Christian Atheist: Not Quite a Contradiction
A Christian by birth, whose mindset well infiltrated by the tenets of agnosticism is not unheard of. Most of Europe falls under this category. They identify themselves as Christian(by birth), get baptized, married and other rituals performed according to the traditions of the respective church. For a conservative Christian, this ideology is very hard to digest. He finds deep fault in the very existence of the term “Christian atheist”. He can’t fathom how could such two extreme words co-exist and becomes an ideology, millions seem to adopt. He operates in a mode, best described by Bertrand Russell as “Men is born with a cruel thirst to worship”. Personally, I am a Christian, but my logical brain can’t overlook the agnostic arguments. And I am unbelievably unapologetic about it. Liberals and libertarian minded people accept this belief system without many hiccups. I believe that Christianity and atheism addresses two mutually exclusive issues, hence no problem in being hyphenated. On a personal but arrogant note, i am yet to find a man who has read and pondered about God more than I have, including clergies.
Christianity is a belief system, where Jesus, son of God, is atoned for our sins, thus offering us salvation. And we must believe in Him to be offered a seat at his right side, for eternity. Well the idea is not bad at all. As humans are fallible, we need an infallible father figure to look up to. And to we mere mortals, believed to be eternally damned by our sins, Jesus offers a path which is irresistible. Let’s say an irreligious convict, about to be hanged, gets to know about the major religions, just before his sentence, is more likely to believe in Christianity. To a repenting convict, who has no chance for a vindication, a promise that his irredeemable sin will be overlooked by the Almighty God on the judgement day, is an irresistible temptation to unconditionally and wholeheartedly believe in him. Every other religion more or less operates with naturalistic central tenets. Christianity, on the other hand, is an outward focusing religion. One must not get confused by the exact wordings in The Bible with the broader generic principles of Christianity. One must cut through the literal words to understand the real meaning. One must overlook the contradictions and ironies in the constituent books of The Bible.
The problem with the biblical conservatives and the literal interpretationists(including the Protestants) is that they often cannot comprehend the figurative meaning of the passages. Let me make a bold statement that the fundamental point of the Bible is not Jesus. It is “empathy”. Empathy implies compassion. Empathy implies tolerance. Tolerance entails social order and the evolution of rules that preserve the social order. All Jesus teaches, is to be empathetic. The rest of the moral code, a man needs, gets evolved from empathy automatically. Forget Adam, Abraham, countless wisdom of Solomon, parables of Jesus, or multitude of other unbelievable miracles. Christianity as a whole is rooted in empathy. When you say that you are Christian, never bother about the lent you didn’t observe or the commandments you couldn’t resist to violate, or the countless times you missed the holy Eucharist which is a symbolic celebration of the life of Jesus. All that matters is whether you feel the pain for other’s suffering.
Now for such a person, who considers the concept of empathy as the central point for being a Christian, why does he need God. Or should an omnipotent God punish him for not believing in him. The plain answer is No. A God, by the virtue of definition, will reward those who question even his own existence. After all, mind is a blank state as alluded by Steven Pinker and the likes. Immanuel Kant explains the structure of the knowledge acquisition primitives of our mind(not of brain). A human mind is equipped with the synthetic a priori knowledge capability. A blank slate brain can acquire new knowledge by synthesizing from already existing(a priori) knowledge. Already existing knowledge could be physically derived or driven. Importing this to the moral realm, a mind has the capacity to deduce the moral rules he needs to follow, if he were to live a good life, based on some objective measures. This negates the need of a religion or God or messenger or a holy book to provide the specific moral guidelines. And what is treated as moral today may be immoral thousand years later. Well in that respect I claim that Christianity provides a fundamental a priori knowledge of “empathy”. A mind equipped with empathy is a self starter. It will derive the ethical and moral principles, based on the logic of rationality. And an evolved mind that questions even the first mover, is merely a consequence of the first mover’s action, which he had the choice not to engage himself in, but couldn’t resist that brutal temptation. Well what could have happened, if the first mover chose to not bat an eyelid? Would we have eventually evolved to be conscious? Even without a body? And how could matter decide to be conscious? Was there ever a point when a set of atoms decide to arrange and configure themselves into “being” and become aware about “being aware”?
On a totally different note, listen to the late and self described revisionist Christopher Hitchens’ 10 commandments
It is unbelievably difficult to refute a polymath like him. If a conservative Christian is any logical, he would be flabbergasted by these kinds of perspectives. Atheism is not a world view. It simply says that there is no evidence to believe in God. And they are true. People like Sam Harris explores even the neurological basis of belief system, and often alludes that belief is basically a physical driven one. It is the basic fear a man has, and the need for a protector, evolved through generations, giving birth to the concept of an anthropomorphic God, with superhuman ideals, that mere mortals wish to emulate.
A Christian can be atheist in the sense that he needs to depend on his logical mind thus choosing not believing in a God church advocates. A Christian can believe that it is the Almighty, who initiated the Big-bang and never intervenes in the universe any further. A Christian can participate in church activities that instills a commune feeling in him, yet recusing himself from assigning the church defined meaning to the dogmas, he finds himself doing. He redefines the symbolic meaning of the same dogmas at a totally different personal level, which the church based vocabulary finds difficult to express. An atheistic Christian participates in a holy Eucharist, figuring himself offering a sacrifice to the Supreme Almighty, who is way beyond human comprehension, who resides outside the maximum theoretical thinking possibility of a working brain.
As human brain capacity is often correlated to the connections between neurons and as the number of neurons are definite, the concepts the brain comes up with are often limited by the maximum number of possible connections. Let’s say for the sake of simplicity that neuron connection signifies either a NAND or a NOR logic gate. Lets say a brain has 1000 trillion neural connections. Now there is an upper theoretical limit on the complexity of the logic functions a brain can make. Let’s further assume that a thought strand is a logical function. Now we know that there are complex thought strands that could not be imagined by the human brain. God could be such a construct. God has to be. If not, the concept of God devolves to that of something imaginable by the human brain, which makes him less of a God.
The bottom line is very simple. A Christian is christian only because of the human empathy that embodies the life and teachings of Jesus. He can question the presence of the Almighty, and may score points, if there is a real God. In the eyes of God, he is a perfect logical specimen, who is true to himself. He sees the holy Eucharist as an offering to the supreme Almighty, for allowing a chance to experience this universe. And he is driven by logical considerations in his thoughts and deliberations. So a man can be both Christian and atheist, without violating any definitional principles.