This evening I attended a lecture at LSE about the origins of modern atheism where it questioned how you define religious belief personally and on a secular, sociological level and what has influenced and shaped it over the years.
It makes me question my own belief, as one of the speakers was Rev Dr Giles Fraser whose personal belief in God is not classically defined; converted at university age after attending church through analytical curiosity to then come to the realisation that by attending he was believing but his philosophical world view had not changed from his past atheism.
In the past I have visited a church with my friend and gained some form of comfort from just being there, not by listening to the scripture or hymns etc - just by the surroundings…does that make me a christian?
Because, in the end they raised the question on whether or not ‘belief’ was necessary to be religious or a Christian. Because these days in modern society belief has been (as they said) tampered by greek philosophers to create an ‘essence’ or ‘ideal’ of religion in order to protect it from criticism.
My main critique was that when Fraser stated he believed in the scripture “because it was true” and “by the way that it has shaped him” yet disregarded the philosophical interpretation of what that specific scripture…made me question what he was believing in the first place.
Fraser stated that the onto-theological definition of God were things such as ‘omniscient’ and ‘omnipotent’ and then declared that you would find no evidence of that in the Hebrew scripture or the New Testament - however, surely all the stories in the Bible are shaped in such a way to prove the characteristics of God, which all appear to be magnicificient and supernatural.
When he prays, who does he pray to? How does God listen if he is not omnipresent and omniscient and therefore in turn omnibenevolent and omnipotent?
I must have misunderstood him.
Either way, I agreed with his point that belief was understood by a very narrow definition, one that has been tampered with through Western ideas and opinions. And eventually, came to a satisfying (I believe) conclusion that you do not have to not believe to be an atheist. For instance, atheism or unbelief can be defined by an indifference to God or a lack of use for the categories for religion in life.
But then, what do you define someone who doesn’t believe that such a supernatural (as the philosophers define…) being exists? A Humanist? A Naturalist?
What about someone that feels comfort in the idea of something supernatural controlling them but cannot put a definition on it because they know in their heart of hearts that nothing can possibly exist? Are they an atheist? An agnostic? Or are they somehow subconsciously succumbing to the spiritual twist on Lovelock’s Gaia theory? (I am referring to myself in this belief.)
What confuses me is how anyone can believe in Christianity in the knowledge that the scripture is biased, unverifiable, lacking in empirical, tangible evidence and still call themselves a Christian. If you believe you were created by a God that is obviously all powerful, surely the bible proves just that and you can accept it for its symbolic value…yet know that this symbolism stems from nothing that you can physically see…so maybe you were created by something other? Why should you need a creator in the first place?
To define your God to a similar characteristic of those in the Bible means that your personal belief has not manifested through an individual and independent process.
Part of the reason why I reject religion is to think of myself as another person who has given in to the forces of sociological brain washing and parental or traditional influence disgusts me (I have been baptised and confirmed). To think that my beliefs may be tinged by the beliefs of others and the possibility that it relates to some form of weakness means that I despise it.
In relation to my personal belief I feel it interesting that much of my rejection is in the idea that I have failed and are somehow weak and need guidance or that I naturally rely upon the idea that there is a plan or a greater power. That I need to fall into the sheep pen with everyone else, even though I know that it just is not possible and that science will one day disprove religion completely (I do not believe religion will ever disappear of course, faith is a powerful tool).
The term religion is something that is also been misused. I believe that religion can identify itself with all aspects of life and therefore that you do not have to be a Christian to be part of a religion. For instance, the Buddhist rejection of a supernatural idol yet the fact that it is defined as a religion supports this.
To conclude this splurge, I am going to track down Rev. Giles Fraser and ask some questions, mostly due to the fact that I find his beliefs contradictory and difficult to understand, and also due to the fact he started off at university like me; an atheist with an interest in philosophy and religion.