In our teaching series called “Tough Questions,” we looked at “The Church’s” image problem among so many in our culture. The question being raised by those understandably cynical about organized religion in general and Christianity in particular, could, I believe be put like this:
Isn’t the Church really bad for humanity?
I’ll put two quotes in this post from the sermon that need some rumination to fully grasp. For example, I mentioned the recent book, The God Argument: The Case Against Religion and For Humanism, by A.C. Grayling. Part of the problem is that “humanism” has been hijacked by those with a false understanding both of what it means to be human, and the Biblical underpinnings of true humanity. One reviewer hit the nail on the head as to the weakness of the new atheists’ argument:
Grayling is mistaken. The style of atheism rehearsed in these books has reached a dead end. It’s one thing to catalogue the manifest faults within this or that religious tradition, which the new atheists have ably done… over and over and over again. It’s quite another to claim, as these authors also invariably do, that godlessness is not only true but also (really) good for human beings. It quite obviously is not.
“If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.
“Honest atheists understand this. Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God, but he called it an “awe-inspiring catastrophe” for humanity, which now faced the monumental task of avoiding a descent into nihilism. /hopelessness. Camus likewise recognized that when the longing for a satisfying answer to the question of “why?” confronts the “unreasonable silence of the world,” the goodness of human life appears to dissolve and must be reconstructed from the ground up.
Philip Larkin, the poet: speaks of a life with no solace or reassurance, confronting the horrifying prospect of a lonely plunge into infinite nothingness:
This is what we fear: no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell,
nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anesthetic from which none come round.
-Daman Linker, Where are the Honest Atheist? The World
David Bently Hart rips the new atheism to shreds in his book, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. Here is his point as relates to our question.
“Christendom” was only the outward, sometimes majestic, but always defective form of the interaction between the gospel and (culture)… The more vital and essential victory of Christianity lay in the strange, impractical, altogether unworldly tenderness of the moral intuitions it succeeded in sowing in human consciences. (compared to the common inhumanity of many ancient civilizations.)
“IF, AS I HAVE ARGUED…THE “HUMAN” AS WE NOW UNDERSTAND IT, IS THE POSITIVE INVENTION OF CHRISTIANITY, MIGHT IT NOT BE THE CASE THAT A CULTURE THAT HAS BECOME TRULY POST-CHRISTIAN WILL ALSO, ULTIMATELY, BECOME POST-HUMAN’ !”