Kimmie sent me an email with a technical question about her blog, so I hopped over to read her first post. "FreeThinker" had made a comment about the post, so because of my natural curiousity, I went to his site. I kinda knew what "FreeThinker" would represent becuase I've been there before. I stumbled on this post. It is about the book "Natural Atheism."
One small example of Dr. Eller's clear-thinking outlook is his preference -- which I have emulated -- of the use of the word "gods" instead of the word "God" when discussing questions like "Do you believe in ___?" The lower-case "gods" covers the whole pantheon of supernatural beings, while the upper-case "God" refers to one particular god, the Judeo/Christian god, named, conveniently, "God." So a Muslim would answer "no" to "do you believe in God?" He believes in another god, Allah. An atheist does not believe in any gods, so the answer to both questions, "do you believe in God?" and "do you believe in gods?" is no. The theist's answer to at least one of these questions will be yes. But asking "do you believe in gods?" is preferred because it leads to which god(s) he believes in, and begs a new question: "What gods don't you believe in?" And answering that question with "why not?" opens the gates to even deeper thinking that is all too lacking in general discourse today.
I clicked to comment, but ~Lace~ had beat me to it. She said that if someone asked her if she believed in "gods" she would respond "no." As would I. FreeThinker asked some questions and ~Lace~ did great in explaining her (our) reasoning. Interesting conversation. Be sure to read it.
I added in my two cents worth and then came here for further discussion. Here is my resonponse:
I was a Christian turned atheist turned born-again believer. I, like you, wanted to clarify the stereotypical thinking of most atheists who have never experienced true Christianity.
Atheism has taken a popular turn since my days of unbelief. Then again, so has Christianity.
I've spent the last few years of my life studying the Bible in depth because of beliefs (or disbeliefs, if you will)
A side note on "gods" FreeThinker, the word "gods" or "idols" in Hebrew--the Old Testament--is elohiym which is used much like the word kurios in the New Testament. Kurios is translated lord, a land owner, master, or a ruler over a particular thing. Therefore, calling Jesus Lord (with a capital) infers that He is owner over all.
Saying that, you should understand that a person can have a plethora of things in his life that are owner or master over him. To use extreme examples, a drug addict's god is the drug. A work-aholic's god is the job. A greedy man's god is the money or the stuff.
The other intersting thing that I found when I studied the "no other gods before me" was that God was frustrated. He had just sent His chosen man to lead His people out of slavery. Great miracles were performed, things that no man had ever done. (This is where the Red Sea was parted so they could walk on dry ground to escape the army following them.)
They followed instructions just long enough to be led out of bondage, then they started complaining and saying to Him that they were better off being slaves. God showed Himself to them as a pillar of fire at night and a cloud in the day so that they knew He was there and so they felt safe. He provided them food and water and shelter and their clothes and shoes didn't wear out. But, they didn't like His food and they were fighting amongst each other and just being general pains.
God was being merciful and told His man to tell the people that if they would just follow a few simple instructions...one of them was that they shouldn't have anything rule their lives other than Him. They were told they shouldn't make an idol out of metal or wood (as the other peoples and nations did) they were to honor Him.
Well, as soon as God's man went back for a few more instructions, the very first thing the people did was craft an idol out of metal. The golden calf. They thought that since God's man was taking so long he must not be coming back and they wanted something to lead them the way they had just been led. They didn't believe; they had no faith because they weren't seeing something.
And there is the bottom line of the Bible and the recurring message. Faith: the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
Those people gave up having faith that God was there and settled to be led by a golden calf. An inanimate object. When God had just done so many amazing things and the saw them and experienced them and knew for sure that He was there. And they still chose to be ruled by something else that had no power.
"gods" in the Bible always refers to things with no power. That calf had no power to do anything for the people. "God" had the power and they chose to have other "gods" before Him.
So really, it is no surprise to God, or if you'd rather, Yahweh (which is His name) that people today have no faith. From the first recordings of people, they have acted in the same way.