I recently saw an old friend who greeted me with “Hi, atheist!”
That’s how I found out that he had been following my facebook posts and debates. I happened to have posted a lot of materials coming from skeptic and atheist websites to elicit questions and make my point. I didn’t consider myself an atheist though, but that greeting got me to thinking — was I slowly morphing into one?
Granted, I do enjoy the down-to-earth reasoning, thinking and questioning employed by atheists, and I can certainly relate to the issues as I have encountered the same in my own life journey. I also enjoy the company of atheist friends of both varieties – physical and FOOF (friends only on facebook). I just find it refreshing to converse openly and ask hard questions without tiptoeing around issues as I used to do with fellow believers and pastors, lest they think that I was already seriously considering heretic teachings and have turned to the dark side.
But if atheism is defined as ” the rejection of belief in the existence of deities“, I don’t think I’m quite there yet. So far, the atheism that I have seen is first and foremost, a rejection of the Christian deity (or the Christian definition of god as portrayed in the Bible). So far also, most of the atheists that I know who are actively espousing their non-belief come from some sort of Christian background. I do not know of any prominent atheist who started out as a muslim, a jew, a hindu, or a druid.
Because of this, most atheists speak out on issues that involve rejecting the Christian god and Christianity. Once that is done, this disbelief in god is expanded in a less hostile fashion to other religions (Islam is probably next in line in terms of getting atheist flak).
However, just because an atheist has written off the existence of the Christian god does not automatically mean that there is no god of any sort. What is “god” after all, but just a word people use to represent and define some unknown higher power? People have tried to define this god by using words such as creator, source, omniscient and omnipotent. They have tried to characterize this god by attributes such as loving, kind, just, merciful, and so on. But these are just words, and I believe in the possibility of a being that exists beyond these words.
There is a lovely zen saying that goes, “When the sage points to the moon, the idiot looks at the finger.” The words and concepts we have for god are just parts of the finger pointing to something possibly out there, possibly greater than ourselves. I cannot explain it other than saying that there is a feeling, an inner sense of something more profound than words can express.
When Christians and atheists fight over doctrines and belief systems, it is like watching them fight over the pointing finger. It is briefly amusing and I won’t deny deriving a bit of satisfaction seeing my former belief questioned. However, this can’t go on forever. If we keep fighting over the finger, we will never get to see the moon.
So I would like both sides to step back and reflect a little. For the theists (of whatever stripe), ask yourselves if the god you believe in could ever be accurately described in ancient texts — and open your mind to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, you have put your god inside a box too small to contain him, or her, or it.
For the atheists, ask yourselves whether it is possible to have a being higher than yourself. This being does not necessarily have to love you, nor listen to your prayers, nor conform to ANY concept of god that we currently have. If you think about the universe and what we yet don’t know about it, you’d have to at least consider the possibility of such a being, else you would be as close-minded as the fundamentalist you so despise.
I believe in a middle ground, a place of mutual respect, where acceptance triumphs over bigotry, and where love triumphs over fear. After all, if we humans don’t get our act together, who will do it for us?
Photo credits: Lego Art by WildFire
This article also appears in zenbananas.com