Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Death of God

I feel that I am filled to the brim and ready to burst. So, I am writing again. I've always made a conscious effort to be objective, as a moderation to the things I believe, the things I'm passionate about. Perhaps that's because I've always seen passion scare people, or perhaps I wish to always see every side of an issue. Maybe I just don't want to get into more fights over things that I feel should be positive. Regardless, I am passionate about my faith.

It's an extremely conflicting experience to relate to and agree with atheists, but be a theist and a Christian. When I read and hear about people moving from Christianity to atheism, belief in religion to other ways of believing, I am conflicted. I have had to move on from the Christianity I've grown up with as well, though I have never found it necessary or correct to move beyond a belief in God, in the spiritual reality that is connected to our experiences, and the checkered and conflicted history of the Church.

I've written lately about my experiences in Christianity, and currently I feel that all of the things I believe in are most closely represented by the Eastern Orthodox Church. Perhaps I am merely fooling myself, as I've been to one of these churches only once. As most people can tell you, experience often colors the theoretical understanding you have of things in ways you would never expect. I am both afraid of trying a new church and desperately want to be involved in a community that discusses things meaningfully. I do not miss most of my college experience, but what I do miss is the good conversations. The ones that naturally happened as far divorced from the "spiritual formation" efforts the school made to indoctrinate us as possible.

I've watched more and more people move away from Evangelical Christianity, and some people move deeper into it, become more conservative, more entrenched and, I suppose, stronger in what they believe. But strength in what you believe is often overrated, and often goes along with stubbornness, blindness, and lack of compassion. Those things are not necessary to be strong, but the baby often gets thrown out with the bathwater on this matter. Regardless, Evangelical Protestant Christianity will shortly be a memory, and will polarize to the level of fundamentalism. At the same time, a lot of the more "liberal" Protestants I've known have polarized more toward atheism. Sometimes I wonder if I'm polarizing to one side or the other, but I know the truth.

I've always been torn between two extremes. Don't get me wrong: I'm no moderate. If I'm pointedly ask what I believe or think about a subject, I will tell you, and I've never tried to balance extremes. What I have tried to balance is who I am. I will laugh at almost any religious joke a person makes, and I will make fun of my own beliefs. To me, that is a sign of security. Plus those jokes are usually hilarious until they turn awkwardly hateful. Regardless, it is unnecessary for me to defend anything, because the truth will eventually prevail, whatever that may be. The truth is that the church has often stood in the way of the truth it claims to protect. The truth is, religion has often made people blind.

The truth is, it does not have to.

I will tell anyone that I believe Jesus Christ is God. I do not believe in the penal substitutionary atonement, original sin, or the inerrancy of scripture. I am not a traditional Christian in the Western sense of the word, and when people make light of the Christian belief that "God kills God to satisfy God's wrath" and say it's absurd, I can only agree. When they say a book cannot be without error if written by people, I can only agree. My foundation for my beliefs has always been and will always be founded in experience, intuitive understanding, and church history. If the human race lost all memory of the era that the historical Jesus came from, I have no doubt that the God I believe exists would have other creative ways of seeking out humanity. I also have no doubt that our understanding of religion, philosophy, metaphysics, science, and the nature of reality and truth is so entirely small that the ultimate God I believe exists goes over our heads all of the time. There's so much we do not know.

Every single person has a right to disagree with me. I expect no respect for my beliefs, nor do I expect anyone to care that I even have them. I'm not the best person in the world, and I often act selfishly or impulsively. But I do try. I want to make my surroundings better, but I've been blessed and cursed with a critical mind and a great deal of passion for fairness, justice, and the truth. I end up being way too excessive on these things more often than not, and end up as a hypocrite quite often. I am no role model.

However, one thing college taught me is that no one else is, especially not the authority figures that claim to have spiritual truth and maturity figured out. Even those that claim to know the entirety of the truth are guessing, like the rest of us. Perhaps some have more educated guesses than others, and I respect those people, especially the ones that will admit that the more educated they become, the more questions they have.

This is the adventure of life. Know more, discover more, find more truth, and realize just how much more you have to discover.

A lot of people call the world we live in Post-Christian. The more I experience and talk with people, the more I have to agree. Christianity, as the Western world knows it, is dying. The remnant of Western Christianity will be a core group of extremists that preach God's vengeance and anger and will become more embittered by the progress of society, and the world will move on as it always has, leaving them behind. However, there is another group of Christians that are content to quietly believe what they do believe, and recognize that their faith does not represent a comprehensive understanding of reality, only a claim that God loves every soul, and has more planned than we can ever imagine. These are truly two different gods represented, and to react against one is not to react against the other.

As Nietzsche prophetically spoke, God is dead, and we have killed him. The question we must answer is simple. Which god is it that is dead, and was his death necessary?