An Amusing Diversion
It is fun to start of with a picture that helps to illustrate a concept, but how does one picture wisdom? So I googled up an image for “wisdom”. Wikipedia has old paintings that are interesting, but I thought an old gooney bird named Wisdom a bit more appropriate. Imagine the rigors of 66 years of flying over the Pacific Ocean. Imagine the struggles to live and to raise a brood of chicks. Would that require wisdom? What is wisdom?
Almost nine years ago I wrote a post on wisdom, A DEFICIT OF WISDOM. The post is still sad, and it is still funny. It contains a definition of wisdom from a Internet dictionary that is now in the bit bucket. Still, I would not write exactly the same thing anymore. Older bird, I suppose. At the very least I would probably add this passage from proverbs.
Proverbs 2:5-15 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
5 Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8 Guarding the paths of justice,
And He preserves the way of His godly ones.
9 Then you will discern righteousness and justice
And equity and every good course.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart
And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 Discretion will guard you,
Understanding will watch over you,
12 To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things;
13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;
14 Who delight in doing evil
And rejoice in the perversity of evil;
15 Whose paths are crooked,
And who are devious in their ways;
It is a curious thing. The Bible speaks about wisdom — is filled with it — but it never actually defines wisdom. I suppose someone else may have a better passage, but I think passage above comes just about close to defining wisdom as the Bible gets. That passage suggests that wisdom is about discerning the best course of action, in particular, discerning between good and evil. Because it requires some wisdom of some sort to grow old, that is why the old are often thought of as wise. Yet one can be old and still be capable of much evil. Therefore, age is no guarantor of wisdom. So I cannot look in the mirror, admire my graying hairs, and proclaim myself wise.
What Is The Relationship Between Godlessness and Wisdom?
I suppose I could say something fancy. I could say I write what I feel inspired to write and that I listen for the voice of my muse. Truth is I am absent minded. I usually have no great plan. I just write what I feel like writing. Therefore, when I got into a discussion with clubschadenfreude in the comments at this post, HIDING BEHIND TWISTED WORDS AND OTHER LIES, I found myself explaining why Atheism is a religion to an atheist ( did not like that very much.). Since the subject interested me, however, I decided to write a post. Looking back over what I had written before, I decided the best thing to do would be to resume this series: ANSWERING FOLLY: INTRODUCING THE TOPIC — PART 1.
So is Atheism a religion? When we look at the definition of religion, we can get very confused about this matter. That is because the definition of religion in many dictionaries seems to strongly suggest that religion requires the worship of God or a belief in the supernatural. However, if we read carefully, even in ‘s favorite dictionary, Merriam-Webster, we will find a definition of religion leaves room for a godless religion.
Definition of religion
1 a: the state of a religious – a nun in her 20th year of religion
b (1): the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2): commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3 archaic :scrupulous conformity :conscientiousness
4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
When we consider the definition as a whole, without cherry picking as did (see here), what becomes apparent is that what we call our religion is that to which we are most strongly devoted. Of course, that raises a question. Why would an atheist be strongly devoted to anything? Well, there are according to a preacher I like to listen to there are four big questions in life.
- Why am I here?
- What is right and wrong?
- What brings me meaning
- What happens to a human being when I die?
Imagine if you think none of the answers to those questions involve God.
- Then what is right and wrong? We each get to decide for our self.
- What brings you meaning? Whatever we each want to bring us meaning is what brings us meaning.
Without God, it seems we have a certain “freedom”. We can be as individualistic and selfish as we wish, and we don’t have to worry about Hell or any kind of punishment in the afterlife. Whereas, with God, we have to abide by our Creator’s rules. The Bible actually explores this alternative, living a life without God, in The Book of Ecclesiastes. Consider how the book begins.
Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”
3 What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?
4 One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
But the earth abides forever.
5 The sun also rises, and the sun goes down,
And hastens to the place where it arose.
6 The wind goes toward the south,
And turns around to the north;
The wind whirls about continually,
And comes again on its circuit.
7 All the rivers run into the sea,
Yet the sea is not full;
To the place from which the rivers come,
There they return again.
8 All things are full of labor;
Man cannot express it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which it may be said,
“See, this is new”?
It has already been in ancient times before us.
11 There is no remembrance of former things,
Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come
By those who will come after.
Ecclesiastes is beautifully written, wonderful poetry even in translation. Yet it can be quite confusing. What is such a sorrowful, depressing work doing in the Bible? The key is that phrase, “under the sun”. We eventually discover that living “under the sun” is a euphemism for trying to live our life without God. What the wisdom of the Bible teaches us is how to live a life that glorifies our Creator.
So if Atheism is a religion, what is the wisdom of Atheism? That depends somewhat upon the atheist. To understand the wisdom of an atheist we must consider what idol(s) he has chosen to worship instead of God. Does he love people? Then such an atheist will behave much like a good Christian is supposed to behave, but much like the pagans of ancient times, many atheists — many of us regardless of what we say we believe — still worship idols. We just don’t use wooden, stone, or metal statues before which we kneel. Instead, when we set aside God today we worship stuff, sex, state, or self. Think not? Well, you can read my posts on the subject (see WHY WOULD A MAN HANG HIMSELF? — PART 1), but Solomon tells his own story better in Ecclesiastes.
Because we want meaningful lives, some people study the wisdom of the Bible carefully. Proverbs is a great place to start. Here students of the Bible looking both for overriding themes and nuggets of truth. Consider just a couple of examples.