Thursday, April 30, 2009

Questions and Answers

I've been in an interesting state of mind lately. Being a dedicated Christian, I've done a lot of research on why exactly I am a Christian. I am secure in my belief that the Christian mindset is the only thing that truly explains everything: creation, life, afterlife, emotions, human relationships, etc. Of course there are some things that we (I) will always wonder about. But questions that would typically crop up (why does it seem like God is so cruel in the Old Testament, and so beneficent in the New Testament?) are nothing that would radically change my outlook on life. In fact, they won't change a thing. But lately I've come into contact with atheists a lot more than usual. First I went to a debate not last Monday but the Monday before (April 20th) at Jones County Junior College (JCJC) between Christian Dinesh D'Souza and Athiest Christopher Hitchens over "God is Great/God is Not Great".

The debate was fantastic, but I get an odd feeling that technically Hitchens won the debate. He seemed a lot more calm and collected, and a lot better spoken than D'Souza. Of course I agreed with D'Souza's point, but he didn't seem to adequately address Hitchens' questions. The debate got me thinking, however. Hitchens brought up a great number of points, none of which I remember. That's not necessarily true, I don't remember most of it. I do remember D'Souza having the point that there is a difference between a monkey beating another monkey and raping and killing its mate than there is a human male beating another man and raping and killing his wife. The context was that Hitchens had mentioned humans were only a half a chromosome away from being monkies and D'Souza wondered why, if that was the case, humans and primates had different moral standards (his reasoning: God). Well during the question and answer session, some smart aleck came down the line and did not ask the question but made the astute observation that in the Old Testament if you were a Hebrew who went to a neighboring tribe, killed a man, then raped and killed his wife, you would not only be in the right, but you'd be doing "God's good work," referencing God's command to clear out the Holy Land in the first several books of the Old Testament.

D'Souza ignored that because it wasn't a question. But it got me thinking: so it's okay for a person to murder and rape if God says it is? That's a difficult question, at least to me right now. As a believer in absolute sovereignty, I'd have to say yes, but addendum that God wouldn't say that. But, as the man in the debate pointed out, he did at one point. I contend that it's a different situation. That was war, that was going into a place where the Hebrews would have certainly been killed themselves if they hadn't fought back. Also, I'm not certain God commanded rape at all, just the killing. That won't make an atheist go "Oh, well in that case," but from a faith standpoint it doesn't harm my understanding of a Just God.

Moving on, I recently began watching another blog called Fallen and Flawed that features a few articles about "10 Questions to Atheists", a series of blogs that are... 10 questions to different athiests, atheist bloggers. In the latest one with Luke Muehlhauser brought up a few more questions:

1) Is believing God exists the same as believing faeries exist?
2) Is Jesus just an "invisible friend who grants you wishes with magical powers."?
3) Why believing Jesus existed, performed miracles, died, and was resurrected, and summarily dismiss stories about people like Simon Magus, Horus, and Aeshyclus? Isn't it the same thing?
4) Why does an Almighty Creator God who created every wonderful and terrible aspect of everything rejoice in the smell of burning goat flesh?

Now it's important to note that Luke seems a bit condescending to me. If you're interested, check out his blog Common Sense Atheism, which is where I got the final question. Finally, here are a few answers I cooked up. Not the best answers in the world, but something nonetheless.

1) The existence of God and the existence of faeries are summarily different phenomenon. By that I mean faeries were once used to describe certain aspects of life that can now be explained scientifically (crazy? Well you've been touched by faeries!). God is (supposedly) the same way, being used to explain not only every unexplainable occurance on earth, but all of creation as well. So far there is no explanation of where the universe came from. Even if there was a Big Bang, that bang had to come from somewhere. Elementary argument I know, but it seems... common sense to me, if I may. I have more on this, but I think I might have gone over space already.
2) I'm not sure if condescending propaganda needs to be addressed, but this is Luke's way of showing Christians the full weight of what they believe. In secular, unfamiliar terms, this could be used to explain Jesus. But it ignored the full weight of evidence that this is not really the case, or at least Christians are not quite that dumb.
3) There is a lot of corroborating evidence about Jesus and his actions than there are of those other people. Sure, it's just heresay, but there's a lot of it and it's much more consistent than for those other people.
4) Again, this is a case of condescending to Christians, using language that does not evoke the true meaning behind certain things.

It boils down to atheists simply believe they are smarter than Christians. Luke's blog even has a post called "How to Debate William Lane Craig" who is a lot smarter than you. And you. And you. And me. It's a case of someone being unwilling to believe something that doesn't fit in with their worldview (ancient animal sacrifices? A metaphysical being that created everything? That's silly). They want evidence for something that cannot be proved or disproved. Someone can say that doesn't make sense all they want, but what doesn't make sense to one person makes perfectly good sense to another.

I hope this makes sense. It certainly helped to type it all out, write it down. Makes me think things through a bit more. Now I wouldn't mind some commentary, critiques or whatever. Keep it civil, towards me or the person (people) I'm talking about. But I wouldn't mind some thoughts, especially from other Christians regarding the questions I proposed.


Luke said...

"It boils down to atheists simply believe they are smarter than Christians."

Holy crap no. Much of my blog is spent responding to theistic philosophers who are much, much smarter than I am.

"They want evidence for something that cannot be proved or disproved."

Um, yes. I want evidence. If you give me no evidence, than your claim has just as little going for it as all the other claims that fail to give evidence - for example every other religion ever, astrology, pseudosciences, ad infinitum.

Jeff Hollingsworth said...

Ah, thank you Luke for commenting here! I just replied to you on the Fallen and Flawed blog. As I said over there, I'm sorry if my post seems a bit defensive, or even offensive, whichever. I was hashing out things in public, which isn't always a good idea. But I believe I worked it out for myself.

I loved your post on debating William Lane Craig, a personal favorite apologist of mine. I have noticed he uses the same arguments time and again. But it works for him, so I don't much blame him.

The evidence is a tough thing. I believe that God, by definition, is unquantifiable (a new favorite word of mine). How do you present evidence of something you cannot see and cannot touch? Through various philosophy of religion, biblical history, and Bible history classes, all of which challenged my faith, I am confident I have the necessary evidence that I'm not believing something silly. The problem is convincing you or anyone else that this is such. I have a tough time taking that knowledge in presenting it in a way that isn't a trip to the butcher. Four years of undergrad studies isn't near enough, at least for me.

As I said before, it's okay for Christians to hold certain beliefs that work as evidence for the Christian but the problem is when those arguments are used to try to convince or discuss with an atheist. Christians start with the assumption that there is a God. Atheists begin with the assumption that there isn't. To say that God does not need to conform to logic is fine, God created logic and reasoning just as he created the heavens and the earth, but you and I both know that's not good enough evidence for some nonbelievers. All I can do is share my faith earnestly and hope I don't make myself or God look like fools.