Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Finding an Unseen God- Book Review

I normally can find merit in just about any book.  And there is some merit in Alicia Britt Chole's Finding an Unseen God- Reflections of a Former Atheist. But, I cannot recommend it. On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I give it a one.  The book has gotten great reviews on Amazon.  Mine was the thirteenth review and the only one to give it one star.  I did notice though that every person who gave it a positive review was either female or I couldn't tell their gender from their review or their name. Perhaps it's a man/woman thing.  But, I couldn't wait to finish the book and move onto the next one on my list.

The book is written in an interesting way, from the word jumble included in it to the chapters that go from 52 to 1 to 51 to 2 to 50 to 3 (see the pattern?).  It's an easy read, only taking me a few hours to complete it.  And, it's a very personal story.   Too personal, IMO.  Too subjective.

The book is the story of Alicia Britt Chole's journey from what I'm going to call agnosticism (being raised by a Catholic mother and atheistic father) to atheism in her fairly early youth to Atheism to Christian Faith in her young adulthood.  I expected to find out what major event or revelation led her back to Christian faith.  I expected a case to be made for theism versus atheism.  If there was a case here, it was a very weak one.  The author teased with me with an introduction that promise a big event that changed her life and that was obvious to everyone present at the time the event happened.  The chapters are numbered (every other chapter) to count down to the big event.  I won't ruing the surprise. Suffice it to say the big event was purely subjective and could be chalked up to nothing more than a big wave of emotion. 

One big idea I did take away from the book was Chole's assertion that people of faith don't have the burden of proof that many atheists will try to lay on us.  Normally, the minority opinion has the burden of proving their POV.  Since belief in a god or gods seems to predate atheism and is definitely the predominant view.  People of faith should not feel that we have the burden of proof to say that our faith is justified. That is not to say that just because most people believe something or that they've believed it for a long time that it is right.  But, there is something to be said for the fact that so many people have believed for such a very long time. 

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11 comments:

okiedragon said...

Hmmm - well, this is interesting - only from the point of view that when I left the Assembly of God church I left as a raging "There never was a God" athiest. Jim Bakker was on his way to jail, Jimmy Swaggart had been caught with prostitutes, the very church I was attending was teaching prosperity even though it was a belief that caused another minister of the very same faith to kick this group of heretics out of their longtime home church and they ended up at the one I attended and became very active in pushing their belief that God wanted them to prosper - gain wealth. God, I still hate that belief and when I see Benny Hinn or Richard Roberts or any of a number of TV evangelicals start in on sending them seed money - rolls eyes - I recoil worse than if a snake had just crossed my path.

Five years I was convinced without a doubt that a God that created hell fire and damnation could not exist because if he was that hateful and mean he was no better than any other human. Humans everywhere pointed to me that error of believing in that Christian experience. If I saw a fish symbol used in advertising I knew not to trust them, the very idea of Christ was repugnant and I could not believe that version of God existed therefore, no God existed for me at all.

I started a greenhouse business and began to really garden in a big way. Bugs, birds, bees and blooms - things were so beautiful and orderly and interesting and I became awed by nature and the beauty and I began to review my beliefs - and I began to search the library for books on Wicca, mythology, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism - I took home stacks and read and found the Urantia Book too. The Christian faith has been thru some horrible activities - the crusades, the inquisition, reformation, intolerance. It had harmed so many people who were not demon worshipping creatures but nature worshippers - Buddhism taught compassion, Islam a singleness of God. But it was the UB that told me the missing life of Jesus and his hardships and how he loved God and taught a new view of God as caring about us as a parent would care for a child. I hated the patriarchy of catholism - the domination of male over female of Paul's teachings - and it was the UB that taught me of the loving kindness of the gentlest and most noble of humans ever born and who lived compassionately and cared for his little brothers and sisters when his dad passed away in a construction accident and how he choose not to marry or leave anything behind that would have been turned into something to worship and we just really didn't get the full story in the bible. I read all about his entire life - and even if this book is just someone's tale, it brought me back to having faith in the Love of God and the ability to see Jesus as a decent, good teacher and so full of good will for us - an amazing story - of an amazing person - who died an horrible death at the hands of those who didn't want their way of life to change, who saw Jesus' teaching of males and females as equals, of loving children and of loving all humanity - not very Phareesiacal (man is that a word).

okiedragon said...

I an a universalist - but the word Christians still stings my tongue - I call myself a monothiest Jesusonian feminist Quaker - I ache for his compassion and look forward to the adventure after this life - and I fully understand where an atheist comes from - when you make no exceptions to a God that creates a hell, who intends to send 2/3rds of the worlds population there in a raptured moment in the near future - based on the concept that some snake talked a female into breaking God's heart by eating a piece of fruit and that was all it took for God to condemn all of earth and destroy it later in a flood including all babies and toddlers and teenagers and old folks except for 8 people on one stinky boat - and that God just makes things happen by speaking words. Pillars of salt - Sodom and Gomorrah, David having a man killed and still be the apple of God's eye, God allowing one nation to kill another - story after story of a god that is so cruel and mean and self important and has favorites - No - that God does not exist, never has and never will. God is love and so little of that is represented in that book - so no, I feel the atheist pain and I fully understand and have compassion when they have no where else to turn. If given the choice at this moment - I would choose atheism over that good old time religion - but I don't have to. God didn't do that evil - that was men writing and men editing and men turning the ends of the penises into some little holy connection to a God that leaves women wondering where on earth they fit and a world so out of balance - Jesus was a feminist - Jesus loved kids, Jesus loved humanity and Jesus loved God - he is my elder brother and too often too many use his name to do all forms of damage - and despite our failures - we will all find our way to the presence of this son of God/son of man as we become perfected in the next life.

brian said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Donna. I completely agree. If I had to choose between the god of my youth and atheism, I too would choose atheism. Unfortunately, I have a very good friend who has done that very thing. He was not raised as a Christian. But, when he became a Christian, he was in a very fundamentalist and literal segment of Christianity. When he "outgrew" that (my word), he abandoned theism entirely and reasoned that G-d must not exist. So sad... There is a third choice and thank G-d that you and I have been led to it.

Peace,
Brian

okiedragon said...

Actually, I find that anyone who abandons the belief of a God that lacks compassion a good step on spiritual evolution. I had to choke to death that view of God - atheism was cleansing and exhilirating and really improved my view of life.

God says to the Atheist - why did you not believe in me?
Atheist to God says - you were mean and hateful and uncompassionate and cruel - no better than any human and therefore I choose to believe you did not exist.
God says back - but I am not mean and cruel and hateful and my compassion I will extend to you for you choose to beleive that God did not exist so you believed rightly.
In my opinion, for him today, your friend has chosen rightly. He may have given up on God but God has never given up on any of us.

Jeff said...

The burden of proof always lies on the person making a positive claim about reality. The popularity of the idea has nothing to with it.

brian said...

Jeff,

Personally, I steer clear of the "burden of proof" discussions. I make no claim to be able to prove the existence of G-d, although I would argue that the existence of a First Cause is pretty obvious from just looking around.

Atheists cannot prove the negative and theists cannot prove the positive. If one wants to take that as a "victory" for his or her side, that's certainly one's right. Ultimately, each of us must decide for ourselves on the issue.

Peace,
Brian

Jeff said...

It's logically impossible to prove a negative, so I don't think that's a strike against atheism. (It's impossible because one can always raise an objection that would render something impossible to be possible. You can't prove there are no unicorns because maybe they're ethereal and invisible, etc. The best you can do is debunk positive claims for the existence of unicorns)


In any case atheists generally don't concern themselves with trying to disprove God, but rather pointing to the paucity of evidence supporting the existence of a god. Anyone that does would more accurately be called an anti-theist and not an atheist.

brian said...

Jeff,

Atheists are free to assert whatever they like. My decision to believe in G-d and however I choose to define what G-d is is ultimately mine. I am not interested in trying to prove it to anyone. Likewise, I am not about to fall into the trap of being forced to prove something in order to believe it.


However, for those interested in the atheist/theist wars, I think her point was an interesting one. Atheists attempt to gain the upper hand by forcing theists to prove what has been a given since the dawn of man. Atheism is a relatively recent development and is still the minority view. Typically, the person putting forth a new hypothesis has a greater burden of proof than those who hold to what has always been true. That does mean that the sun revolves around the Earth or that the Earth is flat. But, those who came up with those ideas first had a greater burden to prove their ideas than the status quo. Mildly interesting point, IMO.

brian said...

In my limited experience with atheists, I've run across all types (as I would expect). Many do seem to be angry and bent on destroying religion and faith wherever possible. They were usually pretty intelligent. And, I've met several arrogant atheists who think only fools could possibly believe in God and if people were just more educated, the whole idea of God would go away. They would use any tactic to "win" a debate. I found them extremely annoying. I'd call them just as fundamentalist as any Christian I've come across.

Jeff said...

I'm not saying you should be forced to prove it. I think proving something is different than justifying it. All beliefs should be justified, but not necessarily proven. I don't need to prove my wife loves me, but I should have good reasons for believing so.

As far as the burden of proof for controversial claims, I think theism prevents a viewpoint that's far more controversial than atheism, despite the numbers.

I mean, if we're going to assert a guy rose from the dead in a world where that has never happened before or since, that's a pretty incredible thing.

I've occasionally dipped my toe into the debate between theists and atheists, but it's not one that can ever really be resolved. Both sides have good points.

brian said...

Yeah, Jeff. I understand what you mean about dipping into the "debate". IMO, it's not a debate to be scored with points and one side wins and the other loses. It should be a discussion and the goal should be to get to the truth, not to win.

I like the way you phrased that. Beliefs should be justified, not necessarily proven. I'm more than happy to give reasons for what I believe to anyone interested.

Both sides do have good points. But, frankly, I think most atheists are usually better at reason than your average theist. Probably because they've had to work so hard to get where they've gotten. Also, many of them are atheists, IMO because of the baseless and ridiculous claims made by so many theists.

Peace,
Brian