Monday, 5 April 2010

Where's the Baby?

You've heard the proverb, "Don't throw out the baby with the bath water". As an Episcopalian, I have heard it used in reference to other Protestant denominations. Episcopalians retained the Liturgy and many other cults of the Catholic Church. Some of which is undeniably "bath water". Now, I say I am an Episcopalian in order to identify with a particular Christian heritage, which has helped mold me into the person I am presently. Prior to the age of sixteen, my Christian upbringing was decidedly more Evangelical. Regardless of the fact that Evangelical belief left an indelible mark on me, I stopped identifying with such a very long time ago.

And that leads me to the thoughts I've been struggling with since my public declaration of my atheism over a year ago. I've been pouring out an awful lot of stinky bath water, and wondering if indeed there is any baby lurking within it at all! Thrice I have attended an Episcopal service since my declaration — twice during Advent and just yesterday on Easter morning. On every occasion I was entranced with the homiletics. On one occasion I attended an Anglo-Catholic parish where I felt the level of "worship" was palpable — it even brought me to tears. Of course, any good production can do that. But each time I walk away, I walk away as a skeptic, but somehow thankful for my church. I still identify with it, and it still speaks to me in some mysterious way.

Surprisingly to some, I believe most atheists/agnostics struggle with "spirituality". We have many tools at our disposal. There is a sense of "community". We can meet and philosophize. Yet we don't have this ancient structure behind us — no awe-inspiring edifice — no Liturgy — imbued with the divine music of Johann Sebastian Bach! I wonder if such a community of skeptics could ever be built. And I wonder if it would inspire people the way religions have. What is it that religion offers? Where is the Baby?

The message I hear emanating behind the pulpits of the mainstream protestant denominations is one that most intelligent, and reasoning individuals can identify with. Yet mainstream protestantism seems to be losing steam. Instead, the Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Fundamentalist Christians are not only gaining huge strides, but their beliefs are becoming more entrenched and intolerant. I'm afraid that the mere existence of moderate, tolerant and liberal Christians only lends credence to these "fringe" groups. I say "fringe", but frankly it is rapidly becoming the accepted view of Christianity among believers and non-believers alike.

When I listen to the likes of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and all the other self-declared spokespeople for his Divine Majesty, I cannot help but feel we pertain to entirely different religions. Such Christianity to me is unrecognizable. I suppose a literal reading of scripture, ignorance of scientific progress over the last several centuries, and profound lack of historical knowledge compounded with a complete disregard for comparative religious study might indeed lead one to such a radical view. However, even so, it is blatantly obvious that the literal interpretations of scripture have been carefully chosen so as not to offend some groups and to oppress others. Specifically, gay people are targeted in a horrific way. Yet divorcees are allowed. Women can be preachers. The membership is not required to keep Kosher. I could go on, but it's pointless. There is no arguing with these people.

Yet I know there is a Baby. And as a matter of fact, much of my secular humanism and my political egalitarianism is based upon the recognition of that Baby. I believe we are all equal under the law. I believe the face of the Divine is in each of us. I believe an injustice committed against one is an injustice against all. I believe human life is sacred (I am also in favor of a woman's right over her body). I believe we are still in an evolutionary process, and our faculties of reason and science and technology should be used to better all of humanity and the marvelous sphere we live upon. So I continue to believe in the Incarnation, albeit in an extremely metaphorical sense. I also believe in the Resurrection in the same way. Life goes on. New life can begin. This is a message of hope.


Shawn Leonard said...

I really think you should consider attending a new church...not a new "religion" but some form of nondenominational church that focuses on having a relationship with Christ. If you want to experience proof God you have to have a relationship with Him, and I guarantee you he will reveal himself to you in some way. Also, if you want to learn the correct teaching and interpretation of the Bible you should study it yourself! And I apologize for all of the hypocrites within the church, because their are so many of them. I try my best to live my life as the Bible says to, but so many individuals label themselves as "Christian" yet don't live their lives in accordance.

WillySF said...

Shawn, Thank you for your thoughtful comment. What does it mean to you to develop a "relationship with Christ"? I also wonder which parts of the Bible you strive to live by. And lastly, do you believe that one actually needs to believe in the divinity of Christ in order to live Christlike? Is there indeed anything particular moral or of ethical value that Christianity offers the world that other religions and/or philosophies do not? I ask this with all due respect and in the spirit of meaningful dialogue.

hentai said...
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