Archive

Posts Tagged ‘religion’

The modern world’s reverence of science has gone too far

April 30, 2013 4 comments

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a long time, but somehow just never got around to it. I think a lot of people have never really taken the time to think about this. In today’s world, science’s place as the ultimate truth-finder in the modern world is taken as a given. I think this can have some dangerous and foolish consequences.

What does the Bible have to say about worldly wisdom? Here’s just one passage (1 Corinthians 1:18-25):

19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

I was going to highlight or bold certain parts, but I think pretty much all of it sends a strong point across to the reader. Please take the time to digest it on your own, and maybe apply it to what we’re talking about here.

Before people start accusing me of “bashing” on science, let me make something clear. Science has made amazing contributions to this world, and I think that was an intentional part of God’s design when He decided to share dominion of Earth with us. I am all for taking medicines to help cure illnesses, and knowledge of the human body has helped doctors make proper treatments all across the board.

I am also relatively supportive of technology. I could not write this blog without it, nor enjoy many of the creature comforts I take for granted every day. AIR CONDITIONING! (Sorry, just had to get that in there.)

But what I’m talking about is a more specific realm of science; the part that purports to tell us about the universe and its past. I am talking about scientific “facts” such as naturalistic evolution, archeology that seemingly contradicts the Bible, and other such fields. Much of this science is based on theory and speculation rather than repeatable, testable results. I am not talking about science that we see and use on an everyday basis (and therefore can easily find faults with over time). A big bulk of science cannot be contained in a laboratory and “proved,” but this doesn’t stop people from swallowing these “truths” wholesale and allowing them to dictate their beliefs.

Here are three primary reasons I do not place science on the same pedestal as other people.

1. The scientific community is not as truth-driven or open-minded as some people assume.

In a perfect world, the scientific community’s sole purpose would be to find truth regardless of logistics, politics, and greed. But the fact of the matter is, real truth is often not the sole (or even primary) aim. There are often strong competing factors at play that cannot be ignored or brushed off as something on the fringes.

For instance, a lot of science is driven by the need and desire for funding. Where there is money, there the scientists will flock. Can we blame them? They need to pay their bills and make a living just like we do. This often means that they will do the kind of work that interests rich philanthropists or the public eye at the time. This also means results could be tweaked or pushed in a particular direction to keep the money flowing.

As C. W. Adams puts it: “In the real world, research is not the rational pursuit of knowledge many might imagine it to be. Rather, it is a system riddled with competitive forces; greed; profits; the pursuit of personal recognition; and quite simply, survival issues for the individual researcher.”

Furthermore, there is a strong pressure toward conformity in the scientific community to avoid being ostracized by one’s peers. Breaking from the mold requires a strong sense of purpose and conviction, for this is often considered to result in career suicide. C. W. Adams calls this “peer-control.”

“…it must be understood that the range of study, and the ability of these professors to travel outside the box, is also severely limited by the educational institutions that employ them. Maintaining job security in these institutions usually requires some sort of peer control process that research scientists undertake when determining hypotheses. Although speculation is obviously encouraged, the topics and range of speculation are thoroughly restricted.”

Remember that Satan is referred to as the “god of this world,” so wouldn’t you think that he’d do anything to keep the true God out of the picture as much as possible? Do you think he’d push the tides of academia toward biblical truth or away from it? You be the judge. Remember also that true scientific facts never contradict the Bible nor render God obsolete. They are simply observations of His creation at work, and His fingerprints remain on everything. For instance, learning how lightning forms does nothing to disprove the God who put those forces in place to begin with.

2. Science is continually changing and amending prior “certainties.”

Nietzsche once said that “madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups.” This aptly describes why so many of the world’s brightest minds can often be in complete agreement on certain “truths” that later end up being completely (and sometimes hilariously) wrong. A scientific consensus is far from a sure thing, as history would teach us.

Carl Sagan once wrote: “Even a succession of professional scientists–including famous astronomers who had made other discoveries that are confirmed and now justly celebrated–can make serious, even profound errors in pattern recognition.”

The bottom line is that just because you throw more people into the mix doesn’t mean that you can prevent blindness. What often happens is a phenomenon that Yale psychologist Irving L. Janis terms as “the groupthink syndrome.” There are three main symptoms of this:

1. Overestimate of the group’s power and morality, including “an unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their actions.” [emphasis added]

2. Closed-mindedness, including a refusal to consider alternative explanations and stereotyped negative views of those who aren’t part of the group’s consensus. The group takes on a “win-lose fighting stance” toward alternative views.

3. Pressure toward uniformity, including “a shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgments conforming to the majority view”; “direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes”; and “the emergence of self-appointed mind-guards … who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.”

Think about some of the failed assumptions and certainties of the past: the world is flat (bogus); the atom is the smallest building block of matter (false); the universe is necessarily infinite (now we know of the Big Bang)…the list goes on and on.

Did you know that there have been a large number of prominent scientists and experts who have published material “proving” that the Bible wasn’t factual? That certain people-groups mentioned in scripture never existed? And usually what happens is that years or decades later, some archeologist will unearth new evidence to validate the claims of the Bible, not those ever-sure experts.

If science ever seems to run counter to what God’s unchanging and eternal Word says, I’m hitching my wagon to the source of truth that has never been proved wrong.

3. Scientists are made up of faulty and biased people just like you and me.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the word “scientist,” I am not immediately struck with reverence and awe. Respect, sure…many of them work very hard and are gifted with relatively bright minds. But at the basic core, they are people just like us who deal with insecurities, fight against stubbornness and pride, and are shaped by the influences around them.

I suspect that people who look up to scientists as the end-all-be-all have never really known a scientist (or at least one from a “respectable” school). Guess what? They range from academic hermits to clumsy goof balls. Many of them, due to their narrow focus on studying, lack common sense in important areas that some of us take for granted. They are sometimes unsuccessful in love due to a basic misunderstanding of human interaction. Sometimes they are great at it. I would no sooner take advice from someone who works in the sciences than a trusted friend.

(Be honest: don’t we all laugh at Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory because we can relate to the brilliant-at-something guy who is seriously lacking in other common areas? I alluded to his difficulty in grasping sarcasm in an earlier post.)

The point is, they are no more reliable as finders of the truth than the average reasonable adult. It is easy to see how these people could be swept away in a cool and exciting new idea, rather than putting on the brakes of common sense…especially if being at the forefront of this thinking puts them in a superior intellectual position.

* * *

The point of this post was not to bash on science or scientists, but rather to give a reminder/reality check that man is just man. We are fallible creatures and our systems are bound to be flawed as well. To be sure, we have been given great power and authority over this world, but there is always One who is supremely higher. Let’s not make the mistake of getting so full of ourselves that we miss the fact that we are His creation. The creation cannot be greater than the Creator, can it?

And that very thought was what drove Satan to rebel in the first place…isn’t it funny how it all naturally fits into this world, his current domain?

America’s do-it-yourself religion

September 23, 2011 Leave a comment

http://www.christianpost.com/news/do-it-yourself-religion-56245/

This phenomenon is not surprising at all…it’s what we’ve been noticing all along, but here are a few relevant quotes (try not to gag):

Barna tells USA Today, “People say, ‘I believe in God. I believe the Bible is a good book. And then I believe whatever I want.’” Indeed, Barna says only seven percent of those he surveyed say they believe in seven essential Christian doctrines, as listed in the National Association of Evangelicals’ Statement of Faith.

If you’re curious, here are the seven essential Christian doctrines according to this statement of faith:

  • We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
  • We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  • We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sadly, only seven percent of those surveyed believe in these essential doctrines. Seven! (And if you take the number who truly believe these things in their hearts and live it out—not just give intellectual assent—I’d imagine it’d be an even lower percentage.)

Anyway, on with the quotes:

This buffet-style religion isn’t confined to the church…[Nadine Epstein of the Jewish magazine Moment] adds, “You pick and choose the part of the religion that makes sense to you.”

But as Stan Guthrie warns:

“Jesus, unlike the religious action figures sold at Wal-Mart, is not infinitely bendable, able to assume whatever postmodern pose we give him.”

Seriously people, just write your own holy books. It doesn’t have to be original, just pick and choose the parts you like from each existing one and then add your own thoughts. Voila.

But please do us a favor and stop calling yourselves Christians.

Objection to Christianity #3: Science has disproved (or removed the need for) God

August 16, 2011 Leave a comment

There seems to be a new sheriff in town, and his name is Science. Word has it that a logical person can now only believe in things that can be proved and confirmed in a laboratory. Since there seems to be no empirical, testable evidence for the supernatural realm, we therefore need to throw out the whole antiquated notion of some unseen power known as God.

But is this necessarily true? Is this some kind of logical truism?

“I find that science is a way of explaining the natural world, but it has its limits….I can identify no conflict between what I know as a scientist—including all of the details of our own DNA sequence—and what I know about God who created the universe, who put all of these opportunities in place, and had a plan.” — Dr. Francis Collins, physician-geneticist, director of the NIH, and former director of the Human Genome Project.

Hmm, that’s odd. One of the most respected scientists in his field is a devout Christian. How can this be? Is he suffering from some sort of dementia?

Well, in my opinion, Dr. Collins is simply exercising a surprisingly rare kind of rationality. He knows where science is useful, and he also seems aware of where it cannot reach. If the whole enterprise of scientific discovery deals with the natural, observable world, Dr. Collins seems to grasp the obvious concept that science can do nothing to disprove anything supernatural.

So what’s the problem then? If science is not logically incompatible with Christianity, why does this notion persist? Well, that’s something I can’t emphatically answer, but I can at least share my guesses and opinions as always.

Religion seems to have a bad track record of explaining things

In the early days, people used to attribute almost everything to the “god of the gaps” in whichever form he/she took. If it rained, they would thank Zeus (or insert Flying Spaghetti Monster here) for helping their crops. If it rained too much, they got angry with their god or grew fearful. When thunderstorms came, they assumed it was some form of celestial shouting or wrath. If someone was suffering from depression, demons were the cause. If a rainbow formed, they knew it was a sign of peace from God.

But then what happened? Science came along and explained humidity and the cycle of precipitation. People learned more about the mechanisms of thunderstorms (such as the three stages: the developing stage, the mature stage, and the dissipation stage). Technology increased and we became able to detect chemical imbalances or deficiencies, as well as sociological/psychological factors to assist in treating depression. A rainbow became nothing more than a fancy manifestation of light reflection off of moisture.

Then, people looked back and remembered the religious people and said, “Zeus who? God who? Science has shown us the cause.” The scoffing became increasingly widespread, and the religious crowd shrunk back and waited for other inexplicable phenomena to insert their god of the gaps once again.

Science has produced tangible, observable results and benefits

Not only has there been enormous progress in medicine and other natural sciences, but even in our everyday technology and leisure. We own iPhones, laptops, and stay connected with each other through the internet. We drive our fuel-efficient cars to distant locations while a computerized voice speaks, guiding us to take the right exit in a quarter of a mile. All of this is possible because of science.

God, on the other hand, is invisible and mysterious (again, I encourage you to check out this video and make the natural connections…we are the Flatland inhabitants, God is the apple: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9VS1mwEV9wA&list=FL7oX58RAnMNM&index=29).

We have militant atheists speaking out against Him, yet they seem to be enjoying their lives just fine. No lightning strikes them down. People say things like, “If God is real, show me a sign! Anything!” And yet, nothing happens. Nothing empirical or observable…so many conclude He must be illusory.

BUT…

Christianity makes perfect sense, even in light of modern science

If you step back and think about it—as Dr. Collins and many others like him have noticed—Christianity actually fits in perfectly with what we know and observe. Science is indeed useful, but it only increases our knowledge of HOW things work. It does nothing to answer the WHY/for what questions. Coupled together, knowledge of science and the Bible can help to answer both insofar as they are knowable.

For instance, when we learn how rain and thunderstorms come to be, are we really disproving God? No, not at all. All we’re doing is getting a glimpse into His handiwork. We might be able to learn something about the mechanisms God uses to bring about that kind of weather, but it still does nothing to diminish the power and ingenuity it took to originally put those systems in place. We might be able to observe the chemical composition and electrical impulses of love, but that doesn’t encapsulate its entirety. If God created the laws of nature, why wouldn’t He use them to produce the desired outcome? If God made a rainbow as a promise of peace to Noah, why wouldn’t it happen by reflecting light in the water of the air—the very things God himself created in the first place?

Let’s say we were able to somehow recreate some great painting using a computer program. By inserting a painting into the scanner, this program could tell you exactly which paints the artist used, which strokes were made in what direction and with what amount of pressure, the sequence…everything. Does this in any way diminish the artist’s work? In the same way, how does being able to analyze some natural process rob God of His glory?

In Christianity, unlike other religions, we are also told that God made us in His own image. Perhaps part of that entails the powers of creativity and invention (the lesser cousins of creating). It makes complete sense to me that God—who loved us enough to allow us to bear some of His likeness—would want to share the knowledge of this world and not make everything foreign and scary to us. Are we to then turn around and use those gifts as an attack against Him?

Whether (theistic) evolution is true, this remains the same. Mapping the human genome in no way causes us to be on God’s level, but rather gives us a glimpse into His extremely complex and amazing creation. If we can make some medical use out of it, then that’s a sweet side benefit as well.

The very fact that the laws of nature work so well, to me, points strongly to God. The fact that the universe seems exquisitely fine-tuned for life is strong “evidence”…about as much as we can expect in the natural realm to shed light on the supernatural; a 2D slice of a 3D apple, if you will. We shouldn’t expect to be able to see God (or we’d die in our sinful state—Exodus 33:20), nor test Him with arrogant and petulant demands (Deuteronomy 6:16, Luke 4:12).

If there was no God, why should we trust our own faculties to be able to arrive at reliable conclusions about anything? Wouldn’t everything we think and feel simply be an adaptation geared toward survival and not truth?

Don’t believe the hype. Science in no way disproves God or the Bible. In fact, the details that we CAN actually test check out just fine. On the whole, the world that we observe seems to point to a Designer, and we as the designed should learn to appreciate what we see rather than trying to take credit for something that’s not ours. Any tangible progress we make is only possible because we were gifted with minds and creativity (and opposable thumbs) from the Creator in the first place.

Albert Einstein, who did not have a personal relationship with God, once said this: “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe; a spirit vastly superior to that of man. And one, in the face of which, we with our modest powers must feel humble.”

That was about 50 years ago. Have our egos become so inflated in such a short time that we now believe man’s science to hold the key to the universe?

Christopher Hitchens is not a “master debater”

May 23, 2011 6 comments

One very insightful and helpful blogger, Allie, pointed me to a link that showcases the best atheist and theist debaters of our day: http://www.debategod.org/members/debategod. I encourage anyone with an informed, impartial mind to take a look into these matters directly. (I hesitate to recommend doing so for everyone—especially young, impressionable people who can be too easily taken in by the sexy allure of surface-level objections to faith.)

I was amused, but not altogether surprised, by the inclusion of Christopher Hitchens’ picture among the “Master Debaters” collage. He is a very popular atheist with a well-known, outspoken book. He is an accomplished journalist and a master rhetorician. I don’t know if he’s still married or not, but I’d imagine that when he argues with her, she’s left wondering why she apologized when he was clearly in the wrong.

However, he is not a good formal debater, and this is evident to anyone interested in logic and sound reasoning. He masks his ignorance with wittiness and confusing, roundabout explanations…but ultimately, he’s blowing hot air and nothing more. I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise since he is not formally trained as a historian, philosopher, scientist, or a theologian. Words by themselves do not make good arguments.

A concise essay debate between Hitchens and Kenneth Miller (a prominent evolutionary biologist who is also a devout Catholic) demonstrates this well. In my view, Miller completely owns Hitchens with clear and informed arguments, while Hitchens resorts to personal attacks and good-sounding witticisms. Honestly, this is one of Hitchens’ better performances, and he still fails. By contrast, his debate with William Lane Craig—most atheists and theists will agree—was an embarrassment.

http://www.templeton.org/belief/debates.html

There are good atheist debaters out there, but Hitchens belongs in the same pile as Dawkins and other polemicists (sometimes dubbed “The Four Horsemen”). Aside from their confidence and enjoyable diction, these people offer little insight into this important topic.

Isn’t Christianity just wishful thinking?

April 14, 2011 2 comments

I’ve seen this charge levied against Christians all the time. I think it’s very misguided, and I’ll briefly discuss four points, though more could be said.

My first and longest point is that we need to establish whether it’s wishful in the first place. I would maintain that atheism, for example, is just as wishful, if not more, when compared to Christianity. On atheism, mankind is pretty much the boss. We define our own good and we answer to no higher power, because after all, who wants to be subjected to authority? On atheism, no one has to give up their precious time by attending church, studying the Bible, or sharing the Gospel. You aren’t compelled to give your hard-earned money as offering. There are hardly any restrictions on sex or the number of sexual partners you can have. In fact, even secular psychologists have posited that the issue of sexual freedom is the biggest factor in people’s reluctance to accept certain religions. I don’t know if I’d wholly agree with that, but it’s hardly a trivial point. So with atheism, you’re the boss, you face fewer “restrictions,” you get to save your time and money, and you needn’t feel guilt over much at all besides big, obvious transgressions.

Christianity, by comparison, is decidedly inconvenient. You might argue, “But what could be better than the delusion that you’re going to eternal paradise after this life?” Well yes, that could be considered one of the “perks,” but you could just as easily point to clear indications that people prefer the NOW rather than the later. If everyone actually lived for their futures and subscribed to this way of thinking, you would probably see a lot more people studying much harder in school. After all, everyone knows that if you study harder, you’ll improve your chances of future success. You’d see people diligently watching what they eat, and exercising to prolong their lives. Sure, there is a minority subset of the population that does these things–whether religious or not–but it’s not a common trait. It takes above-average individuals to live this way, and judging by the vast numbers of Christians (many of whom are not exemplary in character or discipline on their own merits), you have to conclude that there’s more to belief than hoping for a nice future in the afterlife. In fact, I know a good number of Christians who earnestly say that they would believe and follow whether there was a heaven or not. In my earlier walk, this was hard to believe, but I can see the truth in that statement now.

Well, isn’t it wishful for Christians to think that their sins are all forgiven just by accepting Christ? Isn’t this a too-easy “get out of jail free” card? Only if you believe in the concept of sin in the first place, really. It’s more convenient to believe that sin doesn’t exist at all than to acknowledge it then seek forgiveness. Plus, TRUE Christianity is anything but easy.

Second, even if Christianity is more wishful than not, that does nothing to prove its falsehood. As William Lane Craig might put it, this is “Philosophy 101.” Namely, this is committing genetic fallacy because the origins of a conclusion do nothing to determine whether it’s true or not. What matters are things like proof and logic.

For example, people fervently hope that their loved ones will return safely from war. This has no bearing on the chances of survival for that loved one. The mere fact that it might be wishful doesn’t affect the probability of it being true.

Third, wishfulness could be attributed to pretty much any belief in existence today. As I mentioned, even atheism is not exempt from this. Something’s got to be right, and chances are, whatever’s right has some wishful elements to it. After all, there’s got to be some positives or benefits in it, right? So this charge of “wishful thinking” is just irrelevant.

Fourth and lastly, one might argue that wishful thinking will cause a person to stick to a belief despite evidence to the contrary. This may be the case sometimes, true. But again, changing one’s beliefs might just be trading in one set of perks for another. You could say this for holding to any position.

What this argument really boils down to is the ability to disprove Christianity in the first place. If you can show that its teachings are demonstrably false, but people are clinging to it out of wishful thinking, you’d have a more valid point here. In that case, you don’t even need to show that it’s wishful thinking because you’ve proved Christianity false on the merits of evidence and logic.

But honest atheists will admit that it cannot proved false, at least by any scientific means. So why bring up the “wishful thinking” claim in the first place? It’s like going in circles. You can only say “they believe because of wishful thinking” if you’ve shown the belief to be false beforehand.

Sorry, now I’m the one who might be going in circles…

Countering YouTube: “Richard Dawkins–The God Delusion” (part 3)

April 12, 2011 Leave a comment

[Continued from Part 2 here, based on this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMqTEfeqvmM.]

Q: Does [blind faith] have to be a negative thing?

Dawkins: “I think in general, the idea of blind faith, the very idea of ‘blindness’ is negative.”

Notice how Dawkins slyly—to be fair, perhaps unknowingly—equates blind faith with blindness. This is classic straw man at work. He takes blind faith, which could be good or bad (it hasn’t been established yet one way or the other…note the question, “Does it have to be a negative thing?”), then compares it directly to something that everybody already knows is negative: blindness.

This implies that an ignorant person (with blind faith) cannot possibly see the truth (blindness). Having blind faith doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong. A person with blind faith could very well stumble fortuitously across the truth. This is a subtle but important distinction.

I have to agree that blind faith can be a negative thing. One could argue both ways…it could be better to be blind and right than informed and wrong.

We as Christian believers are told to have a reason for our faith and to be able to defend it. That entails some learning and probing for answers. But it doesn’t mean we have to have all the answers before we can believe.

Q: “Well maybe that’s the wrong word, ‘blind faith,’ maybe it’s just faith.”

Dawkins: “Yes, well I use the word ‘blind’ because it is in the absence of evidence. If it was in the presence of evidence, you wouldn’t call it faith.”

It almost sounds like, to Dawkins, there is no such thing as faith by itself. It is always, by definition, blind. Why does he think this?

First of all, there is evidence for the existence of God. Unless you want to restrict the definition of “evidence” to something that can be tested and confirmed in a test tube, there is plenty of support for belief in God. Plenty of what Dawkins believes—say, that there is no God at all—is based on his own conclusions, not by any testable means.

Second, he seems to forget that most of the knowledge humans live and operate by is based on experience, personal conviction, intuition, and logic. These are all outside the exclusive domain of science. How do I know this world is a real one, or that my past is not an implanted memory? How do I know that my wife loves me or that my favorite color is blue? How do I know that my guinea pigs, Suzy and Nellie, are too hilarious and cute to have come about by naturalistic processes alone? How do I know that lying is wrong, even if I would never get caught? None of this is based on any evidence at all, but it’s valid nonetheless (or at least some of it is). I wouldn’t call these “blind” assumptions.

Finally, I would differ on his definition of faith. He seems to think that faith is believing in something without ANY evidence, or at least some compelling amount (“if it was in the presence of evidence, you wouldn’t call it faith”). I would say that faith is believing in something—often WITH evidence—despite the fact that we cannot ever be 100% sure, so the last bit needs to be assumed and trusted. Much of what we live by could be considered “faith.” I start my car every morning believing that it won’t blow up, even though I don’t check it for bombs, leaks, etc. Someone who believes in God may feel 99% convinced, or maybe just 51%…and the last remaining 1% or 49% could be covered by faith, but this doesn’t make it blind or in the absence of evidence at all.

Dawkins: “People say ‘if it’s true for you, then it’s true for you.’ But I think there’s something more absolute about truth than that and I care about truth. I don’t mean I wish to impose it, I mean to people who really don’t want to learn about what’s really true, then far be it from me to force it on them. But I want to give them the opportunity. I don’t want children brought up sheltered from the truth by a wall of separation from the truth, which is deliberately erected by tradition and authority in their particular culture.”

Funny, Christians feel the exact same way as this statement, yet we’re accused of being narrow-minded and dogmatic for thinking we have the truth and not being relativistic. We want people to have the opportunity to learn about the faith and to accept it, and aside from extremists and strange cases, we’re not trying to establish mandatory Christianity upon everyone. School systems are teaching purely naturalistic explanations, like evolution, without even a mention of an alternative, like creationism, so what is he complaining about here? Why does he presume to have the answers despite the lack and impossibility of positive evidence against the existence of God? Remember, science can only explain the natural world, not anything existing outside of it.

[The rest of the video pretty much talks about how atheism is gaining momentum, and whether Dawkins’ approach is too direct, disrespectful, and arrogant.]

I would say that atheism isn’t going away and will probably grow stronger with time. Why is this? I think believers and atheists alike can agree that part of the reason is the further development of science.

It’s pretty much a given that some people are content to attribute unexplainable things to God or a god of some form. In the old days, a thunderstorm was perceived as God’s wrath because they had no known explanations for it. Then, people discovered the science behind it and suddenly, some people shoved God out of the picture for that occurrence. People discovered how a rainbow is formed, then decided that it wasn’t some sign from God after all.

The bottom line is that some people think scientific explanations replace the need for God completely. Is this really true? I don’t think so at all. Sure, we may be able to observe and explain what’s going on a hidden, molecular, or chemical level. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a God behind it in the first place. We could simply be learning more about the processes He put in place. Learning how something is built, for instance, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a builder. Learning how this universe works—which is what science does—doesn’t prove one bit that there isn’t a creator behind it. In my view, we’re just analyzing his handiwork.

The 7 common tactics that atheists (and Christians) use (part 2)

April 6, 2011 12 comments

[Continued from part 1 here.]

Tactic #4: Using exaggerated and ridiculous comparisons to mock the other side’s beliefs.

A famous and widespread example of this would be the allusion to the “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” Atheists like to claim that believing in God is on the same level as believing in unicorns, leprechauns, and of course, the aforementioned culinary deity. By making this comparison, they are trying to automatically discredit the side of believers by implying that we are naive, immature, ignorant, and without evidence or logic backing our claims. All of this is done in one fell swoop without a single thoughtful argument.

Consider this stylized mockery of the Christian faith: “Does this make sense? The belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree?

Talk about a play on words and juicing up the cartoony level to the n-th degree. Words like “cosmic,” “zombie,” and “magical tree” bring the level of Christianity down to a bad fantasy (sci-fi?) flick. Defending this kind of faith would be a tall order indeed, but of course, any reasonable person knows that describing it in such terms is unfair and ridiculous.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? Making it harder for Christians to defend their faith with any level of confidence?

Tactic #5: Stating things as fact or “just because” with nothing to back it up, even inaccurate claims based on memory or assumption.

Christians and atheists are probably equally guilty of this. It’s just human nature, and it has little to do with religious beliefs or lack thereof.

People often feel sure of wrong information—from trivial matters such as which celebrity was married to whom, or the not-so-trivial details of a witnessed crime. It comes from recalling things you may have seen or heard incorrectly, and sometimes, it’s quite harmless. A simple “oops, I guess I was wrong” might be the extent of the consequences.

But when people make the same kinds of sloppy assumptions or claims of fact in religious discussion, something greater is at stake here. The truth can easily be lost and a good discussion can be derailed by one wrong fact.

A skeptic might wrongly state with confidence: God has already been proved false, you Christians are just behind and need to catch up,” or, “Hitler was a Christian.” [God cannot be proved false because He exists outside the natural, observable world. A plethora of biblical misinterpretations can also be used here. Besides, we Christians have the same information available to us that everyone does. Hitler may have claimed to be a Christian, probably to gain favor, but his actions belie his true beliefs. In fact, he wanted to get rid of bibles and replace them with Mein Kampf, hardly an indication of a true believer. He once referred to Christianity as a “poison.”]

A creationist might ignorantly claim: Even Darwin confessed on his deathbed that he believed in God,” or, “There is no proof for evolution, it’s just a theory.” [There is no clear indication that Darwin came to faith, so perhaps this is just wishful thinking or some false rumor. Evolution, to an extent, has been proved true—at the very least on the micro-evolution level—and the word “theory” in science is a strong assertion of truth, though not airtight.]

Tactic #6: Ignoring their own holes and shifting the burden of proving an endless supply of further challenges to you.

I’ve often heard, “I’m an atheist, which is a belief in nothing. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon the believer to prove that there is a God.”

I have to ask, why?

Consider these simple facts:

– There are more people in this world who believe in God (or a god) today, and exponentially more throughout the history of man. Since when do the vast majority need to solely convince the small minority?

– If atheists are wrong and God exists, they are going to face far worse consequences–even possibly into eternity–than a believer would face if there is, in fact, no God. So atheists have a higher burden of proof when you consider that de-converting a believer is “riskier” than the other way around.

– Atheism isn’t a belief in nothing. In most cases, it comes with a belief and reliance upon naturalism, which is harder to believe for some people than to believe in God. I have a hard time believing that love is merely chemical or an evolutionary feature, or that art and music are solely manipulations of the physical world.

Christians should try to convince atheists out of concern, but it’s not our “obligation” to prove anything in the sense that our position is inherently more untenable. Don’t just stay on the defensive the whole time. There are just as many unanswer(able?)ed questions that the atheist should be required to address. At the very least, both sides may have to concede a few “I don’t know” moments, which is at least fair and honest.

Tactic #7: Requiring an overly high standard of proof, while calling all Christian sources “biased.”

Consider this: the issue of whether or not Jesus existed on this earth—at least as a man—was not even seriously debated for maybe 1,800 years. It was a given. But somewhere along the line, skeptics started demanding more “proof” and wondering aloud why there wasn’t more direct evidence of Jesus’ existence. This got easier to do since enough time had passed, but unlike science and technology, history tends to be more reliable when it’s closer (older) to the events.

Forget the fact that even emperors in ancient times were written about less, with scant documentation and archeology. Forget all of the historical analysis that makes the Bible, particularly the New Testament, the most confirmed work of antiquity man has ever seen. Or the many reasons why the resurrection could not have been faked…

Forget science and philosophy that seem to agree more and more with the claims of the Bible, such as a distinct beginning point in our universe rather than an infinite past. Or the experiences and personal convictions that scream that we are obviously not a random assortment of matter over time.

Videos, books, and other forms of communication that espouse atheistic beliefs are accepted without so much as a blink. And when they make a claim that seems damning to Christian beliefs (such as the comparison of Horus to Jesus, essentially calling Jesus a copycat/fictitious savior), people will believe it without investigating the matter outside the confines of like-minded Christ-mythers.

Who would then attempt to verify the accuracy of these claims? Well, obviously Christians would want to get to the bottom of it because they care about their faith and want to know if they are basing their lives on reality or myth. But then any of those Christian findings that show the falsehood of the Horus comparisons are dismissed as “biased.” The skeptic or Christ-myther might say, “I’ll wait until a non-Christian proves the comparisons to be false, thank you. Not some biased Christian with an agenda.”

Simple fact of the matter is, most people don’t have a vested interest one way or the other, so of course such works are going to come from a Christian.

There is no such thing as totally unbiased work anyway. Everyone has presuppositions and personal leanings. Writing off anything by Christian authors and researchers as “biased” is closing your mind to any contrary positions regardless of their validity. Heck, many skeptics set out to prove Christianity wrong only to realize that they’ve become convinced of the Bible’s truth—then they write about it (e.g., Lee Strobel, countless others). I guess these people are biased as well, despite their original intent.

I can understand that some people don’t want to give up their feeling of autonomy and authority over their own lives. But making the burden of proof prohibitively high is doing a disservice to the truth.

Christianity is not pretending to be a faithless pursuit that can satisfy a person purely on logic and facts. Faith is a big factor, no doubt. All we’re asking is that you weigh one side against the other and to give us a fair trial. Don’t use tactics, don’t make assumptions that we’re idiots. Go where the preponderance of your reasoning take you, rather than setting up an impossible task so that the other side necessarily fails in your view.

After all, in the end, it’s not really about “winning,” as is the goal in formal debates. That’s why I hesitate to use the word “debate” at all, since actual truth is secondary to the arguments in that context. What’s important is that we all get to the bottom of this and try to convince the other side by sound reasoning. If that isn’t possible, then at least a slight crack in the wall of dogma might lead to a change of views down the road.