ANSWERING FOLLY: RESUMED

Wisdom, the oldest known banded bird in the wild, is a female Laysan albatross that nests within the world’s largest albatross colony on Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. She is at least 65-years old and a world renowned symbol of hope for all species that depend upon the health of the ocean to survive. (text from here; picture from here)

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)

Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
And discover the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
Guarding the paths of justice,
And He preserves the way of His godly ones.
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?

Ravi Zacharias (an expert in Christian apologetics) says there are Four Questions To Answer In Life.

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)

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

“Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher;
“Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”

What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?
One generation passes away, and another generation comes;
But the earth abides forever.
The sun also rises, and the sun goes down,
And hastens to the place where it arose.
The wind goes toward the south,
And turns around to the north;
The wind whirls about continually,
And comes again on its circuit.
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.
All things are full of labor;
Man cannot express it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor the ear filled with hearing.

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.

On the other hand, some folks don’t like what they think of as the Christian Right. I suppose I could cite any number of anti-Christian atheist blogs, but I prefer civil dialogue. So if you want to get a picture of how some view the so-called Trump-supporting Christian Right, check out The Christian Right is More Right Than Christian by Doug (FPS/DougLite.com).

Other Views

 

 

 

 

18 thoughts on “ANSWERING FOLLY: RESUMED

  1. Good post! Thanks for the mention.

    Atheism is definitely a religion. I’m surrounded by religious fanatics. I sometimes joke about how they are much like Christian fanatics, full of condemnation,judgment,and hostility, but having totally left behind anything good,like fellowship and awesome worship music. Bit sarcastic of me, but if you’re going to be a fanatic,the least you can do is offer us some good music .;)

    I like wisdom defined in the context of applied knowledge. I was always really good at math, but I can’t really apply it effectively. Conversely, my husband can barely write an equation but he can lay a hardwood floor in a spiral in a round room and some how get all those cuts and angles just right. He has applied wisdom when he builds things, whereas I am left with knowledge. Knowledge is like how I can calculate the square footage perfectly, but wisdom will tell you there’s no such thing as a perfectly square room in this world.

    The fanatics of all stripes tend to lean too much into their own understanding. Wisdom calls for a bit of humility.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Enjoyed the comment.

      Bit sarcastic of me, but if you’re going to be a fanatic,the least you can do is offer us some good music .;)

      There actually is some godless music, but they sing it at rock concerts, not at in Atheist churches. Oddly, I think that atheists are so indoctrinated with their own propaganda that they don’t stop to think that rock concerts sometimes become their worship services.

      The fanatics of all stripes tend to lean too much into their own understanding. Wisdom calls for a bit of humility.

      Can you imagine a humble fanatic?

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Think IB said it well above (both regarding knowledge versus wisdom, and the atheism-as-religion).
    My parents were atheists, but interestingly…my father asked for his Bible in his last couple of days of life.
    He died about five days after my last visit to see him, four years ago I now think.
    My mother told me about that (his asking for the Bible) and told me with satisfaction, “I said I couldn’t find it”.
    She is so strict about her ideology, she’d deny a book to ailing and bed-ridden family member who took care of her for forty years and set her up very well for life.

    Maybe cult is a better word for it than religion.
    Whatever one calls it, it is definitely parasitic.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I should probably explain…”his Bible” was a Bible his mother had given to him when he was about eight years old. He’d kept it as an heirloom after she died.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 40 years? She must have felt something for your father. Anger expresses itself in strange ways. Even though they obviously cannot do much about it, we can be furious at people for dying. Her anger is probably the result of her own helplessness and fear. Where civilization rules, the flight or fight syndrome works against us most of the time.

        Atheists proudly proclaim the courage in their faith there is no God, but a distant death is easier to scoff at.

        Like

  3. Well reasoned out. I guess atheism is a religion. I believe it is devoid of wisdom since you properly quote Proverbs “For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

    Wisdom comes from God and God alone. Thank goodness we aren’t left to the folly of those who don’t believe in God.

    Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve always said Tom that you are of wisdom—as in your words teach as you are more signpost then dictator of fact…you are wise enough to know your words and offerings always point back to the One who provided you with that vision in the first place…
    and who else but a wise man would point to an obviously wizened sage of a bird as an example, which by the way I love…gotta love a 66 year old banded bird named Wisdom who by the way might teach us all a thing or two…
    So thank you for being that signpost out here in the middle of chaos and confusion while the not so wise enjoy battering the faithful…..

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the kind compliment, and I am glad you enjoyed the bird.

      I understand that the gooney birds spend so much time out at sea that they forget how to land on land. So you can imagine what the military personnel staying on the island thought of the birds. After all, they did name an airplane after them (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_C-47_Skytrain). Here are a couple of delightful videos.

      Here is an article about the island’s famed inhabitants.

      https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/where-the-gooney-birds-are-50427690/

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Ok first of all, any post feature a gooney bird already has my stamp of approval and the video of them not being able to lad was priceless! I so needed that, thank you.

    I think people get tripped up on the word religion because they think it involves spirituality and super natural acts. It can involve that, but to me religion is how one makes sense of the world. If you view life and events as just random things happening without a master planning God, than you will inevitably live life governed by what you feel is best and your idols will be whatever you find your identity in and take comfort with. In other words, whatever you use to fill up the holes in your life that were meant to be filled by God will become your idols.

    Christians are not immune to this temptation by the way, but at least our religion offers a way out through acknowledgement of God’s sovereign ways and repentance.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Great subject and post.

    The old girl gooney bird picture choice is appropriate proof the bird was wise according to Solomon. Wisdom helps the odds to achieve a long life according to his proverbs.

    Defining wisdom with words is not an easy task It is something that takes time, serious thought, and both good and bad experiences in life.

    Most people readily know a person who is wise, not by dictionary word definitions, but by his or her bearing and deeds, and accomplishments in life.

    As for atheists, in Solomon times, the work fool was used instead of atheist. One thing is certain and common to both faith believers and atheists . In time both will know for certain who was right when their final time arrives.

    In my opinion, atheists should read up on Pascals wager.

    As for atheist being a religion, that is just a word too without evidence of deeds.

    Looking forward to your next post about my favorite subject.

    Sure wish more people would be interested in trying to understand, acquire, and apply wisdom it in their lives and the people around them..

    Thanks for your kind mention in this post…

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, fool or atheist, it is a choice. Out of deference to a friend, I will quote the Apostle Peter.

      1 Peter 4:8 New King James Version (NKJV)

      8 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”

      Even though it looks dissimilar, Proverbs offers a similar lesson.

      Proverbs 16:18 New King James Version (NKJV)

      18 Pride goes before destruction,
      And a haughty spirit before a fall.

      If all we have ever loved is our self, then our self is all we have ever known. Creation remains completely dark before us. We stumble unaware over everyone and every thing. We never discover a trace of our Maker, and so we never know to ask for the gifts He would have freely given us.

      Liked by 1 person

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