Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thoughts on boxes, religious ones.

Over the years one of the things I have noticed is that many of my friends (and I doubt my friends are unique) like to box me. To my Islamic friends I am Christian, to my Christians friends I am an Atheist, and to my Atheist friends err, well it does not seem to have come up. The point is I have always resisted being boxed like this, and frequently claim to be agnostic.
The problem is I have become increasingly dissatisfied by this idea. My main issue being how is being an agnostic different from being an Atheist. This weekend I found the following video on YouTube:

In some sense the distinction makes a lot of sense. The problem is it misses out one critical factor. How much do people care! Although Laci (the person who made the video) describes herself as an agnostic atheist she clearly cares about it. I expect (although I would hate to speak for him) that Richard Dawkins is a gnostic atheist and he clearly cares. Most people on the other hand I expect do not care. People who do not care will typically answer, when asked, that they do, or do not, believe in God, but otherwise take no action.

This still does not help me though, because I still object to being in the atheist, or theist box, and all I just did is create another two. I would still say I do not care, but I do not care because I have decided that whether God exists or not I'm going to live the same way, rather than not really thinking about it. My flawed thinking goes as follows:
  1. If God exists and is the wonderful all forgiving God Christians believe in then I really do not think he would send a good person to hell just because they did not believe in Jesus.
  2. If God exists and is like the jealous God of the old testament then I want nothing to do with him because he commits mass murder, created us so we could worship him, making us his slaves. These are things I consider wrong, even for God.
  3. If God does not exist I would not want to spend my life worshiping something that does not exist.
I also take issue with the following ideas:
  1. All good things comes from God
  2. All bad things come from the Devil
I feel that these statements absolve Humans of responsibility for the good and evil we do in this world, it allows us to justify all kinds of evil on the grounds that "God wanted me to". I think Humans have the unique capacity to commit both good and evil and we have a choice which we do.

As a result I will put myself in the following boxes:
  • agnostic about God
  • a humanist
At least until I change my mind.

1 comment:

Tim said...

on the issue of heaven and hell, I have a question (borrowed from someone else) that can help people think about heaven and hell in a different way.

In what sense is hell “a freely chosen identity, based on something else besides God, going on forever”? (Tim Keller)

I.e. Is it each of us who decide what path we have in eternity, through the way we act now? Rather than someone standing at a crossroads directing each of us left or right (or is that up and down?).

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity says Christianity asserts that every individual human being is going to live forever, and this must be either true or false. 'Now there are a good many things which would not be worth bothering about if I were going to live only seventy or eighty years, but which I had better bother about very seriously if I am going to live forever. If we are building our lives on say our selfish desires—a kind of life which leads to bitterness, envy, and anxiety--then the gradual increase of selfishness in eighty years may not be very noticeable. But it might be absolute hell in a million years'. In fact, as Lewis says, if Christianity is true, Hell is precisely the correct technical term for what it would be.

Alasdair, I've obviously copy and pasted that last section as I wouldn't say it any better, but its something to ponder. Our sermon on Sunday was about this. Here's the link in case you're interested.