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The most important message I picked up from today’s readings overall is to “fear” God is wisdom itself.
My primary take-away from each of the passages was this:
- Exodus 29-30 – Details about the consecration of priests and offerings, the alter, taxes, and anointing oil and incense.
- Mark 12 – Loving our neighbor as ourselves is how we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- Psalms 40 – Don’t keep the great things God does for us a secret. They are a testimony to his goodness and faithfulness to us.
- Proverbs 9 – To “fear” God is wisdom itself.
It’s not very fashionable in the twenty-first century to believe in God. Even though 84% of the human population professes belief in some higher power, and even though this article in the Guardian suggests that faith is becoming more popular, it doesn’t seem that it is very popular. While there is a loud evangelical branch of Christianity that has no problem proclaiming its beliefs to everyone everywhere whether they want to hear about it or not, there are a lot of us who have responded to the backlash against outspoken religious groups like that by largely keeping quiet about our beliefs. There is also an outspoken group of prominent atheists who like to belittle people of faith for believing in a higher power because their world view is too narrow to allow for both faith and science to share space. They see faith and science as being in complete and total conflict, despite the fact that nearly as many scientists believe in a higher power as do the general public. Clearly, not all scientists think as Richard Dawkins does. Regardless, that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.
In my own experience, I see evidence of God everywhere in the physical, natural world. This ability is facilitated by spending a lot of time in the natural world, reading widely and deeply about a lot of things, and reading the Bible every day. Because I regularly spend time in those activities, I have a lot of opportunities to see the overlap of what the minority of atheist scientists assert are competing realities. I don’t see them that way at all. On the contrary. Literature, art, science, math, and religion all complement one another, and it’s not even a stretch to see that if you immerse yourself in those things with great regularity.
There’s a joke in academia that goes like this: “As you move through your education from bachelor’s degree to master’s degree to doctoral degree, you know more and more about less and less.”
I will suggest that one of the reasons there are more atheists and fewer people of faith in the scientific fields (which can include every academic discipline, not just hard science) is that the ones who don’t believe are the ones who limit their intellectual intake to strictly their field of academia. I’ll qualify that statement by making it clear it’s just a theory I have, but it’s a theory that makes a lot of sense. Most of the academics I know or have ever found interesting, and frankly most of the ones who go so far in their academic careers as to share their knowledge with the wider world and not just that of the proverbial ivory tower, are those who have a wide range of interests and can make connections between seemingly disparate fields of study. I would offer another theory that those are likely not atheists.
Regardless of theories, I would offer this: Where is the wisdom in trying to tear down the faith of other people? Why would anyone want to spend their life and career trying to convince the majority of the people on the planet that the thing that helps them make those connections, find meaning in the universe, helps them see the wonder in the natural world, and provides them with hope for themselves and for humanity, that they are wrong and should come around to their way of thinking?
I think it may be rooted in their errant idea that religion is at the root of all human misery throughout history–wars, famine, genocide, etc. They are wrong. Religion is not at the root of those things; human greed, avarice, selfishness, and hatred is at the root of those things. Not all wars (not even most wars) have been caused by religion; they have been caused by a desire for power, wealth, and control. Those are all things that Jesus and Christianity teach us we should avoid. Yes, there have been wars waged in the name of Christianity (the Crusades, for example); but that’s not because they were actually motivated by Christian principles. They were motivated by greed, power, and lust for colonization and control. I will concede that some wars are waged in the name of religion because that is what gets people whipped up to support wars; but it’s not the real reason for the war.
The point I’m trying to make is that having faith in God does not mean that you are stupid. According to the Bible, it actually makes you wise. However, just being a believer and professing your beliefs isn’t what makes you wise. Having a healthy fear of a higher power that was powerful enough to create everything in existence, and then behaving according to that knowledge about our place in the big scheme of things, seems pretty wise. Knowing that we are subject to creation and not the creators ourselves seems not only appropriately humble but also wise.
To not have a healthy “fear of God” seems very unwise, and it demonstrates hubris. “Fear of God,” within the context of these passages, simply means respect.
Be wise. Be humble. Fear (respect) the Mystery that created the universe, everything in it, and us.
But the truth is that most of us do believe in a higher power (that some of us will even call God–you call it/him/her/they whatever you want). According to the passage in Proverbs today this belief (which Proverbs calls fear) is wisdom itself.
That’s what I got out of it. What did you get out of the readings today?
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