Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dogmas, Beliefs, Ideas (Part 4)

Religious Dogma, the Big Hang-Up: [part 1, part 2, part 3]

Most of the true, philosophical atheists I have encountered don’t start out hung up on whether God exists or not. They reject the idea of God because they have a problem with organized religion. It is an understandable motivation. Religions have been around since before people began keeping historical records. The Biblical understanding of this phenomenon is that people have been seeking to resume their relationship with God—or to manipulate others’ longing for God—ever since the fall. When you look closely at the entire Biblical account, God’s plan—and Jesus’ ministry—was never about setting up another religion. God used a religious system to draw people to Him, but the goal all along was to demonstrate that religion does not help. We need to resume our relationship with Him through trust. Everything Jesus taught was about how humanity could be if they began to follow God’s plan again.

Religious systems—even those that pass for Biblical Christianity—always ask people to believe more than the truth God has revealed about Himself. Rufus exposes one of Catholicism’s most well-known “extra teachings,” Mary’s perpetual virginity. (In actual fact, however, the Bible didn’t have to be changed to perpetuate this. The Bible clearly claims Jesus had siblings.)

Bethany: Jesus didn't have any brothers or sisters. Mary was a virgin.
Rufus: Mary gave birth to CHRIST without having known a man's touch, that's true. But she did have a husband. And do you really think he'd have stayed married to her all those years if he wasn't getting laid? The nature of God and the Virgin birth, those are leaps of faith. But to believe a married couple never got down? Well, that's just plain gullibility.

A perfect example of typical atheist reasoning is seen in an early scene between Loki and a nun. He cites a piece of literary satire against organized religion (much like this film) as “proof” that God can’t exist:

Nun: So, you don't believe in God...because of Alice in Wonderland?
Loki: No, Through the Looking Glass, that poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter," that's an indictment of organized religion. The walrus, with his girth and good nature, obviously represents either Buddha or, with his tusks, the Hindu elephant god Lord Ganesha – that takes care of your eastern religions. Now the carpenter, which is an obvious reference to Jesus Christ, who was raised a carpenter's son, he represents the western religions. Now in the poem, what do they do? What do they do? They dupe all these oysters into following them and then proceed to shuck and devour the helpless creatures en masse. Now I don't know what that says to you, but to me it says that following these faiths based on mythological figures ensures the destruction of one's inner being. Organized religion destroys who we are by inhibiting our actions, by inhibiting our decisions, out of fear of some intangible parent figure, who shakes a finger at us from thousands of years ago and says "Do it, do it and I'll ----ing spank you!" The existentialists can keep their Kierkegaard and their Sartre — give me Lewis Carroll any day. That guy knows what time it is!
Nun: The way you put it... I've never thought about it like that before. What...what have I been doing with my life?
Loki: Yeah, I know. Look, why don't you take this money you're collecting for your parish, and go out and buy yourself a new dress. Fix yourself up. Find some man. Find some woman. Find anyone you can connect with, even for a moment. Because that's all that life really is, Sister — it's a series of moments. Why don't you go seize yours? Attagirl.

[The nun smiles gratefully and leaves. Loki sits next to Bartleby.]

Bartleby: Here's what I don't get about you. You know for a fact that there's a God. You've been in His presence, He's spoken to you personally. And yet I just heard you claim to be an atheist.
Loki: I just love to ---- with the clergy, man, I just love it. I love keeping those guys on their toes!

The sad joke here is that Loki hasn’t offered any kind of convincing argument against God—he even knows for a fact that God is—he has just played with the nun by exposing the emptiness of religion. And religions are empty. They all offer people hope through efforts, ultimately in an attempt to control people. This is what most atheists have a problem with. Yet instead of tossing the religious con-men out and seeking God for who He is, they reject the idea of God entirely.

The other evil of religion—beyond it being a tool of manipulators—is that it offers an empty hope. No one follows a religious system with joy and relief. Religion inspires fear and does nothing to relieve the guilt of sin. Serendipity points this fact out in a short statement about denominationalism:

Serendipity:I have issues with anyone who treats God as a burden instead of a blessing. You people don't celebrate your faith; you mourn it.

She goes on to clumsily try to make a point that could be valid, depending on what she meant:

Serendipity: When are you people going to learn? It's not about who's right or wrong. No denomination has nailed it yet, because they're all too self-righteous to realize that it doesn't matter what you have faith in, just that you have faith. Your hearts are in the right place, but your brains gotta to wake up.

It does matter what you believe. It would be silly to claim that faith in a spaghetti monster could save a person from their own sinfulness. Spaghetti monsters don’t exist. That would be like believing you could fly would be enough to save you if you jumped out of an airplane without a parachute. However, where Serendipity does get it right is that UNDERSTANDING does not save. It is not a system of belief or a doctrine that saves anyone. To rephrase her statement: It is not what you have faith in but in WHOM. Just that you have faith in the right person. That being, of course, God.

“Dogma” is a controversial, often offensive, film. That being said it does have several good points to make. For spiritual people who have not given up on faith, it can serve as a good reminder not to fall into religious habits. It is also a good eye opener to the fact that a lot of “Atheists” have given God a lot of good thought. If we can ever help some of them distinguish between faulty, man-made religious rules and the God of the universe maybe they would be open to thinking some more about Him and not so much the people who claim to speak for Him.

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