Thursday, December 29, 2005

Why I Am Not A Christian

Living in the heart of the Bible Belt I am often asked why I am not a Christian. The answer is simple: I don’t believe in the essential doctrines of Christianity. What are these doctrines? According to Christian Research Journal there are fourteen:

(1) Human depravity, (2) Christ’s virgin birth, (3) Christ’s sinlessness, (4) Christ’s deity, (5) Christ’s humanity, (6) God’s unity, (7) God’s triunity, (8) The necessity of God’s grace, (9) The necessity of faith, (10) Christ’s atoning death, (11) Christ’s bodily resurrection, (12) Christ’s bodily ascension, (13) Christ’s present high priestly service, (14) Christ’s second coming, final judgment, and reign.

Let me briefly respond to each one.

HUMAN DEPRAVITY. I believe that people are the image and likeness of God. I believe that God embraces and transcends all opposites including good and evil (see Isaiah 45:7), and that on a lesser scale we do as well. We have an inclination for evil and an inclination for good. We must learn to embrace, harness, and transcend them both.

CHRIST’S VIRGIN BIRTH. Virgins don’t have babies. The notion of Virgin Birth is based on a mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14: “A young woman shall give birth…”

CHRIST’S SINLESSNESS. If Christ has no evil inclination he is not like me at all and thus cannot speak to my real spiritual struggle.

CHRIST’S DEITY. If all reality is God, as I believe, then Jesus, too, is God. But no more so than you and me.

CHRIST’S HUMANITY. If Jesus is born without an inclination for evil then he isn’t human. You can’t have it both ways.

GOD’S UNITY. God is not one rather than two; God is nondual. There is nothing other than God. If there were then God would be limited, and a limited god is not God.

GOD’S TRIUNITY. Just as H2O can manifest as liquid, solid, and gas so God can manifest as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But why stop at three? God also manifests as Mother, Daughter, Nature, Light, Dark, Good, Evil, humans, animals, plants, etc.

THE NECESSITY OF GOD’S GRACE. I agree that awakening to the Reality of God in, with, and as all things is an act of grace. I just cannot believe that God’s grace is limited to those who believe any specific doctrine. God’s grace is free. Either you accept it or not, but it is available to all.

THE NECESSITY OF FAITH. God desires no allegiance to doctrine or creed. God desires nothing, God is everything. Faith is an abstraction, reality is what matters.

CHRIST’S ATONING DEATH. Sin is rooted in ignorance. If we know that we are God manifest we naturally treat one another with kindness and respect. As history so clearly proves, the death of Jesus didn’t make us any less ignorant or sinful.

CHRIST’S BODILY RESURRECTION. Bodies don’t matter after death. Bodily resurrection, even if true, is irrelevant.

CHRIST’S BODILY ASCENSION. Where did he go? Up to Heaven? There is no “up” or “down” in the universe, only “in” and “out” of various gravitational fields. Heaven is not a place one goes, but a realization of God’s nonduality to which one awakes.

CHRIST’S PRESENT HIGH PRIEST SERVICE. I do not believe in priesthoods of any kind. We are all God; none are more God than others.

CHRIST’S SECOND COMING, FINAL JUDGMENT, AND REIGN. While I admit to longing for a time of universal peace, justice, and love, the return of Christ as it is told to me is a time of violence, torment, and death for billions of people on this planet. I’ll pass.

So that’s it. I am not a Christian because I cannot believe what Christians believe. But then I have the same problem with Jews, Moslems, Hindus, and Buddhists as well.

5 comments:

AaronHerschel said...

“What is truth?” asked Pontius Pilate, and washed his hands of a troublesome question. I might revise that slightly and ask: “what is reality?” Descartes famous thought experiment on hyperbolic doubt posits that, since all we know of reality we know by means of science and the senses, and both senses and science may be deceived, reality as we experience it may simply be a construct of the mind. If this is so, then all our interactions with the empirical world are a kind of wishful thinking, or—to put it another way—acts of faith.

And why not? Certainly, science has proven that our senses are only one avenue to reality, and a narrow one at that. For instance, when we consider a flower we take in it’s shape, color, sweet smell, the softness of its petals; but when a bee sees a flower it perceives a map to the pollen drawn in ultraviolet light. Which experience is real? Which is true?

Both, of course, depending on whether you’re a bee or a human. But does that mean all knowledge is relative? Or is there a class of knowledge that exceeds and contains all these contradictions? Descartes thought so, and built up science as means of reaching out for it via a process of institutionalized doubting. The problem here is that progress is infinitely incremental: like Zeno’s paradox in which the arrow always has another half-step to go before it can reach its target. Religion--or at least, Western religions--posit God as the absolute knower. But if God is a self, than she is only another perspective, and therefore subject to the same limits of any other static point of view.

I’d like to offer a different model: call it, The Jacob’s Ladder Model. When Jacob has his vision of the ladder to heaven he sees figures moving both up and down. To me this suggests n that there is some sort of feedback loop between individual and absolute knowledge. In this construction, God is not a self. God is being itself in toto: unknowable and unknowing. Individual consciousness is God’s attempt at self-awareness vis-à-vis synecdoche. In the Jacob’s ladder story, the angel is never named, but Jacob comes out the struggle with a new identity. Being as an absolute is all one, and cannot know itself; and yet its struggle with selfhood, “I/thou”-ness, is transformative. Truth and Reality, or God-consciousness, changes constantly as our own perspectives grow and change.

George Randolph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George Randolph said...

Quote: GOD’S TRIUNITY. Just as H2O can manifest as liquid, solid, and gas so God can manifest as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But why stop at three? God also manifests as Mother, Daughter, Nature, Light, Dark, Good, Evil, humans, animals, plants, etc.

Question: If RIGHTEOUSNESS created Evil .... then RIGHTEOUSNESS becomes UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, wouldn't it?

Question: If GOODNESS created Evil ..... then GOODNESS becomes NOT GOOD anymore, isn't It?

George Randolph said...

Quote: GOD’S TRIUNITY. Just as H2O can manifest as liquid, solid, and gas so God can manifest as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But why stop at three? God also manifests as Mother, Daughter, Nature, Light, Dark, Good, Evil, humans, animals, plants, etc.

Comment: So God can manifest as the Good One as well as the Evil One?
What kind of God is such a One? IMO this is definitely an Evil One, because Evil is the absence of Good.

Nick said...

What a delightful way to have confirmed that I am not, and could not ever be, a faithful follower of a religion. Thank you. "God" makes for an excellent metaphor.