Opting to be humanist

Aug 14, 2017 by

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The subjects of contention in MWR’s Letters & Comments section leave me in a quandary. Having been a Mennonite Church member for 60 years, and on its payroll for 15, I treasure the love that emanates from within the Mennonite family. But letters indicating the great divide as to the church’s focus and ethics are wide of the target. It is time to reassess the church’s essence and issues.

When one is constantly faced with the horrors of innocent suffering and death from natural disasters (landslides, tsunamis, famine, starvation, Ebola, kidnappings, militarism) it is evident that the God of the Bible is not involved in mercy missions and that the religious communities, including Mennonites, don’t prioritize it either.

From my perspective, it is clear God is not in the prayer answering or rescuing business. There is no indisputable evidence whatsoever — from personal observation or science — that the biblical God is involved with anything done on Earth. The Bible is too contradictory to be believed, and its God is too “ungodly” to be worshiped.

Devoid of any expectation of supernatural intervention, I have opted to be a humanist, committed to a philosophy of and responsibility toward a life of mutual good, relying on critical thinking and evidence to direct me toward that end.

B. Harry Dyck
Elkhart, Ind.

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  • Evan Knappenberger

    Dear Harry,

    I think you’re on the right track. You can’t be a good Christian if you haven’t given up childish notions of God.

    I suggest reading theology from an anthropological or psychoanalytic or philosophical standpoint: Rene Girard, Jean-Michel Oughourlian and James Alison for one; Zizek, Kotsko and Lacan for two; Chris Watkin does a good job in his book on French atheism, “Difficult Atheism” and on Derrida’s theogical and ethical work.

    I too have struggled with this for many years, but have come to a synthetic understanding using Nancey Murphy, Imre Lakatos, Michael Polanyi and Christian Early that allows me to function as both atheist and Christian.

    Lastly, try Peter Rollins: he’s exploring this in a very helpful way. Above all, don’t give up! You’re far more honest than many ministers currently operating in the church.

    Good luck to you,

    Evan Knappenberger

    • Conrad Hertzler

      I would be interested in knowing how one can be both atheist and Christian. I, too, appreciate Harry’s candor. The struggles which he express are shared by me and countless others, I’m sure. And there are no easy or “pat” answers to these questions. But I’m sorry that he’s found himself at a place of rejecting faith in God and I’m very curious about your response.

      • Evan Knappenberger

        I know it sounds confusing, but Zizek and Rollins in particular make good sense out of it. My suggestion is “The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief” and “The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction” — both good starting points. Or, Adam Kotsko, “Zizek and Theology” — Evan Knappenberger

        • Matthew Froese

          Jack Caputo, a mentor of Peter Rollins, also has some work in this vein for those who continue to feel a call to work for others in the world while they also despair at God’s apparent distance. From his book Hoping Against Hope: “The name of God is the name of a call that calls for a response, of an insistence that strains to exist, of a truth that we are asked to make come true in these works. The kingdom of God is not a reward for these works; the kingdom is these works.”

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