Why I’m a Political Atheist: Part 2
Here’s a different angle to Part one:
In both the movie and novel of “War of the Worlds” the plot takes an abrupt turn when on the brink of humanity’s destruction, the aliens begin to succumb to terrestrial microorganisms and die off. At the very moment that the reader or moviegoer has every reason to believe the story was headed for a dark ending, they are suddenly lifted towards optimism. This plot device is called a “deus ex machina.”
The term “deus ex machina” was adapted from ancient theater, when a god appeared at the dark pinnacle of the story to right all the wrongs. The main character had died, or the war was being lost, or the king had lost his love, or the kingdom was in disarray and suddenly, out of nowhere a god, war hero, sage, terrestrial microorganism, etc. would appear (presumably dropped from the upper rafters on a rope) and everything would be made right.
Religion is too often the art of using God as a means to one’s personal end.
Religion is a way to escape the sorrows of the world through the promises of heaven.
It’s a crutch.
The “opium to the masses”.
The “deus ex machina.”
Many of the arguments that skeptics use against tribalistic and self-serving religion can also be used against those who seek to use politics as a way to get their slice of heaven here on earth. It follows that the same valid arguments used by skeptics against self-seeking religion can also be used against self-seeking politics (which is what I attempted to do in Part 1).
Just as humanity uses religion as the “deus ex machina”, so we use the power of politics. This idea that a down economy can be solved by the power of politics … that the godlessness of American families can be solved by the power of politics … marriage equality … women’s right … healthcare … the restoration of God in schools … the limitation of federal government … all these things can be solved by the deus ex machina of political power.
The divinized power of politics is a delusion that humanity has believed in for millennia. Take the Jews of two millennia ago. The messianic expectation during second temple Judaism was that the Messiah would come in power, He would reclaim the throne of David, he would reunite the dispersed tribes and together they would right all the wrongs by overthrowing the Roman occupation.
Jesus came. He claimed to be the messiah. And nobody recognized him. Because they were all looking for Superman. They were looking for a militant king. He proclaimed self-sacrifice, grace, forgiveness, defense of the poor … a new kingdom where the least would be the greatest and the greatest would be the one who served the least.
This quote — that many of us have read — from Napoleon Bonaparte:
“Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”
There’s a reason Jesus was born into an oppressed people group, in one of the poorest towns, to one of the most poor and ostracized couples. We like to view the virgin birth as a miracle, but for Mary and Joseph (who would really believe that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary?) it was a curse of epic proportions as it effectively made their lives only livable in the accursed town of Nazareth.
There’s a reason he wasn’t born into a royal Roman family where he could have inherited the throne. There’s a reason he violently denied his disciples attempts to thrust him into a political position. Because he knew that the power of love is greater than the power of force. He too was a political atheist … something that his 12 disciples had a hard time understanding … something that his followers still have a hard time understanding.
As a follower of Jesus, I’ve established my atheism on the life of Christ. It doesn’t mean I’ve disconnected myself from politics. It doesn’t mean that I forsake my civic duty. It just means I’ve stopped believing in the divine power of politics.