|By definition, or at least one of them anyway, I am a moral ethecist. Surprised?
Some of the work I do involves teaching others. Philosophy is a very broad field of endeavor, yet is one where I find my very best self. It is not because I feel superior to anyone else; I do not. The idea of a self-centric philosopher truly IS an oxymoron. The philosophers among us will really love that joke!
Not only in the years of my past, but even my current days bring me to individuals who are at a really interesting intersection, one I know all too well. It is the intersection between the reality of the life they are living, and the faith they use, or at least try to use to live that life. While I already can tell you there is a book in this post, I would just like to plant a seed for it here. Feel free to Sit Down on a Stone with me for a bit--or not.
I have interacted, in the past year, with more individuals who consider themselves to be "atheist" than perhaps ever before in my life. Despite what most people might presume, Atheism is, in fact a religion. For many, it is a "pure" religion. Multi or poly thesim (many Gods), Monothesism (Christianity, Mohammedan, and Abrahamic religions, among others), Hinduism, Shintoism, Buddhism and Gnosticism/Agnosticism are all on the spectrum. So is atheism. The former religions find their faith in multiple dieties, or universality. Some religious identities represent those who have investigated some religion, yet have not come to a concrete conclusion as to the legitimacy of them--any of them.
The latter, however are a unique class. They have investigated the entirety of the religious spectrum, and understand that there is, in fact, a supreme source. Evolutionists fall into this category, as well. As an interesting (to me) side note, both creationists and evolutionists have a direct nexus, or connection. They both require faith in order to fulfill their religious definition.) For the Atheist, however, the definition is not inclusive of the notion that there is no God. This is a point many (including many Atheists, as it happens) get wrong. Atheists accept the presence of God, they just consider Him to be completely irrelevant. Science causes, for them, a Supreme Being to step aside. With every slip of vision they gain regarding the science of things, the less God is.
It must be said that these words are true, and accurate. They are not meant as conscription to fault at all. They are simply for the purpose of definition. If asked, I would quickly state that I have known many of many religions, including perhaps a majority percentage of them being self-identified Atheists. There is a point, but this must come first.
Over the course of my life, and my ministry, and my educational journey, I have encountered countless people at various points along a religious/faith journey. From the strongest faith-follower to the most convinced Atheist, there is a journey to be taken. The difference is the motivation to begin the journey, and what convinces them to stop at some point on their trek.
The strongest motivation that I have heard explained to me, in more than forty years of active investigation of this phenomenon comes at the intersection of life and faith. One might say that it comes with the death of an innocent child, a terrible or even horrific event, or tragedy of previously unknown proportion. Against the whole, however, these are but minor players in the overall perspective.
My research informs me that the number one reason people find themselves at this intersection of life, without any apparent ability to walk away from it unscathed, by more than ninety percentile, is that the person believes they have committed some sin, either of comission or omission, which God cannot forgive.
If that be true, they reason, then either God is not who He says He is, or He is a callous, judgmental Grand Idiot, and purveyor of lies. Aggrieved parents or loved ones, divorces, alienation of affection by various and sundry relatives, and certainly suicide all find grist from this particular mill. I know this to be true from my personal experience throughout my life. Strong believers have walked away from their faith, or their belief for any of these reasons, or lesser ones but all founded in the concept that they are, or have become unforgivable. Because they feel they are not lovable, or acceptable, or worthy, they feel that God has turned His back on them. Degenerating into anger, and even hatred, they turn, in time, their backs on God as well. To them, this is a reasonable reaction to a mutual agreement. Where they stop on the journey will be determined by time.
As a philosopher of morality and ethics, this is a very important distinction to make. It is a point that defines, in many ways my entire life. I can understand these individuals, and the steps they take. I understand the scenery at every point along the path. I can empathize with human pain and suffering in others in a genuine way because I have lived with pain, suffering and horrific tragedy. Not as an outsider, but my life has traveled this road as an active participant. I still hear new folks telling new stories of the "how", but it is always inevitably the very same "why". Whether feeling the need for God, or feeling no such need whatsoever (which IS the faith spectrum), there are many important lessons that can be learned on this journey. Sadly, not very many of them are healthy, or good--or correct.
In my business, that's where guys and girls like me come in. This territory is mine; I own it. I am most cautiously aware that I am not alone in this particular place. My adversaries and my warriors are most aware and knowledgable of each other. We are not always successful in our mission, but the track record is very good for those with whom we interact. The battle is real, and a fight to the death, or life.
A human being is not conditioned, and universally cannot suvive a life without hope. Period. Without hope, illness and death cannot come quickly enough, to the point that those without hope actively pursue death to achieve it. Drugs, alcohol, addictions of every stripe are importatnt tools to find death. Sometimes, death comes calling, and finds us regardless of our desires or intentions. One of the more potent questions I have been asked in my life has been "Is this all there is?"
I was asked this question today, in fact. My answer was the same as it has been since I first encountered it personally. I do not doubt my answer in any way. I speak it with unquestionable authority because I am "more than convinced" that this answer is true.
No! This is NOT all there is! There is NO unforgivable sin in the whole of Creation.
I say that as a man, a Christian, a Minister of the Gospel. I say it as a moral ethecist, a philosopher, and educator. But I do not say it in passing, without proof, or decades of honest investigation. It is not true because or only because it is true to me. I say it because it is absolute truth. It is really, when you think about it, a very small difference. But that one little difference makes all the difference in the world. That's why I do, and forever will remain,
In HIS Care.