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 Ideal Of The Holy
Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. This insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms — this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong in the ranks of devoutly religious men.”
Rudolf Otto wrote a book entitled ‘The Ideal Of The Holy’ in which he attempts to explain the spiritual experience that Einstein describes and what Otto goes on to refer to as the numinous, which he believes is a sign which points to the deity and could be likened to the voice of God that beckons man to his true center.
The sub-title to Otto’s book of ‘The Idea of the Holy’ is ‘An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation·to the Rational’, In the book Otto points out that numinous is not rational or reasonable but it not irrational or unreasonable, it is simply outside of those categories. You might call it is super-rational.
It is this numinous experience that the atheist lacks. Because he has not experienced it, it is impossible for him to understand someone who has experienced it like Albert Einstein. Einstein had experienced the Totally Other which was beyond his explanatory powers to communicate it to those who had not experienced it, those that he referred to as dead or blind. Otto’s book is the best attempt I have seen to put the experience into words. You can get a PDF copy at the below address.
In the following video Carl Young present some material that should make the new atheist type rethink the virtue of their constant attacks on religion as though their attacks are in somehow virtuous. Young’s points out that a loss of faith and religion is the reason why so many people today are despond. Young also shows that a loss of faith tends to move a culture towards State-ism and the development and growth of a will for power in the human spirit which results in metal disorders and the totalitarian state.
In a past article I pointed out that atheism is a phenomenal which seems to take place at the end of a civilization and is one of the marks of a decaying culture. It is hard to tell whether atheism is causal or the fruit of atheism. However, either way it is not a positive force in the human community.
Why I Need the Church and the Bible
Some people wonder why they would ever need the Church or the Bible. Why not just go for a walk on the beach or climb a mountain and meet and worship God there? Can you not experience God as well or perhaps even better in nature than at Church or from reading the Bible? I do not doubt for a minute that you can experience God in nature, for I have done that myself. Nature has a way of opening the human spirit to the Divine. Our experience of God while in nature often seems more real than anything that we may experience at Church or from reading the Bible.
I have found that when I wish to travel to a place, I want to know everything about it. I will read everything I can about it, and I will try to find people who have been there and are able to answer questions about that particular place. I find myself filled with questions. What is the best way to get there? What should I see? What should I avoid? What should I wear for clothing? You see, I do not want to be surprised. I want the best trip possible. I especially do this when I go for a hike in the mountains, for I do not want to get lost. The harder the climb, the more research I do.
Going to church and reading the Bible are like the research one would do for a journey unto a very high and often dangerous mountain. For me, it seems only natural to talk to as many people as possible who are on or have made the journey. I once went to Africa and climbed Kilimanjaro. I called everyone I could find who had made the climb, even complete strangers, and asked them about the mountain and the trails. I wanted to be ready for anything. I wanted to make it to the top. When Christians gather at church, it is mainly to talk about the journey and to study the map. They consider their map to be the Bible. The strong and knowledgeable ones among them who have been on the journey a long time do not attend church solely for themselves, but also to help the young and weaker ones among them. They want everyone to get to the top. They share with them the trails to avoid and the ones to take. They make sure that the young ones know the map and the right and best guides who can help them on their journey.
Let me say something about the map. It is true that sometimes people get the map mixed up with the real territory. When that happens, people often spend more time reading the map than moving on in their journey. I know some people who are always reading and talking about the map, but never seem to get too far along on the journey. They seem to have confused reading the map with the journey. This is truly sad because it confuses people about the reasons for the journey and the purpose of the map. Of course, on the other side of the coin are those who feel they can do okay without a map, compass, or a guide. These folks often end up in a briar patch lost, cold, and hungry. They often spend a great deal of time backtracking and wandering around aimlessly. However, some of the stronger ones seem to get along fairly well without the map, but when asked where they are, they often do not seem to know. The little ones and weak ones without the map and compass often just die or quit.
Because the journey is often long and hard, the map at times can be quite hard to read. It does have a lot of details about the journey. It is there to help and is very important. However, it can be confusing to someone not too skilled in map reading. When the journey gets difficult, it is then a person needs to remember the training in which the guides taught him about how to use the map. It is even better if travelers have cell phone, so they can call a guide for further directions on how to make best use of the map. We always need to remember that the map is a piece of paper that only reflects the territory. It is not the territory. We also need to remember that the map was made by a lot of people who have made the journey and left us their story about it. When we read the map, remember that those who wrote it were all on the same journey, but not all used the same trail and all did not make it to their destination. Like in nature, some trails are better than others and a bad choice can cause you to lose your way or even perish. Yes, some died on the journey without making it to top or back home. This is another reason why we should study the map; we want to know that we are on the very best trail.
If you are not a member of a church, let me suggest that you find someone, maybe some of your friends who are on the journey and ask them about the church they attend. Ask them if they study the map and if its members are excited about the journey. If they say yes to both questions, you might want to check it out. You can also begin the journey by getting a Bible and start becoming familiar with what it teaches. You do not need to understand everything—just start reading it. A good place to start is the Gospel of John. If you do not know of anyone who is able to help you, you can write me, and I will be glad to help. I often have map reading courses at my office or even in people’s homes. If you would like to attend one, let me know. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org