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Atheist Christian?


fatherman
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My dad is a Presby pastor. He thought I'd be interested to know that a long-time progressive presby USA church in Austin, TX is under fire for admitting an atheist into membership. My first question was, did he make a profession of faith? To which he replied, Yes, but he's not required to profess a belief in the divinity of Christ only that he accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior (which can be done even without a belief in God).

 

Here's Pastor Rigby's words on the subject:

 

Why we let an atheist join our church

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That was a great article. He has a rough road ahead of him, but I applaud him for his courage. I can't really imagine being a Christian without some soft of belief in God, but as the article points out, belief often misses the point.

 

However, as the article points out, being Christian simply for it's political or social benefit misses the point as well.

 

The symbology in Christianity is a "finger pointing to the moon." To be a Christian doesn't mean focusing on, and arguing about, the finger (lol). To be a Christian doesn't mean focusing on, and arguing about, whether God (as the moon) is round or not, or ...

 

However, to be a Christian, I would think you'd need to believe in some sort of "moon," even if you never attempt to discuss or describe it in any way.

 

I think it would be an odd position to be in, a Christian atheist.

 

Hegel defined religion as putting philosophy into pictures.  Strange and foreboding topics like hermeneutics and metaphysics can be taught to almost anyone if they are put in story form.  While it is important not to accept these images literally, it is just as important not to reject them literally.

 

Because life is an ineffable mystery, religion speaks in pictures and symbols.  To accept or reject the symbols literally is to miss the point from two different sides.  Those who fight over whether God exists are like foolish pedestrians who praise or curse a red light as they step into oncoming traffic.  The question isn’t whether God exists like a brick exists, but rather “what part of our experience does the symbol ‘God’ reveal and what parts does it obscure?”

 

I really appreciate the above point. Much of conservative Christianity makes a big point about accepting the symbols found within the Scriptures as literal, which in turn causes many in liberal Christianity to reject the symbols outright. Both stances miss the point, imo too.

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Thank you for sharing. I get as frustrated with antagonistic atheists as I do fundamentalist/conservative Christians. I am thrilled to see an atheist who recognizes the merit of Jesus as a man (something more Christians could do, imo). And thrilled to see a church who realizes that what is unique about Jesus is who he was as a man, not who apologists have created him to be as a god.

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When I linked Rev. Rigby's page about his new member, I have to admit that I kind of skimmed some of it. I went back, however, and read it more thoroughly. Wow! Rev. Rigby has more to say here. He makes some pretty remarkable and provocative statements that are worth examining.

 

Some people argue that evolution disproves religion.  I would say that evolution helps us understand why religion is inevitable in human beings.  Our upper brain functions are built on top of a marshy swamp of animal instincts, and we are rational only in spurts.  Much of our most important processes are irrational, even more are unconscious altogether.  To say we will be purely scientific and objective is an act of imaginary dissociation from the liquid core of our own being.  In Sartre’s words it is “bad faith.” 

 

Advertisers know this swampy core and sell to it.  Televangelists know this swampy core and manipulate it.  Politicians know this swampy core and appeal to it.  While progressives are trying to be purely logical, propagandists are playing that irrational core like a drum.

 

What will progressive Christians do with our swampy core? Do we try to pretend it doesn't exist? Pretend we are not animal, emotional, instinctual? <<WARNING: the following question contains an assumption>> Is this why progressive Christianity is not more compelling?

 

(plenty more material in there to discuss, no hurry)

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What will progressive Christians do with our swampy core?  Do we try to pretend it doesn't exist?  Pretend we are not animal, emotional, instinctual?  <<WARNING: the following question contains an assumption>> Is this why progressive Christianity is not more compelling?

 

I'd say yes, that is why progressive Christianity isn't compelling overall. Much of the mystery has been tossed aside in favor of the rational, human, historical Jesus.

 

Personally, I embrace my swampy core. :P I don't necessarily believe that Jesus was literally born of a virgin or literally fed thousands with a couple of loaves and fishes, but I embrace the symbology and enjoy digging into what reality those symbols point to.

 

I'm probably still a pagan at my core. LOL. I have a swampy pagan core. :lol:

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I have a swampy pagan core

 

Oooo! That sounds nasty! :D

 

Here's the challenge (as I see it) with many of my atheist and agnostic Christian friends (I have a surprising number of these). They're willing to come to the table, yes, but their not will to eat or drink <<totally unfair remark, fatherman>>. They're either worried that the food is poisoned or they just come because they like complaining about what's being served <<ooh, pretty harsh>>. I'm glad you're here brothers and sisters, but I challenge you take a little sip! Allow for the possibility that there is something in the Universe that is beyond our great body of science.

 

Even Science leaves room for God.

 

As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.
- Max Planck (April 23, 1858 – October 4, 1947) was one of the most important German physicists of the late 19th and early 20th century, winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918; he is considered to be the inventor of quantum theory.)

 

(yes I'm being intentionally provocative here! I want discussion, and I want it NOW!)

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Einstein said that no scientific law is discovered without intuition so of course, we submit the data to the rational mind, but we see the whole picture in the higher layers. They sees thoughts in an expanded, brighter light, which enables us to see and piece different ideas, philosophies and data together. Great ideas don't come from small-minded men; they first come from the higher deeper layers of the mind before they are established in the lower layers. When we reflect on unity in the higher layers, we get acquainted with different spiritual aspirations and endeavors realizing that there are different upward paths in a variety of religions. As we climb and scale the mind from the lower layers to the higher layers the differences in traditional religions diminish because all paths that ascend lead to God's pure consciousness. Evolution of knowledge comes from inside and then is built into the life outside in a life of love and unity.

Present lives are mostly dominated by reason; this is a great and devastating misconception because the layers of the mind that deal with everyday activities do not embrace the totality of man. The contents of these layers consist of only a small part of the whole, but the higher layers form the greater part that has an enormous expanse with no designated limits. The climb is hard, but the view is fantastic. We start climbing at different heights and with different guides, may that guide be a scientist, philosopher, Jesus or Buddha doesn't matter as long as one is heading towards the north star which guides everyone. People change guides and paths all the time, but let us chear them on. Onward Christian soldiers.

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I particularly liked this paragraph:

 

"As William James pointed out, religion is not merely hypothetical opinion about the world. Religion is most essentially a decision to be engaged in a world that cannot be understood and offers no guarantees. “God” is a symbol of the truth that stands outside our widest context. “God” is a symbol of the reality deeper than our ultimate concern. “God” is a symbol of the mystery that lies between the poles of our clearest rational dichotomy. The point is not to affirm the reality of the symbol itself, but to affirm the reality to which the symbol points."

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I particularly liked this paragraph:

 

"As William James pointed out, religion is not merely hypothetical opinion about the world.  Religion is most essentially a decision to be engaged in a world that cannot be understood and offers no guarantees.  “God” is a symbol of the truth that stands outside our widest context.  “God” is a symbol of the reality deeper than our ultimate concern.  “God” is a symbol of the mystery that lies between the poles of our clearest rational dichotomy.  The point is not to affirm the reality of the symbol itself, but to affirm the reality to which the symbol points."

 

YES!!! This one is very nice. I have a strong emotionally response when I read it. The thought that humanity's concept of God (which might require a warehouse full of paper to contain) is still just a mere symbol...WOW! I'm overwhelmed with joy and awe when I think of how immense (infinite really) God truly must be.

 

It's humbling also to think that a human understanding of God and God behavior might be likened to a dog's understanding of Humans and Human behavior. <<Hey! Fatherman's calling us all dogs! >> No no no! Think about it. How can something with a dog's brain understand a creature with a human brain? How can we with our human brain understand something with a God brain?

 

Mmm....maybe we have more hope than dogs here. Thoughts

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YES!!!  This one is very nice.  I have a strong emotionally response when I read it.  The thought that humanity's concept of God (which might require a warehouse full of paper to contain) is still just a mere symbol...WOW! 

 

I'm rereading Thomas Moore's "The Soul's Religion." Awesome book. In it he quotes Emerson:

 

All things have an accompaniment of magic. If the fact seem plain and thoroughly known to thee, tis plain thou knowest nothing about it.

 

The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.

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YES!!!  This one is very nice.  I have a strong emotionally response when I read it.  The thought that humanity's concept of God (which might require a warehouse full of paper to contain) is still just a mere symbol...WOW! 

 

I'm rereading Thomas Moore's "The Soul's Religion." Awesome book. In it he quotes Emerson:

 

All things have an accompaniment of magic. If the fact seem plain and thoroughly known to thee, tis plain thou knowest nothing about it.

 

The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.

 

And "If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him."

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