Posted by: Brooke | April 21, 2009

Revitalizing Spiritual Experience

As I was finishing up the last section of my paper, Sunday morning at Bread Co, I began to think about the experience of writing a twenty page paper. It was something that I had never done before, and it was exhilarating to know that I was physically and mentally able to pull it off. At the beginning of this semester the idea of writing a paper this big and with this much meaning seemed impossible, yet here I was writing the last few paragraphs on my senior thesis paper. I felt like a true theologian.

Then, as I often do, I continued my daydreaming instead of finishing the last part of my paper. I began to reflect on the spiritual journey this paper, and class, had taken me on. At the beginning of the semester I was excited to be confronting the New Atheists and their critiques of Christianity, I felt that I could tackle and solve all of their criticisms with out hesitation. However, after reading Dawkins book The God Delusion I realized that his, along with the other New Atheists, arguments were hard to swallow and spiritually unnerving. I found myself in a quandary about God and the way that He relates to creation. This led me to choose the paper topic of evolutionary theology with a focus on God in a post-Darwinian world.

After doing the research and contemplating the arguments of theologians such as, John Haught and Dennis Edwards, I began to feel my relationship with God change. It began to grow and deepen; I started to feel a nearness to God that I had not felt before. This nearness and increase in relationship continued as I started writing my thesis paper. Sitting there, at Bread Co on that rainy Sunday morning with all the Church goers coming in to get their coffee, I realized that this was not merely a paper; it was an exercise in spiritual growth. This was the first time that I had actively participated in growing my spiritual relationship with God. I looked around at all those people who had just gone to Church, and I wondered how many of them had actively worked on and experienced spiritual growth? I felt at peace with my work, and glad that Dr. Robinette had picked the topic of New Atheism for our class to discuss this semester. Their arguments created a dissonance within me, which required that I look deeper into myself and do the hard work in order to grow spiritually. I feel that this is the gift of the New Atheists to Christianity. They point out the areas that need to be worked on within Christianity and within an individual, which then promotes growth within Christianity and spiritual revitalization within the person.

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Responses

  1. Brooke-

    It is great to hear the experience you had throughout this entire semester. It is certain that we all had unique reactions to the material and our personal work. For me, the topic of New Atheism terrified me in the beginning. I remember talking to a good friend of mine about our final paper. I felt completely unable to argue against these people who aren’t afraid to call God a delusion and religion the source of evil. It is a spiritual experience indeed to come as far as I have from this initial scare. I still may not quite understand what memes are supposed to be, but I have grown significantly in my personal understanding of theology. I’m glad you point out the importance of promoting growth in our communities as well. It is something I mention in my paper that I believe we should all encourage.

  2. I think one of the things that struck me in your comment Brooke was the part about truly feeling like a theologian. I have been wandering through these last four years wondering what it is that a theology major ends up doing if not teaching. The thought of being able to critically comment on faith or religion and to formulate ideas about God based on observations around me seemed so distant. After encountering the New Atheists and their attacks on faith, I wasn’t so much offended but ready to defend my beliefs. Just as you said Brooke, I finally felt like a theologian when compiling my final paper and coming to the conclusions I reached. I felt as though not only did I confirm my beliefs regarding the compatibility between faith and evolution but strengthened them in the process and can now clearly articulate them to anyone who asks. I too feel like a theologian.

  3. I’m glad to hear that others underwent a spiritual journey in the writing and researching of their papers, because that was the same case for me too. Reading about mysticism and the mystics and the intimate union of the mystic with God was such an incredible gift for me this semester. Previously I had only found this kind of excitement and peace in many Eastern philosophies and religions such as Buddhism. Thinking about unity and non-duality and relationship through meditation and presence with the Ultimate, Infinite, Being itself did not seem to fit with my traditional Catholic upbringing. But I found a wealth of knowledge in Catholic and Christian mystics, as well as mystics from all the world religions. As I was writing my paper and thinking about sentences of God as One and transcending all thought and limitations, I had my own mystical experiences of God’s presence and power. I am thankful for the journey and the experiences which have come from this paper and the study of the New Atheism and for me, Mysticism.

  4. I wish I could say I had an experience of spiritual growth or a deepened relationship with God as a result of writing my paper but what fueled my twenty pages was not gratitude, nor mystery, but anger. I’ve read a couple entries recently about the debt we owe the new atheists and to some extent I think we are all atheists in one regard or another but their crusade against Islam in their writings, particularly Harris makes me want to scream a little.

    I don’t think I feel like a theologian, I just feel like a fish among a bunch of sheep lately, especially in a country where people actually agree with the new atheists on concepts like preeminent nuclear strikes or equally horrifying “security” measures.

    Sorry to rain on the parade with this cynical comment but as far as my topic goes I’m taking away a dose of pissed-off-ness and not nearness to God unless that god is incredibly angry!


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