Does God Have a Future? Part I…An Introduction

jesus.jpg

(This post is part one of a 10 part series that will appear each Sunday)

The past several years have seen a remarkable turn of events in the socio-political conscious of Americans and indeed people worldwide. The Cold War is fifteen years over, but the prospects of a New World Order, an order designed and manipulated by the power elite in the United States, appears to be quite more ominous than anything we have seen in years past.

The ecology also looms. As a civilization, we are faced with new ‘Super-Viruses’, a resurgence of AIDS world-wide, global climate change, and a planet that will see its population double within the next generation, with not enough food or resources to support it.

Where will God fit in to this dynamic?

Many argue that God is needed in our lives more than ever. But why is he needed? Is he needed for the traditional purposes of control – to explain away unimaginable events?

For thousands of years God was used and adapted by all civilizations to ‘explain the unexplainable’ and comfort those who fear what was ‘unexplained.’ However in our time, the ubiquitous power of the ‘unexplained’ has begun to fade, and the very need for God may very well be fading along with it.

This central question is what these series of posts will attempt to examine. Is God an idea of the past whose time and need is over? American Scholar Peter Berger notes that we often live a double standard when we compare our time with the past (1). But in this case, science and reason seem to be winning the eternal battle between the secular humanists and those who see themselves as believers. The evidence is all around us.

In the United States Catholic churches are emptying, while larger churches that I refer to as “Retail Churches”, are flourishing. Catholics attend to discover faith, the latter seems to attend in order to buy it. In Europe most churches are emptying as well and atheism is no longer a taboo subject not to be discussed in certain company, or among a few fringe scholars. More and more, people seem unaffected by the prospect of a life without God, as religious holidays have de-evolved into orgies of over consumption and vanity, less and less resembling generally accepted traditions rooted in the church we knew as children.

A new world economy is also a factor.

People simply no longer have the time, or quite frankly the energy to attend services, much less volunteer extra time to the poor or to other church activities. On a more academic level, those of us who had an issue with God find it a bit liberating to be rid of a God who only existed to ensure we kept our Sunday and holiday schedule of attending church, less we be damned to the eternal fires of Hell. Parents are all working two jobs or more just to survive, and the very idea of another ‘activity’ added to the weekly run of endless soccer games, boy scouts, cheer-leading and various other after school activities, seems almost too much to take. Something must lose, and more people are choosing to opt out of church.

So this is the background. Given these ideas, I will attempt to support my assertion that God is becoming less relevant and less common. In the end we must all deal with the idea that the sometimes hideous and conspicuously absent deity that we have experienced through religion, and that is accepted as authentic by Christians, Muslims, and Jews, may be nothing more than an unfortunate aberration that has been used by those in positions of power to control populations and cultures in the name of material gain.

We must also face the fact that this same deity may also have run it’s course as a convenient and necessary explanation, that has helped to fill a hole in human consciousness and understanding.

Maybe we have grown up and much like children who shed their belief of Santa, various cultures are shedding the practice of theism.

1. Peter Berger, A Rumor of Angels (London, 1970), p. 58

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Posted on December 2, 2007, in Culture, Politics, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. MJ "revoltingpawn"

    Good first part of the series but I am confused when you seem to use God and religion interchangeable. Once again you being an atheist and me being agnostic may be the issue.

    You also said people don’t have time to go to church anymore but I have seen stats that show church attendance has been going up at least in America. I would also contend that people going to church has little bearing on true faith so attendance may mean nothing. I once read study that found that a significant percentage of people who go to church don’t believe in God! Tried to find that study from Google but so far unsuccessful…

    This tells me that religion is becoming more of social construct then a matter of belief. Church has become the place to make business contacts in your community.

    I just wish people would stop basing their belief system on a book written by ignorant, superstitious, men who lived thousands of years ago. Remember religion is man made and God does not care for nor can we understand his nature.

  2. MJ “revoltingpawn”

    Just to clear things up, I don’t consider myself an atheist. You mentioned this in another post as well.

    What I’m getting at is we cannot pretend to know what or who God is. God and religion are co-dependent and I believe both manmade. Both are cultural consequences conjured up by the collective social consciousness to meet specific needs at different times in history. There can be no religion without a deity. Without religion, belief in the deity cannot be perpetuated. Hence I tend to refer to them interchangeabley. I also believe you can be spiritual without trying to “humanize God.” This is reflected in Buddist doctrine.

    As far as church attendance goes, stats will be provided to support the assertion that church attendance is indeed declining…please understand this was only an intro post. More info to come.

    Evidence also shows that of all people who attend, a majority define themselves as believers – again evidence to follow in future posts. Not sure what study you are referencing about increasing attendance? Never heard of it on Google, but if you can find it, please supply a link. I’d like to read it.

    As far as religion being a ‘social construct’, you are correct. This is obvious if you consider the definition of ‘social constructionalism’. I fully support that idea, but you seem to compare and contrast it to ‘belief.’ When people engage in a ‘social contract’ they behave collectively in a certain matter. They establish a set of generally accepted rules or traditions and follow those rules and traditions because they collectively accept or ‘believe’ in the activity, (in this case religion) that they are engaging in. Religion is based on belief. Without belief, there can be no religion. It makes no sense to approach it any other way. I see these two things as dependent, not juxtaposed or in conflict with one another. Not sure what you meant by that.

    In response to your comment that the people who wrote the bible were ignorant; I’d like you to clarify your statement. Are you saying that these people were scientifically ignorant? Indeed they were, but I would contend that they were absolutely not socially ignorant. I believe they knew exactly what they were doing when they assembled the bible and why. In retrospect, the whole bible thing has worked out well for the power elite wouldn’t you agree? This idea will be discussed in future posts as well.

  3. Why do you resort to blog-spam comments to get people to come to this post? That seems really stupid, to me.

  4. MJ "revoltingpawn"

    not Podoba…

    Could you be more specific please?

    First of all think you are using the wrong term. Here is some info on what blog spam is…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spam_in_blogs

    One answer would be yes we do promote our site. I assume Matthew writes posts so people may read them. That would be the whole point.

  5. not Podoba,

    You seem offended. I do post comments on other blogs to promote our site where I think it is relevent. We don’t use spam-bots if that is what you are suggesting. However, we do welcome your comments on this post as always.

  6. MJ "revoltingpawn"

    Matthew J. Podoba…

    Sorry but as long as have been my friend always had the impression that you are an atheist. So you are saying that you are agnostic like me?

    Yes I agree that religion does need a deity but God does not need religion so still not sure interchangeable terms. In other words, religion is a man made idea and not needed for the existence of a God.

    I am sure this discussion will evolve as your series continues.

  7. MJ “revoltingpawn”

    Agnostic more or less!

    By the way, just to get things going on the right foot. I’m not saying “God needs religion.” I’m saying they are co-dependent. Let’s look at it this way – if you didn’t have religion to tell you about God, would you know a God? I don’t know about you, but I found out about God from church. I didn’t wake up one day and ‘realize’ there was a God. I was socialized into it like I’m sure you were.

    More to come.

  8. Will your series be discussing a basis for “ethical behavior” and “morality” in the absence of a God who provides an outline?

    That has always been the most concerning aspect of secular humanism to me. Who decides?

    Disclosure: I am an non-church attending Christian.

  9. Jason D.,

    I will definitely be discussing ethics and morality. My knee-jerk answer is that morals and ethics are really derived by ‘natural laws.’

    More to come and I hope you continue to comment. I’m really excited about this series.

  10. MJ "revoltingpawn"

    Jason D. …

    I think the answer is pretty easy… Man has the ability to tell right from wrong in himself. No one needs to decide but we only need to look into themselves. The problem is that to many people look to other people to “decide” for them. People entrusted to “decide” what others should believe tend to misuse their position so don’t be a follower.

    Even with God (which I believe in) how do we know is will for us? Do we turn to the Bible? Qur’ān? Torah? Book of Mormon? They all have a part of the truth but are just really books of man and not God. He has enabled you with a moral compass in yourself so trust in that. Understand the journey for truth is not short but a long one but thats why they call it life.

    Now if there is no God and its all up to us well our history so far would seem to make me think we are all screwed.

  11. The pendulum will swing back soon, as people get sick of the diseases of secularism and humanism and materialism, and look for answers that these philosophies have never been able to fill.

  12. MJ "revoltingpawn"

    Scavenger…

    Don’t you have it backwards? Has the pendulum not been swung toward bigots, bible thumpers, narrow mindedness, ignorance, and fear driven ideology for thousands of years?

    People are sick of it alright…

    Philosophers are no help but the paranoid, superstitious, ignorance prophets of the bible are a source of knowledge?

    Hell does not exist but since you are so into it we can arrange one for you…

  13. These posts will address philosophical issues, specifically, will God be around in the future. Let’s try to stay on topic and not turn this into a bash session on both sides.

  14. The fundamental flaw in your reasoning to encompass the totality of the imperative nature of existence in life …hinges on the popular notions of trends…the “proactive” solution ….I would worry more about people being afraid to touch each other…and the superstition of not understanding the diametrical process of diplomats in the world…

  15. frodo441

    My apologies, but the fundamental flaw in your comment is that I have merely put forth a thesis that has yet to be supported. I have proffered a few shreds of data, but nothing more.

    How can my reasoning be flawed when I have yet to attempt reasoning through anything yet (At least I don’t think I have)?

    Your comment is irrelevent to the post.

  16. Wow…this is generating the kind of debate I’m looking for on this subject. I’m looking forward to future installments, keep up the good work.

  17. I don’t think the need for God has gone away.

    Religion, in my opinion, does more harm than good.

    Life and rationale defy believing in a “hands-on” God overseeing the lives of individuals.

    But, as long as death is our eventual reality, I think there will be the hope of a lifeforce and afterlife.

  18. “Does God Have a Future?”

    Which god? Humans possess so MANY gods, mostly mutually exclusive. Even within Xianity, few sects concur as to the nature of their deity — or deities, as the Trinity looks suspiciously like polytheism, especially to Muslims. And members of allegedly monotheistic sects are often eager to slaughter each other over their disagreements. “MY god (Jah, Allah, whatever) is REAL and is better than YOUR puny god, so you must DIE!”

    Does reloigious strife have a future? Undoubtedly…

  19. ric carter

    I was looking to approach things from the Christian perspective as embedded in American culture.

  20. Its funny, though not surprising, how the eastern cultures have managed to channel the same basic instincts into completely different belief structures.

    Hinduism, of course, gives us a cyclical kind or life, with reincarnation; Confucianism, which some argue isn’t an actual religion, offers us ancestral worship and filial piety – one lives on forever through the piety and strength of his progeny.

    It all relates back to psychology, and further to concrete biology. There is a fundamental drive within us all, it just happens to be expressed differently from me to you, male to female, Asian to European, et cetera.

    The same instincts driving religion are the ones driving everything else: art and literature; business; sexuality; drug use; families, kingdoms, dynasties, empires, and all corruptible forms of government in which a few stand to profit from the loss of the many through the manipulation of the social order.

  21. Morals are not intrinsic. If they were then there would be no aberrant psychology, no sociopaths, no self-serving agendas.

    To say that people know right from wrong assumes that there *is* a right and wrong. Moral relativism makes this impossible.

    Personally, I envision a bizarre future of morality by democracy where you vote *really* counts.

  22. MJ "revoltingpawn"

    Jason D. …

    I would have to totally disagree will you… People with mental issues, sociopaths, or are self-serving do not or can not hear the voice of truth inside them.

    I assume you feel morals come from God or the church or from a book. Not sure about your God but feel mine has some smarts and would not filter his message thru other people or ancient books. Why is it so hard to believe God has enabled us with a moral compass?

    While is not always easy to see right from wrong there most certainly is right and wrong. We do need help from others to help define our morals but ones who would dictate the truth are of danger.

    Not sure what was getting at in your last sentence…

    Why are you afraid of Humanists? Religious people tend to scare me… Anyone who thinks they have the absolute answer is of no use to me. Religious indoctrination deadens the voice of truth inside.

  23. Interesting so far, but I feel like you might already be making some wild assumptions. I don’t believe that the current religious studies view on deities is that they are an “explanation for the unexplainable.” While gods certainly serve some socio-cultural function, the perspective that “primitive” peoples weren’t scientific enough to understand the world and thus had to anthropomorphize nature really is a western viewpoint stemming from late 19th century rationalism, and drastically downplays the integrity of symbolism in human thought processes.

    Also, religions can exist without deities. Look at Zen Buddhism for instance.

  24. Tait McKenzie,

    All good points. Although I do happen to agree with some of the 19th century thought you mention. I would be hard pressed to find any religious philosophers, Eastern or Western, that would categorically deny that religion was used on some level to explain scientific and natural phenomenon. That is a reach my friend. You do not need to be a biblical scholar to draw some pretty convincing inferences from the Christian bible for example, that tend to support this assertion.

    You are also correct on Zen Buddhism. However, I am not addressing Buddhism per se. These posts are really focusing on the Christian God (monotheism grounded in Judaism) from a Western perspective.

    Not sure what you meant by wild assumptions. To tell the truth, I think Western culture is moving more toward Zen Buddhism. I try to explain that position in my second post in this series when I speak of God-less religions.

  25. I nod to your responses, and after reading your second article agree in your reading of the move towards a more Buddhist approach in Western Culture, or at least a broader definition of what spirituality can be.

    I believe that I was more questioning the perspective that gods were viewed as only being explanations for natural phenomena. The Christian God, or more directly the Hebrew Yahweh, is in many places identified with the phenomena of lightning, leading some to conclude that he may have originally been an upstart storm-deity along the lines of Zeus, Thor, or Indra. However, the effect this God had for the social, cultural, and religious structure of the belief’s people extended much further than could be solely credited by saying the Jews believed that storms were caused by God. Instead, I might argue, the identification of lightning with divinity was instead a metaphor, gods are after all characters in stories, and these stories may have allowed people to articulate something both lightning and a god might have in common: that is, an inexplicable and destructive power that mankind really did not know how to relate to.

    It may not have been a wild assumption to say that God can be an explanation, but I felt it necessary to offer a defense, not of God, but of the deeper role that myth and religion may have played in the history of humanity.

    In case you are wondering, I am currently a religious studies and creative writing major, studying the interpretation of myths, symbols, and rituals under Dr. Fred Clothey, who was himself a student of Mircea Eliade, the “creator” of the history of religion as a field of study. While I can certainly admit that their are problems with both traditional and contemporary perspectives in this field, I am much in favor of ongoing debate on these topics, and moving beyond any perspective that would “categorically deny” something just because it doesn’t believe in it.

  26. Tait,

    Thank you for the clarification. All of your points are sound. It appears as though you are a devoted and intelligent student. We’d love to have you as a contributor if you are interested? If so, e-mail me at shadowdemocracy@gmail.com. Please indicate if you would like to contribute to this blog from time to time. We are growing rapidly and need diverse and lucid opinions such as yours to continue in that direction. I’d be happy to have you on board. Thanks for the comment.

    Matt P.

  27. Matt,

    Thank you for your compliment and invite. While I would love to say yes, I recognize that along with being a “devoted and intelligent student” comes the responsibility of not taking on more projects than one can comfortably handle. I have plenty of my own writing and research to attend to currently, not to mention copious amounts of schoolwork. I will certainly continue to follow this series of articles and comment when I can, and if I find time to write any relevant articles I will gladly send them your way.

  1. Pingback: Does God Have a Future? (Part 1) - Agnostic Forums

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