As an atheist, I often find it odd that two of my favorite "affirmations" are "God-dammit" and "Gee-Zus-Christ." I guess it’s a sign of how deeply rooted and connected are some of our mythology.
I had intended a post on something entirely different, but that will have to wait. I made the mistake of trying to catch up on reading some other blogs that I frequent, and something caught my eye. So, here I go: another post on religion.
First, let me clarify what I mean by saying I’m an atheist. I abhor just about everything about the common, everyday “atheist activist” you hear about—whom I really see as “anti-value-ists.” These people have no values that I can detect. They are superficial at best, nihilists at worst. There can be no more malevolent way to spend one’s time than in lobbying against public displays of Nativity scenes, banning artistic displays of the Ten Commandments, or redacting the word “under God” from a national pledge (though I have deeper objections to The Pledge).
By atheist, I simply mean that I reject all literal interpretations of all religions. I accept no religious explanation for our origin, and I leave it up to them to substantiate their claims of “Super-Santa” in all their various forms. That being said, I have recently come to learn something about myself. Through a recent and rather intense email exchange with an old and dear friend who is a published author in the process of writing another book, I’ve come to realize that in spite of the question of the literal veracity of all the ancient religious myths, they nevertheless comprise a deep sense of meaning for a lot of people and are sometimes worth investigating and understanding on the simple basis of offering wisdom.
I say that with some reservation, because above all, I am a diehard rationalist and always will be. I’m willing to accept the possibility that ancient religious myths could contain treasures of wisdom, but I’ll be the everlasting and final judge of that! That is to say, wisdom is necessarily rational. That is to say, God’s wisdom is subject to man’s reasoned arbitration.
So, here’s what caught my eye. John Venlet called attention to a series of blog posts between philosopher Roderick Long and economist Bob Murphy. Here’s the original post from Dr. Long, entitled God So Loved the World that He Did What?:
Suppose I confront you, with a gun in one hand and a hammer in the other. I point the gun at you, and I tell you sadly, “I have to shoot you unless I bang myself on the head with this hammer. It’s the rule.”
“Whose rule is this?” you ask as you edge toward the exit.
“It’s my rule,” I explain. “I made this rule all by myself. But don’t worry; I’m not going to shoot you, because I love you.”
And then I bang myself on the head, really hard, with the hammer.
You start to run away, but I tackle you. “Look at me!” I yell. “I’m bleeding! My skull is cracked!! Look at the suffering I’ve put myself through for your sake!!! You really owe me now. You’ll be an ungrateful wretch unless you start doing exactly what I say.”
Such a demand would obviously make no sense. But how is the predominant Christian interpretation of the crucifixion of Jesus any different?
Mainstream Christians hold that Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross to save us from hell. But they also maintain that Jesus is God incarnate. So who made the rule that we would all be damned to hell unless God got himself nailed to a cross? God did.
If this were true, wouldn’t it make Jesus’ “sacrifice” meaningless?
This bizarre doctrine, which casts God in the role of a sado-masochistic psycho, is believed by millions of people, and is the central theme of that movie [The Pasion] everyone’s talking about. Yet it’s nowhere to be found in the Bible. (Not that the doctrine would be worthy of belief if it were – but anyway it’s not.)
Strange planet, eh?
Admittedly, this at first appears simplistic and flippant. But what’s really interesting is the exchange that follows. First, the retort in the form of God So Loved the World, That He Gave His Only Begotten Son by Dr. Murphy; and then the repartee by Dr. Long, Confessions of the Antichrist: A Reply to Bob Murphy. As a side note, for those who find this subject interesting, do take the time to read the two other posts (b and c) Dr. Long references at the beginning of his reply.
So what’s the point? Well, while I found this all quite captivating, two realizations became quite reinforced. The first is that Dr. Long is quite correct. The whole Christian catechism just doesn’t begin to stand up to the most casual trail by basic logic. In short, it’s hogwash as concerns literal interpretation. The second is that it’s of utmost importance as concerns humanity (in one way, or in quite another). If it weren’t, no one would be writing about it, and that’s certainly worth something.