Posts tagged ‘skepticism’
Today is the day we set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Even though there are many questions as to whether this event actually ever took place, we cannot deny the impact this story, related a few decades later in the gospels, has had on the world. This “good news” did not bring the promised peace on earth but resulted in wars and fear. However, as LeoPardus recently pointed out, there are some good things that can be attributed to the birth of the church.
As I meditate on the meaning Christmas used to hold for me, there is one particular point that I can no longer reconcile as rational. This event was supposed to be a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for man. That God, so loved the world, that he gave his only son, to die on a cross to redeem me from my sins and thus restoring me into a relationship with him.
Upon reading the scriptures, one cannot help but conclude that God’s love is anything but unconditional. The Old Testament is packed with what I will refer to as “if…then” statements. If you do a list of things, you will be blessed but if, on the other hand, you disobey you will be cursed. In many cases, the curses included genocide, violence, killings, diseases, sicknesses, fire and brimstone, floods, plagues, and a variety of other demonstration of God’s wrath and judgment. How can any of this be described as unconditional?…
Myth 2: Atheism is just another religion.
This myth is being resurrected again by people ranging from academics trying to counter some of the influence of the recent spate of books challenging faith, to extremists wanting atheists banned from American schools by using the ruling that religion and state must be kept separate.
It was the good Catholic G.K.Chesterton who sought to tease atheists by saying ‘there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it’. Atheists would reject his categories and go on to argue that there are at least three kinds of people; the two that Chesterton mentioned and a third category who know an unhelpful and untrue dogma when they see it and are quite capable of rejecting it.
Atheism, of course, is not another religion. Although non-theistic religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism exist, most religions, are based on a belief in gods or a god, and atheists reject such a notion. Let me quote A.C.Grayling who makes the point so elegantly:…
Personally, I feel that most arguments for or against the existence of God are too rooted in normative conventions for my personal beliefs. In other words, I cannot accept arguments based on supposedly established conventions such as good, evil, right, wrong, etc., because those conventions were primarily established through man-made religions.
This is not to say that employing norms such as good and evil are not useful in arguing against the existence of a deity. Using religiously established conventions (Christian norms, in this case) of good and evil, and by understanding the hierarchy of God’s characteristics, we can show that the God that Christians imagine to exist contradicts himself, and therefore cannot exist.
The Christian tradition holds that God is many things: God is love, God is merciful, and so on. One characteristic, a seemingly unavoidable prerequisite to being a deity, is that God is omnipotent. God, according to the Christian tradition, is also good and cannot be or do evil…
I wrote this just about a year ago when I was trying to explain my doubts and thoughts on another site. Some responses to the recent “slain the spirit” post brought it back to mind.
There are certain responses that I get to my rather simple idea that a God who wants people to believe in Him and worship Him, ought to give us clear proof of His existence. By clear proof, I mean things like supernatural events, visitations, visions, revelations, and so on. And of course, I also mean that they need to be things that we can be sure are real and not just illusions, delusions, wishful thinking, or what have you.
The two main types of responses that keep coming up are what I’m calling the “normal miracles” and the “you just won’t buy it” responses.
The first goes something like, “Just look around. There are miracles you’re missing every day.” This will usually be followed by examples of what they mean by miracles, which tend to include sunsets, babies being borne, life, stars, breathing, and so on. I call this the “normal miracles response”. This response is easy to dispense with so I’m dispensing with it first.
The problem with the “normal miracles response” is that the person giving it ignores what I’m talking about and ignores the accepted definition of “miracle”…
Lately, Christians have been challenging me on the intellectual case for Christ based on the evidence for the resurrection and his miracles. For most/all Christians their faith hinges on the resurrection, so I find that it’s best to concentrate on this as opposed to the water-to-wine or heal-the-blind events. However, apparently I’m not intellectual enough to grasp this evidence.
Here’s the main points of the evidence/proof they proposed (unfairly I’m sure they’ll say):
- The disciples claim to have seen him alive and later died for this belief – ‘people just don’t do that’
- 513 (or so) saw him alive after the resurrection.
Before I get to the main point of this, let me give my simplistic and probably ignorant assessment of these points…
Some of us here at de-conversion, as well as many of our readers, come from, or are affected by, Pentecostal/Neo-Pentecostal movements. HeIsSailing reminisced on several posts, including one on glossolalia, and another on self-exposed charlatan, Marjoe Gortner; Roopster also posted a humorous clip by an infamous prosperity gospel teacher. If you are in the United States, even your politics are infused with Charismatic non-theology. The dynamic attributes of the movement has obviously led to a relatively flexible belief system which is all loosely based on a few passages in the New Testament. Some Pentecostals take a more “moderate” stance, accepting Biblical priority, whereas others prefer the voice and actions of the Spirit. A few follow the disciple’s example of living a poverty-stricken life, while many flock to the health-and-wealth promises of Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, and Joyce Meyer.
However, if people want wealth from their religion, Christianity isn’t usually the place to start – just taking a look at the first book of the New Testament should be enough to scare away any religious gold-diggers. No, charismatic Pentecostals do not win converts by Biblical exegesis or even appealing to the heart: they proselytize via the sensations…
In my previous post on this subject, Independence in Thought, I discussed a point made by Phillychief in his post entitled Insularity?, where he stated that atheists, by and large, are critical thinkers.
Another point that Phillychief made, with which I agree, is that atheists are not as prone to hero worship and personality cults as theists appear to be. He cites the examples of Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennet, et al, and notes that their positions are scrutinized incessantly. What he implied but didn’t say outright, which I will say, is that much of this scrutiny comes from people who generally accept these writers’ ideas. The critics criticize because they want to sharpen their own thinking skills and also because they want to challenge these writers, and others like them, to put forward the strongest possible arguments for their positions and to articulate those arguments clearly, succinctly and coherently.
I, for example, like Richard Dawkins, and I enjoyed reading The God Delusion. That doesn’t blind me to the fact that the book has some substantive flaws. My atheism does not depend on Dawkins being infallible. Ditto for all the recent flap about Antony Flew – the fact that he shifted from atheism to a deist position doesn’t undermine my atheist position at all. My atheistic view does not depend upon the Gospels according to St. Antony and St. Richard…