Sunday, August 28, 2011

My crisis of faith (as an atheist)

This is a continuation of an old post How I lost (my atheistic ) religion. So kindly read that post to get a sense of what this post is all about.

In that old post, I shared how I transformed from being an atheist to a theist (but note not yet a Christian). Note that there, I did not abandon atheism because I saw some bad or evil atheists. At university where I became an atheist, I belonged to a philosophy club and in that club there were only two kinds of people, atheists and agnostic, there were no one in between. I aligned with the former because I thought the latter were wussies. Anyway all of them were congenial friends - we hanged out, played chess everyday after lunch, went to talks together etc etc.

Anyway, it was not because of anything that atheists did that made me abandon my atheism, it was because of the external observation of nature or creation and the philosophical truth that something can not come out of nothing, ex nihilo, nihil fit. One might say that this was an incident of general revelation described in Romans 1:19-20. As I said, when I agreed with the assertion "there must be a God", i.e. a Creator, my life became internally disturbed than when I was an atheist. This truth disturbed me and so I went the library and soaked my self with books about other religions and philosophies - they were Confucianism, Taoism, Budhism, and a bit of Hinduism. Note that Christianity was not in the list. I reasoned, no, I will not be satisfied, I owe myself the truth, I must get to the very bottom of this.

All of these religions, as in others, discuss some truth that is conducive and attractive. They all promote moralism etc. I was not satisfied with Confucianism because it did not make sense as to why I should comply with Confucius' idea of a gentleman for its own sake. It did not give authority - for example, he says, we should honor our ancestor. Ok but when you ask Confucius' why? His answer would be - well it is bad, you are not being a good gentleman, so I comeback and say - well so what, what is it to you, why should I follow your dictums, you are not God are you? So his moral pronouncements are not unassailable.

As to the other three, I had a problem with their mystical and vague pronouncements. For example Lao Tsu made mention of The Ultimate Reality but in practical terms, how does one touch that or get a hold of that or relate to that etc.? What did that mean? Such terms I found to be operationally absurd and unfeasible. As to Budhism, well it is a non-Creationist religion and so did not answer my premise of God as being Creator of these things I could see which are bigger than me and too awesome in its beauty and variety. Besides Zen Budhism is just as paradoxical and absurd in its teachings so same thing. Budha wants me to meditate to reach nothingness, a release from my selfishness, and be part of everything etc etc.

So I went back to the Roman Catholicism of my parents, the one that I was brought up in, after graduating from university. I went back to the practices - novenas, masses, confession, penance etc. After a while I would go to confession and the priest would give me my penance, like pray 100 Our Fathers, 50 Hail Mary's etc. I found myself playing a game of doing a deposit of these (i.e., do the penance in advance) so that when I did go to confession, I would deduct my deposit of prayers from the required so I just pray the balance. Why? Because right after doing my religious labour, I was intending to reward myself when I got out, that is paint the town red. I remember going out of church, saying hmmm, paying for my sins seems trivial, I do the penance and it is fixed, but how long do I do this, this is tiring and what if I die in this state? In actuality it was not fixed. One might say, clearly my faith was in those works prescribed by the church.

This went on for a couple of more years and my watching TV got me pegged to a revivalist preacher. He went to my city (in Manila) and one evening I, together with my wife went to the meeting. I did here the Gospel in that meeting some 30 years ago. I can relate more on the few things he said along with his methods which may easily be criticised must be corrected, but that night I did understand the portion on why Jesus died on the Cross, that he died on that Cross as payment for my sins, as a free gift, because I was a sinner never being able to pay for my sins in front of a Holy God. I heard the priest always saying Jesus died, Jesus died, but it was only on that day did I realize, it was for me and my sins. I, along with my wife, left that auditorium, assured that God would accept us not on account of our works but on account of the sacrifice and bitter suffering of His Son.

The journey as you know, those of you familiar with this blog, did not stop there.

With regards to the religions or philosophies I have studied - they bring up pertinent issues but the way they answer the issues leave gaps in between. Below are my summaries and of course I am being simplistic and practical in outlining them here (I can not conduct a treatise on these):

Confucianism lacked authority for its moral precepts whereas Christianity answers that premising the moral precepts from the revelation of God, the ultimate authority and sovereign.

Taoism says we lost equilibrium with the world, with the cosmos and our being; the aim is to practice certain things to capture that equilibrium. Christianity on the other hand surmises that we have no stability because we lost our anchor or relationship with God but He provides Christ to give us peace sending the Holy Spirit in his name. Peace is a by-product of faith in Jesus' Gospel.

Buddhism is correct in identifying selfishness as the source of suffering and advocates meditation as way of saving ourselves from ourselves. Christianity identifies sin as the source of our troubles and the solution is to be forgiven through the suffering of Christ paying for our sins. Christianity teaches that we have a saviour who saves us rather than us doing a doit yourself salvation.

Hinduism, well it has many gods but again, philosophically who and what was the source of such divinity? Christianity on the other hand says there is only one true God, Jesus is his Son and he has won peace for all mankind through his bitter death and suffering. Thus only one God needs to be appeased, such peace, Christ has won freely for every human being and God grants this peace through faith in Christ's name.

Psalm 119:160.