An Atheist in Theology

For those who don’t know, I went to University and studied Theology.  I am also, as one who has read my early posts can probably guess, an atheist.

It seems every day I get asked why an atheist would study theology. When I am in a petulant mood, which is more often than not, I respond with some cliche “Know thy enemy” quote, or just ask “why not?” But that’s really a cop-out, and I think it’s about time for a more complete explanation.

Studying theology is the study of humanity over the last 8000 years. (for me at least, there are some great people out there who study earlier human belief systems) It blends psychology, sociology, law, history, and semiotics.  It encourages further studies in biology, physics, chemistry, and astronomy. My mind was thirsty for knowledge, and I found all these subjects interesting, and amazing.

You can learn a lot about the current world by studying the past, and the influence, and shadow, of religion hangs over most of human history. While I did not search for a faith of my own, and to this day, I have no urge to do so, what I found was the knife at humanities back.

Studying theology does not require one to accept the ideas of others as fact, but it does help to understand the world we live in. For centuries, religion has been the context to the story of human progress. The achievements of Galileo would have been just as impressive without religion, but his personal story would be far less compelling. The death of Socrates, the great wars of human history, slavery, womens rights, all these things have a theological subtext, in some cases its subtle, hardly there, and in others its more prominent.  You can find it all around us.By learning how to recognize this subtext, we can get to the root cause of many of these issues.

A doctor might talk about finding and treating the cause, not the symptoms, and I found that is what theology did for me. It showed me the cause. Karl Marx once said religion is the opiate of the people, and I find this is true in more ways than one. Religion not only kills, but it does so with a feeling of good. This illusion of progress and well-being. It seeps in like a drug, and like the most powerful of those compounds, it makes you see only the good in it, without thought to the evil.

Studying theology opens ones eyes to that evil.

That’s why I studied theology. Because it helped me better read the context of the world. … and I couldn’t get into the Astrophysics program.

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