Monday, December 20, 2010

what's so funny about atheism?

It seems that every year around Christmastime, atheists come out as strong as the bell ringers in front of Wal-Mart. In some cities, ad space on buses and pubic places go up proclaiming that the Christmas story is a myth. At first glance, God-fearing Christians might be bothered by this. But I guess you could say that atheists have a right to ring their own bell. I'm not saying they're right, but I get where they are coming from.

Let's be honest, Christians like to moan about how secular Christmas has become. And they have good reason to do so. Even still, December is the one time of the year when baby Jesus is at the forefront of everyone's mind. Having spent time in a country where Christianity is not the dominant religion, during a religious festival at that, I can sort of see what it would be like to be surrounded by religious symbols that you think are nothing more that fairy tales. So yes atheists, as science and reason as my witness, I get your point.

Another shot in the war over who owns the "generic winter holiday" was fired yesterday by someone I actually respect. Perhaps I should preface this by saying that I don't respect him as a philosopher or religious scholar but as a comedian. Take that for what it's worth. But no matter his day job, his thoughts were insightful.

Let me back up a minute. Do you like the Office? You know, the show on NBC? Well, the creator of the BBC version on which the familiar Steve Carrell show was based, was created by British comedian Ricky Gervais. He's a really funny guy and, apparently, an atheist. He sounded off against religion yesterday through his blog, which you can read here:

What? Not as funny as you expected? C'mon, why should it be? It's about atheism. The worldview might have merit in some circles but nobody would ever call it a humorous topic. Or is it?


How does an atheist girl get her hair done?
In big bangs!

Okay, so on second thought, atheism really isn't that funny. But that doesn't stop a man who is known around the world for being funny from being an atheist. And while I appreciated reading his opinion and seeing his journey of faith (or lack thereof), I still disagree with his conclusion. But let me explain why.

First of all, I'm worn out on the argument that science and faith can't co-exist. It's foolish to state that science and faith always contradict one another. I'm no scientist and am not qualified to go into detail explaining proof for a worldwide flood or explain how the earth could have been created in six days. To be honest, I'm okay if the world was created in 6 billion years. My faith is stable either way. Science, and the pursuit of truth and fact, doesn't frighten me.

We get into trouble when it does. We shouldn't be so worried that one day we'll open the newspaper to find SCIENCE PROVES THERE IS NO GOD across the front page. Christianity has endured thousands of years of scientific progress. People, in the name of religion, used to believe the earth was flat and in the center of the universe. Turns out it isn't. You would have thought that would have triggered the end of faith. Turns out it didn't. So yes Virginia, it is okay to believe in Jesus and in science.

Secondly, I have to question the validity of any faith that is so poorly constructed that it crumbles after one harmless question. Gervais' account as an 8 year old, sitting at the kitchen table while renouncing God over an after-school snack, has to be exaggerated. It's just too unbelievable. What 8 year old really thinks that way? I sure didn't. When I was eight, I thought typing 58008 on a calculator and then holding it upside down was the funniest thing in the world. Actually, you know what? I still think it's pretty funny.

But, for the sake of the argument, let's take Gervais at his word and read his story as literal as possible. Even in that light, a little doubt is not enough of a reason to abandon your faith. A little doubt is healthy. It isn't unbelief. Rather, doubt is somewhere in the middle of firm understanding and unbelief. The thing I like about doubt is that it is aggressive. It is forward-moving. It involves open and safe dialog. We should never run from the truth. If we don't know the answer, we admit it and go looking for it.

Doubt actually takes work. Apathetic people don't doubt. Apathetic people just don't care. People who doubt do so because they want to know the truth. When you look at it that way, I guess that makes them scientists.

I have questioned several things in my life and every time, I come back to the realization that God is real and Christmas isn't just a myth. I'm content with that. Just how many times has God proved himself faithful? I could never know for sure. But I'd guess somewhere around 58008.

1 comment:

Allyson Neely and Fam said...

well said. and yes. 58008 is STILL funny.