Month: July 2015

Objections to Christianity: A Lack of Consensus

As a part of our ever-expanding “Objections to Christianity” series, I would like to address another objection I often come across.  Following is the general form the argument tends to take:

If God exists, and if there is compelling evidence that He exists, then why are there so many atheists?  Furthermore, why are there so many different religions, each with its unique take on who God is?  Why are there so many sects even within the same religion, each with their own idea?  If this evidence were so compelling, then it seems that the majority of people would be on the same page.

Now, in this writer’s humble opinion, this is one of those objections that I refer to as a “talking point” rather than an actual argument.  (As I mentioned in a recent post, Hitchens was a master at this style of rhetoric.)  The reason for this, I believe, is that the concept, when put into the form of an argument, requires one to face point-blank some assumptions bound up in it that (from the point of view of the proponent) are probably best left unexposed.  If I were to formulate this idea as a formal argument, it would look something like this: (more…)

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Supernaturals: Missionary Tongues

Hey everyone, sorry I’ve been scarce lately — the play I’m in just opened and we’ve had a full week of nightly tech rehearsals and performances.  When I was in my teens and twenties I could do that sort of thing no problem, but I’m starting to feel my age a bit I suppose and it’s really taking a lot out of me, leaving very little energy for writing (much less writing creatively).  Come this time next week, I’ll be back to my normal self (which I guess can be taken as good or bad news, depending on your opinion of me I suppose) — and will be able to tackle my backlog of unanswered comments.  Thank you all for your patience!  I haven’t forgotten about you 🙂

Anyway, today I thought I would share a brief account from yesterday’s sermon, in which our associate pastor shared some first-hand accounts of some of the miraculous occurrences that he has witnessed throughout his life in the church and in ministry.  I think it would be interesting to recount here, since so much of our discussion lately has been on the evidence (or lack thereof) of supernatural effects in our world — in fact, I intend to start a series where I collect a few of these accounts from people I know.  And, since one of the Greek words used in the New Testament to refer to the spiritual gifts (pneumata) can be perhaps best translated as “supernaturals”, I thought it was a fitting title for this series. (more…)

My Favorite Atheist and Christian Thinkers

I love watching debates, especially on the topics of God and Christianity.  Thankfully, in our Internet age there are hours upon hours of such footage for someone like me to watch.

In summary of my experience so far:  I’ve seen a lot of bad debates.  Let me clarify what I mean:  I consider a debate to be bad when any of the following occur:

  1. One or both parties fail to treat the other in a personable manner and with respect
  2. One or both parties make blanket statements without backing them up
  3. One or both parties fail to offer any definitive arguments for their position (rather resorting to “talking points”)
  4. One or both parties fail to answer the other’s points directly
  5. It is apparent that one or both parties are not “on their game”

Thus, by these criteria, a debate in my opinion can be good, even if the atheist presents a better argument.  In fact, I’m not so much concerned with who wins a debate, as much as I am the manner in which it is engaged.  If both sides bring their A-game, engage directly and respectfully with each other, bring up good points and adequately answer their opponents’… hey, that’s a good time for me!  I’m that way with sports too — I don’t enjoy watching games where one side absolutely obliterates the other, even if it’s my team who’s doing the pummeling.  I’d much rather watch a good match (even one where my team loses) then see my team wipe the floor with the other.  I’m curious if you all feel similarly or not in this respect.

So, first things first:  I’m in the market for some new debates.  If anyone has any recommendations, shoot them my way!

I’m also always looking for new faces in the world of theological debate, especially on the atheist side of the table.  I’m very interested to hear from my readers (atheists especially) who your favorite thinkers are in favor of the atheist position.

As for me, in watching many debates and applying the criteria above, I have established somewhat of a scoring system in my mind for the various prominent thinkers who tend to fill one side of the debate table or the other, and have a mental list of my favorite and least-favorite debaters.  A few prominent names on my list, starting with my favorites and working my way down: (more…)

Appeals to Scientific Authority

Boy, you guys have been tearing it up in the discussion department lately!  It’s been a lot of fun spectating the various conversations, and interjecting a point here and there.  I love this sort of thing!  Thank you all for adding legitimacy to my blog by lending your time, efforts and points of view — and, above all, for keeping it civil (may this serve as a friendly reminder to all — I think a good rereading of this community’s ideals and guidelines would be beneficial for everyone) 😉

One of the things that has come up in these discussions seems to be the extent to which we should trust scientific authority.  The question was specifically brought up in the context of dating methods to determine the age of the earth.  After being posed the question by Ark, Nathanael replied with an explanation of his reluctance to trust the word of scientists when he hasn’t himself come to a reasonably coherent understanding of their methodology.  At one point he states: (more…)

Let’s Leave Motives Out of It

When discussing ideas, I think it best to keep motives out of it.

Often, I am told that my experiences of God (and therefore my belief in Him) are nothing but the results of an elaborate physiological ruse, where I am held victim to the workings of my own brain (boy, aren’t we all?) — or, even worse, my belief in God is just the manifestation of my own wishful thinking.  Freud made this view popular, saying that religious beliefs are “illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind….  Thus the benevolent rule of the divine Providence allays our fears of the dangers of life.”  And Freud was a smart guy, so we can just take his word for it, right?  No need to look at evidence or reasoning or anything — or even lay me on a sofa and come up with any direct support for your diagnosis, O great mind-reading wizard on the other end of the computer screen.  It must be true, because (as you say) it can’t be that God actually exists — there has to be a “simpler” explanation (because the explanation that God actually exists is way more far-fetched than my brain’s ability to create, sustain, and continually reinforce a series of ordered and consistent delusions that in every way resemble the qualities of an actual relationship — not to mention do things like granting insight into unknowable yet pertinent information and future events and healing emotional wounds — all in a manner that holds up to corroboration with others who claim similar relationships).

Sorry, I guess I’m feeling a little snarky today, aren’t I?  C’mon, Seth, let’s reign it in… a little. (more…)

Stephen Colbert on Agnosticism

I promised Vinny that I would respond to his excellent comment in a post, which I plan to put the finishing touches on in a day or so.  In the meantime, I wanted to share a quote I saw while scanning his blog that I thought was hilarious (and on point):

Isn’t an agnostic just an atheist without balls? — Stephen Colbert to Bart Ehrman

Happy Monday, everyone 🙂

(This portrait of Colbert I came across is pretty funny too.  Enjoy it — and enjoy America too, darn it.)

stephen-colbert-supreme-court

Unexamined Misgivings

I have been so blessed lately with lots of comments from new people — people who seem to be a perfect fit for a community like this.  Thank you all for engaging!

In one brief discussion I had recently with Charles, he discussed his deconversion process and mentioned this:

If you had asked me at age 24 why I believed, I would have been able to give a list of reasons similar to what you gave in a previous post, but in fact I was not all that confident in those reasons. I was holding to them in spite of misgivings, by faith, because I trusted my experience with God and felt that trumped everything else.

We later agreed that the presence of misgivings in one’s philosophy is not necessarily indication that the philosophy is fatally flawed — in fact, I’ve yet to come across any metaphysical philosophy that does not involve the acceptance of a few mysteries, unanswered questions, or even seeming contradictions.  There’s no such thing as an airtight philosophy of everything — not yet, anyway.  We simply don’t have all the information.

In any case, Charles further clarified what he meant:

It’s natural to have misgivings, but what I used to have were *unexamined* misgivings. Now I’m ok with examining any of my beliefs.

I agree with Charles that having misgivings and failing to examine them can be a bad thing.  I admit I can be slow sometimes to really dig into the nitty-gritty of my own questions concerning my faith — though I have been convinced enough in the bigger picture of my worldview that I’m not incredibly concerned or anxious about the questions I do have.  Someday I would like to go to seminary, and when I do I will certainly have some questions lined up and ready to fire at my professors.

Nevertheless, what Charles’ question did for me is make me curious to hear from my readers, especially those with deconversion stories of their own:  Looking back, what were some of the key points that you would consider to have been “unexamined misgivings” that led to you giving up your faith in God?  Thanks ahead of time for weighing in!  I look forward to reading your responses!