Every now and then I get to have some fun with a sermon series at my church. This August is one of those times. I have decided to talk about a group of people long marginalized by the church, atheists.
It’s no secret that some atheists make it hard for Christians to like them, some have made careers of it. But I’m sure that there are even more Christians that make it pretty hard for atheists to like them. While we may have a fundamental disagreement abut how the world works, I still think there is a lot we can learn from each other.
Both Christians and Atheists believe that their worldview will help to make the world a better place, so why can’t we agree to work together to make the world a better place rather than arguing abut our motivating factors. Just like people join the church and reject atheism for different reasons, people become atheists and reject faith for different reasons. So let’s take an honest look at why people reject our worldview and respond honesty t those criticisms.
My plan is to take four weeks to cover this topic. Each week I will talk about a prominent atheist and the “school” of atheism they represent. This isn’t an exhaustive list, and some people might be embarrassed by their randomly assigned representatives, but this is the list I have chosen.
Week 1 – Richard Dawkins
Many people are atheists because they have embraced a fully scientific view of the origins of the world and they believe that leaves no room for a divine creator. Richard Dawkins is a prominent scientist who sees things this way and has written a book, “The Greatest Show on Earth” to spell this out. He explains the origins and evolution of life on this earth and explains why the scientific view is not only logical, but also paints a picture of a beautiful natural world.
(A description of a recent CBC Tapestry program featuring Dawkins can be found here – http://www.cbc.ca/tapestry/episode/2010/07/18/richard-dawkins-1/ – the link to hear the episode seems to not be working)
Week 2 – Ricky Gervais
Other people get caught up in the philosophical framework within with the church operates. In his recent movie, “The Invention of Lying,” comedian Ricky Gervais postulates that a world without lying would have no church. He also suggests that Christian notions of heaven and hell, sin and monogamy sound like someone’s desperate attempt at keeping people in line.
Here is a clip from his movie – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEMN64KEsKc The premise of the movie is that Gervais’ character is the only person on earth that can lie, and in this scene he is trying to cover for his previous lie about heaven by explaining how heaven works.
Week 3 – Adam Carolla
For some people, the idea that they have to label themselves by what they don’t believe in sounds ridiculous. They don’t believe in fairies or vampires either, but they never have to introduce themselves as afairyists or avampirists. Whereas Christianity is a faith that people choose, sometimes atheism just means that people haven’t chosen anything, and they have no interest in choosing something. Still though, their morality and even their vocbulary are heavily influenced by Christianity. Ironically, there are many people who have little mre than a default Christianity, and their morality and vocabulary are more influenced by atheism than they are willing to admit.
Week 4 – Alain de Botton
A new wave of atheists are starting to realize that institutional religion actually did a lot of good in the world. People like essayist Alain the Botton are starting to encourage people to embrace the structure of religion, even if they’ve rejected the belief in a divine being, etc. At the same time, Christians all over the world are rejecting the institutional aspects of their faith tradition. Are we facing an impending reality where there is organized atheism and anti-institutional Christianity?
Many of Mr. de Botton’s views on institutionalizing atheism can be found in his recent book, “Religion for Atheists” available for sale here.
I welcome any feedback about this initiative. Please feel free to leave your constructive thoughts below.