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Atheism As Hypocrisy?


JenellYB
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It has occurred to me that the atheist and the hypocrit are two sides of the same coin, that "coin" being disbelief in God.

 

The atheist is the face of the coin, has faced and acknowledge his/her disbelief to their self and others.

 

The hypocrit is the tail of the coin, has not faced and acknowledged his/her disbelief to others, sometimes not even to their self.

 

The more I've thought on this, the more valid it seems to me.

 

I have also noted that Jesus seemed to have more to say in rebuke toward hypocrits than he did atheists (non-beleivers).

 

Just an interesting thought. What do you think?

 

Jenell

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The greatest mystery in our religious tradition is the nature of God. Following that unfathomable enigma, the greatest mystery is oneself. And in many ways, exploring God demands that we begin by examining ourselves.

 

As we grow we discover that all the experiences of life are also partly internal. Each attempt to grasp the truths of the world reflects back upon us. We begin with ourselves, and all our traveling returns us home. So goes the story of the Rabbi Hayyim Halberstam, who started out to change the world. Over time he realized the task was too big, and decided to concentrate on his congregants. Even they proved resistant, and so he began to seek to change his family. But his children were grown, and his wife knew his opinions and faults quite well enough, and so he decided in the end he should begin on himself -- and even that was difficult.

 

Rabbi David Wolpe

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-david-wolpe/the-greatest-mystery_b_893995.html

 

It seems to me that the "2 Sides Of The Same Coin" are very much as Jenell describes. Perhaps the atheist and the hypocrit think they have "demystified" all of life, including themselves?

 

Myron

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One of the most profound discoveries any of us can make is how much changing just ourself changes everyone else around us.

 

"When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."

Dr. Wayne Dyer

 

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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“The deep is tehom, the Hebrew for ocean, for depth as saltwatery first stuff of the universe; for depth as a dimension; and for chaos (Keller, 1999).” Chaos or tehom is that which resists a status quo order (Keller, 1999).

 

Myron

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Guest billmc

Well, I think we are all born atheists. :D Hypocrisy is an acquired talent. :D

 

As I understand it, hypocrites wear false faces. They present themselves as one thing outwardly but are inwardly something quite different. This is probably true of most of us, atheists or not. It is especially rampant in institutional religion where one is expected to hold to certain tenets of faith or certain behavioral norms in order to be considered to be a "true believer." The claim often leveled at Christianity that the church is full of hyprocrites has, IMO, quite a bit of justification. After all, our churches are filled with people who claim to be redeemed and indwelt by God but who also claim that they are sinners and no better in behavior than anyone else. Hmmmm. :)

 

If this is the case, then perhaps atheism (the good kind) is a step towards honesty. Often, atheists examine the claims of the Bible and of Christianity and say that there is little to no evidence in our world for a God as described by the Bible and by the Christian religion. In honesty, I agree with much of this critique. I don't believe in "the God of the Bible" as I believe God is bigger than the Bible. ;) In fact, I believe that God is bigger than most Christians claim him to be. So I think that quite a bit of atheism can be a stepping stone of realizing what God is NOT so that we can know what God is. This kind of atheism, rather than putting on a false face, acknowledges the fact that none of us knows for sure about God and that perhaps it is better to not believe in an "evil God" than to pretend that God's record as recorded in the Bible is a clean one. I respect this point of view although I think it shouldn't be a destination. Many of our "finest" progressive Christian thinkers (John AT Robinson, Jack Spong, etc.) could be considered to be atheists if their God-concepts were put up against the concepts of God in the Christian scriptures. Is this being hypocritical? I don't think so. But I do think it is being "next-level-critical". To me, God-concepts need to grow with us.

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Some good points. I don't think we are born atheist, more of being unknowing...I think it important to remember that the word "innocent" means "without knowledge". So we are born innocent.

 

As we aquire "knowledge" I think the first stage of processing new knowledge has much to do with both our age and experience at the time, and how experience has fostered trust, or not, in those from whome we aquire knoweeldge, and this varies widely from person to person. Inate personality (genetic) tendencies come into play, as well. From infancy, our experiences with parents and other significant people has taught us to more or less trust what we are told, given as information...how consistent and trustworthy they have been in all other things has much to do with how we accept new information.

 

Whether at that early stage, or later as we learn more about the world around us, that information aquired, as belief or knowledge, is going to come under test at various points. When one encounters new information or has experiences that seems to conflct with held belief, there are several options for how we react. We may easily discard the old knowledge, becomiing agnostic, at least on that particular point, or we may actively reject it, becoming "a-" to that information, in this case atheist, or we can erect an ego defense to alleviate the cognitive dissonance. This later "hides" this new truth we have come to even from ourself.

 

We often erect these defenses against an "inconvenient truth", something that disturbs our mental order, for such reasons as that holding a certain belief as if true is a social demand...to acknowledge a conflicting truth, or even doubt, is socially unacceptable, putting us at risk of being rejected by an important peer group. So the pretense begins, the hypocrisy, of acting out a role inconsistent with some truth we've recognized. This is most often an unconcious act, we don't allow "knowing" it even to our self.

 

But our true beliefs are always manifested outwardly in our behaviors. Because it is so important to us to maintain social acceptance, we are playing a role, that is different from who/what we really are. Fear of rejection can cause defensiveness, even violence, in protecting this false role. Consider how angry and cruel the hypocrits in the NT when Jesus's words threatened their beliefs, threatened to reveal them as they trully were, not as they pretended. Jesus was trying to get them to honestly confront themselves, their actual beliefs and state of unbelief...until they could do so, there was no opening for them to recognize truth.

 

Confronting this inconsistency regarding religious beliefs within our self can end in coming to either an atheist position when we reject it. In this way, the move from hypocrit to atheist is actually a positive move. We have become honest with ourself. I don't think there's any way a hypocrit can move from that postion in any effective and positive way other then this.

 

So the move toward atheist, then agnostic, is a positive one for the hypocrit.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
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billmc, there's one point I want to interject here...what is called our "situational selves", the personna, image, role we play, while in certain life situation is not neccesarily hypocrisy.

 

We all contruct a variety of personnas, situational selves, that while they may both conceal some aspects of who we are, and erect "roles" inconsistent with our private identity, generally do not involve the type of personal level deception as hyposcrisy does. We create these "situational selves" as faces we present the world in different situations, while in certain roles. The personna we present on the job in our place of employment, and how we are toward our loved ones, spouse, children, utilize different elements of our "Global self", the whole of who we are, and conceal certain others, as is appropriate for that particular role and situation.

 

Consider how one of us, as a Progressive Christian, may at time, for various reasons, choose to attend services at a more conservative, traditional church. Being able to interact with people in that situation involves with holding part of our position in religious matters, to avoid stirring up uncomfortable reactions. We may remain true to ourselves by simply not expressing open false approval and acceptance of their beliefs that conflict with our own, we are exercizing judgement in constructing our situational self. We just leave some things unsaid where there is no positive reason to say them. We are not being "false" but functionally selective in how we present ourselves in that situation.

 

Jenell

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What do you think?

 

Jenell

 

I think that I've come to a point in my life where I simply do not believe in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, such as biblical truth, miracles, the revivification of Jesus, G-d in the sky, heaven, hell, etc...

 

Yet, I do not identify myself as an Atheist. I prefer to refer to myself as a naturalist. I think that we somehow possess a spark of energy and intelligence that inhabits our bodies for the duration of our lifetime. Where it goes once our bodies run out and fail, I haven't a clue. For all I know, everything that I think is real may only be a particular synapse firing off in my brain. I've experienced the extent of our brain's capacity for creating imagery that appears very vividly real while under the influence of hallucinogens. So, I don't always trust sensory perception.

 

I think that what we really find useful in religion is being a member of a group of people who share common experiences, goals and dreams - and sometimes beliefs. I like everything about religion except the insistence on believing in supernatural events. I realize that many folks think that their religion is dead without these beliefs. I think they are wrong in this.

 

Unfortunately, it is inevitable when hanging with religious practitioners that the subject of beliefs - i.e., MY beliefs - comes into question. My dilemma is this: should I tell the truth about my lack of belief in just about everything that most Christians, and to a lesser extent, Jews, hold to be immutable? Or, do I become a hypocrite and nod in agreement about Jesus' bodily resurrection in order to enjoy the company of these people?

 

It's important to keep in mind that outwardly, I have not changed one bit from when I was a "believer." I still like to volunteer at the food shelter, cook meals for the homeless, visit elderly and ailing folks in the hospital and work toward solving problems within the church community. I still care and am concerned with the well being of everyone in the church. Yet, I feel as though I've somehow abandoned them. When I am in Sunday School, I keep my mouth shut in Bible study groups and read the bulletin or a book during prayer sessions.

 

Recently, I've been adopted by a group of Reformed Jews, many of which also no longer believe in miracles and mysticism. For them, and me, religion is all about helping others. That seems to be all I really need.

 

Does this make me a hypocrite?

 

NORM

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Unfortunately, it is inevitable when hanging with religious practitioners that the subject of beliefs - i.e., MY beliefs - comes into question. My dilemma is this: should I tell the truth about my lack of belief in just about everything that most Christians, and to a lesser extent, Jews, hold to be immutable? Or, do I become a hypocrite and nod in agreement about Jesus' bodily resurrection in order to enjoy the company of these people? NORM

Norm,

 

My answer is no. I don't think silence is assent.

 

I don't think we are obligated to state our beliefs explicitly whenever the subject arises. In the interest of civility, it is often better not to challenge another person's sincerely held convictions or state ours, if they differ.

 

If asked directly, I think it might be best, based on the context, to defer with a statement, such as, 'my views are somewhat nuanced and I would be pleased to sit down with you some time and discuss our views in depth.'

 

However, I think it is hypocritical to engage in overt activity or speech that is contrary to our convictions.

 

George

 

P.S. What I said above relates only to benign issues (like the virgin birth, the Trinity, etc.), not to issues that involve doing harm (like racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, etc.). In issues that involve harm to others, I think we are morally obligated to speak up.

Edited by GeorgeW
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Guest billmc

For them, and me, religion is all about helping others. That seems to be all I really need. Does this make me a hypocrite?

 

Not in my book, Norm, although my book is not a best seller or on anyone's reading list. :lol:

 

I'm much the same. For a while, I didn't attend my wife's Southern Baptist church because I really don't fit within that paradigm any longer. For instance, and without being too critical, I don't think God needs the constant praise that "worship services" are designed for. I don't believe that the pastor has a "message from God" to give specifically to me. I don't like the way most services close with the emphasis on our supposed guilt before God and our need to come to the altar to receive or achieve some kind of reconciliation. I don't enjoy all the songs focused on either the blood of Jesus or on our desire to fly away from this world. And I certainly disdain the constant harping against homosexuality that seems to find its way into almost every sermon. For all of these reasons (and more), I don't really feel "at home" in this church.

 

And yet...

 

And yet, because I love my wife and family and they seem to need this form of Christianity, I go along. And, as I often reference on this forum, I try to separate the chaff from the wheat of my experiences there. The music, though I may loathe some of the words, still seems transcendant to me and causes me to contemplate the wonderful mystery that I call God. The pastor will still say something that makes sense or that seems to me to echo the "still, small voice" in my own heart. And the people, taken individually, are quite loving and friendly. Maybe one of the biggest draws for me is that this particular Baptist church is VERY involved in helping the local community rather than in just providing "worship services" for the saints. This, to me, carries a lot of weight and I see it as some kind of bridge between conservatives and liberal/progressives - joining together to produce the "good fruit" that Jesus spoke of.

 

But, as you've said and as Jenell has mentioned, we are contextual creatures. Here on this forum, I can speak my mind freely because everyone already knows that I am a heretic. :D But in this church, for better or worse they are scared of what they are told is heresy so most of the time I simply "don't go there."

 

As you've asked, is this hypocrisy?

 

I don't think it is hypocrisy and here's why: from what I know of hyprocrisy, its goal is to deceive others for selfish reasons. In other words, hypocrites present a "false face" in either their proclaimed beliefs or actions in order to harm other people. I don't do that. I love these Christian brothers and sisters. I realize that, just like me, they are works in progress. It's not my job to present "progressive Christianity" to them (unless I am specifically asked what I think, which rarely happens because the conservative agenda is to "disseminate truth", not to listen to what others think). I have no desire to harm any of them or to "convert" (or unconvert) them. Love does not force. My desire is simply to love them, knowing that I was once part of those ranks and that, even at that time, my desire to know God and follow Christ was sincere. So perhaps like the apostle Paul, I contextually "become all things" not so that "I might win some", but just so that I might participate in a loving community. And this church is trying. Gosh, they were watching Rob Bell's Nooma series a couple of months back. :)

 

Anyway, all of this to say that if I sat down with the elders at my church (which I won't) and discussed all my beliefs and especially my experiences, they would conclude that I was an atheist or a New Ager. I doubt they would ask me to leave, they would just put me at the top of their prayer lists. Ha ha! :P But my intentions there are to 1) be a part of my family's own understanding of spirituality (even though it is not exactly mine) and 2) to produce the good fruit of following the Way regardless of whether I agree or disagree with certain statements of faith. In conclusion, yes, I do hope that the day comes when my wife and I can attend a UCC or Disciples of Christ or Brethren/Quaker church. I would definately feel more "at home" in those congregations. In the meantime, I just try to grow where I'm planted so-to-speak, absorbing what nutrient I can find within this particular context.

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Billmc, thank you, you are not only expressing a lot of what I'd hope to convey in responding to Norm's question, but also some things I find interesting relating to another thread I've posted, how I find myself wanting to find a local church in my community of residence, in which I can find some level of interaction with my conservative neighbors, that avoids conflict over differences of beleifs and general conservative/progressive orienntation, while at the same time feeling i am being true to myself and my faith.

 

Norm, I've been giving your comments, and question, much thought since I read it last night...I did not respond then because I knew I was going to have to work on how to do so. Your post helped me see there's something I haven't effectively stated in what I have in mind to present here. Billmc seems to be catching what I'm saying, his response is very much along the line of what I would hope to say, as well. But I'm still processing, in my own mind and heart, just how to not only respond to you, but for myself, the questions your response raise.

 

Jenell

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If asked directly, I think it might be best, based on the context, to defer with a statement, such as, 'my views are somewhat nuanced and I would be pleased to sit down with you some time and discuss our views in depth.'

 

 

 

George, this is very good advice. I like the turn of phrase "my views are somewhat nuanced." I've said things along those same lines, but somewhat awkwardly because I was taken aback by some of the questioning shortly after I realized I'd lost my religion.

 

Sometimes there are those who will prod and push and just won't settle for a "nuanced views" response. These are the ones who are concerned with my soul. Or, at least that's the stated purpose of the interrogation.

 

Funny, when we joined our church, we had to sit before the deacon board and answer questions that today would have barred me from acceptance as a member.

 

Today, we partook in the baptism of our granddaughter. The words of the ceremony rang particularly hollow to me. It was like listening to babbling and chanting. I enjoyed the music, but when it came time to repeat the words of the communal vow to "fight satan, worldly powers, etc." I found myself saying the first lines of Ode to Joy instead - in German (it was a Lutheran church!). Only my wife could hear, and gave a little chuckle (she knows of my religious catharsis and sympathizes).

 

Freude, schöner Götterfunken

Tochter aus Elysium,

Wir betreten feuertrunken,

Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!

Deine Zauber binden wieder

Was die Mode streng geteilt;

Alle Menschen werden Brüder,

Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.

 

Joy, bright spark of divinity,

Daughter of Elysium,

Fire-inspired we tread Thy sanctuary.

Thy magic power re-unites

All that custom has divided,

All men become brothers,

Under the sway of thy gentle wings.

 

NORM

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