Yesterday on our annual Christmas trek to Racine, Wisconsin to pick up Mom Schirott, Jim raised a protest about an atheist organization from Madison that made it their business to erect a pyramid structure called the Pyramid of Freedom in Racine's Memorial Square next to the nativity manger. The Journal Times (12-21-07, p. 9A) noted that a member of the Freedom from Religion Foundation "started thinking about how they would respond to the religious symbol [manger scene], which they believe has no right being displayed on public property. 'It infers that this is a Christian nation,' Sorenson said. "The country has no religion. This is our objection.' "
From an Observer's standpoint, what was interesting was the vehemence and emotion that these non-believers felt about the topic of Christmas. Could they not just have as easily ignored the manger and put their energy into something more positive? Or put up the Pyramid of Freedom as a pagan solstice symbol in addition to the manger. Certainly America was founded with religious freedom in mind--not lack of religion--and has room for all beliefs, at least that's the idea. Ironically, the symbol of the pyramid--which also graces our dollar bill--is a central theme of the Masons, several of whom were among the nation's founding fathers. These brave men might find that a pyramid erected next to a nativity scene would be quite apropo.
But, what I really started to think about was what atheist have against God. What I concluded is that we need a god even the atheist could love. Think about it. The god that has been created in humanity's image and likeness is rather wimpy--sits on a throne, is a pacifist no matter what, either pays close attention to every move we make or ignores us completely depending on some inscrutable god-thing that we can never comprehend. He must also be a narcissist because preacher Rick Warren's latest Christmas commercial proclaims "God made man to love him." Whether it's him or Him, we are left with a god who makes something in order to adore or be adored. So, who could like or respect that god?
Religions compound the problem by attributing all kinds of behavior to their brand of god while claiming they have exclusive rights to the franchise. What kind of god would ask his creations to erect separative structures in his name in order to have adoration take place? One begins to wonder if on Sunday this supreme being makes the rounds from church to church in order to get filled up for the week with adoration. Or, if some don't make Him dyspeptic like they do the atheists who have a point if you really think about it.
So, what kind of God could atheists rally round? An Observer might speculate that even atheists might come around to a God that makes more sense and is less wimpy. But, you know, that God probably wouldn't care. He's too busy saving the world and is only interested in those who care to join Him, atheist or not. Adoration is not required, nor for that matter is belief. Now that's my kind of God.
On today's God theme, after all it is Sunday, we have two other items of note: The Journal Times noted above, also highlighted a CBS special called "In God's Name" to be aired tonight. The French Naudet brothers had a near death experience in the twin towers on 9/11 while filming a special on firefighters (yes, they were filming BEFORE the impact) and began asking the questions "Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?" Subsequently, the duo interviewed twelve religious leaders representing over 4 billion followers and created the 2-hour special about the daily lives of these men. One of the brothers concluded, " 'I think what people will probably see is that the one constant link throughout the world is that everyone looks to reunite the human and the divine. A lot of them, if not most of them, spoke quite beautifully of that connection with God on a very poetic level, of that importance the voice of God has in their life and what he brings them." One wonders if the Naudets explored what each of these leaders offered to God, as well. Practically. A rational, thinking person might conclude that if they represented 4 billion people as spokespersons of God, the world should look differently, like more enlightened, a place where right human relations prevails. As religious leaders, what is their responsibility in facilitating loving understanding? It's a question that arguably is far more important than what these leaders had for breakfast or for that matter what they get from God.
And finally, a contributor emailed an editorial from the New York Times entitled "A Pause From Death" (12-20-07) that she said showed enlightened change emanating from the United Nations, a place that was created as a place of light but does not always shine: "The United Nations General Assembly voted on Tuesday for a global moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution was non-binding. . .and failed repeatedly in the 1990s, but this time the vote was 104 to 54, with 29 nations abstaining." The editorialist noted with derision that the United States, Iran, Iraq, China and Sudan were of the latter group. He concluded by saying: "On Monday, New Jersey became the first state in 40 years to abolish the death penalty. That event. . .left much of the country underwhelmed. But overseas, the votes in Trenton and the United Nations were treated as glorious news. Rome continued a tradition to make victories against capital punishment: it bathed the Colosseum, where Christians were fed to lions, in golden light." The question is do we or do we not need the death penalty to sustain law and order? More and more the world is coming around to the view that we do not. Eventually, all nations will come to this conclusion, but in this period of darkness before the dawn, we are not all there yet.