In yesterday’s International Herald Tribune, Slavoj Zisek has a thought-provoking comment in defence of atheism. This, he argues, is Europe’s true legacy, and the principle we should fight to defend. Before you dismiss him, consider this:
“Fundamentalists do what they perceive as good deeds in order to fulfil God’s will and to earn salvation; atheists do them simply because it is the right thing to do. … When I do a good deed, I do so not with an eye toward gaining God’s favor; I do it because if I did not, I could not look at myself in the mirror.”
If this is the common concept of religion, I would have to agree with him. We’re better off with atheism. And unfortunately, it often is, even in Christianity. I believe it shouldn’t be.
My faith is not based on ‘do ut des’ (I give that you may give), but on grace. My Lord and Saviour offers me a new and never-ending life for nothing. It is a gift, not a trade-off. Not even a bargain, it’s totally free. When I do good deeds (yes, it happens) it’s not to make God do stuff for me. It’s because I trust Him when he says it’s the smart thing to do. Period.
Philip Yancey writes,
“There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.” (What’s So Amazing About Grace)
And Jesus Himself said,
“God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts him is acquitted.” (John 3:17, Message)
There is no grace in fundamentalism. And there can be no fundamentalism in grace. If we believe religion consists of things we have to do to appease the wrath of celestial being(s), then atheism is by far the better choice.
If, however, we view the world, our lives, and our fellow human beings through the glasses of grace, there is a third way. Grace is the middle road between atheism and fundamentalism. In grace there should be tolerance of differing viewpoints, even tolerance of disdain for your own fundamentals. This will not create heaven on earth, but I do hope we can be more assertive in proving that religion does not always lead to war.