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Is Pc A Stepping-Stone To Atheism?


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Guest billmc

We've had some excellent conversations here recently about atheism, the New Atheists, Evolutionary Christianity, etc. And a question that has been sort of bobbing around in my brain is the OP: Is Progressive Christianity a stepping-stone to atheism?

 

In my journey, I've heard that deism is a stepping-stone to atheism, mainly because it is alledged that there is not much difference between a god who isn't there and a god who doesn't intervene.

 

But what about PC? How is it different from atheism? How is it alike? Any thoughts on this?

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good question. My short answer is that PC can be and often is a stepping stone. Or more accurately, a catalyst. For me, PC is a political and civil stance on how faith and spirituality can exist within our society, and what types of spiritual communities we ought to strive for. As a particular religious public, PC promotes a certain fluidity and personal exploration about faith, and I think there are at least two features of this community that would allow (encourage?) one toward atheism:

  1. Faith is in the first instance a historically situated human action, and religion is a human institution. Whatever else it may or may not be, we must always remember that humanity constantly is struggling with these things, is often wrong, is often hypocritical, and often changes its mind. The result of this is that PC often encourages a certain kind of demystification. (It can also encourage forms of mystification, IMO, but thats less important for this topic... maybe)
  2. PC is actively against the centralization of religious authority. In the time I've been on this board, I think I can say confidently that this forum encourages people to try and come up with their own personal understanding of what is going on and what they believe. Combined with the emphasis on tolerance & diversity, PC undercuts authoritative controls that would encourage conformity of belief.

I don't think thats everything, but I think that's a big part of it.

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I think it depends on the person personally. There are some people like Anne Rice who go through periods of doubt and rejection of religion but then find a progressive form of Christianity later in their life. On the other hand, there are people like Bart D Ehrman who started out as a fundamentalist Christian, then he converted to liberal Christianity after he started studying mainstream biblical scholarship more, and then he deconverted from liberal Christianity later on to agnosticism. Everyone's spiritual journey is different and leads to different places and I don't think we can lump everyone's journeys into a stereotyped box. Although I do have to wonder how many PCs are life long progressives?

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From Wiki...

Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.

 

From Wiki....

Progressive Christianity is the name given to a movement within contemporary Christianity characterized by willingness to question tradition, acceptance of human diversity with a strong emphasis on social justice or care for the poor and the oppressed and environmental stewardship of the Earth. Progressive Christians have a deep belief in the centrality of the instruction to "love one another" (John 15:17) within the teaching of Jesus Christ. This leads to a focus on compassion, promoting justice and mercy, tolerance, and working towards solving the societal problems of poverty, discrimination, and enviormental issues.

 

Taking into account the 2 definitions quoted from Wiki, it seems to me, that while PC might because (as Nick said above) "it encourages people to try and come up with their own personal understanding of what is going on and what they believe" and "Combined with the emphasis on tolerance & diversity, PC undercuts authoritative controls that would encourage conformity of belief", it is possible, in my view, one might arrive at atheism. However, it is my experience that as one focuses on love, justice, tolerance and mercy, and places ones undivided trust in these attributes, one will eventually come to the realization that the ground of ones own being where flows out naturally these things mentioned is none other than God, Divinity, or whatever label other than atheism one might apply.

 

Wiki also says "A deity is a recognized preternatural OR supernatural immortal being" To me this realization spoken of above while experienced subjectively is outside or beyond the natural and in the case of preternatural phenomena "are presumed to have rational explanations that are, as of yet, unknown". Since i experience the ground of my being (not my individual personality or life story) as immortal, then PC, for me does not lead to atheism.

 

Just one view,

Joseph

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I think PC embodies an attitude that is not necessarily connected to atheism, especially atheism if conceived of in secular terms.

 

It seems to me that deism probably serves more as a stepping stone to atheism, because deism tends to imbibe a different set of metaphysical beliefs, namely, the clockwork universe that doesn't otherwise need a divine presence. This hearkens back to a Newtonian billiard-ball universe. PCs tend to see the universe as inextricable from the divine presence, sometimes in a pantheistic sense, but many times not. The divinization of the universe brings divine presence and divine meaning right into the very unfolding of the life of the cosmos. Even if a personal God is not believed to be 'behind' it, this seems to be a far cry from atheism as it is normally conceived. To me, the entire universe is an icon of the divine. I don't invoke God in order to to explain this or that phenomenon, but in order to relate genuinely to my true face. For me, Christ is either All in All, or not. :)

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Good Morning, Bill...

 

I feel that a difficulty comes imediately into place when we attempt to define God. We need to define in order to bring entities into our interpretation of reality. What we are doing, though, is creating the definition and then trying to make the Divine fit that definition. Is it God's job to intervene in a world that WE have turned toxic and deadly?According to our definitions of God it is. We must dispense with our ready-made God and seek out the Divine not knowing the Divine, by migrating from not knowing to Knowing. This is a Journey that only we alone as individuals can make in our own private lives and without pre-conceptions, statues, books, men wearing robes giving mighty speeches, on-going debates, and intellectual hand-wringing. Is God a condition? Is God a state of being? We do not know what God is until we travel our own Paths to that discovery. Ultimately we will reach that final door and, when opened with our last breath, the Definition will be revealed. Until then, we travel toward that time.

 

Russ

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I've come to think that atheism and agnositicism are often stepping stones from the form of organized religion of one's birth family and community, that must first be rejected, before one can move on to a more sustainable state of faith and beliefs. In our culture, as in most, to reject the culturally engrained forms of religion and god images IS the very definition of atheist.

 

Jenell

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I concur with the statements about personal journeys - and yet, not. If one attempts this jouney without road map, guide, or fellow travelers (as indeed for a time I did), I thnk PC can indeed lead to agnosticism, demystification, and atheism. On the other hand, with a bit of guidance, PC can liberate and deepen one's belief in God.

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I feel PC helps me to understand the Agnostic, Atheist and Christian Mystic within myself. I feel they are just different angles to the same argument to not accept blind faith and to pursue Truth.

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