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Atheism and Christianity - Research Summary Sample

Religion and Theology : Research SUMMARY
Paper title: Atheism and Christianity
Pages: 9
Academic level: Graduate
Discipline: Religion and Theology
Paper Format: Not-Specific
Sources: 4


Requirements

Atheism and Christianity:

Analyse the key beliefs of a religious tradition and a secular world view in relation to do we have free will.

For Merit, the student needs to analyse in depth the key beliefs of a religious tradition and a secular worldview in relation to ultimate questions.


This involves:

  1. discussing the similarities and differences in the key beliefs of a religious tradition and a secular world view in relation to ultimate questions
  2. drawing conclusions supported by a range of evidence.

The student has discussed a number of similarities and differences between atheistic and Christian (in particular Protestant) beliefs concerning the origin and end of life (1).
The student has used biblical teachings regarding sin as evidence, and how atheists explain the origin of life (Evolution/Big Bang theory), and drawn conclusions about the way a person may choose to live and their belief in a deity (2).
The student has provided some evidence of a critical evaluation of atheist and Protestant beliefs with regard to the origin and end of life (3).
To reach Excellence, the student could provide evidence of conclusions drawn that address at least two wider implications of the origins and end of life for atheists and Christians.
For example, the student could draw a conclusion around how the Christian understanding of science has changed since the time of the Enlightenment in the 18th Century. The student could draw a second conclusion around how different branches of Christianity react in different ways to atheism. The student could show perception by including further references to back up atheistic perspectives



Free Written Sample

Running Head: Atheism and Christianity

Atheism and Christianity
[Author’s Name]
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Atheism and Christianity

Despite the growth and widespread popularity of religions such as Christianity over the recent decade, there has been an equivalent increase in the atheist followers. The quantitative estimation of the atheist population cannot be accurately determined since most of them prefer to maintain privacy and avoid social stigma, political pressure and intolerance (Krueger, 2013).). As a matter of fact, Americans are more religious as compared to Western Europeans who appear to be secular. In other words, there are more atheists in the Europeans than in the United States. Pew Research Center documents that about 81 percent of the American population say they do not believe in God or a high power or in a spiritual power of any kind. Majority of the atheists are said to be men and majority of them are young in age (Payne, 2013). In another religious landscape study done in 2014, it was suggested that highly educated whites are more likely to be atheists (Gervais & Najle, 2018). Ideally, atheism argues that the role of religion in the society is questionable and that churches do more harm than good to the people since it actively propagates and pollutes the social, economic and political landscape. This essay takes an in-depth research study on the origins, beliefs, similarities, differences as well as end of life notions as provided by atheism and Christianity.


Origins
Atheism
With so many religions out there in world including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Syntheism, Raelism, Confucius of China as well as Neopagans, Atheism has been found not to be mutually exclusive with respect these religious and spiritual belief systems. The Astika schools in Hinduism validate atheism as sure path to moksha. While the Jainists believe that the universe is eternal and a creator deity is unnecessary, secular Buddhism on the other hand does not advocate for belief in gods. Without a doubt, atheism can be defined to be the belief that there exists no God or any gods. Atheist deny in their belief that there exist any deities. Unlike theism which provides for the belief in the existence of at least one deity, atheism completely shuts out belief in any God or gods. Atheism is said to have originated before the 5th century BCE from the ancient Greek and publicly spread rapidly over the 16th century following the dawn of religious liberties, skeptical inquiry and subsequent surge criticism of religion (Spencer, 2014). It is during the age of enlightenment that the first personalities to identify themselves as atheist in 18th century.


During the unprecedented French revolution, atheism witnessed its first major political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason. During the period 6th-2nd century BCE, philosopher and educator Xenophanes is said to have postulated that the Universe is unanimous to every human being and that it was not made by man or god. To him, the earth has always existed since time immemorial and will continue to exist to eternity (von Segesser, 2003). Plato in the 5th to 4th century BCE raised the thought that during his time, atheism was rampant among the youth and to him, it atheism was very corrosive. Philosopher Epicurus on the other hand cast doubt on the existence of God particularly because of the widespread evil and suffering in the world. He was apparently the first to question the comparability of God with suffering ((Roskam, 2014). During the 16th and 17th century, Francis Bacon vocally advocated for the utilization of modern scientific techniques and was a need to distinguish between science and religion. In recent times, David Hume and Immanuel Kant voiced out influential critiques of conventional arguments for the existence of God in the 18th century. Since then, atheist books, politicians, movements and outspoken personalities have freely expressed their views regarding religion. The Victorian era (1839 – 1901) as noted by Steve Bruce was one in which atheism took a surge to prominence with additional contribution by Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) who made the case of evolution forwarding a worldview which denied the existence of God. Modern atheism has appeared to follow the leads and likes of influential critiques such as Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Marx, Freud, and Camus.


Christianity
The origin of Christianity traces its roots back to the 1st century CE. It began as a movement within Judaism at a period when the Jewish culture had dominated the culture and political space. The history of Christianity is based on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who is the son of God. From the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem to his crucifixion at the cross in Golgotha, the life and times of Jesus Christ on earth are documented in the bible. His birth had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah. From Amos (8th century BCE) onward, the Israelites had tension on Christianity, its concept of monotheism, its universal ideal of salvation for the entire world as well as the notion of God’s idea to choose Israel. During the Hellenistic age (323 BCE – 3rd century CE), the dispersion of the Jews throughout the Mediterranean and Roman Empire reinforced the universalistic tendency. Crucifixions were a common practice in the Roman Empire.

 
The context of the Roman empire can help explain the life, death and birth of Christianity. Jesus was a Jew and by 30 C.E, the Roman empire had spread across the Mediterranean Sea including the land occupied by the Hebrews. The Roman were intolerable for sedition or rebellion against the governing authorities. The Jews however forwarded some religious propositions for rebelling against the Roman authorities. The Romans required the Jews to adore the emperor as a god which actually was against the Jews’ religion of worship for only one god: Yahweh. This ideally, made the Roman rulers furious prompting the Romans to set up a direct rule over the Jews in 26 B.C.E. With Pontius Pilate as the governor of the territory, he had little tolerance for Jewish traditions. The link between the earliest Christian Churches to Judaism was majorly focused on the role of the messiah and the significant validity of the universal Mosaic law (Williamson, 2017). The great Sanhedrin was the central council at Jerusalem and was composed of the Pharisees and Sadducees. As the single largest monotheistic religion in the world, the church particularly the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Church are the central agent of Christianity and the community is the body of Christ made up of believers.  


Key beliefs and beliefs of atheists and Christians
Christianity is among the major monotheist religions in the world alongside Islam and Judaism. Christianity is centered on the life and times of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and is therefore based on faith in Jesus, faith being the belief and acts of trust. The teachings around Christianity are based on Christ coming to earth to save humankind from since through His death at the cross as the Bible records that God loved the world so much that He offered His only son to die for humankind. On the other hand, though atheists do not believe in religious teachings, they are well informed about the doctrines and principles of religion. The main argument of atheism is that it is not paramount to believe in God in order to be moral and portray good values and virtues (Schiavone & Gervais, 2017). Conventionally, arguments for God’s existence have circled around ontological, teleological, and cosmological arguments, miracles as well as prudential justifications. 


One of the most common criticisms against atheism is the fact that denying the existence of God contributes to moral relativism and character decay. Moreover, it is said that subscribing to atheist’s school of thought renders life as meaningless and miserable especially given the prevalence of evil and moral decay in the society ( ).Some of the well-known atheist in history who have criticized religion suggesting harmful aspects or religious practices and doctrines include most recently Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, David Hume and Immanuel Kant  Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, and following such thinkers as Bertrand Russell, Robert G. Ingersoll, Voltaire, and novelist José Saramago.


Similarities and differences
Similarities
Atheism and Christian have some shared histories. In both, there are common unresolved answers to the problem of evil. For atheist, one of the prominent arguments that surfaces every now and then is consistent denial in the belief of existence of God on the argument that the prevalence of evil and suffering in the world invalidates the existence of a Supreme Being. Over time, majority of the Christians have struggled with the ancient dilemma querying the existence of widespread evil and suffering while there exists a good, all powerful God. The end result of both arguments has been a chaos or a compromise choosing not to delve on to the question without sufficient empirical evidence and justification to the answer.


To a great extent, atheist and enthusiastic believers are products of their environment. It goes without saying that an upbringing in a religious or secular environment has significant influence on a person’s world view. Regional cultures are strongly tied to the affluent and beliefs that one subscribes to. Christianity and atheism are based on a belief system. While Christians believe in the existence of a Supreme God, atheists on the other hand believe that there is no deity. However, the role of human in both belief system is key. Christians and atheist hold the view that it is a human responsibility to make the world a beautiful place for the present and future generations. Ideally, Christians and atheist believe in the democratic processes and justice for every person and in both, patriotism and solidarity to the nation is indispensable.


In both, belief prominently emanates as a brain condition. Aside from the regional impact, religion is all in the mind. It is out of brain conditioning that individual that people choose which worldview to believe. As the saying goes, the neurons that fire together wire together. Undoubtfully, the more a person in certain fashion, the more the belief becomes a reality (Livingston, 2005). For both atheist and Christians, staunch beliefs emanate for reinforcement of a set of beliefs which fashion the brain to accept information supportive of that system and repel information that goes contravenes it. Both Christians and atheist hold some sense of moral responsibility. In both, evil acts such as murder are condemned. Though atheists do not attend places of worship, they hold a sense of responsibility and care towards others. Cognizant of evil, both Christians and atheists respond in the same way to others’ acts of decency or wrong. It is thus clear that righteousness does not come from religion to a person but from the individual to the religion.


Differences
Arguments for atheism range from philosophical to social and historical approaches. Some of the rationales advanced for not believing in the existence of deities include lack of or insufficient empirical evidence, the problem of evil, the argument from inconsistent revelations, the rejection of concepts which cannot be falsified as well as the argument of nonbelief. Atheism strongly affirms the non-existence of God while Christianity strongly affirms existence of God. Nonbelievers postulate that atheism is more parsimonious position the burden of proof lies not on the atheist to disprove the existence of gods but on the theist to provide a rationale for theism. Ideally, some atheist have resulted to adopting secular philosophies especially given the idea that atheist do not subscribe to any code of conduct regarding religion. Christianity on the other hand provides that it is blasphemous to deny the existence of God. In the Bible Psalms 14:1 describes atheists as morally deficient fools describing people who do not believe in God or gods.


Despite both religions being based on a belief system, the difference between Christianity and atheism is majorly on what to believe in. While Christians believe that there exist a Supreme God who is all powerful, knowledgeable, infinitely good and morally perfect, atheist on the other hand atheism reject the existence of gods and instead hold high regard to humanity attributing humans as the custodians of ethics and values who do not necessarily need god to help them solve moral problems.


End of life for atheists and Christians
Hebrew teachings provide that the widespread belief was that human life on earth was temporary. The establishment of God’s everlasting kingdom would be a clear indication of God’s triumph over human inequities. The Hebrews believed in the apocalypse which basically shed light on the termination of earthly world which would only be brought about by the messiah. Christianity holds that the coming of Jesus Christ on earth was the ultimate dawn of salvation upon humankind.  The death, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day represented victory over death. Christianity provides for the second coming of Christ.

Additionally, Christians believe in life after death where faithful Christians will be raise from the dead and go to live with God for eternity in heaven. Atheism on the other had provides that life is good and has purpose but upon death, the human race cease to exist. Atheism thus provides that death should not cause fear among people but should be a celebration of a life well lived while impacting other people’s lives. Atheism hold the view that religion is used as a buffer against death-related anxiety by promising believers an ongoing existence beyond earth mortality (Burley, 2012).


Conclusion
Pressman, Lyons, Larson and Gartner (1992) argues that religion was born from fear of death. Many people perceive dying without religion as implying that life is meaningless. Religion offers coherence that life events were purposeful. Though the end of life is frightening and one which causes physical pain and grief, death can bring about depression and suicidal behavior. Nevertheless, it is important to leverage on the human morality to take care of other people and be good to them. Despite the diversities with religious and non-religious beliefs, the most important thing in life is to treat other people with respect and dignity.

 

References
Burley, M. (2012). Atheism and the gift of death. Religious Studies, 48(4), 533-546.
Cragun, R. T. (2016). Nonreligion and atheism. In Handbook of religion and society (pp. 301-320). Springer, Cham.
Gervais, W. M., & Najle, M. B. (2018). How many atheists are there?. Social Psychological and Personality Science9(1), 3-10.
Góes da Costa, L. D. (2018, May). Is the Moral Decay by Knowledge Possible?: An Analysis of Rebuttals to Criticisms of the Discourse. In Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy (Vol. 47, pp. 51-55).

Krueger, J. (2013). The road to disbelief: A study of the atheist de-conversion process. UW-L Journal of Undergraduate Research16(1), 9.
Livingston, K. (2005). Religious practice, brain, and belief. Journal of Cognition and Culture5(1-2), 75-117.
Payne, A. (2013). Redefining Atheism in America: What the United States Could Learn from Europe's Protection of Atheists. Emory Int'l L. Rev.27, 661.
Pressman, P., Lyons, J. S., Larson, D. B., & Gartner, J. (1992). Religion, anxiety, and fear of death. Religion and mental health, 98-109.
Roskam, G. (2014). Epicurus (341–270 BCE). The Encyclopedia of Political Thought, 1108-1116.
Schiavone, S. R., & Gervais, W. M. (2017). Atheists. Social and Personality Psychology Compass11(12), e12365.
Spencer, N. (2014). Atheists: The origin of the species. A&C Black.
von Segesser, L. K. (2003). “Out of nothing comes nothing” α versus “Perpetual flux” β: αEpicurus of Samos (341–270 BCE); βHeraclitus of Ephesus (535–475 BCE).
Williamson, C. M. (2017). Has God Rejected His People?: Anti-Judaism in the Christian Church. Wipf and Stock Publishers.

 


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