There are many things that I have had to bring myself to value the hard way. One such value that was brought to the light through much turmoil is the usefulness of questioning authority. That very phrase in itself is a death wish in some contexts! In America, depending on the context religiously or politically the spectrum usually ranges from ostracism as the extreme all the way over to picking on the odd man out among a group of friends. Should we pretend that such surrounding factors don’t actually influence our present beliefs? On the flip side a community that is filled with acceptance and love, all predicated upon the truth claims of their religion can also highly influence the ultimate position that one takes regarding faith. Why? It is because there is a clear price to pay even when being honest about what we personally believe or doubt.
Around the time I turned 15 years old a new kind of authority was brought into my life. We joined a very different church from what we had ever been involved with before. It was a church that believes in utilizing authority first from the Bible and then transferring its representation into the Pastor and other leaders within the church. So this is essentially what happens within conservative churches that take the Bible and its alleged authority literally, modern people read and study an ancient set of sacred texts and then take it upon themselves to claim that their knowledge has been reasonably bridged with what is called the knowledge of God.
It gives ordinary minds the authority to speak on behalf of almighty God. Why? Well, because salvation through Jesus, it is said, puts these people in connection with the one true God. The one source of all knowledge and truth. To question this basic assumption, at least within contexts that do not value higher forms of critical thinking, is grounds for making your local Pastor wonder whether you should be considered a part of the fold. Now, I do not want to misrepresent the broad spectrum of conservative Christianity when I say this. I have happily met some conservative minds that are far more willing to question the authority of their Pastor as well as the authority of their Bible on a regular basis. The difference for these questioners of authority is that they believe at the end of the day that reality can be reconciled with their Bible.
I am far more appreciative of conservative Christians that value critical thinking. I have seen the difference clearly within my life and among the many people I’ve had the joy of knowing personally. So why do I take it one step further? I have learned, at least with regard to my own honest assessment about the kind of knowledge that I’ve gained, that it is highly presumptuous for me to claim that I have access to the knowledge of God within this world and the modern context that I find myself in. I suspect that the same can be said of the vast majority of religious thinkers today. I could be wrong, but as I have evaluated the kind of knowledge that I possess as well as what many openly admit within their own religious paradigm, I think that a case can be made for a humanity that lacks access to very relevant knowledge that could put the God question to rest.
The difference appears to stem from what kind of methodology one favors as most effective for drilling down on truth claims. Atheism utilizes skepticism as a rather useful tool wherever it is justified. I truly feel empowered to think when I put this cap on. All the best to my readers regardless of what position you take for yourselves!