One thing I’ve noticed about many who reject Faith without thoroughly exploring the subject to begin with (“It just doesn’t make sense to me.”) – is that they envision faith as being focused on The Creation and The Afterlife – on narratives of The Beginning and of The End. They see these narratives – which most or all faiths have – as factually and fatally flawed, if not downright foolish; and so not worthy of serious consideration. Therefore, in their eyes, the faith as a whole must be flawed.
Now, there are many people who have adopted the label “Atheist” because they see the evil and pain in this world and cannot believe that a loving God would allow such things. (And perhaps even blame faith as responsible for much of the world’s pain – which, sadly, is true). Therefore, they say, there is no God. But, that’s an entirely different topic that I have referred-to in some of my past posts here on this site.)
When talking about the Creation or the End Times, the problem – at least in my view – is that focusing on a factual interpretation of a Faith’s narratives of The Beginning and The End completely misses the point. (Biblical interpretation Literalists, please take note.)
Yes, it is comforting to have our Faith inform us that God was there in The Beginning and that God will be there in The End as well. But The Beginning and The End are merely the boundaries of the realm of Creation and of human experience – of which we inescapably a part. These boundaries delimit our lives and all of human experience. The territory in between these two poles are what our Faith is really focused on. These narratives are intended to frame our views and our thoughts regarding our lives and our relationships with all of Creation and with the many creatures of Creation all around us; including ourselves, and including The Eternal (whatever that may be)!
In Christianity and Judaism, for instance, the Prophets and Jesus did not dwell much on The Creation or on the Hereafter. Instead, they focused on social injustices of the time – which (sadly) are the social injustices of the present day as well:
- Are the poor adequately fed and housed?
- Can those without power expect justice and mercy at the hands of those with power?
- Do those with power recognize and value the human condition they share with all other human beings?
- Are we focused just on our own needs, or do we recognize and value that others have needs just as important to them (and to God) as ours are to us?
The primary purpose of Faith is not to gain certainty of salvation. It is not to force us to acknowledge how much we owe to God for our existence; or to make us grovel and beg for mercy because of our wretched fallen state. It is not about how big of a reward we’ll get in the afterlife for our good deeds and clean living in this life. (Or whether there even is an afterlife that even remotely resembles how we conceive it to be, to begin with!)
So, this is the fallacy of Atheism: in rejecting the narratives that faiths use to create a framework for their message and mission, Atheism is rejecting the very things that they feel those faiths should focus on: about nurturing that within us which is central to giving our lives meaning, hope and joy – which is what our faiths DO focus on!
This is why the Second Great Commandment is “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” [Matthew 22:39]. And, the first is so much like it: “Love the Lord your God with All your Heart and Soul and Mind” [Matthew 22:38].
Learning to Love God without reservation or prequalification leads one to realize that we are all valued children of God; and that since God first loved each of us without reservation and without prequalification, then we must in turn love all of God’s children, and ourselves, in exactly the same way.
I for one do not believe that anyone will be damned to eternal torment for being an Atheist, since God already loves us regardless of what we believe. But, being an Atheist means missing out on the richness and fullness of what life can be, if we intend to let it become all that it is meant to be.
Now, I’m not saying you need to join a church or be baptized or be born again, or even go to church at all. They might become important to you as part of your walk of Faith, but that is a decision that is yours alone: it is not up to me, not up to anyone else. Our relationship with the Eternal is ours: ours to claim, ours to live, ours to nurture – or ours to reject.
– Pastor Allen
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