It is an insult to God to believe in God. For on the one hand it is to suppose that he has perpetrated acts of incalculable cruelty. On the other hand, it is to suppose that he has perversely given his human creatures an instrument – their intellect – which must inevitably lead them, if they are dispassionate and honest, to deny his existence. It is tempting to conclude that if he exists, it is the atheists and agnostics that he loves best, among those with any pretensions to education. For they are the ones who have taken him most seriously.
– Galen Strawson
An article in the recent issue of Psychology Today covers the topic of ministers who are losing their faith. Some of those profiled in the article only lost a belief in certain aspects of Christianity, while several went so far as to proclaim themselves atheists. Many of them feel trapped in their careers, because they have religious degrees, student loans, and children. They will often mold their sermons into a secular text in an attempt to avoid mentioning things that they no longer believe in.
Although I am not in a ministerial position, the article really hit a nerve. I’ve been struggling with my faith for quite some time and while I have some understanding of what a difficult process it is, I can’t imagine how much more trying it must be for someone in charge of a congregation.
I’ve been going to church for almost two years and yet it seems that my faith is weaker than it’s ever been. I’m not exactly sure where my belief system is headed, but I really thought that I would have more of an awareness of what it is that I believe in by this point in my life. It’s like I have two brains – one that so desperately wants to believe and one that just wants to challenge everything it learns.
A book by a prominent atheist Richard Dawkins was mentioned in the article and included a remark by the author promising that any believer who started reading his book would no longer believe when they finished. Something about that statement stirred my interest, but also scared me.
I’ve often heard the saying about knowledge being power, but I’m not sure that atheism is a subject that I want to delve into. It seems likely that my beliefs could be profoundly changed, and I’m not sure that I feel up to that right now. On the other hand, there are certain aspects of it that make more sense to me than the age-old explanations I’ve been hearing my entire life. It’s easier to understand why God doesn’t intervene when children in Kenya are being burned to death inside a church, for instance.
As I browsed through the religion section during a recent trip to the book store, I couldn’t help thinking back to the aforementioned book on atheism. After tracking down a clerk and asking where I might find books on that subject, I was pointed toward several writings on philosophy.
There, amid tomes on Karma and Taoism, I found a couple of small books proclaiming a belief in a higher power to be ludicrous. I flipped through them, trying to get an overview of the content, when a quote by French astronomer and author Camille Flammarion jumped off the page at me.
Men have had the vanity to pretend that the whole creation was made for them, while in reality the whole creation does not suspect their existence.
That statement seemed rather profound and even true, but it also made me feel a little lonely. I left the store without making a purchase – partly because I didn’t find the specific book I was looking for, but also because I’m just not sure if I want to open that can of worms.
I did find the atheist’s book online, but I decided to go with The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering The Truth That Could Change Everything by Christian author Brian McLaren instead. This way I can feed my “believer” brain without having a spiritual crisis in the process.
But that other book is on my Amazon wish list. And my “non-believer” brain is getting mighty hungry.