Atheism - A Defendsible Concept?
Church was what you did. Myself the small child saying a rote learned prayer for an uncle away in the army. Starting school as five years of age, the reproduction of William Holman Hunt's 'The Light of the World' hanging on the classroom wall. Sunday school every Sunday afternoon. The Cubs, church parades, and then the Scouts with its curious mixture of Christianity and Baden Powell's - good works and good deeds - bowdlerized Afrikaans and Swahili mores and verse. Did I believe of it? Did I have some kind of faith imbued in me? The honest answer would be no.
My knowledge of the Christian doctrine was hardly the depth of a nanometre. At that time in my mind the crucifixion was a very singular form of execution designed for the founder of Christianity. Not as I discovered later a very common form of execution within the Roman Empire. A choir boy, did I listen the drone of the sermon's? no. The church building, Victorian, unlovely, and cold inspired a faint dislike. The only thing I did like from time to time - the music. Even this became a disappointment. The Nunc Dimittis, signalling the conclusion of a dreary hour and half, I did, and still do, like the words. On two particular occasions a beautiful setting played on the organ. I remember waiting eagerly during the third the first bars only to be assailed by a different and to my ears a most unmelodic setting.
Our church was low Anglican. One church parade did take us to the setting of a very High Anglican, both in architectural appeal and ritual. This was more interesting to my sensibilities. Much later, the attraction of High Church ritual and aesthetic made explicable the changeling devotion of a whole bevy of previously free-thinking writers and intellectuals.
Then into the RAF. More parades every Sunday morning during my long period of training. You could be one of two things. C of E - Church of England. OD - Other denominations. No exclusions were permitted. You had to be one or the other. During a war I suppose it was helpful to know which when they were burying someone.
You can say that over the past two centuries Christianity in its various guises has done much good. This is indisputable. This has to be balanced again the doctrinal horrors it has also inspired. Wars. Genocide. Unimaginable cruelty. The elimination of indigenous cultures. Even now I can only think about the fate of The Cathars with anger. The willingness of to support colonial exploitation, an endless list of despots and tyrants, An indefatigable urge to support power and the status qua, collaborate in the social control of populations. Original sin what an excuse of appalling behaviour particularly against children. In my mind the scales are weighted down conclusively not in the direction of the good things but the bad.
The concept of some human individual, though ritual, having the power to intercede on behalf of God strikes me as both arrogant and absurd, no better in fact than The Pardoner on his horse selling indulgences for money. There are many individuals within the Christian church who are without doubt sincere and honourable men. But I find it difficult to understand why these, in general well-educated individuals manage to hold on to their faith. The original teachings have many admirable qualities. Most of what comes after have been formulated by man. I cannot but admit that faith has inspired sublime works of art. However, in the minds eye of countless believers the founder of Christianity assumed to be, as depicted, a solemn white man with a beard.
Many years ago I worked in a university bookshop. One of my customers a professor of comparative religion, also an ordained minister of the church. A very gentle individual, I always wanted to ask him, though I never had the courage, or perhaps good manners, to ask him that he being aware of the history of the church, of comparative religion, the mechanism of syncretism, the conclusions of textual analysis of The Bible, how could he continue to hold on to his faith. This was to assume in a meaningful sense he was actually doing so.
So what effect did my Christian up bringing had on my life? The child it produced a somewhat self-righteous prig.
No religion can provide proof. Though in my mind religions that teach the eventual elimination of the self have a rationality that Christianity lacks. An eternity in the company of family members who I disliked in life does not strike me as being a sought after prospect.
All religions are faith based. That is there never was and never will be actual verifiable proof of the existence of God or a multiplicity of Gods. The paradox is that Atheism also depends on the concept of faith. It cannot be proved and therefore is equally absurd.