Mikhail Epstein on Post-Atheism

Some interesting remarks by Mikhail Epstein on Post-Atheism in Eastern Europe:

“What we are facing is an extreme form of apophaticism, in which God appears as the radically Other, the Stranger, irrevocably distant from humans.”

“Contemporary culture is religious in the sense that it is looking for nothing other than Otherness itself.”

“The angel represents the purest form of God-presence in the absence of God himself.”

Contemporary angels are messengers without a Message”

“Angelism is a sort of heavenly pluralism.”

“In the Postmodern age, pure polytheism, monotheism or agnosticism are impossible. All that remains possible is the condition of possibility itself, embodied in the phenomenon of angels without God, messengers without a Message, and vague metaphysical rumors instead of Revelation reaching us from the beyond.”

“Atheism, as has already been pointed out, was the crassest and most extreme manifestation of apophaticism. It negated not only the possibility of knowing God but the very existence of God.”

“For a minimal believer, God exists above and beyond all religions,”

“Those people who have found God in the wilderness feel that the walls of the existing temples are too narrow for them and should be expanded.”

“The third is ‘poor’ or ‘minimal’ religion, which is free from historical divisions and seeks the unification of all religions in the gap between existing churches and the fullness of a future Epiphany.”


Why I Feel Like Giving Up On Faith

Have you ever heard Atheists define faith this way: “I regard faith as religious belief which is held without evidence. If someone thinks that a bus will arrive on time per its schedule, then that person has trust or confidence, not faith.”

It is a false dichotomy of course. One which many thoughtful Christians would object to as unscriptural, misleading, even disingenuous. But it is so well entrenched within the Atheist community that I’m starting to feel attempts to expand their linguistic awareness are futile.

Maybe a better approach would be to affirm, “Well if that is your definition of faith, then the good news is faith is not necessary for living the Christian life … only trust and confidence are.” For the essential issue is not whether Reality is real or not, but whether it is blind, pitiless and indifferent or not. I just happen to have confidence, given my life experience and the accounts of trustworthy witnesses, that Reality really, really cares.

Why is Nietzsche so ignored by New Atheists?

John Gray writes: “There can be little doubt that Nietzsche is the most important figure in modern atheism, but you would never know it from reading the current crop of unbelievers, who rarely cite his arguments or even mention him. Today’s atheists cultivate a broad ignorance of the history of the ideas they fervently preach, and there are many reasons why they might prefer that the 19th-century German thinker be consigned to the memory hole. With few exceptions, contemporary atheists are earnest and militant liberals. Awkwardly, Nietzsche pointed out that liberal values derive from Jewish and Christian monotheism, and rejected these values for that very reason. There is no basis – whether in logic or history – for the prevailing notion that atheism and liberalism go together. Illustrating this fact, Nietzsche can only be an embarrassment for atheists today. Worse, they can’t help dimly suspecting they embody precisely the kind of pious freethinker that Nietzsche despised and mocked: loud in their mawkish reverence for humanity, and stridently censorious of any criticism of liberal hopes.”

I found this a fascinating comment. I have often wondered why the New Atheists were so shy about Nietzsche when I brought him up in discussion.

What is your view on prayers in parliament?

I think it is importance to distinguish between “freedom of religion” and “freedom from religion” as some would prefer to phrase it. I think it is ridiculous to expect a non-Christian to be obliged to say Christian prayers by law, but likewise I object when secular principles are used to quash Christians from expressing themselves in a Christian manner. Atheism is no more “neutral” a position for parliamentarians than Christianity. It should not therefore be granted umpire status. What we need is an honest acknowledgement of bias, and the honest acknowledgement that it is impossible to be completely free from bias. Parliamentarians should therefore be free, whether Christian or Atheist, Muslim or Hindu, to express themselves as conscience dictates. What say you?

Raptor Jesus and the Flying Spaghetti Monster

flying-spaghetti-monster-jesusThis image combines two popular Atheist memes which are aimed at Christians in general and six day creationists in particular: the Flying Spaghetti Monster, their counter to the idea of a Creator God, and Raptor Jesus, an in your face reference to evolution, extinction and aggressive proselytising.

I take such parodying as an expression of anger, pain and distain delivered with rather broad brush strokes.

But here is a question: have you ever observed that Atheist art is so much more emotionally engaging when it is being anti-Christian than when it is being pro-Atheist? Their path is rather dry when it shifts away from protest. I doubt Atheism would get nearly so much media attention if Christians and Muslims around the world behaved more respectfully towards one another … and others … especially scientists.

I doubt that would stop Atheists protesting about Christianity. But if they must protest, let us make sure Atheists are protesting about the right things – the foolishness of the gospel – and not the wrong things – the foolishness of pseudo-science and moral hypocrisy – by actually keeping the main thing, the main thing in our conversations. I would count it a success if I saw Atheists actually mocking the gospel for a change.

Church for Athiests now in Australia

Surfing through some of the comments on The Spirit of Things website I learned that The Sunday Assembly, described by a member of the Atheist Society as “a Hillsong for non-believers”, has set up a daughter organisation in Melbourne, Australia.

Following this up I found this article by local founder, comedian and writer Pippa Evans which I’d recommend you have a read of.

I find it curious that while many are seeking God without church, this crowd is seeking church without God.

Godless Gatherings: Churches for Atheists

Fascinating video. Don’t you think? I hear folks like this are being dubbed as “New, New Atheists”. I find myself asking, “How can this expand our understanding of the religious impulse?”, “What exactly is emerging here?”, and “How might this co-option of church style prompt further evolution in Christianity and our understanding of Christian community distinctiveness, particularly in contemporary and post-contemporary evangelical quarters”. What a world we live in eh? Western Buddhists, Eastern Christians, post-institutional Evangelicals and now church-planting Atheists. What can I say? It looks paradoxical at first glance, but does that just mean we need to expand our imagination?

Philosophers argue killing newborns is morally justified

killing-newbornsAustralian philosophers have unleashed a firestorm of criticism over their claim that the killing newborns is morally the same as abortion and should be permissible if the mother wishes it. They claim this ”after-birth abortion” is moral as long as it is painless, because the baby is not harmed by missing out on a life it cannot conceptualise.

I find this both morally repugnant yet refreshing in its intellectually honesty. For this is relativistic ethics taken to its logical conclusion in a way that few others have dared. The atheist philosopher Nietzsche saw it first:

“When one gives up Christian belief one thereby deprives oneself of the right to Christian morality. For the latter is absolutely not self-evident: one must make this point clear again and again, in spite of English shallowpates. Christianity is a system, a consistently thought out and complete view of things. If one breaks out of it a fundamental idea, the belief in God, one thereby breaks the whole thing to pieces: one has nothing of any consequence left in one’s hands. Christianity presupposes that man does not know, cannot know what is good for him and what evil: he believes in God, who alone knows. Christian morality is a command: its origin is transcendental; it is beyond all criticism, all right to criticise; it possesses truth only if God is truth — it stands or falls with the belief in God.”

Remember that prior to Christianity the exposing of unwanted newborns was common. Christians made a name for themselves adopting babies that others abandoned. Christians, of course, may be inclined to both agree and disagree with the brutal logic of these philosophers: agree that the killing of unborns and newborns is morally equivalent; disagree that either are morally justified.

Heavenly Hitchens? Oh Please!

I’ve been bamboozled by the Christian commentary I’m seeing this evening on New Athiest author Christopher Hitchens. Having heard of his long anticipated death Christians leaders are falling over themselves trying to explain how he’s now, or just might be, in heaven. Just to show how nice and non-judgemental we all are.

It strikes me as chaplaincy gone mad. Hitchens made it quite clear he wanted no prayers or posthumous salvation attempts. Indeed, this is exactly the sort of thing he used to snear at. Why can’t Christians respect the right of non-Christians to reject the Messiah and the God he revealed? It smells of Christendom spirit to deny freedom of irreligion and freedom from heaven.

Religion poisons everything … except the English language?

This evening I find The Christian Post has been quoting an article from Vanity Fair in which Atheist author Christopher Hitchens “pays tribute” to the King James Bible.

Thinking I’d check this “tribute” at the source, I found it half way through a Hitchens ramble on Bible translation history. Hitchens states, “Though I am sometimes reluctant to admit it, there really is something “timeless” in the Tyndale / King James synthesis. For generations, it provided a common stock of references and allusions, rivalled only by Shakespeare in this respect.” 

I note, however, that the tribute is paid to the style more than content. Yet, even so, it would seem that here the English language we have finally found something Hitchens admits has not been poisoned completely by religion. Too bad the King James Translation is one of my least favourites. I’m sure that identifies me as a complete pleb.