Students debate merits of religion
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 23:01
Why I am not an Atheist
When someone asks me what I believe about God, more often than not (and you would be surprised the number of these conversations I have had) I am forced to articulate both the reason for my faith and some comprehensive understanding of reality itself.
The biggest obstacles to belief in God, I think, are naturalism and materialism. These close cousins rule out any possibility of belief in something beyond reality, though even defining reality is difficult. Naturalism simply holds that all things are natural; the laws of physics, chemical and biological processes govern things in the world. Materialism asserts that all things are material, so there are no supernatural forces, nothing beyond what is physically here. Of course, there are countless brands and formulations of naturalism and materialism, but these are the most fundamental elements.
Naturalism and materialism are pretty widely held worldviews, even though some people still hold on to superstitions that contradict these two views (not everyone can be perfect, right?). But these views are wholly insufficient to explain the human condition.
Neuroscience is one of the hottest topics in scholarship today. Some neuroscientists believe that the entirety of consciousness can be explained in naturalistic and materialistic terms. While there are undoubtedly electro-chemical processes going on in the brain to make thought possible, reducing consciousness to these brain states seems to miss out on something important — consciousness.Our mental states (beliefs, for example) are beyond the ability of neuroscience to explain phenomenally. The relation between mental states and brain states is still hazy and probably going to remain that way since the project itself is flawed.
I have probably delved into too much philosophy for such a short article and not enough into God. While science is exceedingly important, science is wholly insufficient to provide us with an understanding of human existence that satisfies the human desire for coherence, purpose, and meaning.
This is where Christianity enters into the picture. The most coherent picture of the world that I have found comes from Christianity. Because the brokenness of humanity is the beginning of the Gospel, it gets off on the right foot. The finiteness of the individual seems pretty much self-evident. Misplaced desires, selfishness, even an inability, despite the most well-intentioned desires, to do the right thing are all fundamental to what it is to be a human being.
The solution to the problem of human brokenness is not more human striving or more complex moral systems, but the realization that salvation does not come from us. Salvation was God in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. What better picture of love and self-sacrifice do we receive than Christ upon the cross dying in the name of God for you and I? If Jesus was who Jesus and his followers claimed he was, then how monumental was his death? It was of the utmost importance to humanity.
Because of inherent human sinfulness, humanity’s relationship to God was broken. Yet, via the tragic sacrifice of Christ, he took on human sinfulness that we might be spared from our eventual fate such that whosoever places his or her faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will have eternal life.
Some of the religious jargon may be cliché to some, and nonsense to others, so I want to explain a bit of why this is important and what some of it means. Christianity takes in the comprehensive picture of human existence. It concerns our own personal lives, our relationships, our society and our world as well as human consciousness.
I was raised in the Catholic Church and before I became a Christian I identified as an agnostic. Through battles with depression and anxiety and the numerous solutions to such problems that society offers, God claimed my life as His. While the human experience is a whirlwind of tragedy and incomprehension, Christianity offers coherence and joyous peace.
I believe not only because of my personal experience of the despairing alternatives to Christ, but because I recognized it as the truth. Subsequently I have seen the fruit of God in the lives of those around me. In places (literally) across the world, men, women and children have reminded me again and again that the love of God is real, perfect, and transformative. Faith in Christ is sufficient for eternal life, and that does not just mean a life after bodily death, that means abundant life here and now.
I wish I could say more, and hopefully will say more in coming weeks, but the space is small and the topic monumental.
Dearman is a junior majoring in political science and philosophy.
Why I am not a Christian
Before I begin, I should be clear. When I say I am not a Christian, I mean not only that I do not subscribe to any of the Abrahamic religions but also that I do not affiliate myself with any spiritual group.
Demographically speaking, the religiously unaffiliated are one of the fastest growing groups in the United States, but such a category includes atheists, agnostics and almost anyone who does not go to church regularly.
I think specifically of the trend among young Americans today to call themselves “spiritual but not religious,” a sort of cop-out spirituality that allows people to enjoy all the warm and fuzzy feelings religion offers without any of the obligations to go alongside it.
But I digress. I contend that God, in nearly any sense of that word, but for the sake of argument in this context the Christian one, probably does not exist. I qualify my contention because much like how Christians cannot unequivocally prove God’s existence I cannot absolutely deny such an existence.