Christian or Atheist? Is God for Real? (Faith and Life Article)

Updated: Mar 9, 2020

Recently, I read the short version from Sapiens by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari downloaded from iTunes, but after that found his latest book in Big W and read that one in full. The first book I didn't enjoy much as it was very summarised and as an author his books are conversation with his audience telling his version of the history of the world and how it has changed over time. There is no doubt that he is an interesting person and has used his learning to proclaim a message to the world about the past (Book 1, Sapiens - A Brief History of Humankind), and in his 2nd book (Homo Deus - A Brief History of Tomorrow) and then in the 3rd book, (21 Lessons for the 21st Century) - which is about what it is to be human in an age of bewilderment.

At the same time, I also read 10 Tips for Atheists + other conversations in faith and culture edited by Natasha Moore. I saw it at KOORONG at the time I was reading Yuval's last book and picked it up out of interest. The Centre for Public Christianity (CPX), founded in Sydney in 2007, published the volume of media conversations with atheists, agnostics, and believers who are philosophers, economists, scientists, artists, activists and ordinary people from all over the world. The volume asks the question whether religious faith is just a personal lifestyle choice and does Christianity have anything to say to 21st century people and their issues? Is it a force for good or for harm in the world?

I also read John Dickson's book, A Doubter's Guide to Jesus - An introduction to the man from Nazareth for Believers and Skeptics.

Now that I find time to read what I want to read, I read books on a wide variety of subjects about issues that interest me mostly about culture, theology, change, growth and the issues and problems happening around the world.

There are 3 questions all people must face as human beings.

1. Who am I?

2. How did the world get here?

3. What happens to me when I die?

These questions are all important for everyone in making decisions about life and living, about values and beliefs and about how to explain the world and their place in it. All people from all time have struggled to explain how come there is good and evil, horrendous natural disasters caused by nature in which some live and some die and the elements in the lives of people which are mysterious and unexplained. Doctors and Scientists are still discovering more and more things that can be done to change the lives of humans. In America, people can now choose the sex of their child and the colour of their eyes. If I was born before 1984, I would be dead by now and a heart bypass would not have been available to save me. There is still much that Science cannot explain even about Alternative medicine and why some things work only for some people.

Science cannot prove the Big Bang Theory and many Christian Scientists continue to exist. History throws a spanner in the works in that Christianity is open to public scrutiny in that the New Testament revolves around the events that occurred in history between 5 BC and AD 30 in Judea and Galilee. Jesus arrived on the scene at a time of great literary activity. Philosophers were writing voluminous works about the meaning of life. Poet and playwrights entertained in the marketplaces. Emperors were ensuring that they would be forever famous for their victories throughout their empires and records exist of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. 100 BC - AD 200 fill many shelves at University libraries. Jesus is mentioned in passing in writings of Greeks and Romans following his death. He is also mentioned by Jewish writings of the first and second centuries. Then there were also the historical sources on which the Gospels were based. All these pieces of evidence have been copiously studied and written about by historians. Today a consensus of secular scholarship affirms the Gospels are important as historical writings. Specialists state that the Gospels provide a clear and invaluable window into first-century life.

What the evidence means to people is for their personal consideration. Was Jesus just a man? We have evidence from eye witnesses. Do we believe the evidence? Just like a court case people decide for themselves. Did Jesus do miracles? Where did he get his wisdom and authority? How has Jesus influenced the world since his life and crucifixion? How come the Bible has lasted all this time and has been read by millions of people throughout the generations?

But what about Evolution? Yes, we find new species. Yes, we find dinosaur bones. Is there actual proof of a BIG BANG? Where did the first non-made atom come from? Some would say believing in evolution is a harder leap of faith than believing in Jesus.

Anyway, I find that in reading Sapiens, Harari begins his conversation based on assumptions which he lays down without foundation and goes on from there. He also uses circular argument which is unsuccessful in providing any convincing outcome and not highly regarded in academic circles as substantiating any case. In fact, some of the subjects he discusses he doesn't seem to get anywhere except to come to the point of saying that he doesn't know the answer. In his third book he only sees catastrophe ahead for the world! He doesn't like Christianity, yet he uses it in justifying some of his arguments and to support assertions he makes on issues. In the end I looked up Google to find some critical reviews in respect to Harari's views.

Beliefs are passed on from one individual to another. Some people believe in God because their faith has grown through what they were taught as a child. Jesus tells the story about the sowing of the seed. Some fell on a path and was eaten by the birds, some fell on hard stony ground with shallow soil and the plants withered under the hot conditions, some were choked by weeds and some fell in good ground and thrived. I guess this is Jesus telling us what happens to his word even in Christian families. Everyone is like one of the seeds thrown onto the field above that lands in a situation where it might grow.

*Some get distracted by the things of the world and would rather be doing other things than growing in God’s love.

*Some start off well but the cares and worries of life make them bitter and they don’t continue in the faith that their parents and teachers taught them. They rely on their own resources and make a living doing what they want to do. It does not always make them happy, and they think that they have been cheated by the people around them or by bad luck or a raw deal at life. Some may even blame their parents for the way that they were treated and so have that as an excuse. They stop going to church and after a while conclude that it was bullshit anyway. After all they say, “Educated people know that the Bible is a story book of myths”.

*Then there are the ones who are surrounded by many, many other people and things that influence them so much that God is squashed off their radar. There are movies to see, sports to play, restaurants to enjoy, festivals, galleries to visit and trips to new places. Time is precious, and life needs to be savoured lived and experienced. Christianity is full of stuff we and our friends no longer believe today. Those values do not equate with what we want to do.

*In the final case, the seed grows deep and faith grows stronger with age. Experiences good and bad are opportunities for growth. The seed is strongly rooted in God’s promises and grounded on his word of life. They have been encouraged and nurtured by a Christian community and receive help from others in times of challenge, they worship together, meet in a small group regularly for sharing and discussion and teach their children about God’s love in sending Jesus to save all people from sin, death and the power of the devil. They learn to understand about good and evil. They believe that because of God’s love even if their life is suddenly taken from them that they will go to heaven. They show love and kindness to others and know that God blessed them with forgiveness to show them its power to heal their sickness of sin too, and not just re-open the relationship with others for a new beginning. They understand that Jesus sends his spirit with power to help us believe in him and have the power to become children of God. They learn that God gave them amazing gifts with which to serve others, make a great living and enjoy a family life of their own.

And so, it goes. All are given free will. God gives us all the choice to accept his love. He gave Jesus to death on a cross for all people who wish to receive it. As a person of good character, as an atheist, as a Christian, we all strive to live in a harmonious community together. In the classroom, kids come from a wide variety of families. There are kids from single parent families, from dual families where they spend time with Mum’s family and time with Dad’s family, there are families who have same sex partners, and kids who live with grandparents, foster parents and even with relatives. Kids come from families of different nationalities and religions. We have Singh, Buddhist, Muslim, Uniting Church, Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Reformed, Presbyterian, Catalyst, Hillsong, Living Word Church, and Community Churches. Others come with other names that we don’t recognise, but we show respect for each other. Where beliefs vary, we don’t argue about that, but in Lutheran Schools all take part in Christian Studies and in worship time and we agree to show kindness and helpfulness to each other and to grow and learn together as a harmonious community. Government has the same objective to protect all in the country to live in peace and be supported with facilities and treated fairly.

All people have values and faith in something. Each chooses, whether it is security in wealth that is most important, a love of learning, sport, cars and motor cycles, clothes, having fun and being entertained, in abilities, faith in their family always being there for them, in enjoying a large house with all the modern gadgets, in technology, in the Government, in modern medicine and science, in a world of plenty for all people, in community organisations, and people getting better and nicer. You name it and there will be people that have it as a special thing that they live to enjoy.

Finally, what will last forever? Cars? Great Holidays? Family and Friends? The Magnificent Home? Life?

Is it important to you?

How did love originate? Where did to love come from, if not from God.

All adults decide what they believe and teach their children and how they live together as a family.

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