The Bottom Line on Atheism and The Totally Other
For the last few years I have been trying my best to understand the new atheist movement and all of its ranting and raving against God and religion. Then it dawned on me, that I could not understand them because we were not talking about the same things. The god and religion that they are ranting against is not the God I believe in or the religion I practice.
The majority of them talk about a god that I believed in at one time and a religion I was a part of when I was a young man. However, I no longer believe in that god nor do I practice that religion. It took a number of years on my journey to find The Wholly Other; or should I say for him to find me and to lead me out of the forest of religious idols I was lost and hiding in.
Looking back on my journey it is hard to understand why it took so long to be found by the Lord seeing that “We live and move and have are being in him”, though he, himself has no being, for He is being, i.e. He does not have existence rather he is existence. Therefore, there really is no way to argue for his existence for he does not exist in the way we think of existence. So, what are we arguing for, or against? I will get back to this later.
I found that not only do the new atheists have a different vision of The Totally Other, they (at least the majority) had a different vision of religion, which is as narrow as their vision of the God symbol. They seem to believe that all religion is the same, which in their minds means that all religion is bad. Of course, it does not take much thought to realize that the word religion is a word that points to a concept which is as deep and broad as the ocean. Therefore, when the new atheists start bashing all religion and lumping it all together it makes me wonder how much real thought they have put into their subject. I have found some so allergic to the word religion that they cannot even admit that religion can be good or bad. This strongly points to the level of maturity of so many in that movement. They take a thumb full of the ocean and believe that they have captured the ocean. I am not saying this in malice but I believe that many these people have some deep problems.
You may have noticed that I have tried to avoid using the word God, the reason being that the word has been so vulgarized and distorted that it has lost any value in helping us to understand the mystery that I refer to as The Wholly Other. The distortion of the God symbol is one of the real problems with religion and atheism.
Religion should help us in our journey to The Totally Other. However, instead of helping it often hinders by giving us false ideas of God, these false images in ancient times were called idols. The problem with idols is that there is no image or thing in reality or in the mind of humanity that can picture The Totally Other. All images of God created by humanity whether in mind or in stone, are idols because they are too small and distort the symbol we use for The Totally Other, i.e. God. The false ideas of God in turn him and him I solicit a false responds e.g. the new atheists.
This means that the atheist that has a pure heart may be closer to having a correct view of God than many believers. That is, if he has no image of God in his mind. You see nothing is better than the something if the something is wrong. This is why I call the something that you cannot image or speak about, The Wholly Other, the uncreated one, I Am or maybe nothingness? I do it to keep people from creating a false image of God that is too small.
Of course, the problem is that for both believer and atheist, religion stands as a mediator between them and The Wholly Other. You see, for the atheist to argue against God he must have an image of that God in his mind. Whatever image he has in his mind is simply an idol. This is the only reason why they can form an argument against it, for no argument can be formed against the Wholly Other for he lies beyond all argument. The majority of men will never get beyond the idols of this world whether they claim to be atheist or theist, i.e. their God is too small. I often wonder how humans could become so corrupt that the scripture would tell us that every imagination of their heart was corrupt, I now know; their God was too small, they were idolaters.
The theist often creates a God in their own image and then projects that image into heaven. The atheist then comes along and says that is not God and they are right. It is an idol that can be manipulated and controlled by man. It is the god of the religious man and the atheist. A god that is created for the opium of the people; or as a tool to control the herd. On the other hand, the deist created an aloof impersonal God that is somewhere out there beyond everything, located in some distant heaven, too aloof to be involved with his creation. Of course, any god that can be herded into some small corner of space and time is just too small to be The Totally Other. It also is an idol.
The high theists of the world know The Wholly Other, since they know, that they know little or nothing of being. They confess that they are quite ignorant of The Total Other. They understand, as Isaiah the prophet also understood; “His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.” To them the word God is a symbol which stands for the limits of their knowledge. This knowledge calls for humility and they are careful not to over speak on the subject of the deity.
You may ask, “Are you saying we can know nothing of being?” No, I am saying that you can only know what He has revealed to you. How does He reveal Himself? One way is through nature and the study of it, that is science. The study of nature has reviewed how great and powerful the Wholly Other is and how different he is from humanity. This knowledge should create awe and wonder in ones spirit, which is true spiritual worship. Unfortunately, many that study nature end up worshipping nature, failing to see that she is an arrow pointing to that which is beyond her. As the seer says when the prophet points at the moon the majority look at his thumb. For many science and religion has become the study of the thumb.
Some may say that this Wholly Other dwells in a cloud of darkness and mystery. Why does he hide Himself? Why does He not reveal Himself? Well, I do not think He is the problem, I think the trouble lays elsewhere. Could it be that He is so awesome and so glorious that in our present form we cannot approach Him without melting into nothingness. This unapproachableness is pointed out in the bible when God tells Moses, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20).
There is the real possibility that the darkness that hides the Wholly Other is the darkness that is in the human heart. Jesus said, blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God”. Now by pure in heart I do not think Jesus is talking about not having impure thoughts e.g. lust, greed, etc. but rather having the right focus of one’s own being. He refers to this as the single eye. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matt 6:22-23).This may be why children find it easy to see God until their parents or their culture (which includes religion) fill their eyes with darkness and forces them to see the world through dark-colored glasses. It is no wonder Jesus said “unless you convert and become like little children you will in no way, enter the kingdom of God.” So, let’s stop blaming God and the devil for our bad eyes and poor sight. For that matter let’s stop blaming our parents and culture and accept responsibility for the condition of our own heart. Our hearts are filled with darkness because we have made God too small and are about the business of building idols.
Then, there is the Bible. What is the Bible? The Bible is a collection of writings from men who were searching for The Totally Other. It is the history of their journey and their interaction with the Uncreated One. It records their successes and their failures. It shows them as groping, sometimes searching as a lost children would search for their parent and slowly, in due course growing into adolescence. The Bible also reminds us that the story is not over and that adulthood is still away off.
What about the contradictions and mistakes in it? Would you not expect to find a few anomalies and problems in any writings trying to explain The Total Other? It is a book of symbols that point to something that is on the border of human knowledge, known yet unknown. The Bible itself is a symbol which claimed to be both human and divine. The divine part is perfect in doing what it was created for, which is the building of souls as they journeyed towards the Totally Other.
However, there is a consistent theme and a trend that run though the whole of Scriptures, which connects all of its parts, though sometimes overshadowed, it is always there. It is the central symbol of Scriptures and God’s people throughout the ages. We could summarize that one central symbol with the word ‘someone’. Someone is coming, someone is here and someone is coming again.
The someone of Scripture is the Promised One, the Anointed one, the Messiah or Christ. The one who would save the people from their enemies. Their greatest enemies being sin and death. The Scriptures gave clues to help people recognize this someone. It said that he would be extraordinary and different from other men. His words would be different and his life would be different, he would be Other like the One who sent him.
One man has said that it takes extraordinary evidence to prove an extraordinary claim. the scriptures say that the someone in himself is the extraordinary evidence that the Total Other has given to man. This someone is the final and perfect symbol that points to The Total Other. He spoke like no other man and lived like no other man. When he spoke things happened, people were healed, water was changed into wine, storms were stilled and the dead were raised. No man has ever had so many people believe in him and at the same time has had so many hate him and despise his teachings. He truly is the extraordinary man, the someone sent from The Totally Other. This totally other man is still calling people “To come follow me”.
 Acts 17:28
 When I say He has no being it might be better to say he is super being. We live and move and have our being in Him, but we are not Him.
 Existence is beyond our comprehension though we apprehended it through our own existence and the existence of things around us.
 When humans argue for or against the idea of God they are arguing for or against a human construct that at best can only point to the One that stands behind it. Therefore we spend a great deal of time arguing about the idea of God. Now it is true that some ideas of God surely are better pointers than others but all fall short of the reality. This is true in science as well, for there is no theory of reality that is reality. The map is not the territory.
 It is unlikely that most atheists have no image of God in their minds, because if so, they would have nothing to argue against.
 Unfortunately, Carl Sagan did not define what extraordinary evidence would look like. For some skeptics, there would never be any evidence of any kind or enough to prove the existence of God.
When Atheists Criticize Religion
“New Atheists.” These are attitudes masquerading as ideas, emotional commitments disguised as intellectual honesty”.[i]
When atheists criticize religion, for the most part, they are simply criticizing the human condition, which is one of ignorance, sinfulness and hypocrisy. These characteristics can be found in any society, culture, civilization and for that matter, in every person. These traits are found in religious cultures, secular cultures and atheist cultures and they are common to all men. Pointing these things out in any culture does not take a great deal of intelligence nor understanding and it reflects a pretentious virtue to criticize others and it also demonstrates a shallow understanding of human nature. Given the same circumstances and conditions most humans will react in the same way as others. Much of the criticism of religion by atheism is nothing more than self-righteous virtue signaling at best and total moral egotism at its worst. It proofs nothing other than humanity is ignorant, sinful and hypocritical.
The truth is that atheism as an ideology, or as a foundational philosophy for a culture, has demonstrated itself to be totally inadequate in supporting a virtuous culture, no more than religion has done. Moreover, the atheist criticism of Christianity represents a shallow understanding of the message of Jesus. A casual reading of the New Testament would demonstrate to any rational person that Jesus never intended his teachings to be the foundation of any large society, for his teachings are too demanding for the masses. However, many atheists continue to attack the teachings of Western Christianity, as though people could live the pristine teachings of Jesus. Therein the atheist demonstrates their ignorance of Scripture or their dishonesty. In the majority of cases, it is ignorance. The scriptures clearly teach that no one can live out the teachings of Jesus. His teachings were not meant to be a moral code for the masses. The apostle John speaking to Christians said, “If you say you are without sin you are a liar and the truth is not in you” (I Jn 1:8).
Many atheists also have a very shallow and fundamentalist view of religion. Religion is a concept that is multilevel and as deep as the ocean, which means that it can have numerous shades of meaning. Many atheists want to reduce it to organized religion, i.e. Catholicism and Protestantism, etc. In doing so, they oversimply the word and in essence, destroy it. They refuse to see the difference between concepts like faith, spirituality and religion. Moreover, they refuse to see the difference between the history of Catholicism and let’s say Protestantism and other smaller sects of Christianity. In this, they pick out the weakest and most corrupted form of Christianity to criticize and justify it by saying there is only one form of Christianity. That is like saying that all government is evil because one form is corrupt.
[i] “Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies” by David Bentley Hart
The Logic of Believing In A Supreme Being
The problem with believing in a supreme being or God is that it no longer fits in our paradigm. Our paradigm used to be one of kingship or feudalism, now it is one of democracy and egalitarianism both of which does not fit well with a belief in a supreme being. What is a paradigm? A paradigm is a framework of beliefs containing the basic assumptions or ways of thinking, that are commonly accepted by members of a culture. Often paradigms are held subconsciously by the group. They are looked upon as just the way things are, or reality itself.
Under a feudal paradigm it was much easier to believe in a supreme being because it seemed normal and natural. It actually reflected our culture. However, that is no longer true. In the west today, the dominant paradigm is democratic, which leaves the West open to atheism and agnosticism.
The loss of faith in the 20th century is largely the result of a paradigm change from hierarchy to democratic and has little to do with evidence for or against God, nor does it have much to do with one’s intelligence. The decline of faith and its institutions has more to do, for the larger part of the population, with paradigm changes and group think. Being a believer in God in a democratic society is much harder than having faith under a feudal or kingship paradigm.
This brings us to the question, is it logical to believe in a supreme being? For many, the answer would depend on the paradigm that they have accepted. If you accept the hierarchy paradigm, the supreme being would be the one on the top of the pyramid or hierarchy, and it would be reasonable. If you accept a democratic paradigm, logically you cannot have a supreme being, for all beings are equal. A hierarchy would seem strange and maybe unreasonable.
The big question, is does reality or nature support one paradigm more than another? When this question is asked the democratic paradigmatic is totally void of evidence and seems to be totally opposite of a paradigm based on nature. There is nothing democratic about the universe. Everything in nature represents hierarchy moving from the simple to the complex. In this, the natural paradigm supports a hierarchy of being. Taken to its logical conclusion it supports a supreme being paradigm. In this, it is reasonable to think that nature would reflect its creator and the created order.
The end of a democratic paradigm can be seen when you attempt to force a hive of bees to live without a queen. The obvious outcome is the death of the hive. This might explain the reason why, that when a democracy fails it usually is replaced by a totalitarian system ruled by a hierarchy. We see the force of paradigms at work in Western culture and we are witnessing the demise of the hive for accepting a paradigm which is contrary to the natural order.