The question that atheism encourages us to consider
A Christian Science perspective.
I often find myself wrestling with big questions. I also find that whether people consider themselves an atheist or a religious person, all have a desire to understand the nature of life. Here’s where everyone is on the same side, particularly because understanding life isn’t merely an intellectual desire. Our questions have a practical thrust. I, for one, need to know how things can work well for our world, from the events of the day to our health.
In tackling life’s questions, one thing I’ve found most enlightening is that my health, or my ability to permanently improve it, is directly related to my understanding of life as being essentially mental in nature. Since the time when I instantly overcame the symptoms of mononucleosis (see the Christian Science Sentinel, June 22, 1998), I have increasingly come to find that a disease can disappear, or other things can radically change, with a change in thought. Life is not a universe run by a substance we call matter. It certainly can look that way. But I’m coming to see that life is the result of an infinite Mind, divine Spirit, and its workings.
So, what if the debate as to whether an eternal Being created a material universe isn’t the debate that really matters? What if in such discussions we’re actually coming to another question – whether everything is essentially of matter, or of Mind? If it’s the workings of matter, then there is no place for a “big guy in the sky” who intervenes occasionally. But if the essence of everything is ideas or manifestations of an infinite Mind, then there is something we’d call God. God is the Mind holding everything in thought. And the basis that people find for the existence of God is the evidence that right where it looks and feels like things of matter, there are things – ideas – of the infinite Mind.
The Bible says, “[T]hings which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3). It’s like the shadows in the room not being made of the light that comes in when the curtain is opened. The matter that we might think facilitates life is not what we ultimately discover to be doing that.
The Bible is full of points on life’s issues. It can be a helpful tool in considering atheism, or a world in which God doesn’t exist. The allegory of Adam and Eve explains what happens when we think that the life-power is in “the dust” or matter. Adam and his family find that life, when seen as material, is self-destructive or “dust to dust,” as the saying goes. There is perhaps little debate about this point, given what we see in the form of material disintegration. However, there are certainly people debating a connection between such material life and God. It’s a debate that will prove to be pointless, because to matter there is no Spirit, and to Spirit there is no matter.
Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy explored these subjects in depth, and she wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” of the Adam and Eve story as representing for humanity the notion that God “disappeared in the atheism of matter” (see p. 580). Life as matter would not include any way for God, Spirit, to appear, exist. But life, when seen from the standpoint of infinite Mind, is all about God, is all Spirit and its ideas. So then, we’re left with a profound question – one of considering an awakening from the “atheism of matter” to finding God as the infinite Mind, with us as spiritual ideas in this Mind.