Touching upon today’s problem of god, Gregory Jones criticizes a kind of aristocratic atheism and bourgeois approach to the question of god, which makes it an issue of philosophical debates lacking any life-transforming consequences.
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Criticizing the assumptions of the New Atheism and Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, Jones points out at their irrelevance and disconnection from people’s everyday lives. Discussing the main convictions offered by Therapeutic Deism, particularly the assumption that god does not need to be involved in an individual’s life except the situations when god is needed to solve a problem, Jones treats these theories as a tiny package of convictions which were reduced for the users’ convenience (Jones).
Shedding light upon New Atheism, Jones admits that there is nothing new or interesting in the arguments offered by this movement. According to Jones, New Atheism focuses on criticizing Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and simplifying the historical facts and do not offer anything more than Nietzsche outlined in the nineteenth century. Therefore, the main weakness of both innovative approaches is their avoidance of dealing with the question of why belief in god and what implications this belief would have.
Jones admits that a deeper question of whether or not to believe in god was posed by Dostoyevsky in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. Through the voice of one of the main protagonists Ivan Karamazov, the novelist expresses his idea of protest atheism. Ivan admits that if there are a god and heaven, he would like to return his ticket because all the tortures and horrors taking place in the world are a too high cost for the promised forgiveness, salvation, ultimate harmony, and ultimate knowledge.
Jones considers Ivan’s protest as the most challenging question of god because if there are so much suffering and many horrors in the world, any redemption would seem too high a cost for them (Jones). Jones discusses the answer offered by Dostoyevsky to Ivan’s rebellion in the form of narration of lives as opposed to the set of convictions offered by Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Ivan Karamazov is driven crazy by his protest because he cannot live with it.
However, Ivan’s brother Alyosha and Father Zosima, the characters of the same novel, become holly by understanding and embracing the world. Jones states that living with a merciful heart and god-like compassion is the answer to the deepest question of god of how to accept all the horrors of life and sustain hope and belief in god.
Dr. Jones proposes to address this embodiment of the problem of god by learning god-like compassion from the life and resurrection of Jesus. Jones defines a merciful heart as a heart of an individual who looks at the creatures surrounding him/her, including people, birds, insects, even reptiles, or others with tears overflowing his/her eyes. It is important to see and embrace all the suffering of the world, children tortured by their parents, genocide no matter whether it is ancient or contemporary among them and see all this with a heart full of god-like compassion.
People can see this world differently and pursue the lives of holiness because the answer to the question of belief in god should have life-transforming consequences (Jones). Though Alyosha and Father Zosima are fictional characters created by Dostoyevsky, who remained a Christian throughout all his life, Jones insists that there are real people who have learned the god-like compassion from life and resurrection of Jesus and can see the world through this lens.
To answer the question of whether people can learn this compassion and how to learn it, the character of god should become credible. Jones proposes to address the issue of god not in a bourgeois manner of turning to god when facing a problem because it is convenient but to make belief life-involving and life-transforming (Jones). Jones offers three examples of lives which would not make sense if god does not exist.
The first of these examples is mass school shooting and the role of belief and forgiveness in making the victims and their parents to live up the tragedy and sustain their belief and hope. Jones admits that their readiness for forgiveness was shaped by their convictions of god. Regardless of the fact that it was terribly difficult for the victims of mass school shooting to forgive and to live up, they have found their vocation in assisting other communities and showing them how to live up the horrors of this life by pursuing holy lives and learning the god-like compassion. One of the most striking examples offered by Jones was a situation in which a mother of a shooter came to a victim of shooting, a girl in a wheelchair (Jones).
Jones admits that these examples of communities responding to their suffering and tragedies with hope and forgiveness can be regarded as examples of new relationships and new life emerging as a response to the main question of god. Jones admits that neither of people he discusses have financial resources for doing what they do. However, drives with their belief and sense of forgiveness and reconciliation, they find opportunities for assisting others and drawing the communities in.
Jones concludes that belief in god should not remain an issue of debates and curiosity or an interesting question for a graduate student. Instead, it should become a set of life-transforming practices which are rooted in deep sense of forgiveness and god-like compassion, offer hope and enable people to embrace the horrors of this world and live up the tragedies.
Jones, Gregory. “The Rumors of God’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated: Christian Witness and the Love of God.” Loyola Notre Dame Library. LUMD’s McGuire Hall, Baltimore, MD. 2011.