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How should Christian regard people of Atheist?

                             By Seoung Ju choi

By the beginning of the nineteenth century, atheism was definitely on the agenda. The advances in science and technology were creating a new spirit of autonomy and independence which led some to declare their independence of God. This was the century in which Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud forged philosophies and scientific interpretations of reality which had no place for God. Indeed, by the end of the century, a significant number of people were beginning to feel that, if God was not yet dead, it was the duty of rational, emancipated human beings to kill him.

The idea of God which had been fostered for centuries in the Christian West now appeared disastrously inadequate and the age of reason seemed to have triumphed over centuries of superstition and bigotry. The West had now seized the initiative and its activities would have fateful consequences for Jews and Muslims, who would be forced to review their own position. Many of the ideologies which rejected the idea of God made good sense. The anthropomorphic, personal God of Western Christendom was vulnerable. Appalling crimes had been committed in his name. Some people tried to save God by evolving new theologies to free him from the inhibiting systems of empirical thought but atheism had come to stay.

Medieval mystics had described the experience of God in rather the same way. William Wordsworth(1770-1850), who had pioneered the Romantic movement in England, was himself a mystic whose experiences of nature were similar to the experience of God. Romantic theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) was an attempt to redress the balance, He made it clear that feeling was not an end in itself and could not provide a complete explanation of religion. Reason and feeling both pointed beyond themselves to an indescribable Reality. Schleiermacher defined the essence of religion as ‘the feeling of absolute dependence’.

During the nineteenth century, one major philosopher after another rose up to challenge the traditional view of God, at least the ‘God’ who prevailed in the West. They were particularly offended by the notion of a super-natural deity ‘out there’ which had an objective existence. It was accurate to describe God as ‘Nothing’ rather than the Supreme Being, since ‘he’ didi not exist in any way that we could conceive. Over the centuries, the West had gradually lost sight of this more imaginative conception of God. Catholics and Protestants had come to regard ‘him’ as a Being who was an-other reality added on to the world. The atheistic philosophers of the nineteenth century rebelled against this God with good reason.

The Jewish God in Hegel’s (1770-1831) view was a tyrant who required unquestioning submission to an intolerable Law. Jesus had tried to liberate men and women from this base servitude but Christians had fallen into the same trap as the Jews and promoted the idea of a divine Despot. Hegel’s highly inaccurate view of Judaism was a new type of metaphysical anti-Semitism. Like Kant, Hegal regarded Judaism as an example of everything that was wrong with religion.

There was, Schleiermacher, no Absolute, no Reason, no God, no Spirit at work in the world: nothing but brute instinctive will-to-live. Since there was no ‘God’ to save us, only art, music and a discipline of renunciation and compassion could bring us a measure of serenity.

Atheism had always been a rejection of a current conception of the divine. Jews and Christian denied pagan notions of divinity, even though they had faith in a God. The new atheists of the nineteenth century were inveighing against the particular conception of God current in the West rather than other notions of the divine. Karl Marx (1818-85) saw religion as ‘the sigh of the oppressed creature… the opium of the people, which made this suffering bearable.

Similarly, the literal understanding of God and scripture made the faith of many Christians vulnerable to the scientific discoveries of the period. Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species (1859), which put forward the evolutionary hypothesis, seemed to contradict the biblical account of creation in Genesis.

Western secularism has spread it has inevitably affected members of other faiths. The literalistic view of God is still prevalent and many people in the Western world take it for granted that modern cosmology has dealt a death-blow to the idea of God. In 1882 Friedrich Nietzsche resorted to similarly violent tactics when he proclaimed that God was dead. The statement "God is dead," occurring in several of Nietzsche's works (notably in The Gay Science), has become one of his best-known remarks. On the basis of it, most commentators regard Nietzsche as an atheist; others (such as Kaufmann) suggest that this statement reflects a more subtle understanding of divinity. In Nietzsche's view, recent developments in modern science and the increasing secularization of European society had effectively 'killed' the Christian God, who had served as the basis for meaning and value in the West for more than a thousand years.
Nietzsche claimed the death of God would eventually lead to the loss of any universal perspective on things and along with it any coherent sense of objective truth. Instead we would retain only our own multiple, diverse, and fluid perspectives. This view has acquired the name "perspectivism".
Alternatively, the death of God may lead beyond bare perspectivism to outright nihilism, the belief that nothing has any importance and that life lacks purpose. As Heidegger put the problem, "If God as the supersensory ground and goal of all reality is dead, if the supersensory world of the Ideas has suffered the loss of its obligatory and above it its vitalizing and up building power, then nothing more remains to which man can cling and by which he can orient himself."[46] Developing this idea, Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra, therein introducing the concept of a value-creating Übermensch. According to Lampert, "the death of God must be followed by a long twilight of piety and nihilism (II. 19; III. 8). [...] Zarathustra's gift of the superman is given to a mankind not aware of the problem to which the superman is the solution."
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) certainly regarded belief in God as an illusion that mature men and women should lay aside. The idea of God was not lie but a device of the in conscious which needed to be decoded by psychology. A personal god was nothing more than an exalted father-figure: desire for such a deity sprang from infant yearnings for a powerful, protective father, for justice and fairness and for life to go on forever. God is simply a projection of these desires, feared and worshipped by human beings out of an abiding sense of helplessness. Religion belonged to the infancy of the human race. Science could take God’s place.
Not all psychoanalysts agreed with Freud’s view of God. Alfred Adler (1870-1937) allowed that God was a projection but believed that it had been helpful to humanity. C. G. Jung’s (1875-1961) God was similar to the God of the mystics, a psychological truth, subjectively experienced by each individual. People had forgotten that all true individuality derived from God.

It is impossible for us to meet God in any anthropomorphic way. God is the Ground of Being, so bound up with our own existence that we cannot possibly talk to him, as though he were simply another person like ourselves. There are no words or ideas that describe God. Instead the gulf between him and human beings is bridged by the words of the Bible.

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