THE MYSTERY OF GOD
LESSON ONE: Atheism, and What We Mean By “God”
I. Why offer a class on the Mystery of God as part of the Faith Formation curriculum?
Our call to evangelize includes those whom we would call “atheists”. Father Barron describes three types of atheists in today’s society:
1.) Strong atheists – those who are certain that God does not exist.
2.) Agnostics – Those who have no certainty about the existence of God. They may be seeking Him, or they may be indifferent about the entire concept of a personal Higher power having any influence on their life.
3.) Weak atheists – those who examine the subject of a Deity from either a philosophical or physical approach. In doing so, they feel the burden of proof is on the believer and, finding no particular proof for His existence, conclude they can make no intellectual claims about Him/her.
In examining the doubts of weak atheists and agnostics, we are forced to consider our own concepts of God.
1.) Do we see God the way the pagans understand Him? As a powerful being who is a “super version” of ourselves – with all of the capriciousness and emotional flaws of all created beings?
2.) Do we see Him as a Type of Supreme Being , unlike ourselves, and yet resembling the old man with the long white beard, or the bright light manipulating and keeping the universe in order?
3.) Do we see Him as “Being, Itself”, abstract and unknowable, except through the ways in which He has chosen to reveal Himself – primarily through the written and living Word?
II. Our understanding of God will determine the ways in which we discuss and convey Him to others. Why is this important?
1.) The number of atheists in America has roughly doubled over the past decade. Most of the increase can be found among young, intelligent adults who, following the lead of modern western scientists and philosophers, reject the notion of a Deity.
2.) The number of Americans for whom God and religion have no meaning in their lives has also increased nearly 40% in the same time period. If He does exists, God has no relevance to them.
3.) These two groups now comprise one in four adults, and among those American adults under age 30, nearly half.
4.) The ways in which we discuss the subject of God must primarily be clothed in rational, scientific, philosophical language, if we ever hope to be taken seriously. It may already be too late for many, for as societal influences take hold of a generation, it becomes extremely difficult to change their minds – even when presented logically and rationally.
III. Only God can change a heart, but He uses us to carry out much of the task. “How blessed are the feet of those who carry the Good News”.
1.) As we watch the videos, and discuss these sometimes difficult concepts, we will begin to develop a language that can be used in our informal discussions with today’s atheists…many of whom are members of our own families and social circles.
2.) Rather than change the world, we seek to change the ones we love, in this difficult generation. We, like Jesus, sadly opine: “When the Son of man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”
3.) This difficult task has been assigned to us from the beginning of time. It is no accident that we were chosen to live here, in this age, for a purpose.