Thursday, July 27, 2006


Contrary to the claims of atheism's loyalists --- atheism takes faith.

Questions such as---how did intelligent life develop? how did life originate? does life have meaning? why something rather than nothing? are good and evil -- realities?

We don't know the answers to any of these questions for certain. Both a Christian's and an atheist's answers stem from FAITH.

It's fine for the Christian or the Atheist to be satisfied with their respective answers--but they should not say faith has no part in reaching them.

Some problems --atheists face:

1. Is there a need for meaning in life? If so, how do we find it?

The existentialists, like Sartre searched for meaning in a world without God and came up --- empty handed. Everything was just so much meaningless stuff.

There is something in humans that makes us seek meaning -- especially when life does not go well. Victor Frankl, a survivor from a Nazi concentration camp, authored the book, "The Unheard Cry for Meaning". In it he says: "The will to meaning is really a specific need not reducible to other needs, and is in a greater or smaller degree present in all human beings."

Tolstoy said "I know everything that science so much wants me to know; but this path will not lead me to an answer to the question of the meaning of my life." And, if he lived in the year 2006, I am convinced this quote would remain unchanged. Science does not provide meaning to personal life.

If you are content with this----then atheism may be right for you.

2. History would have been so much better without religion, without the belief in God.

From the killing fields of Cambodia to the death camps of the Nazis, we can see that godless ideologies do not result automatically in a happy and peaceful world.

Can most people continue to live "good" lives, lives of honesty, fairness, compassion and wisdom without some spiritual path or religion? It would seem that our individual lives and the world would head downhill.

I am reading a book on the Roman Empire, especially, though not entirely, about the rule of Augustus. When Augustus assumed leadership, he felt to keep the empire intact, strong and at peace -- he needed to restore faith in the gods, and to stress the need for virtue if Roman were to be happy and fulfilled.

Separation of church and state, IMO, is desirable. I don't want specific religions taught in the schools, nor the monuments to the 10 Commandments outside/inside public buildings----but I do think schools should stress some basic virtues, the qualities of a human life.

3. Are the problem of suffering and evil solved by the Atheistic faith?

How can a merciful, just and all-powerful God permit suffering and evil?
This has been a key question throughout history. When things turn ugly---some people blame God. They try to make sense out of their personal and their nation's disasters.

Would eliminating God make it easier to explain suffering and evil?

Picture a world without any belief in God whatsoever. how would we go about understanding evil and suffering? Would it be simpler? More satisfying?

Do we merely say---there is no explanation, no meaning, no consolation.

4. What happens to the words -- wrong, right, justice, injustice, good, evil without some belief in an Absolute?

We have no yardstick. Do we rely on anyone and everyone's opinion or tastes? The United Nations' declares a war --- unjust, ruthless, and humane.
So what? Our courts hand down verdicts -- based on what foundation? A married couple goes into counseling to avoid a divorce. How can any mediation take place---if there are not some fundamentals?

5. One of the singular features of humans felt by all to some degree is a spiritual longing, a reaching out to something deep within us, and yet beyond us.

We could just write off this urge, this need to ---wishful thinking. But isn't that stretching the atheists' faith rather thin?

This argument means a great deal to me. The fact that I have a hunger or thirst for a spiritual reality--for me -- indicates that there is a reality to satisfy it.

McLaren in his book mentioned earlier, quotes a short passage from Richard Selzer's book, "Wittenburg Door":

"My entire life has been one long search for faith. I haven't found it. I do not believe in God. Having said that, ...I want you to know that I love the idea of God. I love piety. Without it, you live your life unmoored, in a state of isolation. You are a tiny speck in a vast universe. I'm jealous, frankly. I feel as though I've missed out on the greatest thing that can happen to a person --- faith in God. It must be wonderful."

As Brian McLaren says: "Atheism is a faith option open to you, but there are reasons to at least consider other options."

* Much of this essay is based on Brian McLaren's recent book, "Finding Faith".

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Christians worship and pray. Buddhists meditate, send thoughts of loving kindness, chant.

However, it is doubtful that individual transformation through spiritual practices will result in the transformation of society. I used to think this. I believe that Toynbee may have said something about the real revolution society needs is the individual revolution of each of its members.

This sounds good until one examines the way things work and are.

What prevents personal transformation? laziness, ego, lack of awareness of one's thoughts, feelings, ---AND the world we live in.

Does it make any difference if the society, culture, milieu in which a person lives --- --- is based on greed, lust, immediate satisfaction with success and stature measured in dollars and property owned? If the system in place especially the economic system, and its accompanying political framework, cultivates these things---they are absorbed, reinforced in each of society's members. Most people just live --- and are dyed in the colors of the everyday world. Peer pressure is also applied to all of us ---characterized by the values of society. I think the most important segment in this is the economic system and the values it’s based on and the kind of people it wants and produces.

In order to transform the individual we must not only work on our individual selves, but we must work to change the total environment in which we live ---especially the societal environment, and within it, especially the economic and political systems.

Individuals working on themselves and those they come in contact with ---- will have some beneficial effects on the world----slowly by osmosis. It is doubtful that can bring about a just and compassionate society. The salutary effects of each person spreading wisdom, goodness, compassion among those around him is constantly being undercut
by the messages, lessons and examples of the culture.

To ignore one's spiritual life and work only on changing the economic/political structure of society will have some beneficial effects also---but by itself it will not cause the radical change needed in individuals' values and feelings.

However, if the two are done together -- then both the core (individuals) and the framework (society) can be changed. This is the best hope for mankind.

So, we need personal spiritual and humane growth and a society that promotes similar values. These two changes must be concurrent.

One of Jesus’ main teachings found throughout the New Testament is his goal for mankind --- of establishing the kingdom of God --- NOW, and IN THIS WORLD.
Caesar’s kingdom is to be replaced by God’s kingdom. This is extremely radical, but it seems as though this was Jesus’ plan for the world.

I think it's possible. However, we have to Wake Up and we have to Act.