Friday, December 17, 2010

fundamentalist atheists

The other day my daughter called me an Enlightenment thinker on her blog and then referred to her mother's "hooby dooby perspective." I'm not going to argue even though I want to... although there is likely more truth there than I would like to admit. Still, it got me thinking about things. Add Christmas into the picture and a lot has been swirling around for me.

The direction things took is nothing original to me, but still it has been weighing heavily these days as we approach Christmas. I've been thinking of literalism, which presumably is a piece of enlightenment thinking, vs. the question of mystery which clearly slides over into hooby dooby. Over the past few years there have been a lot of "evangelical" atheists out there, trying to convince others of the rightness of their system. Interestingly enough, they have sided most clearly with the fundamentalists as both have argued from a position of taking scriptures absolutely literally. How many times have we heard Bill Maher denigrate religious people as ignorant with a statement about a talking snake? There is no room to approach the text in any way other than a literal, historical document that is either correct or incorrect. For the atheists, it seems silly and therefore is discarded. For literalist believers (of any particular religion), it must be true so it becomes the lens through which science, sociology, and history must be seen. Neither position allows for mystery, poetry, or myth (in the technical sense).

As we approach Christmas, someone will invariably note that the date was chosen to coincide with a Pagan holiday and that many of the practices recall Pagan winter holidays. Others will note the difference between the Greek and Hebrew versions of Isaiah's sign to Ahaz speaking of a young girl vs. a virgin. Many will remind us that Christ is the reason for Christmas but few will get past the simple questions and wrestle with the mystery, the poetry, and the myth (again, in the technical sense of the word).

If you observe Christmas, I hope you can get in touch with a bit more of the hooby dooby side - find the mystery, poetry, and myth and be transformed by a story so amazing that it can't and must be true at the same time. It really is the most radical message that I can imagine.

Finally, I want to share a quote from David Mowaljarlai, an Ngarinyin aboriginal elder, that I had as an e-mail signature for some time and still revisit every now and then... "Once it stops bein' a mystery, it stops bein' true." At that point, the literalist and the atheist have both missed out... because there is no room at the inn for mystery. But the mystery cannot be denied... and it happens in the stable, quietly and inexplicably transforming the world.

Have a Blessed Christmas!

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