Thursday, 31 August 2017

How many Christians are atheists? A test...

A lot.

Christians have often claimed that many atheists are actually (deep down...) believers in God; but I suggest the opposite: that here-and-now the problem is that most self-described Christians are really atheists.

How do I know? By application of an insight from Rudolf Steiner, which is that when someone denies the God - that is, denies a Divine Principle in the world - then there is an actual physical defect, sickness, and flaw in that person.

The atheist denies something that he should be able to feel, and feel naturally, simply by means of his actual bodily constitution.

And when someone denies that which gives him a healthy bodily feeling, namely that the world is pervaded by Divinity, then he is a sick man, sick in body.

By this test, as well as the large proportion of explicit atheists, many or most professed Christians are also atheists - and this is an objective, observable fact which is seen in their behaviour: that is, they behave as sufferers from the same physical illness which can be seen in atheists.

The effect of this illness is profound - indeed it accounts for the dominant and striking distinctive features of modernity... that blank, defocused, ungrounded, alienated affect which almost everybody displays (whether covered by a superficial striving, or not).

...This is the behaviour of someone who believes that reality has no meaning, but is merely a combination of change and rigid determinism; and therefore the behaviour of someone who inhabits a world in which only business of an individual is to maintain some kind of emotional adjustment to a senseless situation over the short-term.

This behaviour, characteristic of deep atheism, is the norm; so much the norm, indeed, that little else can be found anywhere - whatever convictions, or lack of conviction, an individual may profess. Just look-around, just speak to people with this in-mind...

By this test I discern that we inhabit a world of atheists, almost entirely.

Our problems go much deeper than we commonly recognise; and 'conversion' to normal Christianity believed in the normal way is grossly inadequate. To profess a belief in God is ineffectual when what is necessary is a new world-view, rebuilt from the ground of fundamental convictions and attitudes, upwards.


William Wildblood said...

I'm entirely with you on this, Bruce. So many professed Christians still act as though this world and its priorities were real in and for themselves. They have the same goals as atheists and relate to the world in the same way. They haven't gone through the radical restructuring of outlook that real belief requires. Oddly enough I was writing something along those very lines this morning!

lgude said...

I agree that deep atheism is the rule, not the exception of our age. I never quite saw it so clearly as you express it here. This post is helpful just now because I have a friend in hospital from a heart attack who knows she is nearing the end of her life. In thinking what I will try to say to her at some point in the near future Steiner's statement "when someone denies the God - that is, denies a Divine Principle in the world - then there is an actual physical defect, sickness, and flaw in that person." is helpful. I wont be suggesting that her sickness is caused by atheism, but rather that I know her to be a person who precisely does not deny a Devine Principle. I agree that we have the capacity to feel the presence of the Divine Principle - bodily. One of the most helpful things I have found from reading this blog is a youtube of Owen Barfield saying something to the effect that we would be better to think of ourselves as spirits who have become material beings than as material beings who have developed consciousness. I think the latter view is the materialist assumption that underpins the modern worldview therefore the basic reason why atheism is the default belief.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Excellent point, though I would say "nihilists" rather than "atheists." I believed in God in the past, but I never understood how his existence was supposed to make life meaningful. Everything, without exception, seems meaningless if you think about it too much, and theism doesn't change that. Most people's solution is simply to "gaze no more in the bitter glass."

Bruce Charlton said...

@William - Of course we both know, especially me, that restructuring beliefs is difficult and 'costly' - but it can be done, incrementally. And it needs active work.

@Igude - Barfield is indeed a great help in these matters. He addressed this directly in an essay called The Coming Trauma of Materialism

@JW - I am not talking about salvation, but about theosis (becoming more divine). Salvation is to be had for the wanting (which, in the modern world, is much more difficult than it sounds) - but theosis is what we are here for, why we have a prolonged life rather than being incarnated then dying immediately.

@Wm - To believe in God is necessary, but only a first step - therefore its importance is easy to write-off. And the spiritual feebleness of most people who believe in God is another disincentive.

And then meaning is also just a first step - and the nature of that meaning remains to be determined...

The problem is that in between the spontaneous natural and passive theism with which we are born, and the grown up, active, freely chosen theism which we need, lies the unavoidable phase of nihilism; in which is it possible to get stuck when it is not rapidly traversed.

(Because, of course, nihilism undermines everything - and the honest, rigorous consequences are so horrible that instead of plumbing then moving through the phase, people just avoid thinking about it, leaving the essential nihilism intact.)

Lucinda said...

I have previously confronted this idea of the prevalence of atheistic Christians, and it is very discouraging. It's part of the reason I have difficulty attending church. I've been seeking to understand how to instantaneously love people meaningfully even when they are using God's name for personal status. This is based on my understanding that this is what God knows is best for me, to love my enemies, but it is so hard to get out of the bodily habit of fear of these people, also the bodily habit of false prediction. What I mean is that I'm trying to trust that what God ultimately offers really is worth temporary 'set-backs'.

It sometimes feels very slow-going. Occasionally, given enough advance-notice and preparation, I'm able to maintain the calmness to remember my freely chosen beliefs and keep them in mind. But sudden changes often throw me off, back into my body-reactions when dealing with perceived enemies.

Chiu ChunLing said...

It may be extending too much dignity to this spiritual malaise to call it 'atheism', let along nihilism. The faithless do not overtly deny that eternity exists, they simply are more concerned with the present, or more precisely the uncertainty of the immediate future.

It is characteristic of cowardice to spend a lot of time and energy attempting to evade things that are possible but unlikely in the immediate future at the expense of preparing for things that are nearly certain or logically inevitable in the distant future. But this defect of character doesn't amount to a decided philosophical position on whether the distant future exists at all.

In the case of accepting dogmas that are more overtly repugnant to the reason and moral insight given by God, I think that the choice to repeat such affronts to sanity involves recognition that they are untrue, and a conscious calculation that there are no eternal consequences involved in repeating and serving a grand lie. But I cannot say as much of the failure to really live fully precepts that one can believe while saying them.

One is an overt act of deception, the other an imperfect honesty.

Bruce Charlton said...

@CCL - Yes - see today's post.