Are We Populating the World with Atheists?

Are We Populating the World with Atheists? July 28, 2013
calvinist obstetrician cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
click on this image to go to my magical shop

Let me try this on you:

Remember a post I did a couple of weeks ago, Steve McCoy’s Broken Babies Born in Sin? It’s based on the theology that we are born sinners, born bad, born broken, born atheists. Basically, it convinces you that you are a sinful child of the devil, which is meant to humble you, which is meant to prepare you for repentance, which is meant to make you ask for salvation, which is meant to get you saved, which is meant to teach you that you are now a child of God.

I suggest this hermeneutic that really came to full bloom during the Reformation in the 1600s is no longer serving its purpose. It is in fact becoming meaningless and even harmful.

We don’t need to starve our children to teach them to appreciate food.

We don’t need to beat the hell out of our kids to teach them to appreciate the times we don’t.

We don’t need to put our kids up for adoption for a while then adopt them back just so they will appreciate our family.

In the same way, we don’t need to put people through the whole justification by faith gauntlet to teach them to be grateful they are children of God. People can be humble without being told they’re worthless. People can be good without the threat of Hell. People can feel good about themselves without feeling bad about themselves first. People can know they are already children of God without having to believe they were adopted.

I suggest that the whole biblical narrative, including Jesus, as well as all subsequent theology, is one vast story illustrating the simple fact that, in the end, we are all one, connected to each other and to our common Ground of Being.

Of course, some people will cling to this old paradigm for as long as possible, just like we have people who belong to the Flat Earth Society, who believe the creation story in Genesis is to be taken literally, and who believe the lunar landing is a hoax.

I want to personally invite you to The Lasting Supper, where we process this kind of stuff  in the safety of a non-confrontational community.

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  • My take. Reinterpreted Garden of Eden: A baby is born good, without sin. The baby born as such, has the potential to grow up to be a loving, well adjusted member of society. The baby is given an “apple” by religious parents that causes a psychological fall. The child now believes deep down that she is a worthless Hell-deserving sinner and can only be saved by admitting her sinful nature and completely placing her trust in an external agent. The church then becomes the stand-in for this external agent. The child grows up and potentially spends the rest of her life feeding the church with weekly tithes and working hard to propagate and maintain this system. A few, though, escape the system and try to return to their original potential – perhaps (for the believer) as God originally intended.

  • Being born atheist is a good thing.

    Atheists, like those converted to be theists, can be humble, grateful, forgiving, kind, loving and all that stuff. No God, no idea of being “children of God” is needed.

    Indeed, such things usually get in the way and certainly shut others out.

    Being born atheist is a good thing — don’t mess with it!

  • Sarah

    I believe that this cartoon represents an even more insidious problem in the Christian faith then the one that you describe here. That problem is that many look at the bible as it pertains to THEM, first. I strongly believe that the bible describes who GOD is first. Many look at the bible as a who are we and who is the “other,” instead of saying, “Who is God.”

    Personally, I do believe in original sin. What I don’t believe in is that God is blaming us for it or telling us we need to shape up. I believe that the point of original sin is to tell us how much GOD loves us, not that we are “bad, sinful, broken.”

  • Ryan Hite

    Everyone is born an atheist and everyone is born good. The religion needs to be taught to them and the earlier it is, the better they are at retaining religion.

  • It’s not about being good.

    It’s about being forgiven. Sinners need forgiveness and are forgiven. People who are not sinners don’t need it and therefore don’t need the Forgiver.

  • It is interesting that you separate out good/bad from sin. Perhaps you have to because not to do so could result in just considering sin as merely a synonym for bad with no other meaning. Of course once you separate sin from good/bad and define sin as missing the mark on what God tells us to do, then there can be no moral attachment to what God tells us unless you mindlessly operationally define anything that God says as Good. If God says “Thou shalt hop on one foot and cluck like a chicken for one minute at the start of each day”, then we would sin if we did not do that… Of course, theologians would then probably proclaim that hopping and clucking are Good since God said it…

  • JosephBrown660

    That is contrary to the Word of God. Due to the original sin in the Garden of Eden, all humans are born sinners. Sin separates us from God. God provided the way to reconcile our sinful nature to Him through His Son. We need to recognize our sinful nature, confess our sin and rely on Him for our salvation. Failure to do so has eternal consequences.

  • It seems you are able to parrot the script quite well.
    although, do you have any original thoughts of your own?

  • JosephBrown660

    Count me as a fool but I will follow the Word of God and not human reason. At the end of the day, their are absolutes. The only absolute that I can find is the Scriptures. Your results may be different. But I would ask on what foundation do you rest your eternal destiny that of your own making or that as laid out in the Holy Scriptures?

  • JosephBrown, I don’t think you are are a fool and I’m interested in your actual thoughts. I’ll share some of mine. I think the body of work known as Christian scripture was inspired by the religious thoughts and beliefs of the time in which it was written. It well could be that the authors thought they were passing along the word of God but I don’t think they actually were passing any such thing. There is some wisdom in scripture but it has to be teased out from all the other stuff. I’m agnostic towards the existence of some kind of realm beyond the known world but I feel that if there were a God, that entity would be so much larger than anything mankind has (or even could) think up. I find a system of going to either heaven or hell dependent on whether you repent and accept someone as your savior to be rather preposterous. If there is some kind of continuation after death I would imagine that it would be of such a different nature as not to resemble at all anything thought up in Christian theology and i would face it with a curious mind, not a fearful mind. IMO, Christian theology is all about what seems to be effective in forming and propagating churches and belief systems but not much at all about what is actually True. That said, if I could go back in time and hang out with some historical people from the past, Jesus would be towards the top of my list. He would be an interesting person to talk to and share a bottle of wine with. I would probably tell him the same things I’m telling you and be curious as to what he said.

  • Gary

    I disagree that everyone is born an atheist. While it is true that knowledge is learned and therefore a child is not aware of the construct of God, atheism is a belief that is learned or taught just like any other belief. Lack of awareness of a god (much like a lack of awareness of airplanes) does not presume a belief that there is no god. We don’t say someone does not believe airplanes are real if they have never encountered the concept of an airplane. Atheism, in pretty much all dictionary definitions, includes the language that it is a belief or a disbelief. The point being that it is a conscious choice not merely a lack of awareness.

  • Ragfish

    We are all born as not merely atheists, but true enemies of God. God loved us even when we were sinners. Through our preaching we do not ‘save’ anybody, that is a sovereign work within the Providence of God; however, we are to make disciples of those who have repented and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. Jonathan Edwards affectionaly referred to his children as “my little serpents”!

  • Gary

    I was not born “an enemy of God”.

  • JosephBrown660

    Jeff P, I respect your viewpoint and your decision. As for myself, after having looked at the options, I came to belief that the Scripture is the truth. As for where the Scriptures originated, it does say that all Scripture is God breathed or inspired. I accept that a God that can create this beautiful universe can also inspire His word to be implanted in the minds of men and to be recorded for the benefit of all. I am one that needs absolutes and the Scriptures provide those absolutes. I am unable to forge off onto my own and make up my own theology when I believe that eternal consequences are at stake.
    The following are a general comment and is not directed at you. This site seems be a haven for those who hate the church. The church, while not perfect in all cases especially when false teachers are in control, has provided me with a loving and caring group of fellow believers. We do not agree on all aspects of the Bible but when someone is hurting many reach out and extend loving care. I have attended many churches and the bulk of the true Bible believing churches tend to manifest this love and care. I have not experienced the money grubbing, power hungry type that is stereotyped on this site.

  • Joseph, I don’t look at it as a decision that I have made. It is merely that I have not been convinced that scripture is the word of God. I don’t buy the argument that an entity that could create the universe surely could implant the word of God in the Scripture authors. By that logic, one could claim anything (like God is directing what I am now writing). As for the Naked Pastor blog, I think money grabbing and ego-power-trips by pastors are the least of everybody’s concerns about the institution of church. I see it more as criticism of acting out the theology of first shaming and chopping people down and then offering a program with strings attached to bring them back up (and all the fear baggage that entails).

  • This is why labels are so problematic. I know lots of people that like to define atheism more loosely as merely a lack of belief in God or not yet being convinced in the existence of God. Many people who self-identify as atheists don’t claim that there is no God. Just that they have not seen sufficient evidence. Perhaps there does need to be a term for someone who takes it to the next level and absolutely claims there cannot be a God. The question is what label to use for such a person. There seems to be no common accepted definition on what atheism means. One could say the same thing about Christian. A map is not the territory.

  • Gary

    Agreed in concept…but what you describe is more often referred to as agnostic. Still…whether or not the labels are correct misses my point. We are talking about conscious thought resulting in a belief about a subject that has been or is being considered.

  • Matthew Gaither

    I agree with what you are saying David. It is most certainly within human nature to be selfish and to be born dead spiritually but that does not mean that we need to be threatened, beaten or kicked into some kind of religious conversion. Jesus Christ is just as sufficient today as he as always been without any help from mankind.