The universe’s marvels, which our Holy Books revealed,
Simply cannot hold a candle to the things that stayed concealed
But Holy Men weren’t worried—no, they knew just what to do;
When science showed new wonders, they just said “God did that, too.”
My aggregator threw me a strange one today–“Atheism and girl guides“, a post mostly grousing about the changes in the Girl Guides’ oath, removing the religious language to make it more inclusive. And an early paragraph sums it up nicely:
At one level, the atheist reworking of the Girl Guide oath to drop mention of God makes absolute sense: if you have disparate groups, you try to find a common level on which they can all agree. In the past, Catholics, Muslims, Jews etc managed to meet on a non-denominational theism. Now, theists and atheists meet on a programme of shared morals. It’s about compromise and agreeing on what we share rather than what divides us.
Although it is not an atheist reworking, but a secular reworking. As the author says, this is common ground, not exclusion of believers.
For a Christian, however, what you have is a serious impoverishment of a culture. Particularly in an organization which is devoted to the character formation of the young, that formation essentially consists in getting young people to see the difference between what they think or feel, and what is actually the case; what they want to do, and what they should do. There are (at least) two elements to this: a cognitive element based on understanding the world in a certain way; and a narrative element which provides us with a network of stories and heroes that provide analogies for our own behaviour. So, eg, a Christian formation will regard the world as meaningful and directed by the will of God, and will refer to (eg) the Bible as a stock of narrative on which we can draw.
From a Christian perspective, the more attenuated the stock from which the formation is drawn, the worse that formation. At best, the formation of character is weakened. At worst, it is actually poisoned by a pernicious alternative: to replace, “love my God” with “to be true to myself and develop my beliefs” is to replace an objective source of values with feeling.
*sigh* Yes, god’s values are objective. That’s why there are so many different versions of them, and why god always seems to agree with the person quoting him.
In the end, this is not just about atheism vs theism, but an impoverished narrative vs a rich one, and relativism vs objectivity. A lot of modern atheism is simply dumb: it’s the sort of thing 18 year old computer geeks would come up with. Christianity is being dumped, but instead of being replaced by a rich humanism soaked in the classicism and literature of the past, it is being replaced by a void. The better sort of atheist realize that but most don’t and even fewer have any sort of viable proposals to fill that void.
Impoverished vs rich is all? The Greek and Norse mythologies are incredibly rich–I loved reading those as a child, and studying them up through college (and one of my favorite books is the Mythological Atlas of Greece, which locates the physical areas that gave rise to various myths. It’s not just that the gods existed, but here, specifically, is where they did this or that. Frankly, the rich narrative was lost when the girl guides decided on “god” rather than “the gods”. And as for the void that god fills and atheism can’t? Please, take a look at how much of “creation” is in the bible. When the bible was written, our understanding of the universe was tiny. The notion of a galaxy, let alone of a universe full of countless galaxies, was unimaginable. Mind you, a god giving revealed truth to his chosen representatives could have mentioned something about it (along with suggesting that people wash their hands regularly), but it wasn’t until humans discovered it that suddenly it was part of God’s Great Universe, and evidence of How Much He Loves Us. (This bit was the inspiration for the opening verse, btw.)
From a Catholic point of view, there is simply nothing that will work in the long run beyond a true religious formation. I don’t expect atheists to agree, but I do expect them to start provide suggestions which go beyond simply using the delete key or suggesting that four year olds study Darwin.
Nice. As wonderful as Darwin’s view of life is (and it is far richer than the tapestry you claim the bible and religion in general present), it is a tiny fragment of the astonishing world we know now that we did not know when the universal and objective truths of religion were revealed. We can and do apply science to all of the questions that religion pretends to give answers for. We know more about human nature, we know more about our environment, we know more about our universe… Go to any modern college or university library, or major public library, and separate out the information therein into to piles–what religion has taught us, and what we learned apart from religion.
Then tell me which world view is impoverished.