Sunday, December 19

They Might Call us Atheists

I've been reading N.T. Wright's The New Testament and the people of God and I've been learning a lot. For instance, last night, I realized that the reason the "blue staters" don't like or trust those Christians in flyoverland, is because see us as atheists. What do I mean by that you might inquire?

Well, here is what I have learned. In the first century, Alexander's Hellenistic empire had been superseded by the Roman one. The Hellenistic culture held Homer's poems the mainstay of their cultural canon and Plato's philosophy guided their thought. However the religious thought in the day was dominated by paganism. Many still worshipped the older Greco/Roman deities, although the intelligentsia were just giving them lip-service. Mithraism had taken hold in the military and nature cults (Isis and Attis) were also worshipped. The Romans also had taken to deifying past rulers and encouraging their worship. For all of these there were a lot of common elements, deification of symbol and commonality of worship methods. The intelligent pagan, seeing this (and with the ease of travel and communications in the (new) Roman rule) found they could assimilate and combine many of their pagan ideals and worship without offending each other or their gods. But, not so with the Jewish (and Christian) worshippers. When Pompey conquered Jerusalem, he was quite surprised to find the Holy of Holies in interior of the Temple, was bare of icon or idol. Their worship practice and beliefs were very different from the rest of the pagan world. In fact their practices and beliefs were so out of step with the rest of the world that they were regarded as atheists.

Today with the post-modernist and worship of diversity taking place in our modern world, Christians again are being set apart. In the 1st and 2nd century we were the "atheists" because we held ourselves apart from the pagan practices. In the eve of the 21st century again, by not validating the beliefs of the pagans, we again set ourselves apart from the deist forces in our midst calling us to validate other's strongly held beliefs, merely because they are strongly held. Just because someone believes strongly that man never went to the moon, doesn't make it a valid idea. So to with other religious beliefs. As a democratic member of a secular democracy, I don't persecute or try to "inflict" my beliefs on others. But that's as far as it goes.