Faith To Atheism - A Useless And Painful Journey

By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
Copyright © 1997-2017
All Rights Reserved

There is a substantial incidence of people who have moved from belief in God and participation in some organized religion to loss of faith and ardent atheism. Some bring lawsuits to extend the separation between church and state – Madalyn Murray O’Hair, for example and school prayer. Secularism is a temptation because it seems to make such good sense to so many people. It does make extreme good sense, but does not call for the rejection of one’s soul. My soul is my dream for the next transition, and as such, speaks poetically. Secular realities may be recognized because they speak in prose. Ethical Humanism is the socially acceptable name associated with the There is No God, cut flower doctrine of why folks should do the right thing – it makes good sense and that’s all you need. But the “right” thing is usually situational, changing with everything, including mood.

Rationality is seen by so many people as something separate and apart from religious belief. I think that is because of what they are taught and the manner in which they are taught it. If they had been taught by enlightened educators instead of by automaton template following dunderheads, they might have been inspired to think in a more open minded, creative manner. Why is it that so many think that religious belief and logic are mutually inconsistent? And, to follow up, are they inconsistent?

When was the last time that an affiliation with God was structured in a manner not to interfere with good sense? In western culture I think it was when the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt. They were essentially secular then because there was nothing happening in their lives to suggest that they had prospects for redemption. God seemed to be an acceptable kind of background music when slavery occupied every ounce of strength and health and life prospectively led nowhere. But it was not a focus of life. At least, according to the Bible, it wasn’t anywhere near a centerpiece of society or existence.

Moses was historically a revolutionary, not too different from Fidel Castro or George Washington. His political and leadership skills were enough to galvanize resistance at a time when the Pharaoh was already concerned about the Hebrew slaves as a potential fifth column in Egyptian society due to the growth of their numbers. The coincidence of these phenomena provided the “moment” of ignition that brought on the conflict that resulted in liberation.

Almost as soon as the Hebrews were liberated, this revolutionary proclaimed that he had been called by God personally to be their governor/leader and that the confirmation of that was evidenced by inscribed tablets of commandments. We are taught to believe that there were but ten such commandments, but the anal compulsive orthodox have through knit picking through the five books of Moses managed to find 613 commandments – a regimen that leaves no time for recreational free thinking and that enables a system of living just as bad as slavery itself. If you are not allowed to think or to vary from a set of rules for living (as interpreted by a privileged few), you are really back in bondage as far as intellectual and social growth are concerned. According to Hebrew sacred texts, God and the Hebrews became one family, a marriage if you will. Supposedly, God married the Hebrews and they forever have a monopoly on salvation. Catholics believe and proclaim that only Catholics go to heaven (wherever they think that is). Isn’t all that rather stupid!

This template of existence has been the model for western religion ever since, up until the Protestant reformation that eventually became almost as orthodox as the original church, with some few exceptions. Even here in America we can readily observe groups who are highly regimented and told that failure to adhere to the regimentation leads to some incredibly awful form of damnation and to being disqualified from salvation. In my belief system, all are entitled to salvation; there is no such thing as original sin because infants cannot be guilty of anything; and there is no temporal authority with license to say who is and who is not entitled to salvation. Nor should there be. You are the author of your own joy or misery according to how you live life. It is very difficult to disqualify yourself from salvation. So many of us make so many grievous mistakes, intentionally and otherwise, that very few would qualify under the “rules” espoused by most organized religions.

Where is the ability to react to phenomenology, the changing circumstances with which we are all faced every day, if one has no latitude to depart from stringently applied template thinking? If you can be stopped from thinking, from using reason and experience, to deal with a changing environment, it is easy to appreciate why many people revolt intellectually and deny the validity of the entire program.

Where is the point at which faith and rationality meet harmoniously in dealing with the phenomena that confront us? There is no “point” of intersection because there is no difference between belief and acceptance of a super rational creator and “reality”. Everything is real and of a single integrated construct. The really exceptional minds of history all advocated that God and humanity are inextricably tied, and that what God provided for us is intellect. We do not have the intellect of God. We have an intellect suitable to our station. We are close enough to all powerful as it is. We can take that which has been placed here on earth and manufacture everything we need for positive life. Over time we have been doing this. To be sure, we have also misused that ability to fabricate instrumentalities of destruction. Whether that is positive or not depends upon your perspective. In war, as in everything else, we have progressed technologically, and from the use of that technology in war we have learned applications of it beneficial in peace time.

In every other order of life on earth there is competition for primacy. The strong survive and the weak are consumed. Only arrogance drives the belief that we are superior and should rationalize ourselves out of conflict. Were we to do that, the earth would long ago have become so overpopulated that we would have exhausted the resources needed to sustain life. Had such a point been reached, competition for those scarce resources would have produced conflict, just as it does in other species.

Where does that leave churches, synagogues and mosques? It leaves them to fulfill their temporal purposes and functions – the teaching of children and places to go for counselling and identity with one’s own culture. It strips them of their punitive role – telling you that you are going to be punished by God for committing evil deeds. Hardly anyone believes that anyway, because the assumption of the role of dispenser of punishment doesn’t deter bad behavior. There is some theater in which you become cleansed of your sins if you confess before death, but that is merely a license to do whatever plus the promise of relief from responsibility in exchange for a relationship between you and the institution to which you contribute economically. It is the same in every religion, certainly in every Abrahamic religion (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). How absurd can one get?

I argue that we are not here to be punished for this or that “wickedness”. Our misconduct and its temporal consequences will serve to inflict its own misfortune, even if it is no more than some inner, subliminal self-loathing. We are not living in some anteroom of an eternal imaginary selection of souls. That is fairytale stuff for the unaware. The shame of it all is that organized religion appreciates that a thinking congregation will itself come quickly to the realization of the essence of God, minimizing the authority of the church. This is why the Abrahamic religions so fiercely oppose thinking in favor of ritualized responses to ritualized stimuli – the saying of prescribed words followed by congregational responses expressed in other prescribed words.

Nor is it different in the newly active Post Denominational Christianity. In this attempt in Protestant theological development to do away with sectarianism, the governance capability is kept intact so that there would be one dominant dictator of every word rather than several – Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, and so on, ad nauseam. Why this ultimate dictatorship of non-Catholic Christianity is thought to be worthy of consideration is quite beyond me. How long will it take for various Apostolic Clusters, as they call themselves, to form their own cliques and begin quarreling amongst each other over which is right and which in error? That is exactly what has happened in all the other Abrahamic religions, Judaism has its Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements. Christianity has Catholicism and seemingly endless protestant denominations formed from revolt over corruption as well as ritual hair splitting. Islam has its opposing Shia and Sunni schools, with divisions of each of those.

Then they revert to denominationalism but under other names. I have heard the propaganda and it makes absolutely no sense at all. In fact it contradicts the attributed statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John that says that God did not send light into the world to condemn, but to aid in salvation (John 4:17); and that evil people never see light, but fear light and seek shadow to hide their evil (John 4:19), concealment being one of those phenomena recognized in every civilization as the practice of terrible people who do terrible things. But most importantly, Christ recognized and specified divergence of how groups express their religiosity and did not condemn it. Rather He embraced it. To His Disciples he is claimed in the text expressly to have stated as much. Denying a monopoly by the Jews of the relationship between humanity and God, He is quoted specifically to have said to them “Other sheep have I which are not of this fold…” John (9:16) and “In my father’s house there are many mansions (places for all) (John 14:2-3). Taken together these passages proclaim ecumenism to be the mandate of God. We must take ourselves for who we are and not require changes as prequalifications for salvation.

I could go into much more precedential detail, and dissenters can find passages that seem to contradict what I have posited. The apparent contradictions arise in other contexts, and that makes them inapposite.

I am about to rest my case in the dispute between faith and reality. Faith is as rational as anything otherwise objective. Were that not so, religious organizations would not go to such lengths to obscure the obvious by use of vacuous repetition of set piece theatrics. The decision to create a formal doctrine for belief in Christianity was a political arrangement in which Christianity was being used by a crumbling Roman empire to cement the empire through a common “religion”. It had and has little to do with any relationship between humanity and God.

Jesus was for 250 years referred to both as divine – Son of God – and as a human messenger – Son of man. There was no set definition of His essence, divine or merely human. Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea in the 4th century in which this issue was negotiated and decided. Jesus’ designation is the result of a contract. To be sure, Jesus brought the messages of God, just as have others coming later, as the quotes above foretell.

I am not better than you because of anything to do with how or whether I worship. Christianity does not trump Islam. The more one believes that he is of a superior religious group than others, the more foolish he is. In our exercise of the privilege of free will, it would serve us well to embrace our similarities rather than dwell on our differences.

By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
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