“I’m drowning here, and you’re describing the water!”
Jack Nicholson says that to Greg Kinnear in the Academy Award winning movie As Good As It Gets. That’s how I’ve been feeling about the bible study unit on worship which is in its third or fourth week.
I’m not criticizing Rick, the minister and our bible study teacher, because he can’t possibly know what I’m missing, what my spiritual needs are. I have great respect for him as a minister and teacher, and he has taught me a lot already about the bible. He has told me that this unit is for me, and though that’s probably a bit of an exaggeration, it’s probably mostly true. He knows that I’m an atheist and I have asked him to help me understand worship.
So far we’ve learned a number of things about worship: the history of worship; the meaning of words used to identify worship in Hebrew and Greek; rituals of the “tribe” (a word that Rick uses to express, I think, not only that we are a collection of closely connected human beings, but also still somewhat primitive in our approach to God).
The most common set of rituals we’ve studied so far surround sports, particularly football and baseball. I’m not much of a sports fan, but that’s not my criticism of the metaphor. I find much of value in the sports metaphor, such as discipline, goal-setting, mind-over-matter, leadership, coaching, dedication, success, reward, and many other valuable concepts.
But the rituals we have examined are the most banal and ridiculous from the sports mystique, such as “The Wave”, tailgating, wearing the team colors, “Game Day”, praying for victory, and a slew of other useless (at least to me) traditions.
I’m looking for reasons that worship of God will benefit my life, whether I believe in God or not. What is there in this for the atheist? If the answer is “nothing”, then I need to just go home and never come back. But I don’t believe that’s the answer. Faith that all this serves a secular purpose is my first step. Maybe I’m on the wrong path by looking for a secular benefit of worship, but I doubt it.
For example, some have said that meditation can bring spiritual peace. I don’t know what it means to be spiritual, but I can understand the need for meditation. It relaxes the body. It clears the mind. It increases consciousness. It serves to focus attention. And a dozen other good things. I assume that Christian worship of God accomplishes these things too, but I’m looking for something more, or else I will just meditate by myself in the privacy of my own home.
Also, I would like to believe that my Christian friends are not just wasting their time and engaging in a ridiculous ritual!
And even if one believes in God, why the Hell would God demand worship??!! God, if he/it/whatever exists, wouldn’t need the bowing of simple humanoids to maintain his existence. I just quietly shake my head in disbelief when I hear people say that God needs our worship. It’s absurd.
As I walked out of bible study today, I realized the extent of the disconnect between the atheistic view of worship and that of the believer’s. They just don’t get it, I thought. It’s like watching a bunch of lemmings jump off a cliff. I don’t get it.
As I said to Rick on the way out today, I have faith that this is all leading somewhere. Perhaps I have more faith in my church and the bible than some of the so-called Christians. I believe that there must be a rational purpose to all this. I’m just waiting to hear it.