Sunday, May 25, 2014

not a mystery--WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD by Frank Schaffer

The beauty of Frank Schaeffer's Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in GOD is that Schaffer speaks only for himself. He doesn't do what so many religious writers do, try to impose their beliefs on others.

Schaeffer's major point seems to be that his individual human nature causes him to need to worship God. And that is true although his powers of reason often tell him God does not exist.

Schaeffer writes: “Embracing paradox helped me discover that religion is a neurological disorder for which faith is the only cure.”

And then, after a pause, he writes--“These days I hold two ideas about God simultaneously: he, she or it exists and he, she or it doesn't exist.” (Author's italics.)

This quote doesn't do Schaeffer's book justice. The first third was among the most beautiful pieces of writing I've read in the last few years.

The book opens with the moving story of a woman Schaeffer met on an airplane. He was coming home from his mother's funeral. And the story goes from there.

For Schaeffer, God is most expressed in family and friends, in loving one another, and in art—writing, painting, other visual arts, and music. He is both a writer and a painter.

Schaeffer came from a family of well-known fundamentalist missionaries. But his family accepted people of different religions and persuasions. They might have thought they needed to convert those people, but when push came to shove, they accepted and loved all kinds people without requiring them to change.

Schaeffer's view of Jesus is that Jesus accepts and loves outcasts, the poor, those left out. Jesus, like Schaffer's family, accepts all kinds of people.

Schaeffer also acknowledges the non-historical and (often) story nature of the Bible, the way Bible writers distort even the mission and words of Jesus.

You don't have to read very far to realize that Frank Schaeffer is an intelligent and educated man. His intelligence and his wide range of reading, his wide knowledge of art, have led him to his faith today. Often he sees God expressed in art most of all. 

The author worships in the Greek Orthodox church. He says he needs the liturgy. The book elevates the beauty and importance of family and friendship.

I learned about this book from the Sojourners website.


“I realize now that my parents were often right for the wrong reasons.”
“Guilt is underrated.”
“My dogmatic declarations of faith once provided status, ego-stroking power over others and a much better income than I've ever earned since fleeing the evangelical machine. Certainty made things simple, gave me an answer to every question and paid the bills.

“With the acceptance of paradox came a new and blessed uncertainty that began to heal the mental illness called certainty, the kind of certainty that told me that my job was to be head of the home and to order around my wife and children because 'the Bible says so.' Embracing paradox helped me discover that religion is a neurological disorder for which faith is the only cure.”
“The good thing about praying for the dead ('Plan B') is that there's no way to test if my prayers are being answered.”
“I go to my local Greek Orthodox church with Lucy and Jack [his grandchildren] because I feel guilty if I don't. I no longer fool myself into thinking this is about belief. I know my religious expression is about need.”

Note: I had a bunch of other excellent quotations marked. Read the book to find them for yourself.


Frank Schaeffer said...

thanks for the review! Best, Frank

Joe Barone said...

Frank, This book had an impact on my own faith. --Joe.

pattinase (abbott) said...

This makes absolute sense to me.

Joe Barone said...

To me too, Patti.