There was a girl who used to come to the street van on a regular basis. She was a classic example of a young person who was trapped in this cycle. She was in her very early 20’s and had come from a back ground of family breakdown, she has spent her life in and out of foster homes and spent much of that time on the streets from a very young age. She was in a long term relationship with a man over twice her age and had 2 young children who were in foster care. He partner although older had come from the same background and had lived on the streets most of his life. She surrounded herself with other homeless people who abused drugs - they were the only real “family” she knew.
This couple were lucky enough to obtain homeswest accommodation (public housing) after a long waiting period. When they did however, like so many other people who have spent most of their life on the streets- they did not have the skills or support to be able to keep it and were eventually kicked out. Back on the street.
This girl and her partner would come to the street van each week asking if we could help them find a warm bed for the night. Each time they came I would call crisis care and the homeless helpline and each time the answer would be the same. There were either no beds available, or there were no places that would take them both as a couple. In this particular situation another barrier to them finding a place to stay was
the fact that the two of them were so apart in age. There are often age limitation at the various hostels. Even though I never did find anywhere for them, they still kept on coming back each week in the hope that a bed would come up.
A few months ago I was saddened to find out that this girl had past away while sleeping out in the cold behind a church in Perth. This is a situation that I believe may have been avoided had there been the appropriate services available to help them.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
The Back Story
I've been a reader of Cameron Reilly's website and started listening to all his podcasts after I heard him on the Father Bob podcast. One major thing he has been talking about for the last couple of years has been Atheism and struggles with religion and often particularly Christianity (being the dominant religion in Australia) He has even been called "ignorant”, a “troll”, “dishonest” and “sneaky" by Christians. On a recent podcast either he or his guest (I can't remember which) mentioned that none of the Xn people he had talked to had been able to the answer the question "What would it take for you to loose your faith and become an atheist?" A simple enough question on one level and one that I wanted to be able to give and honest a personal answer to.
Now I'd like to say a few things at the outset
- I don't see myself as a spokesperson for Christianity or any sought of authoritative spokesperson for any group except.
- I'm not the kind of person interested getting into the kind of heated debates that some Xns and atheists seem to enjoy.
- Understand views different from my own
- Learn from people who hold different view to me
- Challenge my own views particularly by listening to people who's views differ to mine
None the less I am interested in challenging my own belief systems and learning from others. So hear goes
The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree...
I think it's important to acknowledge straight up that Xns are the one who believe in something that we cannot see or test scientifically and that we believe that God has acted in the world through Jesus. Whether this is true is irrelevant in as much as I think it is important to admit that Xns believe things which can be hard to accept and we should not look down on those who do not share all or some of these beliefs. On the contrary I am often suspicious of those who just accept these beliefs at face value.
In a word badly.
Sometimes it's hard to imagine in a Post modern world where truth is seen as relative for many people why some of us would bother arguing one persons truth against another persons truth when it comes to religion. I think the reason that these arguments have become so heated and passionate is that these claims are not just about belief but they are ultimately claims about power. The power to have intelligent design taught in schools or the power to have Xn chaplains in state schools or the power to stop people wearing a crucifix around their neck. (you can probably Google all of these to find the original stories). It saddens me that for a religion that worships a servant king that we are so often sucked into trying take power.
I had hoped that since the early Christians were often labeled atheists by those around them because of their disbelief in pagan gods (the dominant way of viewing the world), that even if Xns disagreed with atheists we would at least have compassion towards atheists. Finally and most importantly, since having freewill and free choice is such a major tenant of Xy would should at least give atheists the dignity to disagree with us. Now I realise that what I am saying does not apply to all Christians. And for every Xn who protests (in what ever form) about the beliefs or actions of an atheists I am confident that there are others who have no problem with those beliefs. None the less as someone who doesn't believe in bagging out others for having different opinions to my own I'd like to apologise for not defending people's right to think differently than me, especially when they are being hassled by people who are calling themselves Xn
How my brain works
Before I answer the "What would it take for you to loose your faith and become an atheist?" question I though it might be worth explaining a little about how my brain works or and how that assesses my world view. This is a quick summary so apologies if I gloss over stuff. My brain has two aspects to it kind of like the two left and right channels on a stereo. The two channels don't play exactly the same thing but do inform each other, heavily influence and often change each other but are none the less in some kind of harmony. I know that when Father Bob has spoken to Cameron he has often said something like "your talking the wrong language!" And he'll say something like "I have no idea what you are talking about". For me the "other language" is my left channel as opposed to my right channel.
My right channel could be loosely described as my scientific and mathematical channel. This is where I do my finances, fix my car and all the other things that are helpful to measure.
The other left channel is where I process things like Beauty, Mercy, Harmony or Love. The kind of things that I can't or it is often not helpful to measure. So, for example, if I give my wife a dozen roses and she feels loved I'm not going to give her 11 next time to see if I can be more economical, I'm more likely to give her two dozen instead. There are other things that happen in this channel as well like enjoying music and movies or the decision to continue supporting the Hawthorn football team, no matter how bad they play. These things may not be measurable but they do have an internal logic. Of course each different aspect of my life doesn't fall into one channel or the other they often sit in both so things need to sit in harmony with each other as they are processed by both sides. Since God is not provable or disprovable my concept of God sits in the left channel. But I'm going to use logic, so if my concept of God says that God controls everything and that God is all loving and that atrocities happen then my right channels is going to tell me that that is just not logical. See the God changes her mind post for more information on this idea.
I realise this is a bit of a quick overview but hopefully you get the picture
Listening to some of Cameron's atheist guests on his podcasts, those who had grown up in a Xn environment and then one day started thinking about God and chucked the idea out with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, I often felt like I was listening to a mirror image of myself. I grew up in a house where I cannot remember God ever being mention except when we went to church at Easter and Christmas (which we stopped going to when my younger sister had stopped believing in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus) I started thinking about God and it just seemed to sit right. After hearing the story of Jesus through a few scripture lessons at school I asked for a Bible for Christmas and then started taking myself to Sunday school. I think I was the only kid there who wasn't dragged by the ear by their parents.
So back to the question "What would it take for you to loose your faith and become an atheist?"
Before getting the answer I think it's worth saying that since I am a Xn, any proof that Jesus did not exist, which includes a coherent explanation of why the early Xn Church started, both the Pauline gentile side and Peter etc... Jewish side, particularly explaining why these people were prepared to die for these myths, would certainly rock the current foundations of my faith. If this happened I'm not sure what exactly would happen. I am a fan of the Jesus that I find in the gospels and would remain so even if I was certain that he didn't exist (perhaps in a similar way that I am a fan of Yoda). I might become an atheist or I might become a Xn with a similar world view to John Spong. So although Xy and belief in God are connected they are in some ways two separate issues.
So, back to the "What would it take for you to loose your faith and become an atheist?"
I would become an atheist when I understand an atheist world view that makes more sense than my current world view of all that I experience.
Now in his original question Cameron was keen to interview me. I'm not sure what he'll think of this answer. Hopefully it at least explains why I like to listen to the show but don't tend to argue with others.
So what next?
Personally I'm going to keep listening to atheist podcasts and blogs particularly because I think they have a lot of good things to say. Xy like any ideology has the potential to over ride the principals of Justice, Mercy, Beauty, Harmony, Freedom and Love. It is often those outside of that ideology who will point this out.
Also, I'm going to try and speak out a little more when I hear Xns slipping into this trap. A classic sign of this that to argue a point some Xns will use expressions like "we should do this because we are a Xn country" or "we should do this because the Bible says so". If a Xn believes that Jesus is loving, merciful and just and that they follow Jesus then they should be able to justify any idea by arguing it on terms of it being just, loving or merciful. If a Xn cannot do this it is an admission that they don't know why something is worth fighting for and they are just following an ideology without questioning it.