me with any questions you may have.             




No comments: