Saturday, October 1, 2011

Am I an atheist?

My rather sudden declaration of unbelief ten days ago caught some friends and family off guard.  I went from believer to atheist in a single day and in a single post on my blog.  Today I think that perhaps I may have overstated my position.   What follows is a tentative reevaluation of my thinking on the subject.

All of this was triggered by my realization that I could not reconcile my knowledge of paleontology with the Young Earth Creationism taught by the more fundamentalist Christian denominations, including the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.  In my frustration over my inability to accommodate my understanding of science with my understanding of Christianity I wound up rejecting the entire Old Testament and this resulted in my declaring that I simply did not believe in the God described in the Bible at all since it seemed clear that the Bible was not an inspired document after all.

I now think I may have overstepped the actual logical consequences of the conclusions I came to in my long study of  the several creationist schools of thought.    What I actually concluded in my studies was that mankind is descended from previous forms of life, common descent is a demonstrated fact and not simply some unfounded hypothesis.  The difficulty enters in when we encounter the characters of Adam and Eve in the Bible.  They are the ancestors of all living humans we are told, yet genetics seems to indicate there was never a time when the human race numbered fewer than several thousand individuals. 

If Adam and Eve are not actual historical individuals then the whole story of the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden becomes problematic.  What can the Fall mean if there was no actual single man and woman to actually commit the sin?  If there is no Original Sin by Adam then there is no reason for the atonement of Jesus through His perfect life, death and resurrection.  Without Adam and Eve the whole thing unravels, the Apostle Paul explains the mission of Jesus in reference to Adam's fall in Romans 5:12-21.  Clearly it is essential to the story making any sort of sense at all.

In my frustration at not being able to get to a historical Adam I failed to properly search for alternatives to the basic fundamentalist viewpoints on this subject.  Perhaps there is a way to have Adam and Eve as the founding couple within the framework of evolution.  I did encounter the idea that Adam and Eve were hominids who were given the Imago Dei at some point in history, the image of God was breathed into them and since then this has spread to all humans somehow.  I initially rejected this as not really compatible with the literal Bible story.  But now I think this may be a plausible solution and so I have decided to start over again in my search for a way to harmonize these things.  I have been reading some Catholic web sites this morning on the subject of evolution and it is encouraging so far.  It is interesting enough that I have decided to once again try to learn more about Catholic teachings in general.

I know this will not make my family and friends much happier than my declaration that I was going to be an atheist but it's where my path seems to be leading me this morning.  This whole reevaluation was triggered by a phone call from my mom actually.  When she was talking to me about these things and telling me she was praying for me I suddenly said, in my mind, "Good!  I need that."  That was an odd thing for an "atheist" to say!  Then the thought came that "I ought to keep my mind open on these things", and that was out of left field because I had decided I was done with this!  Then I thought, "well this is all just me wanting to please my mom, I'll get over it soon enough."  But when I got home from my walk I started reading online about the views of the Roman Catholics on evolution and suddenly felt drawn to continue my inquiry. 

So that is where I'm at right now.  I'm confused and dismayed.  God won't leave me alone it seems.  I rather suspect He's really out there, in here, all around etc.  And that He's not going to let me go wrong in the end.  I don't suppose the particular denomination matters either, though for the moment I'm eliminating any that hold to an overly literalistic interpretation of the Bible, and insist on Young Earth Creationism, because too much of that fails to make sense.  But a more metaphorical take could very well work for me, and if it ends up with Jesus Christ as Savior I don't see how folks could much object to that.  Of course they probably will anyway, I always seem to upset people.  I'm Aspie, I always say what is on my mind, even when it would be better to shut up.  That's probably not going to change.  :-)

2 comments:

  1. Larry
    Reconciling earthly wisdom with the God of Israel is going to leave you frustrated. Be careful, the evil one would love for you to pursue your focus on rocks and dirt rather than Christ crucified.

    1 Corinthians 1:18-37

    18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

    20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

    26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

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  2. Anonymous-
    I actually considered that passage as I was thinking about these things. I don't think it really applies to a discussion of the early chapters of Genesis. It seems to be addressing the reaction of people to the idea of the incarnation and especially of the crucifixion. If we applied these verses to all of science then we would still be teaching the earth is flat, has four corners etc. If scripture is inspired and inerrant then when our interpretation of it conflicts with solid scientific fact it is plain that our interpretation is faulty. Of course another explanation could be that scripture is NOT inspired and inerrant. But assuming that it is, then it is clearly time to revisit what God seems to be saying here just as people have changed their minds about the "pillars of the earth" and the fact that the earth doesn't move, which it clearly does. I know there is lots of debate and discussion about the sort of language used, is it poetry or history or something else. All I know is the science clearly and unequivocally contradicts a literalistic reading of Genesis.

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