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Friday, December 2, 2011

Dedicated to Atheists

My son and I have an ongoing debate over religious terminology. He's an atheist and I, an agnostic until five years ago, can see his point. It feels funny even to me to use words such as evil and sin. The new me fully understands their meaning, whereas the old me laughs condescendingly at this nonsense invented by the Church to undermine human dignity.
Expressions that praise the greatness of God are also controversial. If you have read my last post, you'll know that my son described as "meaningless slogan" this statement of mine: Jesus transcends my humanity. For my son's sake, I'll try to show how this statement is, instead, profoundly meaningful.

The New Atheists, which my son often paraphrases, maintain that we don't need religion to lead a morally sound life, and I agree with them. But the problem is much more complex than it may appear at first sight. At the risk of upsetting my son before he goes on reading, I'll say that the inability to probe deep into the human soul is characteristic of his fellow atheists. They believe that knowing how to achieve well-being will be, in the future, sufficient for the human race to stay on the right track. I believe that human beings are basically faulty and more than capable of telling themselves lies to adjust to their imperfections. It's all a question of where to draw the line between good and evil.

To illustrate my viewpoint, I'll describe the dynamics that may cause major problems to apparently happily married couples, both atheists and Christians.
Let's say that the husband looses his job, clearly a possibility in this economy, and the wife works hard to keep the family afloat. She, a good woman who loves her husband, is determined to face the situation in good spirit. But a year later her husband is still unemployed. They are about to loose their home. She obsesses over their financial problems, desperately looking for a way out. When it becomes obvious that they have no choice but to move into a rental apartment, she reluctantly admits to herself that she's harboring some resentment towards her husband. It's not her intention to turn against the father of her
children. Yet, unable to suppress her resentment, she looks for reasons to justify it.
"All women want to have a good provider as a husband", she thinks. "Why should I be different?"
If she believes in God, she will pray, but that won't necessarily help her. She'll feel better for a while, but then her resentment could come back, maybe in the form of bad dreams and fantasies of a better life with another man.
If she's an atheist, she might go see a therapist.
She feels guilty, but she can't control her thoughts. They build up inside of her, until one day she will burst out saying something that she will regret.

Here is another scenario.
A different woman has had many pregnancies and has lost her figure. Her husband loves her, but he's not attracted to her anymore. Instead, he can't help being drawn to a beautiful coworker. He feels guilty but, unable to suppress his feelings, he finds a way to justify them.
"I'm only human", he thinks.
If he's a good Christian, he will pray for strength and self control, but he might still not be able to win the temptation. Haunted by erotic dreams and fantasies, sooner or later he might do something that he will regret some day.

These two individuals, the working wife and the tempted husband, are telling themselves something absolutely true, namely that they are only human. Yet, the moment they accept this truth, they loose all hope of overcoming their weaknesses. We human beings are faulty and weak. This is the original sin we carry within us. The serpent, the evil one, is a liar. He wants to convince us that it's OK to pursue our impulses.
"Go for it", he says. "You have the right to be happy."
But no real happiness can derive from destructive behavior.
Or, if we are stronger than him and would never act on illicit desires, he will take away our peace of mind anyway bringing back unwanted thoughts and dreams. There is only one way to overcome them, and that is the way of Christ. Or, I should say, His way is the easy one, much easier than struggling with one's own demons.

My yoke is easy, my burden light."

If we are Christians not only by denomination but by experience, if we have experienced Christ's presence at some point in our life, He will come to the rescue. All of a sudden, He will be there with us, freeing us from our nightmares. A small miracle will take place within our minds. It has happened to me more than once. I have no better words to describe Him than "a Presence that transcends my humanity". The Savior. Someone so impossibly high and yet reachable. Not only a God, not only a man, but rather someone who unites God and men by merely existing. Someone who led the life of a man who was united with God, to show us that we can, with all our imperfections, do the same.

Be perfect, like your Father in heaven is perfect."

A healing presence, which dissolves my problems like snow in the sun and gives me joy. All I have to do is let His splendor shine on me, and I'm effortlessly brought to transcend my humanity. He doesn't turn me into a saint, He just shows me that it's possible to live above the lies.

I realize that I have no choice but to resort to sentences that may sound like religious slogans the atheist's ear, but unfortunately it's impossible to put into words even the most modest mystical experience.
Being unable to say what Jesus is, I'll say what He's not. He's not an inspirational character who tells you how to think and act. He's not the face of an Aha! moment. He's not a spiritual teacher. When you are in need of healing you don't have to meditate on Jesus' teaching. You must CONTEMPLATE Jesus. If you are able to perceive His presence, you'll be filled with love in overflowing abundance and you'll give it to others. You won't have to climb a steep ladder to reach the sky. Take His hand and you'll be there in one single leap. You might fall again because you are human, but you'll know, by then, that you can transcend your humanity. Thanks to Him who lies within.


Antonella said...

GREAT post! I just tweeted it. I'll put it on FBbook too.

Antonella said...

What a mess! I was trying to repost Elena Maria Vidal comment and it came out with my name!