Friday, December 7, 2007

Old vs. New

There is a pervasive attitude throughout the Orthodox churches, older=better. Indeed, comparative theology, for a Copt, is rooted in the idea that the Coptic Church and her sister churches have remained unchanged since before the schism with Rome. I imagine comparative theology for a Catholic is equally self-serving. This is an important concept because the world is changing and the church is not (which is, unfortunately, a point of universal pride among Copts). Moreover the church cannot. In a culture where older=better, progression isn't difficult, it is impossible.

I have been to many Coptic weddings (in fact, I don't think I've ever been to a non-Coptic wedding) and something peculiar strikes me about them. When we hear St. Paul telling us that about a woman's place in the marriage (more here), everyone laughs. In 2007 most people know that equality is essential to a good relationship, one partner dominating the other is not tenable in today's society. My problem here is twofold, 1) Copts have to learn that by experience (with the exception of very meek wives for whom it is a tenable situation) and 2) it's still in the wedding program! A Coptic couple who disagreed with Paul's advice would best do so in private. To question the readings at they're own wedding? Sacrilege!

What silliness. What does it matter? The only answer is, because that is what we've always done.

The Coptic church celebrates Christmas on the 7th of January. Why? Because the Church never upgraded to the new calender (the one I reference when I say things like, 7th of January) that was developed about 426 years ago. Why? Because that it would be different from what we've always done.


I find freedom in atheism. Freedom from ancient conventions that remain conventions simply because they are ancient. And I have the freedom to progress. I can change my mind because the only rubric I hold for my behavior is that it be moral, honest, and when possible, evidence based. For example, instead of mining Coptic morality to justify my strong belief in the value of stem cell research (it doesn't work), I can make up my own mind. My morality can evolve, and that is the most essential progression of all.


antonious said...

Hi, there...I'm not entering into a debate, but just had some time to kill and came across your blog. I've read your posts, but you don't give a reason why you are an atheist. I understand that you were ill-educated in Christianity, never developed a relationship with God, were told about sinners and homosexuals and the evils of other religions, etc, but how do you get from there to "I believe there is no God." Scientist or not--by the way, you were born a human, not a scientist--even science can't prove there is no God. In my first lecture on evolution with Stephen Jay Gould, he told the hall that nothing he says had to conflict with any religion, and I appreciated that as a devout Orthodox Christian. Anyway, what I did notice were several logical fallacies throughout your blog.
Regardless, my take is this: you had horrible teachers in the faith. Christ taught those around him to love and not to judge. He did not teach us to run witchhunts and burn all the "sinners" we could find. (John 3:8-11 is a great example). In addition, Christianity is not about simply living the moral life. People ask, "what do i have to do (minimally) to get to heaven?", but that is the wrong question. The better one is "the kingdom of heaven is coming, what are you going to do about it?" Our goal in life is union with God, a concept sometimes called "deification" or "theosis". From this goal, everything else falls in line, namely, our worship, our social activism and service, our love for others including enemies, murderers, rapists, despotic presidents, etc.

Again, I'm not getting into a debate, I'm just saying that you should think things through a bit more and read some other book: I would suggest _Ages of the Spiritual Life_ by Evdokimov (if you are up on your philosophy), _Confessions_ by Augustine, _God and Man_ by Bloom, _Orthodoxy_ Chesterton, _Mere Christianity_ by C.S. Lewis, read anything by St. Isaac the Syrian, regarding marriage and the Pauline read during the Coptic rite read _On Marriage and Family Life_ by Chrysostom, and ultimately read the gospels and sit at the feet of Christ for a while before you make such big decisions.

Anyway, feel free to take the advice or leave it. I'm not a fan of blogs, and this is my first entry on one, but for some reason, I just got this feeling like you aren't a full blown atheist, but someone who has other things on his mind.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions or comments.

antonious said...

My apologies, the reference should have been John 8:3-11.

Atheos said...

Hello Antonious,
First I must apologize for not responding earlier. I will attempt to examine your criticism bit by bit.
1. I think you misunderstand me, I am not an atheist because of things I learned at church. My atheism is the result of a long intellectual journey. Some of the things I once believed fervently seem silly to me now, and thus make good blog postings. I have perhaps discussed here why I'm glad I'm an atheist, not how I got here.
2. Dr. Gould, a brilliant scientist, ascribes to a very particular view of the universe. He believes that science and religion should stay out of each other's yards, that the methods of one cannot answer the questions of the other, in his words they occupy nonoverlapping magisteria. I also compartmentalized my religion in this way for many years. And you're absolutely right, we cannot disprove god, no more than you can disprove thor. You are an atheist when it comes to thor, to zeus, to amun-ra. As am I, I simply added one more.

Briefly scanning your post, I don't see anything else to respond to, feel free to call me out if you disagree.

Anonymous said...

It seems as though you haven't tried finding any real evidence for religion, Christianity in specific. If you are up to opening your mind, read the book "What's so Great about Christianity" by Dinesh D'souza..I am sure it would stimulate your mind

Atheos said...

Hi Anonymous,
I'm curious what you mean by "evidence for religion." My definition of evidence would be something like "undeniable, incontrovertible and reproducibly verifiable". And because all such statements, by definition, can only apply to natural phenomena I am puzzled as to what evidence exists for religion which is supernatural. I appreciate your book recommendation, but I have little time for reading. Perhaps you could summarize it for me. I assure you that I am quite open minded. My atheism is a call for evidence. If I can be convinced of the existence of god by evidence of the kind I described, then of course, I would be religious. I welcome you to continue comments here, or email me at the address provided on my profile.

Atheos said...

I have created a new post about this subject. Please direct any further comments there.

Salam said...

I apologize for posting the comment here, but I saw this off Google, and I really felt like I could make a contribution to your post.

Quick background about myself, I became atheist when I was 9! (Proving God doesn't exist using "Proof by contradiction method". Pretty impressive!) I became a Coptic Christian when I was 22, although I'm not Egyptian (I'm Iraqi). Due to these strange circumstances, I can state that I am relatively more objective and open-minded than others.

Also, I am not here to convince you to believe. I am not sure if I can. But I hope I can change your "Process" of analysis, if you don't mind.

I, just like you, could not understand how older = better? How can this be logical?! The problem with your analogy however is your process! When you analyze the creed or doctrine of a Church compared to another one, YOU MUST look at it from the shoes of a believer, not an atheist.

So being in the shoes of a believer means that you have to assume the following premises: 1- Jesus is the Son of God. 2- God is omniscient (knows everything). So if that's the case, then God's message is the "perfect" one (i.e. He didn't make a mistake or miss a point) Therefore, it does not need to be adjusted, updated or altered. You wouldn't need Jesus v1.2, v1.3...

What happened with newer denominations, they updated certain things. They felt that there is a need to IMPROVE the doctrine based on human opinion. If we God missed on a couple of points, then I wouldn't waste my time my believing!

When I believed in Christianity, (i.e. Jesus is the Son of God and God is omniscient), only then I looked for the "right" Church. So my answer to your question if older=better is YES. Progression is wrong in this case, because 1+1=2 always. I know this is difficult for you understand, because you don't believe those premises. If you believe in them, the answer is only logical.

This is long.. I'm really really sorry!

Regarding the wedding thing, I laughed to. But if you look at it objectively, Christianity gives a strong message of love and respect. I hope you agree to that. And also, if someone is TRULY Christian and not by name, they must embrace humility to unprecedented levels!!! Can Jesus emphasize it more? Assuming that Jesus is the Son of God, wouldn't you agree that a God who washes the feet of his disciples is ridiculously humble? It's so humble that some are sometimes not impressed by it. So, a TRUE Christian husband (or wife) would be an ideal. Or at least that what Jesus is telling us. Now being the head of the family might seem a sort of discrimination, but it's the total package that matters. A true Christian, I believe, is the perfect package.

The January 7th debate is simple.. WHO CARES! Neither are Jesus’ birthday? It's a day people chose to celebrate an event! It can be in the summer, for as much as I care... Also, the Romans changed their dates (The day after October 4 was October 15!).. But it didn't have to be done this way. It could have stayed the same except that Winter doesn't start December 21, but in December 31. Is there anything wrong with that scientifically? It's just an opinion. The Copts chose to keep their calendars intact.

Atheos, I admire you regardless. You are open minded and analytical. I seriously advise you to be objective... And also, try to avoid the confirmation bias. How about trying to prove yourself wrong..? It's fun... Also, don't get opinions from the wrong people.

Anonymous said...

shame on you. you really don't know what you're missing. God has given you a free gift and you refuse it? SHAME.
May God help you and your soul.

Just for fun, why not try reading some books by Max Lucado? You won't regret it.