Sunday, March 29, 2009

Poking at Atheism


9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Humorous ... but there is this part of me that is uncomfortable with making fun of what others believe or, in this case, don't believe.
I'm not offended by it. It's just that I believe in what I call "soul competency".
Your thoughts?
I don't pretend to understand all of the premises of atheism. I'm not well-versed on that.
Perhaps it is time to read a good book on it so I am not ignorant of what it means to be an atheist.
I at least want to dialogue with others, with understanding.
Cheers,
J

Christopher said...

Jo-Anne,

I'm not sure what "sole competency" is. Can you explain it for me, please?

As to making fun of someone else's non-beliefs, I can agree with you that it's really not okay when it's meant in a spirit of meanness. In this instance, I was intending it purely as a humorous, reductionist, and good-natured jibe at the philosophy of atheism. I'd be just as quick to post a similar remark about Christianity if I found one.

Looking forward to your explanation of 'soul competency'.

Take care,
Christopher

Anonymous said...

Chris,
Soul competency is almost synonymous with soul liberty, which really means that each person is responsible for their own soul in what they choose.
Now that I say it, it sounds so obvious, but at times I think we try to manipulate others into believing what we do, and we sometimes forget the free will that is such a gift.
I have met and even worked alongside with well-intended believers (sometimes I have wondered how well-intended they really were) who have put pressure on others to believe in Christ. Or, if that failed, they have pronounced a sentence upon them in a way that I couldn't blame them for never darkening the door of a church again.
Years ago, I allowed myself to be involved with a group of believers who were obnoxious in their "mission" to share the good news. They would literally get in someone's face and spit out a "praise the Lord" or a "Hallelujah!" and then carry on, feeling they had struck a blow to the enemy with their boldness.
At the time, I felt nervous with the whole thing and more than a little embarrassed about it all. Now, I realize that even that was just thinking about myself and how I felt and not about the effect this was having on other people or the fact that "we" did not even seem to care enough to ask someone's name, ask them how they were (and then care enough to listen) or even ask them if there was something we could pray for.
I am a strong believer in choice and I believe that each person is made in the image of God (I know you believe this, too) and that we need to respect them as having been given free will ... just as we have.
If I could persuade, I would. I think love is the most persuasive tool that we have.
But, their is a fine line between persuasion and manipulation at times.
I can't believe the things I let myself get talked into in the past -- the things I participated in and the things I said to people.
All part of growing in grace, I suppose.
It has made me more sensitive toward others.
I have heard comments about the paper I work with. I've heard comments from devoted, loving believers about people that I've spent time with who were not living for Christ ... a lesbian, a witch, a woman involved in New Age ... as if I should know better or as if I were naive.
Perhaps i am.
I look at people and see people.
I guess you can see this is something I am passionate about.
I probably am guilty of some of this as well, but I have difficulty labelling people. We're good at labels. Maybe if we put a label on something, it's our way of justifying what we do or don't do -- if that makes sense.
That said, I like good-hearted, good-natured humour as long as it is not hurtful. That is something we need to look at, if it hurts someone, to see if perhaps we are responsible, at least in part, for that.
I believe that people will be hurt or offended by something we say or do, at one time or another, so we can't walk around being fearful of that.
I saw the humour in this, too. It just triggered that part of me that believes passionately in "soul competency" and rejoicing in our God-given privilege to choose Him ... or not.
It's such a gift. Their was a time when I was taught that His grace was "irresistable" and that was interpreted for me to mean that we did not have a choice -- those he foreknew were already determined to be his; we could not resist.
I do not believe that now because I do not believe in that kind of father.
What kind of father manipulates his children into choosing what he wants?
Persuasion, yes, I see the value in that.
There's a good question for discussion: When does persuasion become manipulation?
Cheers,
J

Christopher said...

Jo-Anne,

Thank you for opening up, and being so vulnerable about the things you've been through. It's a pleasure to get to know you more, even through the second-best medium of internet writing.

In any case, I see now what you mean by 'soul competency'. It is, essentially, a phrase used as a synonym for 'free-willing', or 'free choice'.

Like you, I also believe that people are ultimately free to choose whether they will accept or reject Christ. And, like you, I was once more in the school of thought (though not fully entrenched at any point) that believed Christ's grace is irresistable. Sinning in the same way after I was saved kind of blew the lid on that theory for me! Clearly, grace is resistable. If it weren't, why would I endanger my salvation by continued sinning? If a holy God cannot countenance sin, how could He first save me in an irresistable way, and then allow for me to introduce the same sin He saved me from into my life with Him? Not questions that are easily answerable unless you move away from the faulty premise that grace is 'irresistable'.

That being said, I don't think it's a danger to take a playful poke at other's beliefs -- and I know you're not saying it is. That is, I'm fairly comfortable with the notion that I'm not going to re-direct, or misdirect another's soul, or their decision for/against Christ by quoting, highlighting, or somehow playfully minimizing the peculiarities of other belief systems, or even my own. Generally, people who are secure with what they believe, or don't believe will not be rattled by a dash of absurdity thrown their way. If that's so -- and I think it is -- then what they choose to believe or not is still their choice, and I haven't done anything to rob them of that essential fact. Thus their 'soul competency' is unviolated and all we've had is a smattering of friendly ribaldry.

What do you think?

Anonymous said...

Chris,
Years ago, I came up with a phrase that might sound a little heavy -- maybe I took it too seriously then -- but it was at a point when I realized the seriousness of prayer and that my choices were of serious consequence.
The phrase is this: "Choice by choice I affect eternity."
Good-hearted ribbing is only good-hearted if other people think it is.
Anyway, I see the humour here.
J

Christopher said...

Jo-Anne,

I have removed the misplaced post, and the post referring to the misplaced post. ;)

"Choice by choice I affect eternity," sounds very much like a form of existentialism. That is, our choices make who we're becoming (existentialism proper); but you have protracted that philosophy into a more metaphysical scheme so that who we are becoming via our choices also intersects with all the activity from everything else moving through eternity. Your quip is really quite a large concept. I enjoy it very much. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts about choices ...
I believe that are choices affect others, as you said, but that we are also affected by our choices.
We become our choices.
That is why spiritual disciplines (not legalism) is important. And I believe those disciplines arise out of a relationship because it is the internal motivation that really makes a difference in people's lives.
We struggle so much with trying to institute (institutionalize?) things in people's lives when i often wonder if we shouldn't be inspiring them by our lives.
Paul told people to imitate him, but I wonder if they weren't inspired by his life and wanted to follow -- to imitate -- him, rather than having it be a mechanical thing that was instituted by him.
On the other hand, we teach our children to do what is right because it is the right thing to do and we hope and pray that they will grow in understanding and that it will become internal, not just external.
I want to please the Father. That motivates much of what I do.
I have also grown to a place where I have reaped the rewards of relationship with Him and know that the investment is well worth it.
I have learned that it is not about busying my life with what I think are all the right things. That usually ends in frustration and emptiness and possibly, worst case scenario, burnout.
Anyway, the Bible talks a lot about choices. It also reassures us to "be of good courage" because even if we make all of the right choices, we know that there will be tribulation in this life.
What's a body to do?
J

Anonymous said...

Those were rather circular thoughts, weren't they?
Do you ever get the feeling that all of our conclusions lead us right back to the same questions?
Sometimes it is the best choice just to live one day at a time, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time ...
J

tag-photos said...

Uhmmm....

what does that have to do with Atheism in the first place?

I am an atheist yet I have no beliefs about the beginning of creation. Nor do I truly have a need or desire to postulate on that question.
I am far too concerned with the present and future to put that much thought into things that have no bearing in the lives of myself or the next of kin in the imaginable future. Imaginable future being generations....

Atheism is simply not believing in God. That blurb says nothing about the lack of faith.

All the premises of atheism?!?!?

There is only one. Not believing in God.

Simple, all there is to need to know about us.

Beyond that you are discussing scientific theories (evolution) or discussing nut job fanatical groups that feel it is their place to tell others what to think.

Simple enough? Now you know all the premises of Atheism.