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Does Religion Divide us?

In When Atheists are Right on January 4, 2014 at 9:30 pm

Religion dividesJohn Lennon asked us to imagine a world with no religion.  I think the reason he wanted a world of no religion was because religion divides us.

 Debate.org asked the question: Does religion divide the world?

73% of those responding said yes.

Why does religion divide?  One of the respondents (AbdulRaufw4lr6s) nailed it explaining that “Religion is another form of categorizing” :

Religion . . . tries to divide between good and evil . . . ; accordingly, people who belong into that particular definition of ‘good’ is called the ‘believers’ and likewise, those who belong into the definition of evil is termed ‘sinners.’ From there, the whole process of giving definition and categorization escalates . . .

It is true that religion divides humanity in exactly this way.  Whenever someone claims and exclusive truth there is a great danger of division.  The thing is, everyone makes truth claims

–even “non-religious” people:

“All religions lead to God”

“There is no God”

“Truth requires evidence”

“The ends justify the means”

So the issue is not whether or not one will hold a exclusive belief; the issue is to which exclusive set of beliefs will one hold.

In the spirit of unity, why not the one that will most likely lead to unity?  Let this be our standard.

In a sermon entitled, “Exclusivity: How can there be just one true religion?” Tim Keller identify three key differences between Christianity and every other religious beliefs.  Keller contends that it is in these differences that we find the basis for unity.

The differences:

  1. The central figure of all other religious beliefs is a human being, but in Christianity it is God himself.
  2. This God became flesh–he became a human being.
  3. In all other religions the central figure tells us what we need to do in order to be blessed, but in Christianity, God blessed us because we could never      deserve it.

These very things, if they are embodied, are the very things that will bring peace on earth.

  1. Because we aren’t saved by our performance, we can’t even begin “the whole process of giving definition and categorization” described by           AbdulRaufw4lr6s.  Keller points out that both the secularists and moralists look down their noses at others, but people who live the Gospel believe that they are no better than any one else, probably worse.  If you’ve run into Christians who think they are better than everyone else, you’ve either misunderstood them, or they’ve misunderstood the gospel.
  1. All other religions, (according to Keller) point to a life to come as the true destination for humanity.  Christianity, on the other hand, is very interested in THIS life.  By becoming flesh, God himself is affirming this world–this physical world.  He wants all of humanity to work together to make this world a good world–he wants us to serve the world, as he did when he died for it and us.  If you’ve run into Christians who don’t care about the environment, for instance, then you have either misunderstood them, or they have  misunderstood the gospel.
  1. Jesus is God.  Keller admits this sounds a little arrogant.  But Jesus came into the Jewish/Roman world which was very divided.   There were      tremendous divisions between Greeks and Jews and the rich and poor. The early Church gives testimony to the inclusive nature of the gospel.  Christians mixed races and socioeconomic classes.  This unity was created because people understood Jesus to be God, not just a man, who came to earth and died for people who hated him so that they might live, both now and forever.  How can a person who follows this God, look down on others for any reason?

Is Atheism a Religion?

In When Atheists are Right, Worldview on December 14, 2013 at 5:55 am

AthesismBill Maher sure doesn’t like it when religious people say that atheism is a religion.

In one sense, Maher is right; atheism is not a religion.  Atheism doesn’t have any explicit rituals or holy texts, nor does it believe in a deity.  When Maher restricts his  definition of religion to “this looney stuff” he can safely declare that “atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sex position.”

But if we were to broaden the definition of religion to something like–people who have faith in something that can’t be proven rationally.  Well, then it would be a little more legitimate to declare Maher a religious person because atheism is based on a belief that cannot be proven.  It requires a leap of faith to accept the claim that the whole of reality is strictly material.

A lot of discussion (argument) comes after we have agreed on this point.  For instance, we’d have to talk about upon whom the burden of truth rests, but it is important that we accept the fact that there is no belief that does not begin with a claim that cannot be proven rationally.

Maher claims it is only “idiots” who stand in the “grand intellectual tradition of ‘I know you are but what am I?'” who assert that atheism and theism are “two sides of the same coin.”  But this isn’t exactly true.  Fredrich Nietzsche, who on the continuum between idiocy and genius makes geniuses look like idiots, said exactly this.

In one sense, Nietzsche would lump Maher and the Christians who drive him crazy into the same category.  He that, just like religion, the rationalism and scientific optimism celebrated by Maher, is another attempt to set up an ideal to which we might aspire.  Maher’s transcendent ideal is an aggregate of equality, freedom of speech, science, democracy, etc.

There is nothing wrong with belief in transcendent meaning.  Nietzsche said that human beings have a hard time flourishing without something to believe in.  So it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

. . . the line between faith and reason

There are some pretty distinct lines between his “evidence based belief” and my “faith based malarkey” but it is not helpful to draw ones that don’t really exist.